You know what is awesome? Being totally blown away by a new homeschool product. For the past couple months, Bug has been thrilled to be using Star Toaster‘s online program, Orphs of the Woodlands. For this review, we were given access to The Treasure of HighTower, the first book in what I am hoping is a long series of awesome books!
Bug does enjoy reading, but he sometimes struggles with staying engaged with a book. During this review, Bug read 374 pages, and completed 96 lessons… all with a smile on his face, completely on his own, and sometimes, he even begged to do it.
Here is how it works:
First, you log into the program, and you send in an application to be a spy. A spy who rescues orphaned animals and cares for them in the forest.
Your child will get to pick their “spy” name, and they become a part of the story. As your child reads the book, they’ll notice that there are highlighted words and phrases. If they hover over these, they’ll get all the additional information and definitions they need to really understand the story. There are also little letters within the story that they can click on. (They’ll need their invisible ink to read them, they are spies after all!)
During the reading, there are lessons along the way. You’ll want to pay special attention to them, because after you finish reading a chapter, you’ll come across jobs to do. The jobs will earn you gold coins, which you can use to take care of your “orphs.” Training (a.k.a. the lessons) are presented in a couple different ways. There are videos, flashcards, notes, and something they call “memory typer,” a program that helps your child memorize things through typing.
The lessons are on many topics, everything from math to language arts, science, nutrition, and even character education. When you finish reading the chapter, you’ll have jobs to choose from. These jobs are questions and other learning activities which give you a chance to show your mastery of the topics covered in the reading.
You get to pick which jobs you want to do. There are a ton to choose from so your child really has full control over what they are learning. They already did the base lessons in the reading, so even if they don’t do the job, they have learned the material, but the more jobs they do, the more gold stars they get.
Once you have done jobs, and earned gold stars, you get to play with your orphs in the game portion of the program. You have to take care of them and make sure they have things like food, water and energy. You can buy things for them, and build up your land and their homes. If you run out of gold stars, your orphs suffer, so you have to keep reading and working to keep the game going!
Bug loved this program. When you purchase a subscription, you get two months access to complete the 15 chapters. Bug did it in about 4, and that was with me making sure he didn’t work ahead each day (I allowed him about an hour a day). He did not complete every single job from the looks of the parent side of the program, so I am going to have him read it again and do more jobs while he is waiting for the second book to come out.
He did a ton of work over the 4 weeks he played. He didn’t finish all the jobs, nor did he do great on all of the lessons, but considering it is designed for 4th-7th graders and he is on the low end of that range, I was really happy with his progress. I think this program is an AWESOME choice for summer learning for kids within that range.
The only thing I would love to see them expand on is the reporting feature for parents. I live in a high reporting state for my homeschool requirements, and this program absolutely fills a need for me. However, there isn’t an easy way to print off a scope and sequence, or to see what scores my child has gotten on the jobs he’s done. I’d love to see more detailed grading with the ability to print off his progress so I can turn around and report on it easily. I know he’s spent a ton of time on the program, and done a ton of work, and I would like to be able to keep better track of it for the state.
Despite the lack of easy to read details on the parent side, you can still go into your parent account and see what jobs your child has attempted, and also click through the lessons yourself to see the content and how it was taught. I really enjoyed being able to watch the lessons and read the story myself without messing up Bug’s work and progress.
Hands down, this is Bug’s new favorite program, and one of my favorite reviews of all time. I can’t wait to see more from this company!
They have a free trial, and you need to check it out. Although, go into it knowing you are probably going to want to hit “buy” when the trial runs out.