From the archives...
The following discussion was originally posted on the (now discontinued) LOE Forum in 2014.
I have only just today ordered Essentials after years of trying a myriad of ranges out there for my 10 year old. With everything I have read and looked at I truly believe giving her those foundations in the phonograms is going to make all the difference.
My question and my hesitation with her is in regards to spelling and grammar. I really want her to have some solid, relatively quick successes, as she is so terribly down on the whole learning to read process (she's still on easy readers, is making some progress but it is very slow and very hard on both of us). I'm concerned that including spelling and especially grammar at this stage with her will just add to her anxiety - "oh no there's more I need to learn?!?!?!"
Do you have any suggestions at all?
First - you are absolutely on the right track in wanting her to have strong successes quickly. That can be so important for older struggling readers who have gotten so frustrated and discouraged about the whole thing.
Second - because you want solid successes, you DO want to do the spelling components of the lessons, absolutely, because that will reinforce her knowledge of the phonograms and spelling rules and strengthen them for reading. Every spelling exercise and lesson in Essentials contributes to success in reading, as well as giving tools she can use for spelling. You can tell her not to WORRY too much about the spelling, not grade her on spelling, not expect the same level of mastery - that's totally fine. But do teach the spelling parts of the lessons. Reading is decoding (phonograms to sounds to words) and spelling is encoding (words to sounds to phonograms) - they are the same skills in reverse, and they strengthen each other. So while it's fine if she doesn't get it down perfectly now, you don't want to skip the concepts and practice because they are so needed for reading. So do all of Part 1 and Part 2 of the lessons for sure, and at least some of the activities in Parts 3 and 4 that practice spelling as well.
Third - It IS ok if you don't do all of the grammar now. However, the grammar and composition activities in Essentials are designed to provide extra practice (in a meaningful, non-rote way) for the spelling and reading. You may actually want to do it - it introduces the pieces in very small steps, it's useful reading practice, and learning it does factor into reading comprehension as well - but if you don't, that's totally fine; just make sure to provide practice enough through the games, optional activities, etc.
Fourth - I'd recommend you check out the Essentials Reader. This was designed for students in EXACTLY your daughter's situation - too old for "easy readers," but really struggling with and frustrated by reading. There's a reading passage for each lesson that is developmentally appropriate for older kids but which uses NO phonograms and spelling rules that haven't been taught. This means students can focus on applying what they have learned, be successful, practice comprehension, and grow in confidence.
Fifth - If you would like some options of more advanced vocabulary to sub into the lessons at some point, know that there are free alternate advanced lists for each Essentials lesson on the Resource Page on our website. These words use the same phonograms and rules; they are just more advanced vocabulary, which can be encouraging for older kids. (For example, lesson 3 in the book: quick, man, human, clean, seven, duck... Lesson 3 alt list: frequent, seaweed, thunderstorm, belong, clerk.) [**2020 update: This note refers to the 1st edition of Essentials, which had only one level of words in each lesson. In the newer editions, intermediate and advanced spelling lists are built into Essentials, so you will not need to supplement from the website to provide more challenging content.**]
Sixth - At the beginning, while you should take time to do Pre-Lessons and teach the first lessons well, keep in mind that for older struggling readers it's really helpful to keep moving steadily so they can see progress as soon as possible, just like you said. Often their frustration and cynicism about reading will not give way to confidence and hope immediately; it takes getting enough pieces in place that they can begin to see them fitting together and helping them read successfully. So don't get bogged down making sure she has everything from lesson 1 mastered before you start 2; there will be lots of review throughout.
We wish you the very, very best! I am eager to hear how it goes - I think you will indeed find that learning the foundational pieces of written English does make all the difference for her. Let us know how we can help.
Another LOE parent chimed in:
Hi! My name is Angeliea. I am an ambassador for LOE for just this reason. I happened upon this program by accident and six months later I met Denise at a convention and cried like a baby in the booth. When I say that this program changed my family's life I am not being melodramatic. I pulled my son out of public school in the seventh grade after years of trying to fight the system. We had extra help at school, IEP's, paid for tutors you name it. When I pulled my son out of school, he was 13 and was reading at approximately a second to third grade level. After about 10-15 lesson he was reading at about a sixth grade level. When we started the program, it would take us 1-2 hours a day. We did everything in the exercise. We did all the optional things as well. Some weeks we would complete 1-2 lessons depending on his grasp of the material. The way the program is set up you continue to get reenforcement with every lesson. Not only did my son's reading improve, but his spelling went from 0-60 in 2.5. He would ask me how to spell dog in the beginning. Shortly after starting the program his spelling was improved beyond words. Don't be scared! Just dive in and start. If for some reason your child gets antsy, incorporate the games to break up the lessons. If you have any questions, or need encouragement, please contact LOE and they will give you my information. Good luck and I know you will be successful with this.
The original post author wrote back:
Thank you so much Liz for such a detailed response to my question I truly appreciate you taking the time to do this. LOE has just arrived on my doorstep this morning. I plan to begin on Monday morning after giving myself a few days to get familiar with it. :-)
Angliea, your heartfelt message brought tears to my eyes. So happy to hear of the success you had with your son. Thank you for sharing, I'm looking forward to diving in head first :-)