Wow, this is a whole 'nother can of worms with no simple answer. We have used so many different phonics curricula, it is crazy!
When Hannah was in kindergarten, we used "Teach Your Child .... 100 Easy Lessons" and the Explode the Code workbooks. This worked very well, and Hannah was (is) a natural speller.
No problem... I am a great teacher, right!? NOT EXACTLY!!!
Sarah came next. We started 100 Easy Lessons and made it all the way up to where they take out all of the phonetic helps. All of a sudden, it was like she was reading a completely different language! At this point, we backed WAY up and started over. Same thing again.
This time? We changed over to Sing, Spell, Read, and Write. A friend of mine in Kentucky used it, and I thought maybe we should do something a little more colorful and fun. S,S,R,&W was colorful, fun, and worked great until we got to the point of adding the silent final e. Once again, we backed way up and started over again. At almost the same place the second time we ran into the same problem!
I had already begun to panic... Hindsight being what it is, I wish I had just waited a year or so longer before I had started anything at all!... After doing S,S,R,&W for the second time, I really got worried.
Things became a little more clear when Scott's dad mentioned out of the blue that Scott's younger brother had a serious case of dyslexia, he (Scott's dad) had dyslexia, and that Scott hadn't learned to read until he was in the third grade! We decided to have Sarah tested. The results were inconclusive, in that the testers said there was not enough of a discrepancy between her IQ and grade level performance in order to classify her as dyslexic. However, they also said that they noted dyslexic tendencies during her testing. The testers felt that if she had been in the public school system rather than learning in a one-on-one situation, there WOULD have been enough of a discrepancy. It's not every day that you get such a nice compliment from a panel of public school employees!
I madly began researching dyslexia, and I hit on the Rigg's Institute program of teaching reading. I ordered it, and had great success with Sarah. The program is very intensive and rather time consuming if you follow all of the lessons. It is based on the 71 different phonemes in the English language. You learn the different sounds by seeing them, saying them, writing them, and then reading them back to the teacher. For example, I hold up a card with "ea" on it, and Sarah says, "EE, Eh, Ay." Then she writes the spelling pattern, and we move on. After we finish, she goes back through and reads all that she has written to me. It is too complicated to explain sufficiently in one blog post, but IT WORKED!!!! Sarah is now reading books on grade level, according to the Veritas press literature suggestions!
Last school year, we came back to Mississippi and began Excelsior, our co-op. Will's class was using Veritas Press Phonics Museum, and I also continued to do the Rigg's materials (on a lighter scale) with him. I DO NOT recommend the Phonics Museum, although I would still recommend 100 Easy Lessons or Sing, Spell, Read, & Write. I don't know how to explain it, other than it seemed like Veritas was trying too hard to come up with a phonics program that fit into the classical mode. The readers were about great subjects, but they had to so change the rhetoric in order to make it go along with the phonics lessons, that Will had no idea what the words were talking about! For example, a reader might say, "the rig was set to..." instead of, "the boat was ready to sail." At that age, there is something to be said for "the cat sat on the hat." Also, the workbook does not use ball and stick letter formation, and I often had to say the names of the pictures.
This year, the co-op switched to the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. It is OK, but I much prefer the Rigg's material, and that is what I am using with Joshua. If you have a child almost ready to begin reading, I highly suggest looking into the Rigg's materials, even if you only incorporate the 71 phonics cards.
Okay, so I think Abeka and Saxon are about the only two we HAVEN'T used! (I forgot to mention the Pathway readers I used with the girls and Phonics Pathways that I tried with Sarah also!) I feel like we have finally found something that "Works for Us!" Gee, I am on my last child, too... maybe we should adopt a few, just so I can put this info to good use!