Phonics. There are so many ways and methods to employ when teaching a child about the sounds that the alphabet makes.
Today, I chose to use a few of Maria Montessori's methods for teaching a child to read and write (this is one of the many beauties of homeschooling, that is to say that one can choose whichever method suits each individual child best). Nicolas is 4 and for about the last six months, has fallen into a love affair with writing. He is at the "Mommy how do you spell _____?" age and I am eager to help encourage him on his road to reading (for most children, writing comes before reading, am I right here?).
When learning to identify a letter, number, leaf, wildflower or whatever it is a child is learning to identify, I find Montessori's Three Period Lesson to be so wonderful. If you are interested, you can read more about it here.
Instead of having him write in pen and paper today, I let his finger serve as his "pen" and a tart pan filled with rice serve as his "paper". This way, he could include several of his senses in this writing experience (sense of touch is huge here!).
After we talked about the letter "A" and "a", we went on to talk about the sound that "A/a" makes. I said, "A, as in apple". He said, "A, like apple" and then added and "A, like Adeline". So sweet. Adeline is my sister's soon-to-be-born baby girl, Nicolas' newest cousin!
I then left him alone to play in his tray of rice and just sat back to catch a few sweet moments....
Here he is just feeling the rice and letting it fall (yes, it did fall all on the floor, and I am just fine with that. It seem for me, that any mess associated with a learning experience is totally acceptable!!).
Nicolas then started drawing other letters and pictures in the rice. The shape below was described to be "You Mom!".
"The environment itself will teach the child, if every error he makes is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent or teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens."
- Maria Montessori