English is a very complicated language. Many English words, due to their roots in a variety of languages such as French, Greek, German, and Latin, are known to be exceptionally hard to spell and pronounce correctly.
Sure, as homeschoolers we like to entertain the idea that there are actually English spelling and pronunciation "rules" that we can teach our children to follow all the time. But in actual practice, there are so many exceptions to most of those "rules" that they end up being something closer to a suggestion.
Early in the twentieth century a Dutchman named Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité, who recognized that the English language was somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to pronunciation, wrote a poem called "The Chaos." The 300-line poem highlighted the complexity of English pronunciation — in an almost Dr. Seuss style.
Here are the opening lines of "The Chaos":
Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
And the closing lines:
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??
Hiccough has the sound of cup…
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!
You can read the full text of The Chaos here, or listen to it being read aloud on Librivox here. Your children might enjoy the challenge of reading through the entire poem (if they can make it all the way through — it's tough!)
By the way, if you're wondering how to pronounce ghoti from the graphic at the top of this post, it's actually pronounced the same as fish. How? The gh is pronounced like the gh in tough, the o is pronounced like the o in women, and the ti is pronounced like ti in the word nation. Yet another example of the absurdity of English pronunciation.