Although Alpha-Phonics has been around for years, I did not have access to it when my children were learning to read. That is too bad. It would have saved us quite some tears and frustration.
Alpha-Phonics is a clear, simple, and inexpensive systematic phonics program that can be used on its own or in conjunction with another program. It is suitable for beginning readers and is also a resource for those who need special help. The program consists of
Beginning with short vowel sounds, Alpha-Phonics introduces new consonants and vowel sounds gradually, with ample practice in reading simple words and sentences. In 128 lessons it moves from blending ‘a’ and ‘m,’ resulting in ‘am,’ to reading words like ‘synthetic’ and ‘mystical,’ covering all 44 sounds of the English language. Each lesson covers one phonics topic and is presented very simply in elegant black lettering on a white page. There are absolutely no pictures, colors, or other distractions from the letters and words themselves.
Any word that does not follow the rule being studied is surrounded by a box to help students remember and to highlight the fact that most of the words do follow the rules.
As we all know, spelling is the other side of phonics; once a student understands what sounds letters make, it is, obviously, easier to write down the letters that make those sounds. Occasionally spelling rules are specifically shown, such as doubling consonants before adding ‘ing,’ and at other times you will need to remember to point them out.
Each lesson has brief instructions in the Teacher’s Manual at the back of the book as well as on the CD-ROM, but you do have to plan your own method to help your child practice the lesson: reading aloud, dictation, copywork, making up practice sentences, spelling lessons, and so on. After all, Alpha-Phonics was written for classroom teachers who usually make up lesson plans. It is, however, very easy to adapt to homeschooling, although it might frustrate moms who like workbooks.
The CD-ROM contains the entire contents of the book as well as three talks by the author. For each lesson, there are written teacher instructions, spoken teacher instructions including the pronunciation of the phonics sounds being studied, and finally the student page.
I did notice the one problem with phonics instruction: Occasionally local pronunciations are involved. For example, where I live and according to my dictionary, ‘song’ and ‘long’ follow the same pattern as ‘gong’ and ‘bong’. However, from the CD-ROM, it is obvious that Dr. Blumenfeld pronounces the ‘g’ at the end of ‘gong’ and ‘bong’ but probably not at the end of ‘song’ and ‘long’. Such subtleties make the CD-ROM invaluable. (Our older children learned phonics from a British textbook and the pronunciation differences were dramatic and almost insurmountable; with Alpha-Phonics they are easy to manage.)
If Miss 10’s reading and spelling do not improve soon—very soon—we may go through Alpha-Phonics as remedial work. Even just reviewing all the phonics concepts in an organized way could make a huge difference for her, and if not, the process will help us to understand what the problem is. We used a combination of phonics and sight words to teach Miss 10 to read; in hindsight, straight phonics would have worked better for her.
Alpha-Phonics would be a helpful accompaniment to reading programs that use sight words, such as the Pathway Reader series that we used. For anyone considering the All About Spelling program (reviewed here) and the All About Reading readers (reviewed here and here), Alpha-Phonics is much less expensive as well as simpler to use. Although it is less hands-on than All About Spelling, I think it would be every bit as effective unless you have a child who really needs hands-on learning opportunities.
Like Cathy Duffy and Mary Pride, who have done so for years, I am pleased to recommended Alpha-Phonics.
You can buy the Alpha-Phonics program directly from the publishers or from most homeschool curriculum vendors. Currently the CD-ROM is free with the purchase of the book.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Alpha-Phonics in order to review it. This review presents my own honest opinions, and I am not compensated for it in any way.