Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Alpha-Phonics Reading Program Review Pt1

Samuel Blumenfeld graduated from the prestigious City College of New York in 1950 and spent the next decade as an editor of the University Library at Grosset & Dunlap. Sometime during that experience--and I have worked reading over-the-transom slush-piles, so I have an inkling what happened--Mr. Blumenfeld noticed something funny about American literacy. Or it would have been funny, if it were not so shocking and sad. In short, Mr. Blumenfeld jumped on the crazy-train that so many of us home-schooling parents ride and he's been coming around that mountain ever since.
A man with an amazingly active and energetic intellect, he poured himself into trying to understand the question posed by the seminal _Why Johnny Can't Read?_, and even more importantly, what to do about it. Not just what to do regarding school reform, though he has much to say on that--but really, how do you teach Johnny, an actual, living, breathing human being, how to read? Because at the end of the day, that's what matters most, and that is the genesis of the Alphaphonics program.

I'm going to begin this review with restricting my comments to what is the heart of the program, the original _Alphaphonics_ and then address the supplementary materials in a second review. So, first, what you want to know: Does it work? How does it work? Is it for me and my child? How much does it cost?

It costs a little under $30 on Amazon:
Is it for you and your child? I have no idea. It certainly works very well for me and my child and I completely adore the program. But every teacher and every student interact in unique ways.
How does it work? There are something like 109 lessons. The lessons are really just lists of words. You write the word, the student sounds out the word. Next word. Voila. Phonetic rules are introduced, along with words that don't play nicely. Along with the lessons, a teacher's guide provides lesson-by-lesson direction and advice on what to emphasize and talk about. You start with very straightforward words and progress. From "cat" to "gymnasium". Look, you get the point. Lesson 1 is very basic, by lesson 109 you have a fully functional reader.

The great thing for me, as the "teacher" is that I don't have to do any planning or preparation. The teacher-guide material is very concise. We work through the lists, some days we may do only three words, some days we may read 30. My student is not yet 4, so 30 words is quite an achievement. I expect it will take us about 9 months to a year to work through the program and she will be reading proficiently before she is 5. An older child or adult could work through the program in a few months if they were motivated. I *love* the fact that you can pace it however you like. I am a *very lazy* homeschooling mom/teacher-type. Easy pacing, no planning or effort? I'm interested.

The baby is waking up. I think this review will have to be in three parts instead of two. So we'll call this the introduction.

-Christina O.

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