Friday, May 20, 2005

Phonics - A Step in the Reading Skills Pyramid

"Mastering phonics is a key to reading." - Everyone would agree.

"Mastering phonics is the key to reading." - Oddly, that statement is controversial.

Lined up on one side are a group who at the extreme, are a phonics-loving-let's-get-back-to-basics-types and on the other extreme are the whole-word-free-spirit-types. It is true that this phonics debate is somewhat ridiculous in that anyone who teaches reading knows that different children learn differently and that almost all children benefit from a balance. All children must master phonics: it's just a question of whether phonics should be the focus.

The NCLB (No Child Left Behind) mandate organized reading skills into five areas: phonemic (& phonological) awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. They recognized that without the prereading skills of understanding how sounds are like reusable building blocks to construct words (t + at = hat, f + at = fat, etc.) and a trained ear to discriminate between assonant sounds (listen closely and you'll hear that "three" is a different word than "free" or "tree"), a child will not succeed at phonics. ( Put another way, phonemic & phonological awareness are key pre-reading or pre-phonics skills.)

Incidentally, I just read a great homeschooling-phonics blog and a blog on the politicalization of the phonics vs whole-word discussion.

Time4Learning takes the approach highlighted by the Reading Skills Pyramid and believes that successfully learning to read requires mastery of several skills (mastery of phonics & vocabulary, among others), not to mention having dedicated motivation.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Summer Skills Sharpener

Your child works hard during the school year and needs a summer
break to come back refreshed. Yet you know that it would be foolish to waste those summer months since academic progress is hard to make and a long summer layoff can result in backsliding.

Have you noticed how much your child enjoys using the computer? Maybe the answer this summer is to use the computer for a summer skills sharpener. This article reviews your choices for software programs for younger (under ten) children for use in the summer or doing the school year.

Learning Games on CDs - These programs can be bought in most stores. These games are a lot of fun with some educational components included. The downside is that most "learning games" tend to be more game than lesson. An upside is that CDs work even when there's no internet access.

Free Educational Game Web Sites - There are a lot of websites with "learning and games" services. But, these sites can be very commercial. Some even invite children to download games which contain spyware and viruses. These sites are similar to CDs in that they tilt towards games with limited educational substance.

Free Learning Sites - There are some free learning sites ranging from those that provide worksheets such as and to those with interactive exercises such as Funbrain,, and However, it is left to the parent to provide continuity, determine progress, and to assemble a cohesive over-all program.

Time4Learning's Subscription Online Service - A good educator teaches skills systematically. Uniquely, Time4Learning both provides children with a personalized, effectuve sequence of lessons and tracks the children's activities. Time4Learning also has reports for parents and safe games for kids included in the $19.95 monthly fee. Learning & Games - Time4Learning is a great summer skills sharpener and a welcome change from more-of-the-same workbooks. Learn More

Friday, May 13, 2005

Math Facts & a Math Foundation

Math Facts - Where do they fit in building a math foundation?

While math facts get alot of attention from parents who seems to like drilling their children on the math facts, the focus on memorizing math facts is often ill-timed in the educational sequence. While it's true that (as many parents say): "There are parts of education, like math facts, that you just need to memorize", it is not true that memorization of math facts are a key to success. In fact, the impatience of parents drilling on math facts (math facts at breakfast, math facts at lunch, math facts before TV, math facts before bed etc etc) can do some real harm, particularly when they are trying to teach the materials before the children are ready. In these cases, the children get frustrated, can start disliking math, and worse of all, can start to feel that they are bad at math. How sad is it when children develop math anxiety due to poor teaching!

Note, for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, there are the addition math facts (3+5=8), subtraction math facts (8-1=7), multiplication math facts (3x7=21), and division math facts (25 / 5 = 5).

Math facts appear to many parents to be the heart of math education but in fact, math facts are the epitome of the less-important rote learning aspect in a subject (math) which can only be mastered by acquiring basic understandings, not by memorizing the math facts or anything else.

A solid math foundation is build on deep fundamental understandings. The math facts are like the windows of a structure; important but math facts are not as important as the real foundation. As an example of the elements of a math foundation, look at Time4Learning's explanation of the proper sequence for acquiring skills to develop a deep enough foundation for success prior to spending time on the math facts.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Learning to Read. Nothing makes us prouder...

Learning to Read. Nothing makes us prouder as parents than watching our children learning to read. Yet successfully learning to read is not something to take for granted, learning to read effectively is the culmination of a lot of small steps that children take, some long before they are ready to read, others in the years after learning to read.

It's a common thought, although it's not true, that learning to read is a natural or trouble-free process. In reality many children, from all backgrounds, need supplementary help in mastering the reading skills.

Learning to read successfully means not only being able to decode words but being able to comprehend, to read fluently, and to enjoy reading. Too often today, there is a conflict between fun technology (electronic games, TV etc) and learning to read. I've created Time4Learning since I think technology needs to be harnassed to help us learning to read, to make learning to read more fun, and to make education as efficient and as enjoyable as possible.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Online learning for older students (college) has become common but online learning is just becoming useful for kids. Parents all want to help their children succeed and know that online learning is part of their . Online advice & resources have become incredibly useful to parents.

Many people are trying to learn the ABCs of online marketing...Heres a record of my efforts to learn it... steals my traffic!!!! Strange but true.