Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Phonics, Reading and Spelling Help: Online Worksheets and Games for Homeschoolers

I don't have time to keep this blog updated, so if you have any free homeschool website links you'd like to submit that are not existing for the mere purpose of tempting someone to buy something, feel free to submit your links to me and I'll include them. Similarly, if you'd like to submit a guest post that helps others homeschool for free, feel free to email me at writerightforyou at gmail dot com.

Homeschooling offers the early reader and the struggling reader the time to develop their skills without the pressure of teachers, therapists and classmates killing their confidence and love for reading. Struggling readers will quickly learn to hate reading when they are forced to read out loud in front of their peers and are subjected to snickers and rolling eyes at every mistake. Not all parents teach their kids to be understanding and not all parents teach their kids that everyone has different talents and strengths. Success is often touted as being a result of competition rather than progress. Competition will find its way into life naturally.

I have six kids, and their reading levels differ. Some excel, and some struggle. I've seen the public schools make things worse from their experiments with different language programs (one year phonics, another grade "whole word language, and another year focused on repetition or a failing combination). In the public schools, choosing a program to use throughout the year to "experiment" with often ends up failing the children. The public school system offers no opportunity for a teacher to opt out of a program in the middle of the year and say "hey, this just isn't working," and go on to try something else. Nor does it understand (or it may understand, but doesn't apply the fact) that every child learns differently. One child may learn through phonics, another whole word language, another repetition. Others may learn from reading, and other may learn from visuals, such as t.v. or video games. One of the finest blessings of homeschooling is to be able to adapt the educational programs you implement to your child's unique learning needs. You can vary them by day, week or month, and you don't have to stick with anything that's not working. I love it.

The first words of my youngest, after "McDonalds," (I prefer Burger King myself...), was "read the book." And she said it so fast and so often it came out as "readthebook." So I'd roll my eyes and walk around saying "readthebook, readthebook, readthebook," over and over while searching for a pile of ten or twenty pictures books to read her, while she followed pulling at my pant legs. One or two never sufficed. It was always a pile - literally ten or twenty. It was the only time she sat still. We don't have a t.v. in the house - and I raised the kids, except for the first few years with my oldest two, now 24 and 22, without a t.v. in the house. That decision, as well as homeschooling my youngest, was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. Having my kids was the smartest.

Then came the pressures of kindergarten and youth group classes where she had to read in front of others. She hated reading. I could read to her but she didn't want to even sound out one letter. She never stuttered before, but during kindergarten she developed a stuttering problem. As soon as I started homeschooling, it stopped. And I should point out, she is NOT a shy child. Not by a long shot. She was, and now is, an extremely confident child - except for her time in kindergarten. (She enjoyed preschool, and they had beginning lessons, but there was no pressure.) Some kids are well-suited for public schools, others aren't. The best thing I ever did was decide to homeschool her.

There are so many online resources for early readers online. I was going through some old bookmarks and wanted to share some homeschool websites that have beginning reading links, reading worksheets, and early games. I have zillions of them, and I keep all the websites we go to on an Excel spreadsheet. (Just bookmark them in the same folder whenever your child goes on an educational websites in case you need homeschool records for your state - or to just keep records in case you ever need them for the future. We live in a small rural area, and homeschooling is accepted. But I've read stories about problems in bigger cities. If you're worried about any challenges to your chosen program - keep records.)

My ultimate favorite reading website for early reading is Starfall. If you're an avid researcher for educational websites you've surely stumbled upon it. But I just think it's the most wonderful program in the world. I even broke down and bought the board game. (I avoid buying things with lots of pieces - to my surprise it's stil intact - can't say that Monopoly or Scrabble had the same luck - Checkers doesn't stand a chance..I think Checkers and a deck of cards end up on my shopping list at the dollar store every month.)

My daughter still visits Starfall for fun and to print her monthly calendars. Here's the link to the Starfall Store, I don't receive and commission or anything, just posting it in case anyone is interested in the board game - which I highly recommend for teaching phonics. It also has a reverse-board for teaching the alphabet and beginning letter sounds. The phonics game currently goes for $14.95 at the Starfall Store. The starfall printing workbook was great because it focuses on basic consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words and some easy dolche (sight) in simple, non-intimidating methods in basic block print style. It's currently listed at $1.95 for level one. (It's worth FAR more than that - they keep things simple and environmentally friendly though, so these are printed on newsprint style paper - not the fancy plastic covered stuff. Yet, the pictures and content are friendly enough so it doesn't look like a stodgy old workbook.)

Wow - this post is getting too long. Okay, let me share a few websites here:

You may have stumbled on Internet4Classrooms in your search. If you haven't you're missing hundreds, if not thousands, of valuable resources for Grades K through 8. The Internet4Classroom First Grade links have many educational links to online games (often very simple) and worksheets. Most of the links you visit will have links to other educational resources, then the fun begins. Some of the games are very dry compared to today's standards (and they aren't much different than doing a worksheet) but there are a lot of really wonderful links in there. So take some time to dig through the website. It's one of those websites you can refer to often for quick worksheets and assignments that grow with the grade level. I found the dot-to-dots counting by 2s, 5s and 10s very useful. I have it on my speeddial (Opera Browser had it long before Google's Chrome browser!).

Get Ready to Read doesn't have a lot of links, but it has a page for printing reading activity cards in English and Spanish, for an individual or a group. Keep your eyes out when you click to download the pdf, because one is for instructions, and there is a separate link for the activity cards pdf.

Our favorite page on the website is the one for three free online phonic games. These are read-aloud stories in a video with phonic "choose-the-picture or word" participation by the user. I think they were about "Gus and Inky" underwater and out in the Wild West - and to keep with the times there is a hip-hop rhyme. Ha! that rhymes and I didn't even plan it! My daughter is 8 and she loves it. (A little easy for her..but she likes the characters.) It's fun, lively, and educational.

The Get Ready to Read Website has links to the RTI Action Website which focuses on Response to Intervention programs in schools. This program is part of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The RTI network has links on developing formal intervention plans if you require one for your district or prefer a more formal method of homeschooling. The National Center for Learning Disabilities promotes issues that I don't necessarily support, but it is a resource for government information. Here are some links on developing an Individual Education Program (IEP) and links to information on Dyslexia, and many other K-8 resources for teachers and parents, including a link to information on your legal rights.

Back to the fun stuff. Many times I'll get lucky and find some great websites with lots of links on college websites, websites from other schools, or library websites. Here's a list of Homeschool Links from Duluth Public Library.

The Navesink Elementary School has a list of good homeschooling links, many of which I've been to before. (You have to read them and retype them in the URL, they are not hyperlinked.) This Reading Online Website has some links for parents, and if you scroll down you'll see some links to websites with kid activities on it. The Marks English school has a list of online phonic games which is from the MES website. The BBC Schools spelling and reading page is one of my favorites - BBC and PBS are my personal favorites. This Central Elementary School page has quality links. You must visit this! They work for first grade, second grade and third grade. Addams Elementary School has some online games, none of which I tried, but I might take a look later. Davis Thaver Elementary School also has some educational links for elementary students.

Magic Keys has a long list of links to online stories and reading websites,as well as online games and parent resources. Of course, there's always the classic websites, like Clifford at the Scholastic website Games Page. They also have a page for free printable worksheets. They also have a link to free clipart that could some in handy. There's only 3071 clip art pictures to choose from...it says you have to subscribe to print (not free) but I just saved it as a jpg and printed it right now as we speak without subscribing.

The Adrian Bruce website has more than a few useful phonic links, printables, including poster printables, as well as other fun stuff for early readers. And I just stumbled on this blog called Lesson Plans, it looks like they might have some decent links if you dig into it. (I love the graphic!)

This ESL Teacher's Website looks a little dry at first, but the banner links and text links on the side are definitely worth visiting. I haven't gone to the ESL Teacher's Website before, but I have found some of the links she has listed useful. For instance, the MES English website has lots of free printable worksheets, and their "Alphabet Soup" link leads to a list of websites that offer free printables. Granted, many of these will try and sell you something, but many of these websites offer so many valuable homeschool links they are worth the visit. (I have no relation to these websites.) Originally I thought the Alphabet Soup link was to the Alphabet Soup game on PBS, which is a decent early reader game. PBS Kids Games is another permanent bookmark for us. PBS Lions Games were a big help over the last couple years (don't forget to click the down arrow for more choices), but they've gotten a little too easy for her now. It's a wonderful website for when your child is in the CVC stage, or even alphabet stage.

The Synthetic Phonics website has resources for phonics lessons, although I haven't quite examined them all yet.

Here's a link to lyrics for simple phonic songs with a download for the piano music only. (I was hoping it was a download for the song with words.) But they also offer the sheet music, great for music lessons. The home page for this Garden of Praise website has tons of links, and some for music lessons and art lessons which are a little harder to find. (Starfall also has some art stories for kids.) It's run from an experienced teacher who's been doing this since 1999.

Well, I've been writing far too long, (with many interruptions), so excuse me for any inconsistent flow in writing! I would love to hear anyone's comments on any of these websites, what's great, what to avoid. If you have other great links for phonics for early readers, please leave them in a comment for other readers! Anybody have a favorite website for phonics? I'd love to hear your opinions. Meanwhile..Happy Reading!

P.S. November 12, 2008: I just have to add GenkiEnglish.com to my list of free phonics homeschool websites. There are online phonic activities for early readers and a host of other free resources on other subjects. Definitely worth exploring!

Black and White Stack of Books Photo at the top Credit to Austenevan


For more Free Printables, Homeschool Worksheets and Free Lesson Plans, go to Homeschool Websites Homepage

For more Free Printables, Homeschool Worksheets and Free Lesson Plans, go to Homeschool Websites Homepage

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