This year I think I've found the golden key to our seemingly insurmountable issues with reading and spelling...
I am not getting paid to write this (wish I was!), but I am really loving the All About Learning Press materials. As you can see, after trying out the simple spelling materials for several months, I went all-out and bought the bags and boxes and reading program and even Ziggy the zebra puppet!
I feel like my kids have needed intensive phonics instruction, but the other programs that use flashcards and spelling notebooks are just SO. BORING. Even the reading book I used for both girls was miserable for everyone. I tried so many reading, phonics, and spelling programs that we didn't like. I was determined to teach the girls phonics since spelling is not coming easy to them. But back in the 1980s I learned to read by "whole language" and even after teaching intensive phonics myself in a Catholic school, I was still totally intimidated by the programs out there.
Finally we have a colorful, multi-sensory, and EASY TO TEACH program. There are flashcards and magnets, a dry-erase board, and even a puppet for the reading program! I don't make the girls use the magnets much these days, but we have colorful dry-erase markers and we go through about 20 minutes of a spelling lesson each day. The teacher manual is so easy to follow.
I will say that the Pre-1 Level reading program is not as good as I'd hoped. My son just turned 5 and still doesn't know all his letters and sounds, so I chose to go with this instead of Level 1. We started it in January. After talking to friends using Level 1, I think moving slowly through that would've been a better choice. The Pre-1 teaches a letter each day with some rhyming activities, a coloring page, and a (hardback) poetry book that is really kind of a waste of money. Maybe once we get to the 2nd half of the book, there will be some more variety. I think it would be a good match with a Letter of the Day type of program, where you could expound upon the simple letter instruction they offer and do your own little preschool crafty activities.
EDITED 5/22/13 I had a very nice back and forth email conversation with the folks at AAL Press who were gracious and very good at explaining the methodology for the slow pace of the AAR Pre-Reading program. We've stuck with it, getting almost through all the capital letters, and then we'll move onto the 2nd section of the book with lowercase letters, which appears to have some more varied activities. In the end, I feel that this was the right choice for him, and I plan to continue into AAR Level 1 sometime during his upcoming Kindergarten year, then I'll decide whether to continue with AAR or move into AAS.
But even though I'm not 100% crazy about the Pre-Reading, I plan to continue and move to Level 1 and then Spelling, so that we stick with this program for many years. I can't tell you how happy I am to have finally found a Reading and Spelling program that seems to work for our family!
Oh and I'll also add that I've heard some of the big Christian bookstores are starting to sell this in their stores. AWESOME!