I have used this on three boys. I use it has a supplement to First Language Lessons, All About Spelling, and Christian Liberty Press Phonics A, B, & C. I think they get more out of it when I use the exercises in the Teacher's Guide, but I do not always get to them, and I do not do all of the TG exercises-- LOL ! Sometimes they finish three lessons and THEN we do a "crash course" of some the exercises from the Teacher's Guide as a sort of review, quiz, or "test". I only do this delay, because they finish faster than I have the time to do the lessons and I don't want them waiting on me. I have not used the second edition.
This is a great phonics resource. My kids do it with no fuss. We use it in our homeschool and have for two years. It can be done with out the teachers manual but I think the teacher manual is totally worth it.
I've used this series for many years now. I like the fresh covers and the content is clear, sequential and challenging enough for struggling readers. It complements my use of the Wilson Method as well.
We love the entire Explode the Code series in this house! There is never a complaint when it is time to get this book out! Often my daughter completes the assignment without me even having to ask her... which is pretty close to a miracle in this house. The lessons are quick, filled with funny illustrations, and painlessly teach phonics. If you enjoy this series I highly recommend the Spellwell series by the same author.