Review: Rocket Phonics

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While I’ve been very excited to review many of the products that I’ve received, there has only been one that I’ve actually prayed about:  Rocket Phonics.

You see, Josh, who will be ten in December, still isn’t reading very well.  He can read, but it’s nowhere near where he should be for his age.  Most of you know that I’m all about letting kids develop at their own pace, but Josh’s reading is really starting to concern me.  When I read some of the paperwork that came with Rocket Phonics, I was almost in tears..hopeful tears.  What stood out most to me was this statistic:

…for 60% of kids, learning to read will be difficult; and for nearly 30%, it will be the most difficult skill of any task they learn throughout life.

I know, without a doubt, that Josh falls into that 30%.  The information also said that, with Rocket Phonics, a child could progress from non-reading to 5th grade level in 1 1/2 to 2 years.  I thought that, if Josh, who is already reading some, were able to do that in closer to the one year mark, he’d be right where he should be.

So, when I found out that only some reviewers would be receiving Rocket Phonics to review, I prayed.  I prayed that we would be chosen, if it was something that would help Josh and, if not, that we wouldn’t be chosen so that we didn’t waste anymore valuable reading time.

We were chosen.

We’ve used Rocket Phonics for the last six weeks or so.  Some days it goes really great and other days it’s a study in frustration.  However, I feel very hopeful.  I’ve noticed that the way that the program is set up seems to be very helpful for Josh.  Rocket Phonics is different from any reading program I’ve ever used.  It starts with the child learning the 36 sounds he will be using in Rocket Phonics.  Some sounds are represented by one letter, such as k, l, or m; other sounds are represented by two-letter combinations,  such as ch, sh, or zh.  Only sounds are represented, so letters like c and q, who don’t have their own sounds, are not included.

Once the child has learned all the sounds, though a variety of games and the use of two sets of colorful playing cards, they practice phonemic awareness and blending.  Then, they move onto reading practice.  The thing that sets Rocket Phonics apart are the “helpers” that come with each word, sentence or paragraph that a child reads.  The letters that make their learned sound are in blue, those that don’t make a sound at all are in gray, and those that make a different sounds are in gray with their actual, phonetic sound printed below them, like this:

The premise behind this is that, often, by the time a child has sounded out half the words in the sentence, they’ve completely lost the meaning of what they’ve read.  The helpers allow the child to read the words at a normal pace so that, when they’re done, they know what they’ve read.  They become immersed in reading and eventually progress to reading the same passage first with the helpers, then without.

Although the process hasn’t been as flawless as I would have hoped, with Josh, I have noticed that the helpers really do give him added confidence and better comprehension.  For Megan, who is more intuitive with her reading and a stronger reader than Josh, the helpers seem confusing or, at least, distracting, but they seem to be good for Josh.

Rocket Phonics combines a strong phonics base with games and movement for maximum success.  It’s designed to work with auditory, kinesthetic and auditory learners, ages 4-10, including those with reading-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.  From the Rocket Phonics website:

In a recent study, 43 home-schooled students using Rocket Phonics gained in just three months an impressive 8.9 months in reading skill! This means if your 5-year old used Rocket Phonics for a year, he would be reading at nearly fourth grade level.
UCLA Professor James Catterall, who analyzed the study, found the Rocket Phonics students’ reading improvement was nearly four times that of the study’s other students, who used methods such as Hooked on Phonics* and The Phonics Game.*
“No one who did more than one (Rocket Phonics) lesson failed to improve his or her skills.”
— Professor James Catterall, UCLA Graduate School of Education
(*Hooked on Phonics is a trademark of Gateway Learning. The Phonics Game is a trademark of ImaginEngine Direct Publishing.)

The Rocket Phonics kit, available for $160 + $15 shipping and handling, comes with the following:

  • Two Rocket Phonics readers, which combine the student and teacher’s books
  • Two sets of Play and Read symbol cards
  • Bingo games and chips
  • Word lists
  • A “Rocket Peeker” to reduce the stress of too many words on a page
  • Big movement games for young or active learners
  • Three bonus gifts, including the Rocket Phonics Treasure Hunt (prizes included)

The only thing that I really don’t like about Rocket Phonics so far is that it says that the teacher’s manual is built right in and requires little prep time.  I’ve not found that to be the case.  It doesn’t require much prep time, but I often feel like I’m not quite sure what I should be doing when.  I’d like to see more concrete lesson plans.

As I said, we’ve only used the program for about six weeks and, while the study mentioned above has shown Rocket Phonics to produce results faster than other popular phonics programs, it doesn’t claim overnight results.  So, with that in mind, I’ll be posting on how it’s going throughout the year, with a final review toward the end of this school year.  Keep an eye out for updates and feel free to ask me more about how we’re doing.

I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.  Actual results may vary.



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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. That seems like an over-priced, overly complicated way to learn phonics! I find extras like the helpers distracting… It'd be interesting to see how you guys fare as the year progress. Good luck and keep us posted!

  2. Thanks for the review. I have a 7yo who struggles with reading. Reading has become something she HATES to do everyday. I will definitely look into this product!!

  3. I've never thought the English language made much sense in it's rules and exceptions. Of course, some of it is that the way we pronounce things these days is different from the way the words were said long ago. When ever I complain my husband loves to point out that 'knight' used to be pronounced phonetically.
    Anyway, It's been frustrating trying to teach a child, who REALLY wants to read, who gets very agitated with herself when ever she has a problem.

  4. I'm so glad that your prayer was answered. I'll be praying that you get the results from the program that you are looking for. I imagine it can be frusterating for both of you at times.

  5. @ Amida — I guess it depends on what you've been using. I used Sing, Spell, Read and Write with Brianna and it was in that same price range, though I got it for a much better price used. If you've used things like 100 Easy Lessons or Phonics Pathways, then, yes, it seems expensive.

    Honestly, though, I'm at the point where, if this works for Josh, I'd pay three times that amount.

  6. I'd love to hear how it's going again in a few months. Noah turned 10 this summer, and he struggles with reading as well. He has really grown with it over the last year or so, but it's still a struggle. I keep praying that at some point, it will finally really, really click with him. He can muddle through now, but I am hoping for it to be more seamless at some point.

  7. I see that your post is from 2009. Can you update me on how the program worked for you?

    1. We saw some success, but Lexercise is what finally turned reading around for my son. I’ve done several reviews of it, which you can find linked on my reviews page.

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