See the complete review of the print version in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
Explode the Code® is a series of 14 phonics workbooks that can either be used as your primary teaching tool or a supplement to another basic phonics program such as Alpha Phonics, Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook, Happy Phonics, or Phonics Pathways. Some families also use Explode the Code with older children who have a weak phonics foundation. While phonic decoding skills are the primary focus, reading comprehension and vocabulary also get some attention.
Books are printed in black and white. They feature large print and less of it per page than some other phonics workbooks, making them a good choice for children who can do only limited amounts of writing or have trouble focusing.
Students should be able to do most work independently once someone has read the instructions for that page to them. After a while, students will become familiar with the types of exercises and will seldom need even that assistance.
These workbooks each teach selected phonetic concepts rather than covering most or all of them in each book. Students learn all phonetic concepts by completing Books 1 through 8. The content of each is as follows: Book 1 - short vowels; Book 2 - initial and final consonant blends; Book 3 - open syllables, silent-e rule, digraphs, and simple diphthongs; Book 4 - syllable division rules; Book 5 - word families, three-letter blends, "qu, ey," and the three sounds of "ed"; Book 6 - more difficult diphthongs and r-controlled vowels; Book 7 - soft "c" and "g," silent letters, sounds of "ear, ei, eigh," and the digraph "ph"; Book 8 - suffixes and irregular endings.
Books 1½, 2½, 3½, 4½, 5½, and 6½ offer more practice on topics covered within Books 1, 2, 3, etc. respectively. Post-tests are included within each book. If you use Explode The Code as your primary teaching tool, you will need to provide reading practice with other books.
Teacher’s guides each cover a number of books. For example, the teacher’s guide for Books 1-2 covers Books 1, 2, 1½, and 2½. Guides include the program description, answers, and dictations for the post-tests. Other teacher’s guides are for Books 3-4 (includes 3 ½ and 4 ½), 5-6 (includes 5 ½ and 6 ½), and 7-8.
Those with preschoolers or kindergartners might want to use the “primer” series of three books that teach letter formation, phonemic awareness, sound/letter correspondence, tracking, and other pre-reading skills. The three books are titled Get Ready for The Code, Get Set for The Code, and Go for The Code—also known as Books A, B, and C. A single teacher's guide covers all three books.
Explode the Code Online
Explode The Code Online provides web-based instruction using lessons adapted from the entire series of Explode the Code books. Lessons are presented in full-color with audio instructions so that children may work independently. Student responses are recorded and their progress assessed. The program then makes adjustments for students to move ahead or review so that they are working only on skills they need to learn. The program might even skip lessons that review a concept if the student has demonstrated mastery. As a helpful extra feature, students are rewarded with various colored "buttons." The parent/teacher can quickly glance at the buttons and see how well a student is doing by the color of the buttons instead of analyzing results.
You can use the program by purchasing a one-year subscription. Explode The Code Online can be accessed from your computer or from your iPad or Android device. Students may access all levels during that subscription period. You can renew for subsequent years as needed. The program will track one student per subscription, and you can purchase additional subscriptions. This program can serve as your core program for teaching reading.
I think the online option might be even more appealing than the books since it tailors assignments for students. This keeps students from getting bored and frees the parent from having to decide which books or lessons a student needs to complete.
Note that the best price for Explode the Code Online is through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. The only other option is purchasing directly from the publisher.