I don't remember learning how to read. I just do it. I always did. I don't remember being taught. I certainly don't remember how I was taught. If I had to guess, I'd say it was via the sight word method, because phonics rules are definitely not my strong point.
So, yesterday Michael was playing with a Melissa and Doug toy I had gotten ages ago when he was first showing interest in both puzzles and letters. At the time he wasn't impressed, but when he rediscovered it yesterday he loved it and spent a good half hour working away mostly independently. He was frustrated because the "p" wouldn't fit into pig. That let to a discussion of how a lower case "b" is actually an upside-down, flipped over "p". We found two examples and demonstrated and he went happily on his way. Aside from one other brief interruption, which I will describe momentarily, he worked completely on his own until he proudly presented me with his final product.
Now, while Michael was working on the puzzles I was...hmm...I don't remember. I was doing some mystery task in the kitchen. I guarantee it wasn't cleaning though. Whatever I was doing, I was giving Michael about 3% of my attention when he wandered in to announce that "boat" and "cat" rhymed. I remember being slightly annoyed, in fact, because I knew that he knew those two words didn't rhyme. Then I looked down at the visual aid he had helpfully brought in and set up to show me.
Once he had my full attention, he stated in the tone of a question, "Cat and boat rhyme because they both end in -at." Well, then I was in trouble and regretting my lack of phonics theory knowledge. I did the best I could. I explained that while there was only one vowel in cat, there were two vowels using teamwork in boat. The "oa" combination sounds like "oh" while if "o" had been all on its own it would have sounded like "ah" making the word "bot". It ended up being a long, wordy, inelegant explanation. And, to be honest, I'm not even sure my explanation was correct. Even if it was lucky, and I happened to be correct this time, I'm not sure that phonics "rule" applies in every situation where "oa" appear together.
Why on earth does English spelling have to be so complicated? I think I'll just teach them phonetic transcription. Hmm... and then transcribe all their children's books into IPA... and their future schoolbooks... Ok, fine. That's no solution either. I guess I'll just have to teach myself phonics so that I can explain it to my four year old son. Can anyone recommend a good primer?