Honest to goodness, as a public school mom I had no idea there was such a thing. I guess I never gave it much thought. I was way too concerned with who my kid was sitting next to and whether he got one of the "good" teachers that year.
Seriously. These things are very important if you send your child to school. Not that you have any control over them. That's just the way it is.
Once I got Elf home, I knew I had to teach him to read well. That's stuff we were doing before just in our daily practice. How hard could it be? I taught Patrick with some flash cards years ago. Really! You'd be surprised at how many stupid words are impossible to sound out. Memorize this stack of 100 words, and you can read most anything. There you go.
I brought out the Dick and Jane series for Elf. It was then that I discovered something: the schools like to teach "phonics." I like to teach "reading."
To me, "reading" entails looking at a word and knowing the word. It doesn't entail sounding the word out like poor constipated Cookie Monster on Sesame Street. That's just so... un-natural. I have difficulty sounding words out. So do my children.
Therefore, we learn to read by learning what the word looks like. Then we put bunches of those words together and maybe sound out some of the easier words like... um... There really are very few words you can read properly phonetically. Can we just admit that? Just learn the word.
Emperor learned to read the same way. Dick and Jane. Then, when we were done with Dick and Jane, we got the King James out. Ok, this was kind of a hard transition. But now, Elf and Emperor can read words like "whithersoever" in a flash but have trouble with words like "onion."
But I think they read well enough, and are steadily improving.
The point being, though, that I missed out on "reading curriculum" entirely. I'm starting to pick up our ABeka book collection. We began the first grade readers and are now in the third grade readers. I suppose they are carefully formulated to get a little harder with each passing textbook.
But I don't have the special workbook! Shame!
Another thing we've bought is Landmark's Freedom Baptist Church Literature 115. Technically, it's a third-grade curriculum, but it's keyed to the McGuffey Readers, so I don't think it's shoddily-written or childish. It just looked like "something the kids would like," especially as Elf seems to be insulted when parts of a text are left out. Ellipses are his enemy. He MUST find the missing part.
One thing Emperor loves about the more modern readers and math textbooks are the pictures. He will carefully study the covers, and see if it matches an inside picture or lesson title. He will studiously look for items in the printing, such as a bee inside the letter B. He has to talk for several minutes about all the things he's found on the cover and title pages, and how "clever" they are to do it that way. Note to curriculum publishers: this child notices your designs and appreciates them very much.
I guess whatever works for your child is the best curriculum. I don't see why people get so upset over whether someone uses phonics, whole language or a combination of the two.
I am positing a hypothesis that whole language works better for autistic children, and that phonics is more difficult. At least that has been the experience in *our* family. I still haven't explored all the curriculum options out there. I suppose I never will. Ever read Tristram Shandy? Yup, I imagine I will find that perfect curriculum when the last child has become a high school graduate. :]