Pathways to Reading Homeschool is a three-year reading program based on Orton-Gillingham methodology. The program is interactive, heavily dependent on the teacher, and uses multisensory methods.
The program begins with the Basic Foundational Reading program (kindergarten level), then children advance to the Proficient Foundational program in first grade and the Advanced Foundational program in second grade. (The Advanced Foundational program should be available by spring of 2023.)
The program covers phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and handwriting. There are other Orton-Gillingham-based programs that are similar, but Pathways to Reading has a much stronger emphasis on mouth movements to help children identify correct pronunciations of sounds. (This aspect will be especially important for children who have difficulty with pronunciation or hearing the distinctions between sounds.) The program also explains effective ways to correct a student’s errors, often by helping students correct themselves.
The program for each level includes just about everything you’ll need. For example, the Basic Foundational program includes the two-volume Home Educator’s Guide (in 2 three-ring binders), two Reinforcement Activity Books (with plastic spiral bindings), the Flip and Assist Book, the Sentence Strip booklet, a set of 14 readers, three laminated charts (titled ABC, Vowel Hill, and Xtend Vowel Town), a magnetic dry-erase board, a set of magnetic letters, 14 pictures of mouth positions for various sounds, a puppet, and a plastic see-through arrow (a unique item that is used by the teacher for teaching blending).
Purchasers receive a series of emails that gradually introduce them to the course components. Parents need to watch a few videos on articulation (mouth movements) before starting to teach, and there are optional training videos for parents who want to learn more about how the program works. But parents should not have to invest much time before they can start to teach.
Basic Foundational program
The Basic Foundational Reading program begins with a pre-assessment to determine which letters a child can identify by name and the letters for which they know the primary sound. (You will stop the assessment if a child misses an entire row, so this should not be a negative experience for the child.)
The lessons in the Home Educator’s Guides are scripted and tell you exactly what to say and do. The program is well laid out and easy to follow. Required resources are listed at the top of each lesson. Once you’ve got those on hand, you can use the lessons without prior preparation.
Some of the instruction is provided via short, online videos that you will watch with your child. The lesson plans tell you when to watch these videos, and you don’t need to preview them. At certain points, there are videos for parents to watch to learn more about the methodology.
Children learn phonemic awareness, individual phonetic sounds, and handwriting skills simultaneously rather than sequentially. They learn to discriminate the individual sounds within words from the beginning of the program. Within that larger context, the individual letters are gradually introduced one at a time.
Nursery rhymes are included in some of the lessons to familiarize children with rhyming language and for use in reading instruction. For instance, “Little Miss Muffet” is used to practice recognition of the /m/ sound. Children’s storybooks, such as Stone Soup by Marcia Brown, are also incorporated to teach reading comprehension and for narration activities. Lists of recommended literature are at the back of each Home Educator’s Guide, and the few books that will be used within the lessons are marked with an asterisk. You will need to obtain these books yourself, and they should be available through your library.
Within the handwriting portion of the lessons, students get extensive practice identifying right and left, another unusual feature of the program. Children begin to learn writing with skywriting and other large movements, then shift to writing on the whiteboard, then with pencil on paper.
You will be using the other course components throughout the lessons. The Flip and Assist book, laminated charts, magnetic whiteboard, and tiles are used frequently for teaching, and pages from the Reinforcement Activity Books are used for practice and reinforcement as well as handwriting practice. If you are teaching more than one child, you can purchase the extra resources individually.
Most of the readers for the Basic program have black-and-white, cartoon-style illustrations with brief text. Inside the back cover are comprehension questions to be used before, during, and after the student reads the book. The sixth and fourteenth readers, titled Animals in Action and Water, have non-fiction content, use mostly full-color photos rather than drawings, and have text for children to read at the top of each page and expanded text at the bottom for the parent to read aloud. The Sentence Strip booklet provides another form of reading practice.
While instruction is detailed and extensive, it is also multisensory and keeps students engaged with fun activities. For instance, after reading “Little Miss Muffet,” your child makes a scared or happy face in response to sentences you read such as, “A spider sits down beside you” and “A puppy gives you a kiss.” When you read “Jack Be Nimble,” children act out jumping over a candlestick. These multisensory and fun activities are important to break up the more serious instruction since lessons in the Basic Foundational program should take about 30 to 35 minutes per day for direct instruction plus another 25 to 30 minutes of read-aloud time.
The Proficient Foundational program
The Proficient Foundational program can be your starting point if your child has already covered what is taught in the Basic program. (Prerequisites are listed at the bottom of this page.) An add-on option that costs a little less is available for those who already have the Basic program.
The Proficient level adds instruction in grammar and writing while continuing to work on the other skills introduced in the Basic level. The course components are the Home Educator’s Guide, two Self-Paced Guides, two Reinforcement Activity Books, a laminated Vowel Town chart, a new Flip and Assist book, and Dive into Reading (with reading material in the form of words, sentences, and stories). You will continue to use some of the other components from the Basic program: the magnetic board and letters, the transparent arrow, and the set of readers.
This level is a little different since the key phonics instruction for handwriting, vocabulary, comprehension, and basic writing is in the Home Educator’s Guide, while the Self-Paced Guides are used for teaching phonics at a pace that suits each child. About every two weeks, the child is given a mini assessment. If they have adequately mastered key phonetic skills, they can move on, but there are two to three weeks’ worth of additional instructional material if children need more work on those skills. (I think this is a great way to give parents guidance as to how much time to spend on each skill.)
The unique aspects of Pathways to Reading Homeschool make it a great option for those seeking an intensive phonics program with comprehensive coverage that will work for the many children who will benefit from its truly multisensory approach.