Friday, April 17, 2015

A TOS Review: Orphs of the Woodlands

Star Toaster Review

I love reading. It is one of my biggest joys to be drawn into a story that completely captures my imagination and leaves me wanting to revisit again and again and again. This is why I was extremely excited to review Star Toaster's new online program, Orphs of the Woodlands. Usually, if there is something to try on the computer, the kids are all for it. I love it when you can disguise quality learning into fun and games. It's what I like to call Ninja Homeschooling! LOL! 

Orphs of the Woodlands is a reading/critical thinking, interactive experience targeting students in grades 4-7. The website describes it as "an educational journey that combines a reading adventure, an academic treasure and a rewarding game" all woven into one program. Your student will not only be immersed into an engaging and exciting story, but also learn many valuable lessons in  math, science, grammar, vocabulary, thinking skills, character, life skills, the arts, and much more.

I had Connor, Chloe and Canon all try the program out. I sat with each of them for his/her first lesson and read along silently. I was pulled in myself! The story is about a little squirrel who lives alone in the woods. He is recruited to become a spy against the night creatures, has to rescue orphans and return them to their homeland, Ivythwaite. 

There are many interactive components to the reading section. As your student reads, he will likely come across many unfamiliar words. Several of the vocabulary words are highlighted in RED. As they pass the cursor over these words, a pop-up box will appear and give your child the definition. How neat is that? 

Occasionally, there will be a button or graphic to push while you are reading that will play sound effects or a piece of a song. I found it appealing to those whose attention may wander, and it added a bit of fun to the reading experience. The graphics are beautiful, the maps are detailed, the characters are so engaging...I really love this program!

Star Toaster Review
A screenshot of your land. You are required to tend your land, keep house, and care for your orphans.

When I sat with Canon, I could see him getting anxious. He is not an avid reader, and I could tell he was not going to be easily engaged. There were about 30 pages for the first read, which I felt to be a little long for a 10-year-old boy. The books that he typically reads have chapters that usually range from about 12-20 pages. I saw him getting exasperated when he would finish a page only to find he wasn't done with the lesson yet. I think for his age group, there should have been shorter chapters in order to keep him excited about coming back. By the time he finished the reading portion, he wasn't very excited to play the games or go on any missions. 

Connor actually enjoyed the first chapter. He felt the first few games should have been more rewarding, though. It took him quite a bit of time to earn enough to get anything accomplished, and he was losing interest by chapter six because he couldn't do what he was wanting to do quickly enough. And there was no way to retry a game or mission that he hadn't done well on, therefore no way to earn more stars. He hasn't played it in over a week, but said today that he was going to check on his orphans in the morning. So I guess he just needed a break and is ready to jump back in.

Chloe, on the other hand, ate it up! She loves the story, characters, games, missions, all of it! She has stayed very dedicated to this story, and it has kept her attention thoroughly. We just finished our Language Arts curriculum for the year today, and the first thing she said was, "Yay! Now I can play Orphs quicker every day!!!" 

Star Toaster Review

For me, seeing my kids excited about something that is teaching them valuable lessons is very rewarding. I have heard Chloe sharing interesting quotes from famous people over the weeks, and then telling them that she learned them from Orphs. There is character building qualities about this program that truly blesses my heart! Also, another thing I love is that Star Toaster keeps me updated with weekly progress reports emailed to me on every child. This is such a great tool! I can't tell you how often I get behind on grading, so to have one less thing I have to remember to check is wonderful. It emails me, and I can see exactly where they are in the story, how many stars they've earned, what skills have been covered, and so much more. I am loving what I am seeing!

A 60-day subscription for up to 3 kids is $19.99, with a 30-day extension for $6.99. They are offering a free trial on the first 100 pages of Orphs right now! Click the link below to learn more.

Star Toaster Review

I am excited to see this company grow and offer more great stories in the future. It is so much more than a storybook - it is truly a learning adventure! 

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Star Toaster Review

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