I am a squirrel. No, really. I am a squirrel named Jacob.
Okay, well, obviously, I’m not a real squirrel, but in The Woodlands I am. Along with my youngest son Joseph. Oh yeah, and my daughter Ana is a squirrel too, named Jason….okay, let me explain.
I might have mentioned a time or two how much I appreciate the brilliant minds that are in the world and sometimes we are blessed to get a peek into that brilliance. The program is computer based, an online computer based program to be exact. You will need any computer and internet access for this to work for you.
After you get setup and paid, the system will prompt the admin (parent) to add the child to the system. The child will have access via the same email address but under a different password. Pretty cool system feature right there! What a pain to try to remember each and every username AND password…
Once the child begins, they are asked to pick their character’s name. Each child is a squirrel, no other options, but they do get to choose the name, so that was pretty neat. The next part that they get to do is begin reading. Now, this is a story called The Treasure of HighTower that will need to be read before ANY activities can be completed.
Each chapter has a questions/answers section at the end, under the guise of completing jobs. The only way that they can complete the jobs is if they are attentive throughout the previous chapter.
So far, Ana has completed a few chapters, it is a long process since she is a slow reader, but she is trying to make sure that she understands what she is reading. Once the reader completes a “job”, they get gold stars, which in turn is their “money” to buy items.
The reason that the student needs the money is because their character is in the process of helping orphaned mice (Orphs), they need their stars so that they can provide for their Orphs. Entirely too cool! They must complete their jobs, get paid, then use their stars to purchase, food, water, clothing, shelter, medicine, protection, and fire for their Orphs.
What I have seen so far, this online program is educational, uses critical thinking, planning, and fun, all rolled into one!
Here are some of the Skills that Ana has had to use so far to complete her Jobs:
- Vocabulary and Language – new words and their meanings, comprehension, synonyms and antonyms
- Math – place value, how to write out numbers as words, basic algebra, geometry
- Critical Thinking – managing the Orphs, what to do, should I?
- Life Skills – recipes, ingredients, and why the foods are important
- Science – fulcrums and levels, acidity, base
- Memory Skills – remembering information about certain characters
- Character – values
- The Arts – quotes by famous people
For Ana, this is a bit of an overwhelming program but only because her reading level is adequate. Therefore her reading comprehension is still not completely developed yet and she tends to skip over things she doesn’t understand. Now, she would never tell me that, but from using this program myself, it is obvious that there are still gaps in her comprehension skills.
When she sits down to use this program, she easily will sit for an hour because she needs that much time to read through the pages in each chapter. She is one that likes to complete a chapter so that she doesn’t forget the material, but again, there are still gaps with the amount of information that is provided, as she isn’t always able to answer all of the questions correctly.
As the parent, I get progress reports emailed to me (see image above) about the work that has been completed as well as the upcoming work that will be shown to the student. As a homeschooler, I appreciate the level of involvement that Star Toaster provides for the parent. I am then able to access the student accounts and view what they have completed, as well as the right/wrong questions and answers.
I have found that once the Jobs (questions and answers) have been completed, there is no way to go back and correct them later. This is difficult for me as I would like to be able to go in with my student and help them better understand the required work, then have the option for the student to redo the Job and see if the reworked subject is now more understandable.
I think that having that option would help to create pride in ones work instead of not being able to go back and correct their mistakes. I see how the program requires the comprehension and the ability to retain information, but I think it would be a helpful alternative for parents with struggling students.
The grade range suggested is for 4th-7th but from our experience, this program is well suited for students that read well. Ana would be considered on the low end of this spectrum. This program most assuredly tests the readers with all of the large vocabulary words that are sprinkled throughout the pages of the story. This Orphs of the Woodlands is for the student that is looking for adventure and will work hard for the rewards.
Since this is a program that requires reading skills, Joseph and I have been completing this together. I am reading it out loud to him and then helping him through the questions and answers. If he gains nothing else, it is well worth the read. This is an adorable story that will enthrall your listeners (and readers) with the imaginative and diverse creatures that they will get to meet. Joseph has very much enjoyed listening to the story and often begs me to read for a bit to him.
We are thankful that this program is offered because it challenges the student to get involved, not just construct and destroy as some other programs do. The reading section is full of vibrate descriptions and fun characters, this is not a drab school program, this will totally captivate your edger reader.
A subscription is offered for 2 months that allows you to add up to three child accounts. After your two month period ends there is an optional month-to-month subscription available. But right now, Star Toaster is offering a FREE Trial for you to test our their program. This FREE trail allows you to read the beginning of the story and complete the first lesson.
Ana, Joseph, and I are looking forward to working diligently through the rest of the program, and learning more about the Orphs and what is in store for them.
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In His Grace.