Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: AVKO Membership

A few years ago, I was trying find resources to help my son, a struggling speller. My search led me to pick up the phone and chat with Don McCabe, founder of AVKO.

AVKO is a non-profit organization dedicated to literacy. You can read more about AVKO philosophy at the website. Also from the website:
AVKO is a non-profit, 501(C)3 membership organization that focuses on the development and production of materials and especially techniques to teach reading and spelling, handwriting (manuscript and cursive), and keyboarding. AVKO is dedicated to the teaching everyone how to read and spell, regardless of their mild to moderate learning disabilities, dyslexia, poverty, or opportunity.
You may be familiar with Sequential Spelling, a spelling program that teach spelling using the patterns of the English language. While Sequential Spelling can be used with any learner, dyslexic students in particular benefit from the breaking down of words. In addition to Sequential Spelling, AVKO provides a variety of support products and information for teaching spelling.

To my surprise, Mr. McCabe didn't spend our phone conversation convincing me his program was my answer. Instead, he simply discussed with me my questions concerning dyslexia. The AVKO headquarters is located less than an hour from my home and Mr. McCabe even offered me free tutoring for my son. He was quick to stress that I could teach my son and he would teach me how to do so if I was unsure. I was impressed at how much time Mr. McCabe spent with me, at a time when I was having trouble getting answers elsewhere. In gratitude, I decided to support the non-profit AVKO and become a member.

At the time, an AVKO annual membership provided a print copy of To Teach a Dyslexic, three e-books, and 25% off any purchases for the duration of the membership. I read the book and purchased a few products, but didn't renew as I felt I gleaned what I was going to glean that first year. When I received a 1-year AVKO membership for review as a member of the TOS Crew, I was curious to see changes in membership benefits have taken place over the last couple of years.

An annual membership ($25) to AVKO gives 25% off all AVKO printed materials for the year, as well as access to a new membership section on the website. While membership does not include access to the Sequential Spelling program, you can develop a spelling program on your own with the information available in the membership area.

Visit the website for a list of the Benefits of Basic AVKO Membership, including titles available for download in the Members Only area of the website.

There are several items that were not part of the membership when I was a member years ago. One of the items I was absolutely thrilled with was The Patterns of the English Spelling, Volume 1-10. This was an item I would have loved to have years ago, but the $360 price tag for all 10 volumes in a printed version was well outside of my budget. I'm thrilled to see this 1631-page PDF document included FREE with membership. Mr. McCabe spent an immense amount of time (over 30 years!) creating this categorization of every word imaginable into word patterns or rimes. If your child is needing work with a particular pattern, you will have no trouble finding words for practice and example. You can see a sample of this PDF file here.

I also enjoyed some of the audio recordings from some of Don's workshops, also new resource with membership. There are six total, a $15 value. Also of interest is AVKO's pairing with Spelling City. With the resources available to members, members will be able to create individualized spelling lists for a completely customized spelling curriculum.

In addition to the main titles, there is also a section of humor, puns, and stories for fun and to use during lessons (dictation, for example). A word of caution – do not blindly print items without viewing and hand them to your children. Some of them contain humor that might not be appropriate for some families.

Is this a membership for you? If you already use or are considering AVKO's Sequential Spelling program, the supporting information in the member's section will certainly be useful. In addition, the savings on future purchases will help offset the cost of the membership. Parents of struggling spellers will find tools to use with their current program or to develop your own program. While there is a lot of interesting information on this site, if you have natural spellers that rarely need to reference Mr. Webster, then you may not find a membership all that beneficial.

To learn more about AVKO, the products available, and the benefits of membership, visit the AVKO website.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

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