Sonlight K Phonics is a comprehensive phonics and language arts program for kindergarten. It can also be used with Sonlight’s Exploring God’s World Pre-K program if you have pre-kindergartners who are ready to start learning to read. The K Phonics program includes the Language Arts K Instructor’s Guide, My First Picture Dictionary, Alphabet Sounds Bingo (a set of cards and bingo markers), the Go A to Z! card deck, and a set of 27 Fun Tales readers.
If you want to add a handwriting program and a phonics workbook, Sonlight has scheduled in lessons from Handwriting Without Tears and the Ready…Set…Go for the Code set of three phonics workbooks. You can substitute another handwriting program if you wish. (Schedules for handwriting courses for A Reason for Handwriting, Getty-Dubay Handwriting, and other levels of Handwriting Without Tears are available for free on Sonlight’s website.)
Sonlight’s K Phonics program uses what is called a natural learning approach. That means that it takes a more relaxed approach to reading and writing than do many other programs, and it also encourages children to learn from the world around them rather than just from books.
The Language Arts K Instructor’s Guide comes as a large packet of pages for you to put into a binder. Many of the pages will be given to students, so having them in a binder makes this easier than removing them from a bound book. You can choose a guide with schedules for either four or five days per week, although you will use the same course components with both.
The instructor’s guide has weekly charts that show which pages to use each day from the books and when to play games and complete other activities. Following each chart are brief instructions for the individual activities. After the instructions, there are two or more full-color activity pages for the student to complete over the course of the week. The instructional notes explain exactly when and how to use them.
The activity pages require children to do some handwriting (printing), even in the first week. There is no instruction on how to form the letters. You can teach your child how to form the letters on your own, or Handwriting Without Tears (or another program) can provide that instruction for you.
In this program, children learn to recognize both uppercase and lowercase letters, the basic consonant sounds, and short vowel sounds. The Alphabet Sounds Bingo game and the Go A to Z! card deck are both used by children to practice identifying letters and sounds.
Children will learn to read and write one-syllable words that contain only short vowel sounds. The Fun Tale readers reinforce what is taught in the lessons. (These small readers have a black-and-white illustration and a short sentence on each page.) Phonics is further reinforced as students learn phonetic spelling patterns.
Copywork exercises on the activity pages provide practice with reading, spelling, and handwriting while also building a foundation for understanding sentence structure. The copywork lessons begin with only one letter, gradually advancing to complete sentences and four or five words separated by commas.
Children will do other forms of writing besides copywork, although some of those writing activities might instead be completed as oral compositions dictated to parents who will do the actual writing. For example, in the fourth week, students are guided through the process of coming up with a story about a time when someone came to visit. A parent will write down the story for the child, perhaps on a computer. At the end of that same week, another activity has children begin with the very simple story: “Luke swam. Luke won.” Using questions from the instructor’s guide, parents help their child become more creative and detailed as they expand this story to make it more interesting. Again, the parent writes down the finished product.
Children also learn about other things such as poetry, rhymes, limericks, listening skills, numbers, counting, how to use a telephone for an emergency, and manners.
As with other Sonlight courses, the K Phonics Program encourages parents to tailor the program to suit their needs. For example, while the overall program takes a relaxed approach, adding the Ready…Set…Go for the Code phonics workbooks gives children more workbook activity if that’s what parents prefer, or parents can have children do more or less writing for narrations and storytelling.
The entire program is based upon parent-child interaction. The intent is for those interactions to be playful and fun rather than heavily academic. While many kindergarten programs have shifted toward more academic work so that children can read long vowel words at the end of kindergarten, I think many parents and children will appreciate Sonlight’s less stressful approach.