10 Ways to Incorporate Zoo-phonics in Your

                          Daily Homeschooling Routine

Having taught preschool and kindergarten for many years, I saw firsthand the politicizing of education, and it turned me into a huge homeschooling advocate. Youngsters learn SO much more at home under the loving guidance of their parents where they're not subjected to the checklists of narrow skills that are the norm in classrooms today. The push for academic rigor has led to a one-size-fits-all mentality where everyone learns the same material at the same time expecting the same results. There's no appreciation for individual differences with  many parents getting the message there's something wrong with their kids when, in fact, they're perfectly normal. But, if moms and dads decide to take on homeschooling, they need a curriculum that works -- one that's been proven highly successful for decades and is developmentally appropriate for young learners. That's where Zoo-phonics comes in to play! 

Homeschooling parents are fortunate because they control the curriculum and can use what works best for their kids. Many turn to Zoo-phonics because it's fun, fast-paced, and gets quick results. They use it every day to teach beginning reading skills: phonological awareness, letter sounds, letter names, and beginning spelling. Zoo-phonics crosses over organically into other subjects. Children learn science when studying the Zoo-phonics animals and their habitats. They learn physical education when moving to the songs and raps. They learn math when sorting, group, and classifying the  animals: mammal/not a mammal, fur/no fur, lives in the woods/doesn't live in the woods. Here are 10 ways to incorporate Zoo-phonics in your daily homeschooling routine:

1) Learn the 26 lower-case Zoo-phonics animals with your child -- There are several quality videos on you tube that show how to do the signals and sounds for each animal. This is the foundation of Zoo-phonics so practice several times each day, always going from a-z. You'll have it down in no time. Our brains are more likely to retain information when it's paired with a motion. That's key to the success of Zoo-phonics. Don't feel you need to learn these before your child does. Do it together! Remember the sage words of Ben Franklin: "Tell me and I forget. Teach me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I learn!"

2) Learn the Zoo-phonics songs and raps -- There are many songs and raps that re-enforce the signals and sounds. They'll get you and your child on your feet -- moving, dancing, and exercising. My sons would beg me to play the Zoo-phonics CD whenever we were  in the car driving here and there.

3) Practice with your Zoo-phonics flashcards each day, moving from a-z -- Zoo-phonics differs from the tedious letter of the week approach taught at most preschools and kindergartens. Unlike that method that emphasizes the name of the letters, Zoo-phonics stresses the name of the sounds. Sounds are always taught before letter names. This is critical because  knowledge of sounds is necessary for reading. You can't read the word cat if you know the letters are c-a-t, but you most surely can if you know the sounds are cuh-ah-tuh.

4) Collect stuffed Zoo-phonics animals with your child -- My sons and I had a fantastic time hunting for all 26 animals at garage sales and thrift stores and on e-bay (Queeny Quail was hardest to find)! It took us about a year to collect all of them and when we did, the boys got so excited! I put them in a basket in their bedroom so they could play with them whenever they wanted. Watching them combine their imaginations with their knowledge of Zoo-phonics made it so clear that young children learn best through play.

5) After you and your child have mastered all 26 signals and sounds, start learning the letter names -- Remember in Zoo-phonics the lower-case letters are taught before the upper-case. When we read, lower-case letters are far more prevalent than upper-case. 

6) Explore with Zoo-phonics magnets -- Kids love to play with magnets. Let your child move the letters around, experiment with sounds, and make CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words such as cat, dog, hat, fin, sun, and pot. I had our magnetic letters on the refrigerator
so they boys would see them every day. On long drives, I'd put the magnets on a cookie sheet. The boys would take turns holding the cookie sheet in the car, manipulating letters and making words.

7) Read LOTS of books and incorporate your child's knowledge of Zoo-phonics while doing so -- Ask your child to identify the beginning, ending, and middle sounds she hears in various words. Have her do the signal and sound.

8) Play the "Thumbs Up" game -- Say a series of words such as boy, cat, fish, top, kite, and snake. Have your child give you the "thumbs up" if the word starts with the sound t makes: t-u-h. 

9) Play "Zoophonia Says" -- Zoophonia is the name of the zookeeper in Zoo-phonics. This game is just like the classic one from your childhood, Simon Says, but you say Zoophonia instead of Simon. You have the children move like the Zoo-phonics animals. For example, Zoophonia says: "Gallop like Honey Horse... Peel a banana like Gordo Gorilla and make his sound... Move your jaw like Allie Alligator... Hop like Robbie Rabbit." Kids never get tired of playing this game. It's best if there's a lot of room to move so play it outside or in a wide open space.

10) Write CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) words on a ball such as big, cat, man, can, hen, dog, and sun -- Pass the ball to your child in various ways to practice gross motor skills (throwing, kicking, rolling, bouncing). When your child has the ball in her hands, let her pick a word and do the signals and sounds for it. Then you guess the word. For example, she does "cuh-ah-tuh" and you guess cat. Your child is now well on her way to becoming a reader and the journey has been delightful.

Remember: Keep it light and have fun!

These are the large picture cards (or "flashcards" as I call them) that I used in the photos above. On the front of each card, there's a picture of the Zoo-phonics animal. You use this side first as you teach the animal's name, signal, and sound. When your child has mastered all 26 sounds, you flip the card over to see the animal merged into the letter. Now your child is ready to learn the letter's name. These cards are invaluable as you learn all about Zoo-phonics and you'll use them every day.

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