All About Reading Level 2 –A Review

I am a huge fan of All About Reading and All About Spelling. I just finished All About Reading Pre-1 Level with the little boys. I’ve been using All About Spelling for 5 years now and also love it. Last year I was on the fence about whether to order All About Reading Level 2 (AAR 2) for the Little Gymnast (age 10) and the Karate Kid (age 9). Both of them were reading better, but still needed practice for fluency. The Karate Kid was struggling more than the Gymnast. They were both still struggling to read multi-syllable words, compound words and silent-e words.

A friend of mind let me borrow her Level 2 to look over. After looking through it at her house and more that night, I ordered it. I got started right away with the kids with her books while I waited for mine.

This program is a dream. It is everything you could hope for and the price is right. Over the last 5 years I’ve tried 10 different reading programs or supplements with these two children. Because of the Gymnast’s dyslexia and the Karate Kids Asperger’s and ADHD, I’ve had a hard time finding the perfect match. I need something that has lots of practice, but in new ways so they don’t get bored reading the same passages 20 times (and besides they won’t read them more than two times). I need something that’s engaging, has quick lessons, with reading pages that aren’t cluttered and distracting. All About Reading is all this and more. You can download sample lessons to try yourself.

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AAR is the first of many reading programs (including computer programs) that the Karate Kid doesn’t fight with me about. He really enjoyed it, even though he was 9 when we started. He loves the games, they are just what he needs to make him read without making it feel like work. Now I’ve tried games before; Happy Phonics, file folder games, bingo. But AAR games are perfect.

 

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Here are a few things that I like about All About Reading:

  • The lessons are scripted. I don’t have to come up with my own words unless I want to.
  • Almost every lesson has a different game to play, and they aren’t elaborate. From chopping compound word logs to rescuing kittens from a tree the kids get plenty of practice reading the new words.
  • Fluency practice sheets for every lesson. The sheets start with new words, then move on to phrases and then sentences. These sheets practice the new words and old words to build reading confidence.
  • The kids will never be asked to read a word they haven’t been taught in a lesson.
  • My kids think it’s fun and don’t fight with me to practice their reading.
  • Approximately every other lesson the kids get to read a story from the beautiful and engaging readers. These are some of their favorite stories.

I haven’t found any negatives about this program. It works for me as a teacher as well as the kids.

Both of my children have completed this level now and are reading more and with more fluency than before. We have moved on to level 3.

A Child’s Weaknesses and Moses

Every child has areas of their life that are strong and some that are weak. As a parent we tend to focus on their weaknesses. We want to help them overcome their weaknesses. We look for programs to “fix” them and curriculum that helps them.

I believe God designed and purposed each and every one of us. Can God use a weak vessel? Absolutely!! In fact I think God prefers to use us in areas that we are weak or that we have always struggled.

Why wouldn’t God use our strong areas?

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.”

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God knows our weaknesses. But He can use that weakness by giving us strength to accomplish his purpose.

One illustration that comes to mind is the story of Moses. God called Moses to a life of public speaking. Moses resists this calling as he has suffered with a speech impediment all his life. But God knows Moses and knows this weakness. God calls Moses because of his weakness. God gave Moses the strength he needed to go in front of Pharaoh and the Israelites to proclaim God’s words. All who knew Moses knew that he could not have completed this without the help of God. Therefore, God was glorified.

If Moses had been a naturally gifted speaker God would not have gotten the credit for giving him the strength. People would have proclaimed that it was Moses, the gifted speaker who convinced Pharaoh to let his people go. God may have chosen someone else for the purpose that he called Moses. And Moses would not have experienced the rich life of experiencing God work through him.

I am always hearing stories of children who are physically weak who are used in big ways by God. So why do we mourn a weakness in our child. It is only through the weaknesses that God can use you to glorify his purpose in you. So we need to change our perspective. A weakness is an area that God will possibly use our children to be glorified. Of course God gives us natural giftings as well and can use those. However, I think it is harder for us as humans to acknowledge God through those strengths. It seems to us as those these are things we do ourselves apart from God. However, if we see it that way we fail to see that only God gave us that strength and natural ability.

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For God knows your child, He knows each and every one of their weaknesses. And God has a purpose for your child. And He can and will even use their weaknesses to accomplish His purpose. We as human we parents can only do so much to help them overcome those weaknesses. It’s still important to help them strengthen the weaknesses. But it’s not important to accomplish it overnight or to stress over the fact that it isn’t fixed by a normal age. It isn’t important that your child doesn’t perform everything at normal age range. Only God can give you strength in an instant that you need it.

We Love School with Ziggy or A Review of All About Reading Level Pre-1

The Curious Monkey started asking me to teach him to read at Christmas time. His exact words were, “Mom, my teacher said you would teach me to read. I’ve been practicing my letters.” He proceeded to sing me his version of the alphabet song. He looked at me with the saddest eyes. I, of course, said I would indeed teach him to read.

He didn’t relent after that day so I decided he must be ready and I ordered All About Reading Level Pre-1. I have been waiting since it came out to use it with him when he was ready. I decided to go with All About Reading for him because he has shown some signs of auditory processing delays. Since All About Reading is designed to make sure that all the pre-reading skills are taught I knew I wanted to use it.

Ziggy the Zebra arrived in the mail about a month ago and all my kids (even the 9 year old) played with him the entire weekend. He was quite a hit.  I intended to only do it with him but the Sidekick was drawn in and has done great with it.

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They both beg me to do “Ziggy” school every morning after breakfast. And the girls have gotten drawn in to the fun of Ziggy as well. They can’t resist but to join in the fun.

So what is so special about All About Reading that I decided to use it. All About Learning Press designed Level Pre-1 to teach the five necessary skills for learning to read. This program is designed to teach much more than letter sounds. The Big Five Skills as Marie calls them are:

      1. Print Awareness learning that letters make words that we read
      2. Letter Knowledge learning and understanding the alphabet
      3. Phonological Awareness learning to hear sounds in words
      4. Listening Comprehension understanding the meaning of words
      5. Motivation to Read wanting to learn to read

You can learn more about the Big Five Skills here. Visit the Reading Resource Center for even more articles and information on teaching reading. The website claims that “We teach the Big Five Skills in fun and creative ways.” I can honestly say that All About Reading Level Pre-1 is fun and very creative. I wish I would have had this to teach the older kids to read. It is so much more exciting than the way I taught them to read.

What makes it exciting, fun and creative?

Well, Ziggy the Zebra for one. In your teacher’s manual there are scripted games where Ziggy comes to play. In the very first lesson you are teaching the child rhyming. I had such a hard time teaching the oldest two to rhyme. They just didn’t get it. Curious Monkey has not started to rhyme yet but the way it is taught makes it easy for the kids to understand it. Ziggy comes and touches different body parts. But he says the wrong word, a word that rhymes with the correct body part. The child then corrects Ziggy. Here’s Ziggy touching Sidekick’s “leek”. And they say, “No Ziggy, it’s a cheek!”

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We laughed and played this many times. And they still ask to play this one. The first time I played with Curious Monkey he didn’t know the correct word for some of his parts. He leaned up to me and whispered in my ear, so Ziggy wouldn’t hear, “Mom, what’s that called again?” Then he would sit back and correct Ziggy with eagerness.

The student pack is another fun and creative feature of the All About Reading Pre-Reading Program. The student pack comes with My Book of Letters and Sounds Activity Book. This book is filled with letter craft activities that include cutting, pasting, and painting. Several ideas are given for how to complete each sheet. The pages are clean, non distracting and beautifully illustrated.

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Even my girls have wanted to get in on the letter craft fun.

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In addition to the activity book your student pack will include picture cards. So far we have been working on rhyming with these cards. After a couple rounds of silly Ziggy and rhyming body parts the Monkey has been able to find rhyming words from the picture cards. I have to admit that I didn’t think he would catch on this quick but even the Sidekick is finding the rhymes.

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These picture cards make it so much more fun than just trying to do this activity orally. And I appreciate not having to print or find picture cards for each lesson from a suggested word list. I keep our cards inside the reading activity box. The cards are filed behind dividers labeled by lesson number. I love how much thought has gone into the organization of student materials. The student cards in all the products are organized in an easy to use fashion.

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These beautifully illustrated alphabet charts are also included in the student pack. Curious Monkey enjoys following along on the poster as we sing our alphabet son.

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What All About Reading Level Pre-1 lessons look like in our house.

All of the All About Learning Press programs are designed to go at your child’s pace. There are 78 lessons in All About Reading Level Pre-1, first learning to recognize the capital letters then the lowercase letters and finally learning the letter sounds. Right now we are doing 1-2 letters a week. I have 30 minutes of teaching time for the preschoolers in the morning. The first day we sing the alphabet song, read from the associated All About Reading story book, do our letter page and then read from our Jane Belk Moncure set of My First Steps to Reading. The second day we sing the alphabet song, try to recall the name of the letter we are on, do the language exploration activity or game, and then read from our Moncure book again. If time and interest permits, I read a book from Sonlight P3/4. The boys also sit in on our Sonlight Bible, History and Science reading so they are getting plenty read aloud time each day.

We school through the summer here so I plan to continue at this pace or do more letters a week if Curious Monkey becomes bored and ready to move faster. When we finish this level we will move to the next level whenever that is. I’ve learned from many failed attempts not to push faster than a child is ready for, it only frustrates Mom and child.

You can see samples of the teacher’s manual here. And you have nothing to loose with All About Learning Press’ Go-Ahead and Use It One-Year Guarantee. Buy it, try it for a year and send it back if you don’t like it. You can receive two creative, fun free e-books here.

Why We Love All About Spelling

I started using All About Spelling in our homeschool 3 years ago. I started the Little Gymnast on it when she was struggling to learn to read in first grade. She has  dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and ADHD. She could spell words and wanted to spell words but couldn’t read the words she spelled back to me. At the end of the first grade she couldn’t read any words. She would sound it out and then guess a totally different word. When I stumbled on All About Spelling I was looking for a slow moving spelling program with lots of review and time for new rules to process.  I was hoping to teach her how to read through spelling without her realizing it. The language program we were using before this was wonderful but was like drinking from a fire hose for her.

What is All About Spelling? (from their website)

  • All About Spelling is multisensory. The lessons involve sight, sound, and touch. Children learn best when they are physically involved in the learning process, so we take advantage of that fact with this hands-on approach to learning and teaching spelling.
  • All About Spelling is logical. Spelling concepts are taught in a logical, understandable order. Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson. The sequence has been carefully tested to produce long-term results. And this is as much a benefit to you as it is to your student—especially if you’ve been struggling with how to teach spelling.

So what do we love about it. The kids love the colored tiles. They are so much fun to work with. At the beginning of a lesson the student uses the colored tiles to build the new spelling words. But these aren’t just the letters a-z, every phonogram is a tile. My kids love to build and analyze words with the tiles. It’s not like school.  And there are lots of other multi-sensory activity ideas on their website to try. Some of our favorites are writing words on a window with a dry erase marker or on the sidewalk with chalk.

What I love as the teacher is the student cards and the teacher’s manual. The student cards are broken up into:

  • Phonogram Cards for learning to read the phonograms
  • Sound Cards for learning to write the phonograms
  • Key Cards for learning the spelling rules
  • Word Cards for mastering the spelling words

There are three sections to keep track of the cards. Cards to review, mastered cards and future cards. I no longer have to keep up with that by memory or on a sheet of paper. I just file the cards behind the divider where they belong. It seems like a simple thing but it is one of the things that sold me on the program and I still love it. Reviewed cards are reviewed daily or weekly, mastered cards are reviewed a couple of times throughout each level.

I also love the teacher’s manual. I don’t have to think about how to teach the lesson. The lessons are scripted for you. Say this and do this with the tiles. All About Spelling uses dictation in every lesson to keep previously mastered words reviewed so they are not forgotten.

But this doesn’t have to just be a spelling program. I used All About Spelling with the readers to teach the Karate Kid how to read. The readers that go along with the program are beautiful and interesting. The Karate Kid loves the readers. He has read The Runt Pig book many times over. The stories are silly and catchy and the illustrations are beautiful. The lessons are short and ordered and he hasn’t dreaded the lessons, unlike other programs I’ve tried. All About Spelling has helped the Little Gymnast learn to read. After three years of the program we are now half way through level two. She has struggled with a couple of the steps and we spent a long time practicing those steps. One in particular was consonant blends. She could not hear the second consonant. Marie, author or All About Spelling, knew this was a difficult thing for some kids and had a great activity in the book for helping kids realize they missed a sound. The gymnast had lots of fun jumping on paper squares and saying the sounds. She has continued to make progress in reading and spelling through the program.

Lastly, it was very appealing to me that there is a one year guarantee. If this program didn’t work for us we could send it back even after trying it for a year. How can you lose? Most companies only give you a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, you may or may not know if it is working. But a year? I knew after a year of using this program it was the one for us.

Something about that thrills my kids.

Our Adventure with LearningRx

At the end of last school year I took the Little Gymnast and Karate Boy for cognitive skills testing at LearningRx. The Little Gymnast has always struggled to learn, from learning her colors and shapes, letter sounds and math concepts to name a few. When she was 7, I started researching her symptoms and concluded that she likely had Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia and Dyscalculia. I switched my curriculum to better teach to her and she started making progress. However, progress was slow and painfully slow for both of us. At the end of last school year she was still at a first grade instructional level I, and by age she was to be finishing up third grade. While sitting in the doctor’s waiting room I stumbled on LearningRx material. I was so encouraged by what I read that I called when I got home to get the oldest two tested.

Karate Boy has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. He was also exhibiting some signs of dyslexia and was struggling to make progress with his reading.

The test results revealed that my Little Gymnast’s brain was functioning 2 – 2.5 years below her age. The test revealed that I wasn’t imagining her difficulties, it confirmed all her daily struggles. Karate Boy’s results were mixed with some areas where he was functioning above and a few areas that were about a year behind. Karate Boy was recommended for their ThinkRx, 12 week program and the Little Gymnast was recommended for ThinkRx and ReadRx, a 24 week program.

We started their partner program about a month later. They would both receive one-on-one training for an hour 3 times per week. I would train them at home 3 days a week for 20 minutes and they would work on a computer program 6 days a week for 30 minutes. It was a lot of hard work but we started seeing improvements in about 2 weeks. The Little Gymnast made the most improvements. I will be following up with another post just on that.

At first the kids were excited about going to the center but after a few weeks they were both tired from the hard work. The Little Gymnast struggled to perform some of the simplest exercises and was becoming frustrated. They both fought me to go. Karate Boy refused to do his home training and his computer program. For every hour of fighting we managed to get in about 5 minutes of training. He was great at the center once he decided to train. The Little Gymnast was more compliant but would often break down at home telling me that it was just too hard.

The kids were perfectly matched to trainers. The trainers had quite opposite personalities but each was able to give the kids just what they needed to succeed. If the trainers had been flipped neither of the kids would have performed so well.

I’ll be posting our results soon.

How LearningRx Helped My Little Gymnast

I previously posted about our adventures with LearningRx and I promised to share our results well here it is. The Little Gymnast spent 24 weeks last summer and fall training at LearningRx. I saw our first improvement the second week of training. As we were milling about the lobby about to leave she read a sign next to the water cooler with perfect fluency, “If you don’t want your water give it to the tree.”  This was the first time she had read words outside of a book. She had never tried to read something she saw in the world. I was amazed and wanted to cry. A couple of days later she willingly picked up a basic reader off our bookshelf and started bringing it in the car to read to everyone. In 4 days she had read all 128 pages. What makes this so amazing is that before this She had never looked for a book to read. She only read when we sat down and I made her. She reported to her trainer that math and reading were better and that she was starting to understand a little bit better.

After 6 weeks she reported to her trainer that math was easier, her coloring was better and she wasn’t getting as frustrated with the online training program. She started hearing conversations that her Dad and I were having in the van. She sits in the way back and has never asked us questions about what we were talking about. She had never before given us reason to think that she heard our conversations. She also started to make connections in the real world. Her and I had run to Wal-Mart alone and she says, looking at the summer decorations, “So they put out the summer decorations because it’s almost summer?” I wanted to cry again. Really, had that not been obvious to this child before that the decorations matched the season?

At the end of 12 weeks her reading was continuing to improve. She was still picking up books and reading them. When I challenged the kids with the two bookstore Summer Reading Programs, they read all 18 books (early readers) in one evening. Never before had this child been so interested in reading. She was getting quicker at math facts. One of the exercises is to add a constant number to a column of numbers. Even adding one to a number was hard for her at the beginning of this program and would break her into a cold sweat. She never really did understand adding and the relation of all the numbers. I thought her trainer was fighting a losing battle getting her to spout out addition facts that made no sense to her. But she was actually making progress. She was actually starting to understand what was happening to the numbers when they were added together.

She reported that she was getting better at Connect 4, she was reading without missing words, she got rid of the fear of doing a back flip off the high bar at gym, and she read all the train’s names on a Thomas the Train DVD and remembered them. She was making up rhymes, a skill that had alluded her up till now. And one of the most obscure things she revealed to me was that her music this year for her floor routine had beats and that last year’s music didn’t have beats. I explained that all music has beats and that last year her music indeed had beats. She wouldn’t believe me. So I asked her when she was doing her floor routine how she knew when to do what and how fast or slow. She told me she memorized parts of the music and what to do when. I can’t imagine how hard that was. And it explained why she was always just rushing through her routine and had awful timing. Her routines have much better timing now. When I told her coach about this she finally understood why the Little Gymnast was rushing her routine. So her coach slowed her down and pointed out landmarks in the music for her. Her coach noticed another big change. She had told the Gymnast to go talk to another coach about using some equipment. The Gymnast walked right off and did it. Her coach was amazed that she actually did it; prior to this whenever Coach talked to the Gymnast she would give a blank stare.

All of these changes didn’t come without frustration though. Around week 12 life got really hard. My Little Gymnast was frustrated, yelling at everyone, refusing to do anything, tried to hide from her trainer and was avoiding training. She was crying to me telling me she didn’t want to change, she didn’t want to ever read. She didn’t like that she didn’t feel shy anymore. She said, “I was always shy and now I’m not as shy, I could never read before and now I am reading.” She was begging me to quit. This went on for many weeks. I pressed on assuring her that she was still my same little girl and that the things that were happening weren’t changing who she was. She didn’t really buy it though. She was also more hyper and unfocused than normal. Although she is extremely hyper and has the energy of 4 children she has always able to focus when she wanted to. But she was increasingly distracted by the sights and sounds around her. It’s as if she didn’t know what to do with all the new information that she was now processing that she had never experienced before.

At week 20, the Gymnast report that the nice girl is coming back. And that has proven to be true. Her smile came back, she was much more relaxed and was making progress again with her training. She began bouncing into the center instead of cowering behind a chair in a game of hide and seek. She was more confident in so many areas. In the two weeks prior while at the park she didn’t come to my side once. She ran around with all the other kids and even talked to several of the girls. It’s was so exciting to see her able to hold a conversation with her peers.

In an effort to make me think that she wasn’t making any improvements she reported that she stills hears “wo, wo, wo, wo (the sound the adults make in the Charlie Brown movies)” when people talk. She reported to her trainer that she was able to memorize a song in a day, she’s better at training, and has been nicer to the Drama Queen.

When we started back to school about week 20 we were able to do at least one math lessons a day and sometimes more. She was actually understanding math; she asked to learn her times tables. She also said that she wanted to learn more and do more school each day. After finishing her training I noticed that she started writing things, like “no boys allowed” signs for her bedroom door. She has been listening to the Judy Moody book series and started to write her own Judy Moody story. She still needs a lot of help with her spelling but I’m thrilled that she isn’t afraid to write and wants to write.

The training that we did at LearningRx has been worth every sacrifice. It has changed my daughter’s life.