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Are Sight Words Really Good for Your Kids?

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When I was in school there were just a few sight words we had to know.  They were usually words you could not sound out.  Words like the, by and are.  So, I was surprised when my kindergartner came home with a sight word list filled with words that could obviously be sounded out like big, we, he and yes.

This got me thinking about my kids and their schooling and the role problem-solving plays in their everyday educational activities.  For the most part, American schools continue to focus on the output of information rather than the strategies and processes developed through problem solving.  This was one of the reasons that we decided to home school our children.

During this journey, I’ve used many tools to assist in helping my children not just learn to read, but to master it.  (Read with Fonics is one of those tools.  Check out our subscription giveaway below!)

In my opinion, blending words (or sounding them out) teachers problem solving because it forces kids to realize the interconnection between sounds and letters and how they fit together. In the book MEganize!: Empower Your Child With An ‘Education For Life’ by Peter Jennings he calls this divergent thinking.  It’s the ability to solve problems using all of the information, objects and context around you.  Sight words, on the other hand, teach convergent thinking as it simply focuses on teaching the right answer. How does teaching information application first, rather than strategy, help or hinder our kids as they encounter daily situations that require problem solving abilities?


After all, giving the right answer is a skill for the obedient, the employee, the gopher.  But, divergent thinking, which requires brainstorming, being strategic and figuring out the ‘hows’ of life are reserved for CEOs, entrepreneurs and community leaders.  How can we, as mothers, change this lean toward “right answer” teaching in our children’s schools?

How Can You Recognize Convergent Learning in Your Children?

It starts by being able to recognize when your kid is building the habit of convergent thinking. One sign that your kid is “converging” is when they say “we didn’t learn this in class” regarding their homework.  The teacher may, unknowingly, be focusing on helping the children get the right answer rather than focusing on helping the students solve the problem of not knowing the answer.

What is the Alternative to Sight Words?

Simply put, phonics.  Rather than having your child memorize that list of sight words his teacher sends home each week, have him sound the words out.  In addition, help him learn to build words using his sight words.  For example, rather than just teaching him how to sound out the word “extra” teach him how to build that word into “extraordinary.” This teaches him that words have meaning inside of other words and that words are like blocks and can be built upon.  Even the “or” inside of “extraordinary” has meaning.

ReadwithFonics.com is another awesome tool/website that I have used often when teaching my son how to read.  Rather than using sight words, ReadwithPhonics helps children to build  their literacy skills letter-by-letter and sound by sound.  It keeps little readers engaged with dynamic games and graphics, while teaching them to use there little divergent minds to piece words together sound by sound.  Enter our giveaway below.  Three lucky moms will receive an annual subscription to ReadwithPhonics.com for FREE.

How do Create Little Divergent Thinkers?

Considering the American education system is unlikely to change anytime soon, the power is in the hands of the mamas–again. It’s very important that moms begin to teach their kids how to develop strategies for fixing life’s little kinks.  Give them problems around the house to solve.  Get their brains moving with  projects that help them develop their own processes and principles.  Open up an old toaster and have them figure out how to put it back together.  From something as small as a good place for everyone to put shoes when they come in the house to creating a water system for your garden, don’t under-estimate the power of your child’s minds.

Here’s our giveaway!

So what do you think mamas, are your kids convergent or divergent thinkers?


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