The phonics program I use is Little Angel Readers. I love it. It's sweet, it's Catholic, but not Catholic-only (the stories for the kids to read include Aesop's Fables and ones like the Little Red Hen as well as stories about families going to church and doing little acts of kindness), and it has worked for two of my kids thus far.
The first eight lessons are about recognizing the sounds made by eight different consonants: S, T, P, H, D, M, C and N. Lesson 9 (of Reader A) introduces the vowel A and begins blending the sounds together to make words.
When Fritz was in kindergarten, we stayed on Lesson A9 for an eternity. He just didn't get it. I would drop it for a week and do other things, then come back and try again. Even after he began to blend it all together, it remained a struggle for him for quite some time. We went on and added other consonants and other vowels and began reading stories, but it was only recently that he's become more at ease with reading. And he is still not wholly comfortable, especially if there are lots of big words he thinks he's never seen before. He is easily frustrated, and I am easily frustrated by his frustration. But we're getting there.
Last year, I used the same program with Billy and planned to be at Lesson A9 for a while. But Billy figured it out right away and we spent little additional time on that lesson than any of the previous ones. What a blessed relief. Billy is now in Reader B and has learned that vowels make long sounds too. He's doing great!
Yesterday was Katie's turn for Lesson A9. Although I crossed my fingers and wished for this lesson to progress like it had with Billy, I know my daughter. Even though she loves to do schoolwork and I have to work hard to keep her busy, I expected that she would be more like Fritz. Sure enough, she can identify the sounds made by the letters C and T and she learned A, but could not blend them together to sound out the word CAT. We went through about a third of the page. She would identify the individual sounds made by the letters, and then turn her bright expectant eyes to me and listen to me repeat what she said, but maybe a bit faster and then again, a bit faster, and then she would get very excited as she would say the word we were sounding out. It was really cute to see her eyes light up and watch how thrilled she was to witness the sounding out of real words.
But I can tell that the little light bulb is not going off in her head. And I sigh a heavy sigh. Truth be told, I just want it to be easy. I want my kids to know how to read, and how to read well. I want my kids to enjoy reading. I would love to be able to say, "Ah, look here at my 6 year old reading chapter books and my 3rd grader selecting novels off the junior adult section at the library." But more than that, I just want the whole reading thing to click with little to no trouble at all. I don't want to have to actually work for success.
But this is not to be the case, apparently.
In all fairness to Katie, she only turned 5 in August. Fritz was also just over 5 years old when I tried this with him. Billy was at least 5 years and 7 months when he got to Lesson A9, since his birthday is in February. So, today, I will show her a few more words on that page and see if it makes any more sense to her. If not, then we will just drop it for a month and learn about other consonants.
It is very frustrating. But if she's not ready, she's simply not ready.