Are you trying to decide if you want to add Explode the Code to your homeschool line up? You aren’t alone. One of the most common questions I get about using Sonlight’s Language Arts Program is whether to add in additional phonics and handwriting practice. The truth is you don’t have to add anymore than what’s there.
The built in program offers:
- Creative Expression
Activity sheets serve to record copywork or dictation, mechanics practice, and writing assignments. Reading comprehension questions are also included for the child’s readers.
If Sonlight’s main program already covers all that’s needed for language arts, why add in more? Oh my friends I asked this very question. Then I tried Explode the Code with my kids at a friend’s suggestion. I was thrilled with the program and even more with the results!
Explode the Code is a phonics program that helps kids start decoding words and building vocabulary. Once individual letter sounds are covered, the program moves on to helping kids combine sounds into whole, recognizable words and building fluency.
The reading comprehension component of this program may be my favorite as kids have to choose which sentence best describes a picture. I was amazed the first time my child did this successfully without any input from me. She was reading! More than that she was understanding what she was reading and applying it to the puzzle she wanted to solve. She was also having a good time!
3 Top Benefits of Explode the Code
Explode the Code is a great program that’s been around for a while. There are plenty of articles you can search for online highlighting key components of the program. Helping my kids gain independence, seamless reinforcement of Sonlight Language Arts, and an ability to engage in cooperative goal setting make Explode the Code worth it for my family.
1. Builds Up to Independent Work
Don’t get too excited. You are 100% going to be working one on one with your earliest learners on their initial workbook set (“Ready . . . Set . . . Go for the Code.”) This set is best started when your child is willing to start putting paper to pencil to write individual letters.
You will be actively reading directions and hand holding through this entire series. Know this is worth it, because when they start “Explode the Code” the program is familiar to them and aside from reading some instructions you will have a child able to complete entire pages on their own. They may even be able to complete most of the workbook independently once they are comfortable with the format.
My daughter and I now have a system. We have an agreed upon 3 pages a day. She completes them. When I review them I either give the entire page a star if there are no items needing review or draw a circle on the top of the page if there are items that need her attention. I also mark the individual questions with a circle. The next day before she starts work we review the circled items.
2. Reinforces Sonlight’s LA Program
There is no one right curriculum that results in my kids learning everything perfectly the first go round, although Sonlight comes close. Practice and repetition are key to fluency. Sonlight has made it really easy to include additional practice with Explode the Code by pairing lessons from both programs via page number in the IG (Instructor’s Guide).
Explode the Code avoids the drudgery of having to repeat exercises and activities they’ve already done in pursuit of mastery. The kids enjoy getting to do something different. Explode the Code lets them tackle a new, more independent format while still getting any extra practice they may need.
Plus there is something to be said for being able to take your newly learned skills on parade. My kids love when what they’ve learned in a Sonlight lesson appears in Explode the Code! Acing new material is a great confidence builder for new readers!
3. Aids in Cooperative Goal Setting
My kids don’t pick up the IG, I do, so if they want to keep working ahead in Explode the Code I let them and just follow along in the IG. If they start struggling more with a certain concept I am able to quickly look in the IG and review Sonlight’s suggestions for teaching that language arts component. We often use Explode the Code as a barometer for where we need to spend more time, versus what the kids already know.
On those rough days, I often ask my kids one simple question, “How many pages do you think you can do today?” On average my kids think they can get through 3 pages. I’ve been known to pull out fancy pencils with special erasers, hot cocoa, and even sweet smelling candles to help when they are really struggling. The end result is that my kids pick their goal (yes, some days it’s just one page, zero pages doesn’t count), but it’s their goal and their achievement.
Within one year of Sonlight Language Arts, 3 Explode the Code books are completed. The books give my kids a visual of their progress and work to be completed. We celebrate the completion of each book with a picture and accolades.
Downsides to Explode the Code
As with any curricula, Explode the Code is a tool for us to use as homeschool moms. It’s entirely up to us if and how we choose to wield it. While Explode the Code is not a necessary component of completing the Sonlight Language Arts Program it has been of huge benefit for us.
Explode the Code is a more dated program, but the kids don’t seem to mind. My only complaint has been that in the space provided for the handwriting, the lines aren’t always lined up very well for letters that go below the bottom line, such as “j”, “g”, and “p” and this has created some frustration when switching back and forth from writing programs.
On rare occasions we have struggled with deciphering a picture, but we have always been able to figure it out by backtracking a few pages until we see in what context the picture was first introduced. This has provided for some comic relief in our homeschool and has never gotten to the point of frustration.
Our overall experience for adding Explode the Code has been a good one. Sure you can find flashy more involved and more expensive options for adding onto Sonlight’s Language Arts Program. You could also forgo adding anything extra. For us Explode the Code has been a fantastic, inexpensive way to add variety and practice to our language arts.
You don’t have to just take my word for it! Sonlight Bogger, Deanna Woods also wrote a recent article entitled “5 Reasons to Love Explode the Code Phonics Workbooks.” You can also go right to the source and read more about the Explode the Code Program at Sonlight.com.
Wishing you joy, peace, and most of all faith in your homeschool!