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Rocket Phonics

By Lara DeHaven

I recently wrote an article about Dr. Stephen Guffanti entitled, “Dr. Guffanti Changed the Way I Teach.”  I attended his workshop at the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) Convention and Family Conference in August.  Dr. Guffanti shared his experiences as a person growing up with ADHD and dyslexia.  Additionally his career as a doctor allowed him time to work with similar children.

None of my children have ADHD, but most are highly kinesthetic learners.  I have honestly shared the fact that two of my children have been diagnosed with dyslexia.  At first, I used The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis as my main resource.  We worked through his activities, including re-learning the alphabet with homemade gluten-free letters.

His book helped me understand dyslexia better.  The best result after using his book is that both of my children see their dyslexia as a gift.  They are not embarrassed nor do they think less of themselves.  They both enjoy being different and seeing things from a different perspective.

On the cover of Dr. Guffanti’s book, Does Your Child Really Have ADHD?, there is an illustration of a square-shaped child trying to fit into a round hole.  As a home educator, I have the freedom to create the right environment for my child to learn and succeed.  To many times when a child does not fit the average-sized hole, they get labeled.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  As a parent and/or educator, we need to approach things differently.

As I strolled through the vendor booths at the THSC convention, the last thing on my mind was phonics.  I knew that one of my children was still struggling to read, but I did not know what to do about it.  I went to Dr. Guffanti’s booth in order to express my gratitude for his lecture.  I met his wife, Maureen.

She inquired about my children.  After asking me several specific questions regarding dyslexia, she showed me Rocket Phonics, which she created along with her husband with kinesthetic and/or dyslexic learners in mind.  After seeing all the fun activities, games, presentation of materials, etc., I was sold.

I really liked the fact that they have a system for encouraging independent reading.  They include reading comprehension questions at the end of each story.  There are also oral tests to show mastery of a reading level unit.  Upon your purchase, they send out emails full of additional information, tips, games, and stories to help reinforce the lessons.  The Guffantis are also available to answer questions, but I have never felt the need because the program is so well-laid out.

My son started at the beginning, which was lower than his reading level.  In doing this, he gained confidence and really had fun with the activities.  We gradually graduated to a higher level at his pace.  I am so proud of him.  After years of trying to get him on his grade level, he has surpassed this goal.  In just six months of using Rocket Phonics, he is now above his age level.

We are both very excited.  He is now considered functionally literate, which is between 5th and 7th grade levels.  His main motivation to reach this level is being able to read Hank the Cowdog books independently.  Thank you, John Erickson, for writing such great books and inspiring reading.

My daughter is finishing the last section of the program called “Beyond Rocket Phonics.”  It focuses on suffixes, prefixes, and root words.  It also covers the pronunciation of words with French and Spanish origins.  Seeing the success of Rocket Phonics, I cannot wait to use it with my younger boys in a few years.  All in all I am getting far more back than what I spent on the program.

Finding a reading program that is easy to use is hard.  Finding one that your student enjoys is even more difficult.  Finding one that is geared to kinesthetic and/or dyslexic learners is almost impossible.  This is why I consider Rocket Phonics priceless.

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4 Responses to “Rocket Phonics”

  1. Kristin


    Just stumbled upon your blog, looking for a picture of the alphabet strips in the Gift of Dyslexia book. I just found out my 7yo has dyslexia and have pulled her out of school half day to do language arts at home with her. Of all the books I’ve read, this is the one that ‘spoke’ to me. I started today w/ the clay/alphabet.
    Then I found this post, and wonder if Rocket Phonics would work for her. From my research, dyslexics have a really hard time w/ phonics, so I pretty much resigned myself to staying away from all phonics programs, until I read this. Have you done this program w/ your dyslexics? Does it work? And would you recommend finishing the Davis Symbol Mastery as well?
    BTW, my husband is a graduate of George Wythe University. I notice you have an Oliver DeMille tag as well. It must be providence that I found your blog. Thanks in advance for any insight you can offer.

  2. Lara DeHaven

    We worked through the Gift of Dyslexia with two of my children. Then at a homeschool convention, I listened to and spoke with Dr. Guffanti. He is a brilliant man, but also has challenges like ADHD. Dr. and Mrs. Guffanti walked me through the program, and I was sold. Like you, I had pretty much resigned to the fact that my children were going to be poor readers because of their dyslexia. They have different degrees of the gift. My daughter reads well, but she gets headaches from chasing the words on the page. I began her at the Beyond Rocket Phonics section at the end of Volume 2. She reads well; although, she does not love to read yet. My son guessed his way through books. He switched the word no with on, etc. He loved Rocket Phonics. Beginning with the beginning helped build his self-confidence. He set a goal of being on a 5th grade level, which was a grade level above his age at the time. 5th grade is considered literacy by most experts. Hank the Cowdog is written under this level, which is his favorite.
    Right now he is reading and loving it as long as he selects the books. He likes Clyde Robert Bulla and John Erickson. Bulla writes on a much lower level, but Jake enjoys his books, which seem to be mostly historical fiction. Next year, I will probably finish the rest of Volume 2 of Rocket Phonics with him. I highly recommend it.
    Now that he is reading at or above grade level, we are focusing on spelling, which is atrocious. I chose All about Spelling by Marie Rippel. We are almost done with book 1 and going to book 2. It is designed for kinesthetic learners. I find that working with their hands and with different manipulatives really helps my dyslexic children. Rocket Phonics also has writing helps to teach writing, but I have not tried that yet.
    Good luck with your daughter. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

  3. Kristin

    Thanks Lara,
    We have just started making the trigger words, and already she is bored with it. She’s too young to do the Orientation counseling, although my husband can teach her this later, as he has done this for years (Just realized he is dyslexic too). I’m scared that I’m keeping her home and she’ll just fall farther and farther behind because of it, yet I can’t bear to put her in school and have her self esteem irreparably damaged. I need some kind of program that we can see improvement with, or I think we’ll both be sunk. Thanks for your insights. I have some praying to do…

  4. Lara DeHaven

    For what it is worth, Kristin. Try not to compare her to other children. She is only seven if I remember correctly. Following the Thomas Jefferson Education model, she would not be doing “school” at all at this age. She can most likely feel the pressure to keep up with the public school standards. She also might feel that she is disappointing you by not succeeding just yet at reading. You don’t want to quench her love of learning.
    Pray about it. Search your heart. I know that you want what is best for your daughter; we all do. I know from my own experience that it is extremely difficult to not freak out, to feel the outside and even internal pressure to meet some standard, and to relax. I think that society tends to pressure little ones before they are ready to be true students.
    I also know that with loving care in a relaxed setting your daughter’s reading will bloom at her own pace. I have faith that she can catch up to her “level” in a much shorter time when she is older than dragging her through the lessons when she is not ready. It will be more enjoyable to both you and your daughter.
    I am a homeschooler through and through, which is where I am coming from. I am not telling you to take your daughter out of school and take responsibility for all of her education. That is strictly up to you and your husband. However, I would definitely consider it.
    I will pray for you, as I know this is a trying time.


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