Funnix Beginning Reading Program Review
I decided to try the Funnix Beginning Reading Program with my son when he was 5.2 years old because for the month of January, 2011 Funnix was FREE. That's right, Funnix offered a free download of their two year reading program (Funnix 1 and Funnix 2) to any school or parent who wanted it.
I knew I had to teach Ben to read eventually/somehow, and I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do it, as I'd never had to teach a kid to read before (Alexa had learned in public school). With no other set plan, I figured I may as well download this program and see what it was like.
It took me about 25 minutes to download each file. (Normally when you purchase the Funnix curriculum, they send you CDs). I saved the teacher's guide and the workbook pages and printed the first few workbook pages. (Normally when you purchase the Funnix curriculum, they would send you a consumable workbook).
I watched the first lesson and thought that since it seemed as much like a computer game as anything else, it just might engage my son's interest. My son has had zero interest in anything "school" and rarely wants to sit down to do a craft or read a story, but he loves the computer and playing computer games.
Sure enough, he was willing to sit down and watch/listen to the first lesson, which involved a narrator going over various letter sounds and word parts and my son having to repeat those sounds, words and word parts aloud. He also sometimes had to answer questions, identify letters, and point to various images on the screen. The narration was clear and easy to understand almost all of the time (you know how some letters sound a lot like other letters if they aren't pronounced well). The graphics weren't anything special and sort of had somewhat of an outdated feel, but that didn't seem to bother my son. I felt a bit as if I were being "clicker-trained" (ha ha) as the child is frequently told "Get Ready...." and then a "click" noise prompts them to answer a question or point to something on the screen. But, again, that didn't seem to bother my son, either.
He was willing and able to do each activity in the first lesson which involved repeating sounds, pointing to pictures, identifying letters and pictures, listening to a story, saying a word "fast" after the narrator sounded it out very slowly and so on. Lessons typically take about 30 minutes, and consist of those various parts and activities and finish with a simple worksheet. The worksheets so far have been crossing out specific letters, circling others, underlying some, tracing letter and picture shapes, etc. While you are listening to the program, you can pause, repeat the last task, or start the entire activity over again at any time. The parent's job is to sit next to their child and reinforce correct responses and immediately correct wrong ones.
Ben did get a little silly/wiggly part way through the first lesson, but I was able to refocus him pretty quickly, and as I had started that first lesson after dinner- kind of an active time of day in our household- I figured it might go better if I chose a more quiet time of the day for the second lesson. The second lesson went better. Ben seemed to enjoy the lesson well enough (and it probably helped that I bribed him with free time on the computer afterward if he tried his hardest and didn't get silly). For the third lesson (doing one a day) he got a bit wiggly again but did stick with it and didn't seem resistant at all.
We continued a few more lessons, getting up to lesson 8. In the end, I decided to stop for now and hold off, though. My goal had been to do this without any pressure or major expectations at this point, to just make it fun and see how it went. As long as Ben was willing to continue, I figured we'd keep going with it and see how it went. If he got resistant, I figured I wouldn't push it.
As it turned out, he didn't get resistant per se, but he would start getting silly and/or wiggly during the lesson the vast majority of the time. He'd want to make silly sounds instead of what he was being asked to say. He'd want to start moving around instead of sitting still where he could "touch the screen." He'd decide he absolutely had to have a drink midway through. I could feel that I was beginning to become a bit irritated/frustrated by having to refocus him or bribe him every single time and decided I'd rather just wait until he was a bit more mature/focused on his own.
So, like Oak Meadow Kindergarten before it, Funnix is getting put on hold for now to be revisited perhaps in the fall of 2011, when Ben is closer to 6.
In the meanwhile, you can check out:
UPDATE: In September of 2011, I began doing Funnix Beginning Reading Lessons with Ben again in conjunction with our Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum. At two months away from turning 6, Ben is MUCH better able to sit still and focused long enough to do a lesson, pays better attention, and responds more appropriately to the prompts he is given. After doing the first 13 lessons, I have decided that it is MUCH less frustrating than it was previously, and it seems to be going quite well.
Here are a few pictures of Funnix in action:
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