Hi again zeo2ski!
You are gaining some good wisdom and advice from those who have gone before me. I like Cyndi's story. It comforted me to know that someone else did 1st/2nd grade phonics with a child reading at a 4th grade level, and as a consequence can spell. It is exactly what I am doing now, so thank you! The one challenge you have of course though is that you have already done MFWK, in two months, and your son is age 4. So what do you do until MFW 1 age?
I am praying for wisdom here...
I guess I will share my story of what I have done, where I think the pitfall were, and hopefully you can make a wise decision based on everything you have read from ALL the posts!
I think all of my kids read their first sign in public at age 3. They could recognize all their letters at age 2, etc. Math was similar.
My response was: What do I do? Mostly because of my own self-education prior to school age left a huge phonics & consequently spelling hole in my own education.
What I did with my oldest (which is where you are at):
* I let him play at 3 - I read to him a lot and he read his first book to me one day in the kitchen.
* I let him play at 4 - I read to him a lot and did some math orally for fun.
* I tried school right after his 5th Birthday, and his handwriting wasn't there, so I let him play - I read to him a lot. We did some math orally for fun. We did A Beka Bible for Grades 1 - 6. He loved the art & hearing all of the Bible stories.
* At 6 we started with handwriting and flew through a basic intro K phonics in a month or so, and then did MFW 1 for the rest of his Kindergarten year, after 3 weeks into MFW 1 I finally found out where his reading level was - about grade 2. A year later, at age 7, it is about grade 5 reading level, and we are doing more phonics for spelling.
Strengths of this course of action that I took:
* He too is going about 90 mph, bounces through life, and has idea after idea after idea. He still figures out a lot on his own by asking questions. He taught himself multiplication and division and negative numbers and fractions before it showed up in math. We still haven't reached fractions & negative numbers in the math book.
* He loves to be read aloud too. So for ADV we have already read all the deluxe books, the Laura Ingalls series (which he is starting to read some on his own to himself), and the Beautiful Feet American History books. (Can you see the challenge of following curriculum patterns)? I cannot keep up with all the information he is able to absorb, recite back to me, and discuss. He is begging me to finish the Pioneer book, but I have been trying to follow the very well laid out and well organized program. Then in the car, when it is quiet, he will start telling us endless information he learns from this reading. The reading aloud at young ages is definitely worth it.
* He loves to play, imagine, make up things, and loves to build. He found this love of building by not doing curriculum at age 3 -4, in some ways. He is fascinated by architecture.
* Well the greatest strength is we spent the curriculum time on building his faith. That is a whole other story.
Pitfalls of the course of action I took:
* I didn't know any phonics going into home schooling. I had holes in my early education because I was at a 2nd grade reading level (or higher) when I started school. When I did MFW 1 for his K year I didn't know enough spelling rules myself to teach it. All the rules are there, I can see that now. I didn't see it when we did the program. If I had printed out a list of spelling rules from the internet it would have helped me see the spelling rules laid out in the phonics of the program.
* We are now doing Rod & Staff spelling Grade 1. He is learning a ton of phonics, and so am I! I cannot help thinking that this would have been easier to do with a child reading at a lower level. I loved Cyndi’s story though. It made me think that maybe it won't matter in the long run, and those we haven't missed anything by doing this later. The word lists though can come up with words he hasn't seen, and it forces him to sound them out. This is invaluable practice for later. I can not help thinking though that it would have been helpful to have a lot of practice in this area for spelling & later vocabulary development (this opinion comes from my own experience).
The strategies that one can take with a child like yours (this comes from my piano studio that I used to have being 80% gifted children - it just happened):
1. You can go through the material faster - the results can be varied. Sometimes it can leave holes even for a gifted student. If it is their strength they will fill in the gaps, but not always.
2. You can test to see if they know material, and then skip what they know - the results can be varied, since it too can leave holes. If it is their strength they will fill in the gaps on their own, but sometimes can miss 1 or 2.
The biggest challenges:
1. To teach to where they are at since it will typically cross over 1 - 5 grade levels in one area.
2. To not leave holes in their education. These kids deserve to not have holes in their knowledge, in my opinion. Too many end up with holes in the foundation of a subject because they were able to zoom through the early days.
1. I haven't tried this yet - but it seems to me that teaching to them when they are ready and able to go at the pace of the material would have material advantages, instead of flying through it and missing 1/2 of it. When it is challenging enough to teach them how to work, to prevent laziness. When everything comes easy there is a tendency to want life to come easy, and life isn't easy. Children who have to work hard in school, I would think learn some really strong character traits.
So you could go down the road I did:
Let him play, read aloud to him, let him figure out reading on his own, and teach basic phonics later - when he can already read - to fill in the hole for spelling. You could do this with MFW 1 (I encourage a list of spelling rules, if you aren't a strong speller).
* You could do what I did with math. I did it orally for fun, on the couch, when I thought of it. I would ask questions, he would do mental math, and I would write the answers. He thought it was fun. It didn't hurt his 4-year-old, 99% of the time imaginative play. Who knows maybe it inspired his really incredible 3 dimensional trains, outdoor, Lego, etc. etc. creations.
* You could do with phonics, what I did with math. Once or twice a week, you could sit with him and have him do some blends. He can learn phonics when he is ready. Without pressure, handwriting, pushing and give him 98% 4 years old, imaginative play time. Phonics can become part of learning to read, instead of what we are doing... hmm... You asked about phonics programs. I would never suggest doing one in its entirety at 4. What I did with math though would never distract from early childhood play or imagination. He liked the questions, and if I had known then what I know now about phonics and curriculum I would have done the same with phonics. Some work book time on the couch for fun.
Last sharing of stories:
I started MFW K with my second son when he turned 5. He is currently spelling at a second grade level, and reading 3rd grade words on occasion. So I am going to be left with a similar situation. I have started Rod & Staff Grade 1 phonics with him. I am glad he has had all the time to play. I can see with Cyndi how it hasn't hurt him any to wait. He loves to play above all else. He is so young. Yet, starting phonics for K feels closer to when he was ready, then 6 or 7 with my oldest.
I hope you gain something from this thread that helps. The younger years are so priceless. But don't feel badly if you decide to teach a gifted child information they are ready for, just make sure it is developmentally appropriate (for example, don't force a 4 year old to write if he isn't ready), and I think you will do fine. Don't push and make it fun. It wouldn't have hurt me to have some guidance when I taught myself to read, and I don't think it would hurt your son to give him guidance. Guidance is comforting to a young child, and makes them feel secure & like the parent is there to help. It is actually a bit frightening to teach 'everything' to ones self when you are 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7. After 7 I think it was fun.
P.S. Thank you for starting this thread. God is using it for me to take more responsibility for my children's education. This is a topic I have avoided for a few years. It has been uncomfortable & embarrassing for me to have people comment on my children's intelligence since they could walk. I usually entirely avoid this issue on the board. Thank you!!