Me and MonkiSee

This post is long overdue, but this last week we purchased their full reading kit so I am prepared to give the full inside scoop, and I am so excited to tell you about this reading program.  This post is a little history of my relationship with Krista, how we have watched the company grow, and why I finally bought the complete program and couldn’t be happier.  Full review of the product coming soon (it’s taken me awhile to get through all of the material.  Wow, 10 DVDs!), so I decided these should be separate posts.

When I first started our early learning journey, I was determined to do it without the help of a package.  I wanted to be frugal, I wanted to make materials myself, and I was reluctant to spend any kind of money on a fancy program.  My oldest, Peter, was my guinea pig.  I found and read Glenn Doman’s books before he reached his first birthday, and I found a wonderful yahoo group (which is no longer very active), and I was on my way.  I made bits of intelligence cards, worked with my son, and overall our learning program was a success.  He was a smart little cookie.  Except, he couldn’t read, which was the early learning skill I wanted to give him the most.  His third birthday rolled around and he still wasn’t reading, and I was feeling discouraged.  I know that may seem strange to the average citizen, but let me put things into perspective by stating that I was/am actively participating in online communities where the average success begins at 1, and even 9 or 10 months.  Videos were shared of 2-year-olds reading full books, and not just by random people on the internet, but by individuals who were becoming my close friends.  I realized that it was time for me to step back and re-evaluate my approach.  Part of the problem was that I was trying a phonetic approach where these mothers were doing a whole-word approach, but part of it too was that they had purchased/utilized better tools to get the job done. 

One of my friends that I especially looked up to was/is Krista.  Shortly after my son’s third birthday, she made a post about her youngest daughter.  She had picked up reading a little later than her siblings, but had recently made a breakthrough and was picking things up quickly.  She shared this video to show her progress.

This particular video was so very inspiring to me.  It made me realize that it wasn’t too late for my Peter to be an early reader, I just needed a different approach.  I was able to acknowledge to myself that I wasn’t a failure because he hadn’t picked reading up yet.  This video gave me fresh courage and determination to find success.

Shortly thereafter we purchased “Baby’s First Words”, and while my toddler daughter liked it, Peter simply didn’t.  Maybe it was because he was in the older-limit of who the videos were designed for.  Maybe it was because many of the words were drawn from Glenn Doman’s recommended starting point and thus were similar to the words I had already shown him and he had grown bored with them.  But whatever the reason, Peter was my top priority at the time, not Helen.  (This particular DVD has been redone, and the new version is much better.)  So we looked at our options.  They were different then than they are now.  The BrillKids reading software didn’t come with books.  MonkiSee was a younger, smaller company.  I didn’t want to rely too much on screen time and Your Baby Can Read came with cards and books, so we chose YBCR.  I felt a little guilty posting my first success video because I didn’t want Krista to feel bad that I hadn’t chosen her package (silly, I know, but a woman thinks these things), but she was the very first to congratulate me and share meaningful commentary.  Krista is very excited and passionate about early learning in general, and she has always offered support regardless of what products a family is using.  When I stop and think about it, this makes sense to me especially in the context of knowing that my family’s success cannot be attributed to any one product, but to the symbiotic use of all of our resources and our overall learning environment.  ” ‘Do you think John would like a book for Christmas?’ ‘No, John already has a book.’ ”  Still, praising programs that do compete with hers takes character and I love her for it.  I know many people like myself who have all three programs and like me, they love all three.  But I digress.

Peter soared through the YBCR materials, but he wasn’t reading books independently.  That transition was something we needed to do on our own.  I relied on three sources to figure that process out.  First, our fantastic local library, second, Glenn Doman’s book, and third, Krista’s video “A Guide to Teaching Babies to Read.”  I’ve been watching the MonkiSee company so long I bought it as a digital download before it was available on DVD.  If you don’t want to read Doman’s book, watching this video is the way to go- many of the principles are demonstrated well and she brings fresh ideas to the table.  Part of my problem in making my own materials is I spend too much time creating durable materials designed to last all of my children.  While those materials are still in our family’s library, the time involved in making them QUALITY limited the QUANTITY I could make.  Krista’s homemade books and materials were simple, effective, and so easy to put together.  I looked at those books and realized that I could easily replicate them at home, and I did!  So even though Peter didn’t learn to read with the MonkiSee materials, MonkiSee was indeed still instrumental in his ultimate success.

Meanwhile, Helen and Patrick were learning to read, enjoying the Your Baby Can Read and a couple of MonkiSee videos alike.  Helen largely learned to read with Peter at a slower pace, but Patrick has been in a class all his own.  He was an infant when we purchased YBCR and was often present, but being a baby, I also regularly showed him the “Baby’s First Words” video.  As soon as he was old enough to voice his opinion, he showed a strong preference for MonkiSee.  I am friends with Krista on facebook and between that and her signature on the BrillKids, he sees Howie and Skip (the starring monkeys) often, and without fail, he not only points them out every time he sees them, but also requests to watch the video.  His favorite Christmas present last year was “Animals at the Farm.”  (Thank you aunt Crystelle!)  He adores the characters.  Helen quotes the poetry in the films, and has picked up a few nuances in her speech like “I don’t know why, but I _____” and “I try to ______ with all my might.”

So my kids love MonkiSee, and it was time for me to reevaluate our reading program.  Here’s where my family sits.  Peter (almost 6), is reading on about a 5-6th grade reading level, has recently started reading chapter books like Lego Ninjago on his own.  Helen (4) is on a 3rd grade level, and Patrick (2) is on a 2nd grade level (my best guess, my kids have not been tested.)  So these three have their foot in the door as far as reading goes, they just need a library card, which leads me to my daughter Ruth (13 months).

Overall, I have collected a nice library of early learning tools to teach her with, and she has been already exposed to much.  The conflict I have run into is that, well, I’m a busy mom, and even with my resources, the thing I need to do is balance my time with my all of my children and their unique educational needs, not to mention that without fail, they seem to want dinner every night.  I’m finding that our screen time needs to balance out as well.  While we love to play outside and explore nature, and they have plenty of free play time, I shamelessly admit that we also use technology to aid our learning, including screen time.  We have one portable DVD player and one laptop.  The computer is used for our BrillKids products, for piano, for Netflix and YouTube, for StarFall, and other educational learning games.  There are so many things I would like to do every day and sometimes it is hard to fit everything in.  While the daily Little Reader lessons do happen, and I maintain that it is enough to teach a baby to read, the bottom line is, the more you do, the faster they will progress, and the more they will learn. 

I think that OFF-screen learning should ideally happen too, which again is why I originally went with Your Baby Can Read.  At the time, they had the best physical materials to supplement the DVD reading instruction.  The only problem is, those materials didn’t hold up.  It’s not that the materials were not made of high quality materials, but rather their design could have been better.  Children are used to turning pages left to right, so the page-size lift-a-flap books tore easily and have been taped and re-taped, and often sit in our book hospital instead of the bookshelf for handy use.  The pull-out-cards were also very appealing to my children, but they bend too easily, and then tore.  They’re mostly gone.  This leaves me with the beloved teaching cards, which I have used and loved much, and they’re still here.  But they are words only, and only teach reading.  I know all too well that babies not only love pictures, they learn better when they understand what is being taught.  If you had never seen a tricycle before, the word would be meaningless, but with a picture, you instantly understand the concept of “tricycle” and are more likely to retain both the vocabulary and the reading ability.  Seeing a tricycle in use is even better, but that’s not possible in an off-screen flashcard session.  Seeing a picture is a grand reward for tiny children.  I wanted physical materials that I can use with Ruth while the other children have their screen time, while driving, or simply during our down time, and I have not seen anything on the market that compares to the value and quality of the physical elements in the MonkiSee reading package. 

Don’t get me wrong, the 10 DVDs looked great to me and my baby gets screen time too, but ultimately it was her reading cards and books that led me to take the plunge.  Sure, Patrick was absolutely thrilled when he saw the movies and I’m confident that the poetry and rich vocabulary will benefit Helen and Patrick immensely, but ultimately this purchase was for Ruth.  I know I have never been so well armed to give an infant reading success.  What a lucky baby!


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