Monday, June 3, 2013

Homeschool Review: The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington

I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with First Son (an older version shown in my review). He did indeed learn to read, but there seemed to be a great many words that he would mispronounce. He couldn't seem to recognize or remember phonograms that were slightly different than what he had learned. He also seemed intimidated by more difficult words, skipping them, guessing at them, or merely replacing them with a word that he knew from the context had an appropriate meaning. I thought this would dissipate over time and I suppose it did get better, but through all of first and second grade I felt like he had to read everything aloud to me because he was consistently reading certain words incorrectly.

I was on the search for something more systematic and thorough for First Daughter and decided to try The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I have been very pleased with it! After reading Uncovering the Logic of English, I was pleased to see how well it followed the same thought pattern, introducing a more thorough list of phonograms. I modified the teacher text a little to take into account some of the different language or additional information in Uncovering the Logic of English. I think they complement each other well.

The lessons clearly state at the top what will be taught, the parent's role is clearly written out (though I often paraphrased the instructions), and the lessons follow a pattern that quickly becomes familiar - review words, new sounds and sample words, and a story to read. There are no pictures, which I liked because pictures are often more distracting than helpful. The stories are simple, of course, but I was often impressed with them given the small number of phonograms. I can only recall a few instances where a phonogram appeared in a story before it was introduced. (I should have written them down to report back to the author, but life in the midst of a school year is hectic.)

The book recommends a magnet board and letters for the lessons. First Daughter loves these. In fact, all the children love them and I've even used them with First Son. I bought the Little Red Tool Box: Magnetic Tabletop Learning Easel and Smethport 120 Foam Magnetic Letters. The board has held up really well to two years of use. The letters are all great except for the ones Second Daughter chewed. Even those still stick to the magnet board. I always watch carefully when my children are using magnets, though Second Daughter would only swallow them accidentally. I think the magnets in the letters are probably not strong enough to cause any health problems, but it's good to be vigilant. If you dislike magnets or wanted to avoid spending much money, a movable alphabet would also work.

I started First Daughter in this book the year before she started kindergarten. She turned five at the end of September that fall. We struggled. She was so wiggly! She would stare at the ceiling and complain that she couldn't see the words. I broke lessons down so we would only do about a third of a lesson each day. It was terrible and we both dreaded it, but it was also clear that she was learning, so I continued. That was a mistake. We finished a whole school year of lessons that way, getting through relatively little of the book. I considered continuing over the summer, but I was exhausted by the thought. So I put it aside.

In the fall of 2012, she started kindergarten. She was about six weeks shy of six years old when we picked up the book again. I thought about reviewing some of it with her but decided to see what she remembered if we just jumped right in. It was amazing. She finished an entire lesson (remember, we were only doing a third of a lesson the year before) without any complaining and much less wiggling. (She is naturally a very wiggly girl.) By the end of the year, we were often doing two lessons in less than ten minutes, and sometimes she would want to do more. As I write this, we're about thirty lessons from the end of the book.

Second Daughter is starting kindergarten in the fall, but if she behaves at all like First Daughter, I am going to put this book aside and wait. I've also decided to teach Second Daughter her phonograms using Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds rather than the first twenty-six lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. Those lessons were a little boring (though remember First Daughter was probably not ready for them when we started). I haven't used this book yet, so don't take this as a blanket recommendation.

There is only one thing I wish this book had: recommendations for early readers (preferably living books, of course) my child would be able to read as we go through the book. For example, after Lesson 124, there might be a list of books that use the phonics learned so far and maybe a few stretch words. I'm sure it could be done, but it would be a time investment. At this point, First Daughter could probably fly through a lot of the books First Son read after he finished Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I plan to follow The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading with Essentials (see my pre-review here) in first grade for First Daughter. The same organization is making a program designed to teach younger children to read that looks fantastic, but also a lot more expensive than The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. If you anticipate having difficulty with a child learning to read, I would recommend checking it out. If I had unlimited homeschooling funds, I would be very tempted to buy it for the two who don't know how to read yet.


  1. Interesting. We are about 40 lessons in on Teach Your Child to Read, and it has seemed good enough. Gemma doesn't love love it, but she doesn't despise it either. We'll see what the coming years bring.

    I too have wished for a list of books to go along with it. As it is she does well with some of the Green Light Readers, some Seuss, and when we are reading together sometimes I will have her sound out words I know she can figure out (although she doesn't always like it when I do that).

    I'll have to keep this book in mind for future possible use.

  2. Monica, I think the Ordinary Parent's Guide is much more thorough, but I wouldn't say First Daughter likes it that much more than First Son liked 100 Easy Lessons. In your case it probably doesn't matter as much because you're going to send them to school where they will (hopefully) fill in any gaps and provides lots of supplementation. In our case, this is all they get, so I like having something more substantial.

  3. Yeah, I had that thought as well.

    I do appreciate the review, and will file this away in my brain (HA, now that's scary) for future reference.

    By the way, a few things I've been meaning to tell you and will just put here because I am lazy:
    *we are really liking our kitchen scale
    *we have been doing some sound recordings of books in the van and really enjoying them, Gemma just LOVES Glory stories.

    There was one more thing I had been meaning to tell you, but yeah, the brain thing... BLESSINGS!

  4. I'm so glad you like the kitchen scale! I saw on facebook when it was your husband's birthday and almost asked if he liked it.

    Those Glory Stories are great, aren't they? There's nothing like a new Glory Story to propel a saint to the top of my kids' favorite saints lists.

  5. Thanks for the review of this, Jill. Although both Simon and Clover certainly learned to read just fine after doing the 100 lessons book, I did feel there was a big gap between what it taught and them being able to sit down and read most books. So I've been keeping my eye out for something a little different for Gideon (in another couple years!) One thing I found recently that looks interesting is Happy Phonics (
    I don't know anything about it beyond what their website says, but it looks interesting! At any rate, it could be a good way to get started, or to supplement a more systematic and "boring" book.

    1. Hilary, the Essentials curriculum provides lots of games as well, and my kids love them all! Happy Phonics looks like a similar kind of supplement.

  6. So...tell me honestly. Do you think I need to/should buy this book?

    1. Brandy, if you didn't already have any how-to-read stuff, I'd absolutely recommend this book. I've only taught two children to read and have used just a few different books or curricula, but I believe this is a great program, especially for the price. I know you use the Bob books to teach reading and I hesitate to recommend a change if you feel it's working for you. I wish you lived nearby so I could show it to you and you could even try out a few of the lessons.

  7. I used 100 Easy Lessons for my daughter this past year in Kindergarten. She did well with it and we went through the back book list without too much trouble, but I think that she's missing a lot. I know many say that after that book their child keeps reading and reading and learns through that but I think she could use some further instruction. Is there a good starting point in the Ordinary Parents Guide you would recommend after 100EZ Lessons for 1st grade? I checked it out from the library and will be looking through it. Also, we started All About Spelling and are through lesson 7, but I'm wondering if I should hold off on that while I work more through the OPG. So many good materials out there! Any input would be appreciated!

  8. Hi Sarah, welcome to the Range! I would start right at the beginning with the OPG, but I think you will move very quickly for the early lessons if you've already done 100 Easy Lessons. You could do two or three a day for a while, until you felt like your daughter was struggling. As for spelling, I think you could go either way. I decided to wait until we finished OPG just to give myself a bit of a breather in our formal lessons, though she'll continue "reading" by reading aloud to me every day for a while. As long as your daughter can write easily, I think you can continue the spelling. If she starts to struggle, you can always set it aside for a while.

  9. Thank you for the advice! I just found a used copy on CathSwap and figured I could use it with my younger son when he's ready as well. I'll see how the balance of all of the 1st grade subjects go (starting Connecting with History, I have really enjoyed all of your posts about it!). I like the concepts of all of the Bauer/Wise books and think the OPG will only add to her reading skills.

    Thank you for a great blog!

  10. I love CWH. Did you see the new lesson plans? They're available for volume 1. I haven't used them yet, but they look so helpful!

  11. Mine will be arriving next week! I figured it was my first time around so it would be worth it to buy the lesson plan. I am amazed at how much work Sonya puts into it all.


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