The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Tess Hamre and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

First Phonics Review by Kim Kargbo

By Betty Ward Cain
Bedford Publications
2201 Heritage Place Drive, NW
Cleveland, TN 37312

First Phonics is a 3 CD-ROM set subtitled "the fun way to learn to read." Two of the CDs contain video books (one for every letter of the alphabet) and a phonics game sheet for each letter. (Vowels have 2 video books, one for the short sound and one for the long sound.) The video books have titles emphasizing the sound of the letter, such as "Bad Billy Bear Bursts Balloons" or "Casper Cat Catches Caterpillars." The stories themselves are not alliterated like the titles, but they teach character lessons using animals as the main characters. The author reads the story, and the pages are simply and colorfully illustrated. The phonics game corresponds to the letter sound, giving the child a page of objects and asking him to decide which ones do not start with the correct sound. Songs that state the main point of the story accompany each story and are incorporated into the narration. The third CD is a teacher's manual containing three e-books to assist in lesson planning, crafts, and learning pockets (a pocket folder for flashcard homework intended to be sent home with a child from school).

This resource could be used for classrooms or homeschools, but it seems to lend itself more easily to homeschooling. The teacher's manual contains a plethora of ideas for teaching the letter sounds including:

  • language arts worksheets
  • craft that corresponds to the story, complete with templates and instructions
  • vocabulary
  • creative writing
  • simple recipes
  • math project
  • science activities

I would put this resource in the kindergarten age range, but it may be more suited to preschoolers for some. The resource would probably have to be used by a parent and student together, in order to move back and forth between the menu items. My first grader liked the stories and the game but thought the songs were a bit long. (They are repeated several times between the video book and the game.)

This resource retails for $35. Having taught several children to read, I don't believe that this resource will actually teach your child to read. It would, however, make a good supplemental activity to your systematic teaching of phonics and reading skills. Children who love listening to a computer read a book will probably like it, though the story combined with the game portion is probably more than most children's attention span permits at this age level. Some people may be bothered by the pronounced dialectical accent that the author has while reading the stories. For someone wanting some direction in teaching basic phonics skills to their 3 to 6-year-old, this would be an excellent resource.

Product review by Kim Kargbo, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2010