Why the Tree of Life?


Reading Improvements

We've made some big changes in reading instruction around here that I thought I would share.

I've always been on the pure phonics side of the never-ending reading method debate, and it was what I planned on using with my kids. I have also *not* hopped on the Earlier-is-Better bandwagon. I think beginning reading instruction at age 7 is perfectly fine, if not better, for numerous reasons (which I'll spare you folks from enumerating).

When I found Enki, I thought it would be the nice blend of phonics with a more playful approach and delayed instruction I was looking for. It is definitely delayed instruction, and the Enki approach to reading seems to work awesome for kids who come to first grade already knowing how to read. It also seems to work for families who don't have toddlers who tear up the language arts manipulatives or who allow you to play games without interruption (such as peeing on the couch, asking for the fifth cutie orange to be peeled, throwing the game pieces across the room, eating the game pieces...). And it doesn't work to play the games during nap or after bedtime. Tried it. Everyone is too tired.

After having gone through first grade and having a good taste of second grade now, I can say that there is not enough phonics in Enki for my tastes. Kirven was not gaining any insight into how to read from what we were doing with Enki. BUT! in all honesty, I have not been able to give it a fair shake. Kirven doesn't want to do the academic movement verses and activities, and he either doesn't like the games or we can't play them with Ayla. So there has been no real "Enki" work with reading that we have been able to do. So, I don't actually blame the Enki approach, and no one should take this post as that because I have seen it work for plenty of families. This is just where we are right now and our personal experiences.

Like math, I like the language arts stories for introducing concepts, but we needed something more for the strong phonics foundation that I want for my kids. Enki has a strong element of discovery learning, but watching Kirven struggle with reading as I waited for him to make phonics discoveries on his own was like watching him in the pool learning to swim without any instruction. It was frustrating for both of us, and I didn't see any love for reading developing; quite the opposite, in fact, plus a good dose of insecurity--- the opposite of the confidence it is supposed to instill. The argument for this discovery learning approach is that it is empowering for kids to teach themselves to read without any direct, explicit instruction. I have no doubts that it is empowering for some kids, but I don't think every approach fits every kid, and I don't think this particular approach is empowering for all kids. It hasn't been for Kirven.

So, the changes....

For several months now, we have been using the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I even have the pre-printed index cards that I can just cut out and don't have to write out. I *am* that lazy. It is scripted. It is dry. But it is thorough, and it has a logical progression (something that is very appealing to me, and which is lacking from Enki). Kirven is willing to do it, though he doesn't love it. He is making vast improvements in reading and his confidence is growing every day.

We are mixing in the Enki stories (1st & 2nd grade), and that is what I thought I would share specifically for anyone interested.

The OPGTR has 25 sections with a total of 231 scripted lessons. Here are my lesson plans:

Section 1 is Short-Vowel sounds. Skip this section.
Section 2 is Consonant sounds. Also skip this section, and do the regular Enki 1st grade Hidden letter story cycles instead.
-Play easy games (whatever) to drill on consonant sounds
-Do the 1st grade Enki vowel block (True Name of the King, Vowel Secrets & Vowel Friends)
Do OPGTR Section 3 Short Vowel words
-Do Story cycle with 2nd Grade Enki story Night Twister
Do Sections 4 Two-Consonant Blends, 5 Consonant Digraphs, 6 Three Consonant Blends
-Do Story Cycle with 2nd grade Enki story Helpful Elf
Do Section 7 Long Vowel, Silent-E Words
-before Lesson 77 Do Enki 1st grade story Mischief Comes to Alpha-Beta
Finish Section 7
-Do 1st Grade Ail/Ale Family with Town Board
-Do 2nd grade The Royal Camp
Do Section 8 Common Spellings for Long-A Sound
-Do 1st grade Eap/Eeep Family with Town Board
-Do the 2nd grade Royal Letter Guard before lesson 92
Section 9 Long-E
-Do 2nd grade "I's" Pride
Section 10 Long -I
-Do 1st grade Oat/ote Family
Section 11- Long O
Section 12-Long U
-1st grade Ool/Ule Family
Section 13: Common spellings for other vowel sounds
Section 14: Other spellings for short vowel sounds
-1st grade ight/ite family
-2nd grade Sneaky Sailors
-2nd grade Ghosts and Goblins Have Their Say
Section 15 Silent Letters
-2nd grade Royal Islands
Section 16: R-changed vowels
-2nd grade Anastasia Story
Sections 17-25

I don't have Enki 3rd grade yet, so I don't know what the Language Arts stories are in that grade. If there are any, I will mix them in if it makes sense, too. This is just one way of doing things, and it's how we're doing things these days and with great results. Cue words like "helpful elf" or "vowel friends" help Kirven when he is having trouble sounding out, and he is being exposed to all the phonics patterns that I think are important. Oh, and besides the scripted lesson, we are not doing any other reading practice. It is really all he is doing right now. I have felt like he is getting enough daily practice in the script itself.


  1. Wow! Again, thanks for sharing how you are meeting your kids. It's interesting, I was just reflecting with a friend the other day that bringing content/ideas/skills to Emmett in a dreamy way doesn't always seem to serve him well. He loves the stories, as do I, but when left to make the connections himself, the fire just sort of fizzles. If I make more direct connections with him, magic bubbles forth. I often find myself looking back thinking, if I were to do that over, I would be more direct in our reawakening.

    I am going to tuck your ideas away and I am sure they will serve as inspiration when we travel this road. And with a one year old (who I call the destroyer) soon to be walking as we enter second grade it sounds like the scenery may be very similar to what you are describing ;)

    Great information. Thank you.

  2. I'm a Montessori fan myself, but I really don't think any method is all right for all kids. Finding what works for yours is the name of the game. Congratulations!