Sorry about the cliffhanger there! I have been meaning to get back for weeks, but Christmas, renovations and life happened all at once.
So, how did we go from letters to words? Once Farm Boy was fairly confident with the names and basic sounds of all the letters I found my trusty index cards. Seriously folks, don't homeschool without them. On each card I wrote a single word. I made a card each for the words that he knew how to read in the reader and then I added some words that I knew he would like to read - like his name, his siblings names, the word "cow" seeing as he loves all things cow related etc. Then after we read his reader, we played the sentence game. I put out some words to make a sentence that he would be able to read (for example: The cat sat on the hat.). When he had read it, I praised him up and changed it putting in a few different words and removing others. It helps if the sentence is funny, something like "The cat sat on Farm Boy" or "Tool Man sat on the cat". Four year olds have a fabulous love of the ridiculous and I use this to keep Farm Boy interested.
As time goes on we added some other words and play the sentence game for a few minutes after we read. Some days we mix it up and I will write whole lot of "body part" cards and as Farm Boy reads them, he can stick them on himself or me (a game I got from a Peggy Kaye book called "Games for Reading") or we will walk around the house labeling things, people and pets. Farm boy gets to choose some cards to compose sentences for me to read too. It is invariably the case that a few of the sentences won't be grammatically correct and this is a great teaching point. First I will read the sentence exactly as it was composed "At the cat on sat" for example. Then I will screw up my face and exclaim "That doesn't make sense, that's SILLY!" After a giggle I encourage him to help me change it to something that DOES make sense.
Why do I think the sentence game is so important? Because it stops a child thinking they can read simply because they memorised a reader then getting frustrated when they find they can't read the books in their book shelf. Mixing it up, seeing the words in different contexts, experimenting with formulation of correct sentences and trying out the meanings of words really gives reading ability a good work out. Knowing that C-A-T spells cat in the reader AND on the card is a big step in learning how to read. I believe in making our resources for this game together because I can tailor make it to the child. Phonetically, cow is way beyond where Farm Boy is at but because I know he loves cows it makes sense to use it now. So I wrote it and explained that O and W fight and say 'OW!' and it is one word he can always read. Because it comes from what he loves. Princess Doc had body parts and medical terms and I suspect Tool Man will want cars and tools. A child will want to read about what they are passionate about and will put the work in to learn if they see it as worthwhile.
A Note on Writing:
I do not believe a child should be required to write until they have shown an interest in learning OR are a proficient reader. Writing requires the mental knowledge of letters, what they mean and how to put them together. It also requires fine and gross motor skills that many early readers simply do not possess. When Princess Doc wanted to learn to read I used a popular text to start her off and it required that she write a little each day. My training had taught me that you teach letter formation at the same time as you teach the letter. Away we went and I found I was killing her love of reading. She hated having to write the letters because she simply did not have the fine motor skills to do it "properly". And if you know Princess Doc at all, you know that "properly" is very important to her. So I let it go and we just read - and today I have and confident novel reading six year old who is just now perfecting her letter formation. Sadly, many children are prevented from surging on with their reading at school because they haven't learned to write well enough yet. I personally see this and a linked but separate skill which may form at a completely different rate.