Review of the Riggs Institute’s Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking Level I & Level II

Introductory Note:  I purchased these on my own.  I did not receive a free copy to review.  Hence, these are my honest opinions and assessments on the curriculum.

This is my all-time favorite program.  This was also the first program I ever used in homeschooling.

The concept behind the method is based on explicit phonics (teaching the sounds of English in isolation, without key words and pictures) using the Socratic Method where kids think through the answers based on questions.  Spelling words are dictated once the phonograms (sounds in English) are mastered as well as spelling rules.  Then reading begins where kids “decode” the text by using their spelling rules.

Level 1 is for Kindergarten students and first-graders.  It goes through teaching the phonograms, dictating spellings, introducing letter formation and writing, and grammar/spelling rules as the book progresses.  It contains 160 Lessons to be used throughout the year.  It recommends doing a lesson every other day for kindergarten students and every day for first-graders.

My old charter school taught the phonograms to the kids.  Admirable but not enough, I thought.

The method relies on you integrating all of its components so following it to a T.

Admittedly, I do not.  I use a separate writing program, a separate grammar program, and a separate hand-writing program (all of which is covered in Riggs).  I guess I’m one to believe in more is better.

Level 2 continues right where Level 1 left off with spelling, grammar, syntax, and composition all integrated.

My favorite surprise of Level 2 is it contains a free copy of Essentials of English by Henry Carr Pearson and Mary Kirchwey.  What a gem!  My kids and I are going through this slowly and it is a wonderful addition to their other English lessons.

Conclusions:  I credit the Riggs Method for the reason my girls are such good readers and spellers.  When coming upon a new word, they almost always can sound it out or spell it.  If they miss it, they miss it with one of the other phonic sounds such as ea instead of ee.  Joy always fills me when this happens.

Having had my daughter in a traditional public school for a few months before I began my homeschooling journey I can attest to the fact teaching key words and one sound of the alphabet is horrible.  My daughter was lost and she was placed in a remedial class for help.

Naturally, I was horrified and couldn’t figure out why.  Until I started this book.

Blessedly, she was only in that school for 2  1/2 months but I had to undo what that school did.

Look-and-see only works for memorizers but I believe they will be hindered for life if they don’t know the why behind it all.  I know because this was me.

I cannot recommend this program enough.  If you do nothing else in homeschooling, this is the one I’d buy.  It’s worth every penny and your child will reap the rewards.

Home School Update

I had promised an update on homeschooling so here it is.

Homeschooling is really about finding what works for you which is really a bunch of guessing.  No one can tell you what curriculum is the best or how to even do it.  Basically, you just start–plain and simple.  You sit down one day and begin.

I had mentioned I was doing the Riggs method of learning to read and I have to say IT IS THE BEST!  My daughter can now sound out most words with minimal help and can read books by herself and it’s only been 2 1/2 months!  I broke down and bought the Riggs Institute’s “Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking” Teacher’s Edition Level 1 and it’s the best purchase I’ve made.  It uses dictation which teaches the kids how to think as well as Socratic principles (which I love).  With this foundation, my kids will be able to easily take it to the next level.

I also love the Core Knowledge sequence developed by E.D. Hirsch.  We are currently on “What Your First Grader Needs to Know” after completing “What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know” in just two months.  Our school in Fort Collins was Core Knowledge and I loved it.  It has great stories and provides me with a guideline of what other kids are learning so I don’t forget anything.

We also have a daily reading lesson which I think complements Riggs perfectly.  It’s “The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading” by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington.  It’s from “The Well-Trained Mind”, a classical education guide by Susan Wise Bauer and her mother, Jessie Wise.  It’s easy to follow and my daughter loves the stories which are carefully crafted to use lesson words.

We spend at least an hour every day reading, be it history, geography, science, math, art, music, or plain old good stories and my kids love this time the best!  I can cater to what they like and they get excited about it.  We visit the library once a week where we supplement our teachings with cool books.

My methods are hodge-podge to say it best.  I love Classical Education as I believe the ancients have a lot to teach us and will continue to use their methods.  I pick texts that I like and that I think the kids will learn from the most and I just do it.

My daughter told me yesterday that my school is not as fun as her old school.  Let me tell you why:  we don’t fill time with meaningless projects.  We don’t make a lot of drawings.  We don’t do as many art works.  There is no time to sit and stare at the other kids and wait around for everyone to finish.  Once school begins, we’re on go mode and there is little time wasted.  It’s 3 or 4 hours straight of work.  I can honestly tell you my daughter knows more than most kindergartners right now just from the 2 months I’ve been working with her.  Kids this age are sponges and will soak up whatever fed them.

Will I continue to homeschool?  That is still up in the air.  As long as I’m doing what’s in my kids’ best interest and everyone is happy, I’m content.  I hope this helps.

Shopping Online

So, being that my husband has moved me far, far away from civilization (ok, a bit of an exaggeration but we all need it sometimes), I have entered the world of online shopping in earnest.

So, early this morning I am shopping on  I logged into my account and they informed me that the price of two books in my shopping cart had jumped by $5 combined!  Now, I was a bit upset, but what can I do?  Amazon is still the cheapest place on the internet to get books and the nearest Barnes and Noble is 3 hours away (just not a viable option with 3 kids and little time).

So I ordered my books and one gets free shipping (for orders over $25) which seems like a great deal, right?  Well, the only catch is that your order gets less priority so it takes about a week longer to receive your books if you had actually paid for it.  But, being a mom on a budget, I can wait (just not patiently usually).

As a home schooler, I am looking for curriculum books on line.  There is one book in particular that I need (ok, so I WANT it really bad) to teach my daughter how to read.  Brand new from the owner’s website, it’s $90 plus shipping.  However, I can get a used copy online at Amazon for $70 so I will save money.  However, I’d have to buy it from Amazon’s marketplace which is basically anyone who wants to sell items online can go through Amazon (I’m sure there’s probably some vetting process).  But, the complication here is you never know what you’re gonna get and if you don’t like it, the return policies on some are dubious to say the least.  In essence, I don’t know these people from Jack and I’m hesitate to buy from them.

So, now the question becomes, “Do I spend the extra $20 and buy the book from the publisher directly?”  I have been wrestling with this exact question for the better part of an hour and so I’ve finally decided to spend the extra money and buy from the people I know (who by the way, are incredibly nice and helpful) rather than some guy in his garage.

The book by the way is from the Riggs Institute, a non-profit agency specializing in explicit phonics.  Explicit phonics is where you teach your child to read and write through learning the sounds rather than through learning sight words and memorization.  I LOVE this method and is part of the reason I didn’t enroll my daughter in the kindergarten when we moved.  Also, they are not a Core Knowledge school either, which was unimpressive.  I highly believe every child needs the same knowledge from year to year plus it’s just overall good stuff that everyone needs to know.  I myself enjoy reading “What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know” by E.D. Hirsch, Jr, and my kids definitely love it.

The book entitled “Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking” by Myrna McCulloch is highly rated and I’ll have to keep you posted on my daughter’s progress once I begin this program after the first of the year.  I will order it once business hours occur (I’m an EXTREMELY early riser.  I work best alone in the morning hours and am most productive.  It works out great because my husband works nights.).

Please feel free to comment (especially if you’ve used any of these aforementioned books).  I’d love to hear from you!