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Abeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip

Abeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip #homeschool #homeschoolcurriculum #curriculumreview #abeka #phonics

We've officially got seven readers in our home. A quick mental calculation will tell you that this means all five of my children have now crossed the great divide between those who can't read and those who can. My youngest still needs my help with certain words, but as of this year, he possesses all the head-knowledge required to decode a word...any word.

In some ways, it feels like it took a lifetime for us to get here. But in other ways, it seems like it only took a blink. In reality, it took eleven years.

To break it down: I've spent the past eleven years teaching the letter names and sounds, the diagraphs, and the syllable rules. Long vowels and short ones. Blends and end rhymes. Regular sounds and special exceptions.


(I am in no way affiliated with Abeka Book and receive no compensation for this post. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Obviously, every one of these learning-to-read journeys has been a bit different. My children each have their own unique set of struggles and strengths, after all. But, while the day-to-day lessons have had to ebb and flow to fit their individual needs, the curriculum has been the same for all eleven years.

I've taught all my kids to read using Abeka Phonics.

Abeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip #homeschool #homeschoolcurriculum #curriculumreview #abeka #phonics

Now, I'm not going to say that Abeka is the very best curriculum for teaching reading. (I cringe when I hear people use such strong superlatives when describing anything...as if they have tried every.single.item on the market and can make a conclusive statement about the superiority of one over all the others.) But, I think it's fair to say that I've had a pretty good track record with it. In addition to using Abeka Phonics while teaching my own circus of five, I've also used it...

  • when I learned to read back in 1983. (Don't try to do the math to find out my age. That's too many numbers for any brain to hold.)
  • when I worked for Abeka for four years in their homeschool division teaching other parents how to use the program.
  • when I took "Teaching Reading" at college (Abeka Phonics was the class curriculum standard.)
  • when I taught dozens upon dozens of other people's kids to read back when I was a classroom teacher.

I'm familiar with the program, to say the least. And since we're all friends here, I think it's only fitting that I tell you:

Before you pull the trigger and plunk down a bunch of real cash money for the expensive boxed phonics kit, don't. It's not worth it!

Clarity is kindness. And friends don't let friends waste money or buy clutter.

Abeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip #homeschool #homeschoolcurriculum #curriculumreview #abeka #phonics

Don't get me wrong, the foundation of the program is great. But as with everything in life, less is more. So many of the items in the kit and in the phonics section of the Abeka catalog can be bought or made at a fraction of the cost, can distract your child from the real work of reading, and can add a tedious amount of extra busywork because the program was designed for classroom use.

Case in point: The workbooks, while good for an easy-to-grab practice of skills, were never meant to be the "lesson." They were designed to be simple seatwork pages for classroom students to do while their teacher works with reading groups (small groups of students that are all at a similar reading level). The only job of a workbook page is to keep kids busy doing enough review work that they can stay occupied without having to ask a lot of questions or seek the teacher's assistance. For that reason, the workbook pages are generally about 5 to 10 skill levels behind the day's actual lesson topic. That's not to say that you shouldn't order the phonics workbooks, but only to say that you don't have to. Workbooks definitely have their place, even in homeschooling.

Abeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip #homeschool #homeschoolcurriculum #curriculumreview #abeka #phonics

In addition, the leveled readers are also worth some thoughtful consideration and possible "no thank you." With the exception of the kindergarten readers (as linked below) and perhaps the first two or three readers of first grade, don't bother buying any of the leveled readers. And definitely, do not buy any of the teacher editions for said books. Readers are really only useful in two specific scenarios:

  1. When a child is in the early stages of reading and hasn't learned enough sounds and rules to read a traditional trade paperback. (Leveled readers provide the look and feel of a "real" book while only utilizing a particular set of reading skills.)
  2. In a classroom setting. (They are designed to give a large group of kids something that they can all read and discuss together. Obviously, allowing 30 kids in a classroom to each read from 30 different books during group reading time would be counterintuitive at best and total anarchy at worst.) 
But, your home is not a classroom. Once your child is finished learning all the phonetical sounds and basic decoding rules (around the middle of first grade), he no longer needs readers. In fact, the dry-as-dust storylines of readers can actually turn your child away from a love of books.

Abeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip #homeschool #homeschoolcurriculum #curriculumreview #abeka #phonics

Instead, allow him to read from an actual book that has interesting characters and well-developed plots. (Need some suggestions? Try this list of books for young boys or this one for young girls.) If you're worried about his retention and comprehension, don't drill-and-kill with a curriculum worksheet, just learn to have a literary conversation with him using these 10 fail-proof questions to ask about any book.

But workbooks and readers aren't the only things to consider when ordering from the program. Here is a list of what to buy and what to skip when shopping for Abeka Phonics (K through second grade).

Must-Have

Homeschool K5 Phonics, Reading, Writing and Numbers Curriculum (K) This is a full curriculum for all the K5 subjects and must be purchased even if you only intend on using it for phonics and reading. 

Helpful to Have

Language 1 (1st)

Splurge Item

Blend Ladders (K-1st)

Don't Bother

Language 1 Teacher Key (1st) If you are actually teaching your child the lesson as dictated in the lesson plan book, a teacher's key for any of the K-2nd phonics student books is unnecessary. You'll be able to glance at their work quickly to determine if it is correct or not. 
Reading Comprehension 2 Parent Edition (2nd)
Basic Phonics Sounds CD  (K-2nd) Unless you are from a part of the country that's known for a dialect that would make it difficult for your child to hear the sound pronounced correctly. (Ex.: bag pronounced as bage in the midwest, car pronounced caw in the upper northeast, d pronounced duuuh in the southeast)

Abeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip #homeschool #homeschoolcurriculum #curriculumreview #abeka #phonics

Before hitting the "buy" button, remember, a curriculum company is a business. The people behind it, no matter how kind and sincere, want your money. Yes, they want your children to read. Yes, they want your experience to be enjoyable. But more importantly, they want you to buy... a lot. And in some kind of advertising wizardry, they'll try and convince you to do just that!

Don't be offended by their agenda. Just be informed. Before you fall for that big boxed phonics kit, don't.


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