I was deciding between writing an entire curriculum review or just focusing on each of the Foundation series. Since other bloggers have looked at the review holistically, I shall review the curriculum in-depth starting from Foundations A. Since the triplets are on Foundations A and Livia is on Foundations B, I can only review these two sets in detail. You might have to wait till a few months later before I can review Foundations C (likely around September) and D (likely around November).
I think the most obvious question I need to deal with first is what is so great about Foundations? How does it differ from other Language Arts curriculums? Other than the fact that it makes the Orton-Gillingham approach accessible and easy for parents to understand and then teach it to their kids, the entire curriculum is also so damn robust.
First, its very easy to understand and everything is laid out for you to simply follow. The teacher’s manual is extremely systematic. Before you even get started, it lists all the materials you will require, what is the scope and sequence of each lesson, and all throughout the book, useful tips and advice is given to make learning more fun, easier and simpler depending on your child’s preferences. You simply have to follow the Teacher’s manual with very little prep on your part to conduct a lesson. So you can start your day knowing you can do Lesson 6 and not needing to prep anything in advance. Of course if you want to make the Lesson more exciting, the Teacher’s manual gives advice on how to extend learning further. For us, I only really start the lesson with the Teacher’s manual, the workbook, a whiteboard and a whiteboard marker, and the basic phonogram flashcards and we are ready to go.
Second, it covers EVERYTHING. While Explode the Code helps children decode phonics, Foundations does this and so much more. You don’t need a separate curriculum for high-frequency sight words, spelling, writing, listening, or comprehension skills. The curriculum covers just about everything under the sun related to introducing and making the English Language fun for little ones and it does so with high sensitivity to raising the child’s phonemic awareness. Children with poor phonemic awareness struggle endlessly with reading at the start and get easily frustrated or turned off when you try to teach them phonics. For whatever reason, the child is just unable to recognise alphabets by their sound and break up words into their most basic sound units. What Foundations A does is to teach the child how to break down words into their smallest units by making it explicit. What do I mean by explicit? It means the curriculum makes all the rules governing pronunciation, writing, listening and comprehension explicit to the child from the beginning of learning how to read. For example, take the alphabet ‘s’. We all know ‘s’ as in producing the /s/ as in snake but when ‘s’ is in the middle of a word like ‘prism’ or ‘chasm’ it transforms into /z/. So we teach early on in Foundations A the fact that ‘s’ can be unvoiced as in /s/ or voiced /z/. Whether it transforms into voiced or unvoiced, depends on what other sound units it combines with. This might sound really heavy for a 3-year-old child but the book will teach the parent to teach the child how to make it easy to differentiate voiced and unvoiced (incidentally, one of the first concepts you will learn in Foundations A). My triplets are all now experts in what sounds are voiced and unvoiced.
Third, it is not at the least bit academic and there is nothing rote about it. I mean yes, it is academic in the sense that you will indeed be teaching things like phonograms, spelling rules, and complex concepts like short vowels and long vowels, but the curriculum actively employs multi-sensory approaches so it uses a lot of physical/movement activities and likes to game-ify the lesson so the child grasps concepts easier, quicker and more in-depth. Like the phonogram sound /a/ used to even confuse me and one of the exercises to help kids remember the three sounds of phonogram /a/ was to march around the room and sing â-ā-ä. Another example, was how to teach children the difference between a consonant and a vowel. The book tells the kids that while we can sing AEIOU, we in fact cannot sing out b, d, f, g etc., as there is always a part of the mouth blocking us from singing the sound out smoothly. So you can sing out vowels but you cannot sing out consonants.
Fourth, I just really appreciate how the curriculum teaches writing. My children have a lot of difficulties with writing from reversing all their letters to having problems forming the rounded shapes in letters such as a, e and s. Many, many teachers and parents tell me oh, they will outgrow them eventually but to be honest, after 2 years, my child did not outgrow reversing a single letter until I finally intervened to help her. She was reversing entire words that you needed a mirror to read her writing. She also needed so much focus to write words in their un-reversed form and struggled endlessly. It was only after reading Denise Eide’s book Uncovering the Logic of English that I started realising why she was doing this. Her poor sense of directionality in writing was a result of weak visual muscle memory. There were many reasons for a child to have poor directionality and weak visual muscle memory ie. inability focusing on the text and not reading and writing from left to right and forming letters inaccurately and it is because of the way we show them printed materials. When a small child first encounters picture books, they are typically drawn to the picture and not so much the text so children with very weak directionality and visual muscle memory, need help in training their eye reflexes to focus on the text, and its correct left to right direction. By doing so mitigates directionality problems in their writing. In the case of my 5yo, her weak sense of directionality was most likely a result of being a leftie. Throughout Foundations A, a lot of tips are offered on how to gradually build a child’s visual muscle memory and sense of directionality when they first start learning to form letters, write them precisely on a line, and read them from left to right. Each lesson is always accompanied with writing practice and in Foundations A its mostly lowercase letters while Foundations B deals with uppercase letters. My leftie child has since demonstrated immense improvement in writing with rare letter reversals.
Fifth, I cannot emphasize how quick the lessons are. With children under the age of 6, commanding their attention and to sit down to conduct a lesson is a challenge. Lessons in Foundations A could very easily be done in 10 minutes flat, though of course, if you have a child who needs it to be more slow-paced, it can be stretched longer but it should be over in less than half an hour. I often found that I would stop at one lesson and leave my kids at such a high (because it was so fun) that they asked me to continue to the next lesson.
Lastly, the book has just SO MANY tricks up its sleeves. Throughout the Teacher’s manual, you will see many colored boxes at the side and these are very neat tricks that pre-empt the difficulties you might face while teaching and how to overcome them. I have screen-shot some of these tricks here for you to read. Aren’t they just fabulous?
So let me just move on to what exactly is covered in Foundations A. I do find that Lessons 1-4 was a bit of a drag because it was introducing concepts like voiced and unvoiced sounds, blending, and practicing the different writing strokes. However, from Lesson 5 onwards, it begins to really pick up pace: each lesson introduces a phonogram sound (and activities that you can play to help the child master the sound), highlights initial consonant sounds (introduction to blending), and begins writing practice in lowercase alphabets.
Lessons 10-25 offers lots of practice in beginning/initial, middle and ending consonant and vowel sounds and how to segment and blend simple CVC words. So by Lesson 30 to 40, the child should in fact be blending sounds quite well and offers more practice in the area. By the end of Foundations A, the stage is set to bridge towards Foundations B. Also to note that spelling is introduced from Lesson 20 onwards. For children who do not like to write or have challenges with writing, it would be useful to also buy the Phonogram game tiles so that they can spell words using the tiles instead of writing. Why you might ask is it so important to learn spelling from the start? Children who can write do not necessarily know how to spell, but children who can spell certainly know how to read. From each lesson starting from Lesson 20, a list of 5 words are given and the lessons gives an extremely detailed description how to teach the spelling of each words using explicit phonic principles. I was really surprised that my eldest kid, who is already on Foundations B can simply spell the list of words just hearing me pronounce them and it gives me assurance that her phonemic awareness and visual memory muscle which were initially very weak, has strengthened.
Okay, at this point I should be explaining its disadvantages. I find it really hard to find some negatives because the curriculum is so exhaustive you can take what you like and discard what you don’t like. There are so many activities and you do not need to do everyone of them. Choose the ones that you like or you find simpler to execute and you can easily work around scaling down the activity for a 3 year old or for children who dislike using paper and pencil (in fact the curriculum offers many, many tips on how to get around helping the child to enjoy writing). I do skip through many activities because I am too lazy to do them. The thing is I have looked at quite a bit of curriculums and I have always found they were incomplete or required a lot of DIY-ing on my part and I just don’t have the time for that. LOE just makes the process of teaching kids how to read so much easier. I think though it is unnecessary for a child who is able to grasp phonics and learn to read intuitively or visually – it might be overkill to put them through the curriculum. For these kids who are already reading chapter books by age 5-7 and even for primary school kids, you might just want to look into getting the Spelling Game Book because even the best readers can struggle with spelling and this book makes learning irregularities in spelling fun.
So I’ll be adding on here any questions I received so I don’t need to repeat my answers:
Q: I just want to teach a child how to recognise sounds and not start on a phonics curriculum proper, what materials should you get from LOE?
A: You can just start off with Doodling dragons: an ABC book of sounds and read it like a storybook. Read it often enough that the child is able to master all the basic phonogram sounds of the alphabet. If you want to further challenge your child, you can pair Doodling dragons with the basic phonogram flashcards and play games to help them to recognise the alphabet and match them to the correct sound.
Q: I’ve narrowed down my spelling choices to Explode the Code and Logic of English and would love to hear an update on how you’re faring!
A: My child finds Explode the Code a real drag because it involves a lot of writing. Most preschoolers find sitting down and going through an exercise with lots of writing a drag so there are days where its hard to get her to finish one Explode the Code lesson. Whereas with LOE Foundations, there are just so many activities and games and the lessons often end with a positive high that the kids look forward to more. There is also minimal writing involved at least from Foundations A to B and the book offers many other alternatives approaches to writing like using the Phonogram game tiles, using Lego blocks, using finger-writing, sand-writing, or toy-cars to form strokes, if your child really dislikes using paper and pencil.
Q: Hello, based on your preliminary thoughts, why do you think Logic of English is way superior to Explode the Code? Is it mainly because the latter is repetitive? Or is LOE structured better for both the amateur instructor and kids?
Explode the Code is VERY repetitive and it does get boring. I also find the pace extremely slow. One lesson only covers one sound so it takes months to see any progress. My eldest still uses Explode the Code while concurrently also doing LOE Foundations B and while I have no problem getting her to participate in Foundations B, she needs a lot of motivation to complete a lesson in Explode the Code. Explode the Code is not recommended at all for the child who can’t sit still and focus whereas LOE has a lot of kinesthetics movements and games and so its possible to teach it to a wiggly child and get him to remember what he learnt. Read the link I appended below on how a parent uses it to teach her wiggly child.
Q: Do u think it’s cheaper to buy the entire foundation set or to purchase the items u mentioned individually?
The sets are indeed cheaper if you are buying physical copies. The set does not allow for downloadable PDF versions. If you want to get the PDFs only like me, then you have to get the items individually. I would also start with just Foundations A to see how well your child does before committing to getting Foundations B and so on. It might be even a year before you can move up to Foundations B, depending on your child’s progress.
To know how to get started on Foundations, please read my previous blog post on LOE Logistics – How to get started? Link here.
Review of Foundations curriculum by a vlogger. Link here.
Teaching a Wiggly Child to read with the Logic of English. Link here.
Cathy Duffy reviews Foundations. Link here.
Denise Eide’s presentation on Logic of English curriculum. Link here.
Denise Eide’s presentation on teaching struggling readers and spellers. Link here.