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Phonics Pathways, 9th edition Review by the Publishers

Pyramid: Reading Exercises
Dolores Hiskes

Phonics Pathways is a favorite with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and the new 9th edition is beautiful. Dolores Hiskes, a reading tutor for over thirty years, is well known and loved in the homeschool community for the easy approach she lays out for teaching easy reading and perfect spelling.

Phonics Pathways is broken into short easy to understand lesson plans. I appreciate how the lessons are not overwhelming to the teacher or the student. It is taken at an easy pace and uses a fun character, Dewey the Bookworm, who shows up in many lessons with helpful hints and encouraging tips. Spelling and reading is taught as a unit, and again, the lessons are so 'bite sized' and progresses so gradually that learning to read and spell is not only easy but achieved gently and completely. For reading exercises, I also recommend the Pyramid: Reading Exercises. One of my daughters has had an extra struggle with reading, and the Pyramid: Reading Exercises has helped make a noticeable improvement for her. The short stories it includes are so fun and silly that it makes the daily lessons something to look forward to.

For a program that really works, Phonics Pathways has always been the top pick by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.

--Product Review by Jenefer Igarashi, Senior Editor, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC

Phonics Pathways and Pyramid

When I first met Dolores Hiskes, creator of Phonics Pathways (Dorbooks at, I had no idea what to expect of her reading program. I knew I liked her website and I understood the need for good reading (teach to read - not just supplement the reading) materials. What I did not know at the time is that she probably puts out the best possible "learn to read quickly program" for new (and struggling) readers that I have seen yet. We took a look at Phonics Pathways and also Pyramid. So many reading programs are wonderful and come packed with large numbers of components, like flashcards, textbooks, workbooks, tapes, CDs, and more. Don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong with those programs and many homeschoolers love them. But Dolores made it easy for us. With these two "workbooks" (you don't write in them, they only look like workbooks), you have absolutely everything readily available to teach your child to read. This is so simple. She starts your little one out with the vowels (short), and moves into "eyerobics" (two-letter blends with proper left-to-right reading exercises), and moves on from there - introducing a "pyramid" type of reading. I observed that my son, Levi Mark (age seven) was getting an "eye workout," because this is how she set it up - to compel the child to read correctly, paying close attention to the letters and sounds. Sounds and words are grouped together to give the child a large practice session, which results in retention. Plus, it's FUNNY. You'll crack up at the silly sentences and your child will look up at you with a facial expression like, "Is this normal?" ("Gus ate eight great steaks, and he gained a lot of weight!" and "Take his fake cat and name it" are two examples.) As a parent, this makes it convenient and fun, as it's simple to explain and work through. After Levi had explained to me what it meant for a big fat duck to be sitting on a back deck, I was ready to let him stop for the day, but he said, "Can we do one more?" Now that's what I want to see a reading program do! And this is what Phonics Pathways and Pyramid can give you - a full reading program at a fraction of the price of other large programs. I feel that every homeschool house in the country should own this set. It's a way of teaching phonics that puts your child into laughing hysterics instead of "reading hysteria." We are doing it with our kindergartener (Julia) and Levi, presently. All three of us are enjoying it. Even if you recently pulled your third or fourth grader out of school to begin homeschooling, it would be excellent to go through this program. It can be completed by an already reading child in a month or so, as a refresher to plug in any "holes." Another excellent part of this program is the dictation exercises. Dictation is one of the best things you can do with your kids to increase their vocabulary, spelling, and penmanship. I use the dictation sections for my two older boys, ages 10 and 11. Go get it homeschool families. You'll love it!

Want to see what I mean when I say it is FUNNY? Take a look at how silly a time Susan Wise Bauer and her son, Ben, had when they sat down to do "dictation with Phonics Pathways." I laughed my head off when I read this. Kids are such a crack up! Co-author of The Well Trained Mind and author of the new The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, and popular guest writer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Susan is a typical homeschool mom like the rest of us, with a very funny dictation story she allowed us to share with you, below.

-- Product Review by: Publishers, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Provided by Ben (aged 7) and Susan (aged 33 and learning more patience every day)

Ben is doing dictation from Phonics Pathways to improve his spelling.

SUSAN (holding a copy of Phonics Pathways): Ben, look at your paper. Now listen to the sentence. "Ben held his pet pig, Gus. Gus is just a big, fat lump."
BEN (falls off his chair laughing)
SUSAN: Get back on the chair. Where's your pencil? Are you ready now?
BEN: Does it really say "Ben?"
SUSAN: Yes, it does.
BEN: Can I see?
SUSAN: After you write the sentences.
BEN: I forgot what they were.
SUSAN: "Ben held his pet pig, Gus. Gus is just a big, fat lump."
BEN: If I had a pet pig, I would name it Fuzzy.
SUSAN: What is the first word you're going to write?
BEN: "Ben."
SUSAN: Go ahead and write it. (Ben begins to write a small b.) What kind of letter do we use at the beginning of a sentence?
BEN: Oh. A capital. (He erases the small b and writes a large B, e, n.) What's the next word?
SUSAN: Ben held his pet pig, Gus.
BEN: How do you spell "held"?
SUSAN: What's the first letter?
BEN (makes huffing noises): H. (He writes it right after the "n.")
SUSAN: Did you leave a pencil-wide space between the words?
BEN: Oops. No. (He erases the h and writes it halfway across the page. Susan decides not to correct this.) What comes next?
SUSAN: You tell me.
BEN: Eh, eh, eh. El, el, el. (He writes e, l). Duh, duh, duh. Which way does a d go?
SUSAN: Straight line down, make the loop towards the living room.
BEN: OK. (He finishes the word.) Now what?
SUSAN: Do you remember the sentence?
BEN: Can you really have a pet pig?
SUSAN: Asian potbellied pigs can be pets.
BEN: What are they?
SUSAN: You saw them at the petting zoo. They have stomachs that hang all the way down to the ground, and you can teach them to - Let's finish this sentence, Ben, or we'll never be done. "Ben held his pet pig, Gus."
BEN: I would name it Fuzzy.
SUSAN (voice slightly louder): Write "his pet pig." (Ben writes "his pet" and makes the p backwards.) That's a q.
BEN: There's so much to remember! (He erases the backwards p and writes it correctly.) I forgot the next word.
SUSAN: Read your sentence so far.
BEN: "Ben held his pet... Pig! (He writes "pig.")
SUSAN: What was the pig's name?
BEN: Gus!
SUSAN: Write "Gus." Don't forget to leave a space between your words.
BEN: How do you spell "Gus"?
SUSAN: What's the first letter?
BEN: G, G, G. (He starts to write a small g.)
SUSAN: What do you do to names? (Ben looks blank.) What kind of letter do you use at the beginning of a name?
BEN: A capital letter. I forgot again. (He erases the small g and writes a capital G instead.) What's the next letter?
SUSAN: Sound it out.
BEN: Uh, uh, uh. A u. And then an s. (He finishes the word.) Am I done yet?
SUSAN: No, you have another sentence. And you're not done with this one. What goes at the end of a sentence?
BEN: A period. (He adds it.)
SUSAN: There's something else too. Listen to me read it again. "Ben held his pet pig [long pause] Gus." (Ben looks puzzled.) Do you hear the pause between "pig" and "Gus"?
BEN: Uh-huh.
SUSAN: Do you remember what punctuation mark we put into a sentence to show that there's a pause between two words? (Long silence.)
BEN: (eventually) What's that thing called that goes up here? (He makes little dots at the top of the line he's writing on.) A catastrophe?
SUSAN: An apostrophe.
BEN: Yes, one of those.
SUSAN: No, that's not it. (Another long silence.) A comma is what you need.
BEN: Oh, right. (He very carefully draws an extremely dark comma between "pet" and "pig.")
SUSAN: That's a great comma, but it's in the wrong place. Listen. "Ben held his pet pig, Gus." Where's the pause?
BEN: Oh. After "pig." (He erases the comma and writes it in the right place.) Now am I finished?
SUSAN: No, you have one more sentence.
BEN: But it's so looong.
SUSAN: As soon as you write the next sentence, you can have a break.
BEN: What is the next sentence?
SUSAN: "Gus is just a big, fat lump."


BEN: Now am I done?
SUSAN: You did a great job. Take a little break.
BEN: Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! I'm done dictation! I'm done dictation! (Dances away to play with Legos. Susan eats chocolate chips straight from the bag as preparation for the next subject.)

Taken with permission from, a page on site.