Thursday, April 16, 2015

Orphs of the Woodland #hsreviews #TOS Review

Star Toaster Review

What first appealed to me about Star Toaster  was one the name. Great marketing there to have a catchy, off the way name. Also the curiosity and name of the program Orphs of the Woodlands which is an online educational resource and game. We started with the book The  Treasure of the HighTower. It is expected their will be more books to follow.

Orphs of the Woodlands is available as a 60 day subscription for up to 3 children for a regular price of $19.99, and $6.99 for 30 day extensions. There is a  free trial you can give it a whirl!. Geared for students in 4th-7th grade.

Orphs of the Woodlands is an adventure with a three fold purpose. Firstly the reader gains experience reading and learning new vocabulary. Each unit is quite long and may be a little bogging down for your reluctant reader. I had to take turns reading with my 13 year old as he quickly was asking.."how long is this chapter?"

Second there are other subjects and lessons incorporated into the story for learning. Not only are they reading, they are learning math, science, thinking skills and more with the emphasis on language arts.

Thirdly the student gets rewarded with playing a game. They are to rescue and care for the orphs, and depending on their work, they are better suited to do that.

Star Toaster Review
It was communicated that this would be a great program for reluctant readers, which my 13 year old is. I had him look over the video online prior to signing up for this review. We both thought it looked really interesting. We got started with the first chapter and their were 27 pages! That was really a hard thing for him. It was too much at the beginning. He was frustrated and kept asking when the chapter would end. We weren't able to see the end at that point. They so graciously changed the program and now you know how many pages are left!! Now that is great customer service, and regard for the the kids!

Star Toaster Review
Unfortunately he was frustrated after that first chapter and didn't have an interest in doing the jobs and exited it. After it was exited, we couldn't go back to it. Bummer, and a lesson to him on not quitting prematurely as sometimes programs can't be redone. Lesson learned and we continued on, with Mom sitting right there to help. I had hoped he could do this on his own, but he just can't get that amount of reading in on his own. We got a fun bonding time. I love to read and thought the program was wonderful.

The main character is Squirrel Canyon.. my son is Canyon. Great fit. I loved how the squirrel was an orph.. orphan and wanted to care for other orphs. The story line was great and I really enjoyed reading it. It was interactive in if we didn't know a word you could hover over the highlighted ones and it would give you the definition.

The jobs we did to earn coins were enjoyable. I really liked how there were videos to help you learn about certain things like place value. The video would remind the child how to do the problems, then they would do just a couple to complete a 'job' and get coins. The video helped with things that some students may not have learned yet. 

This didn't work with my particular child, but I have already considered trying it with my 10 year old daughter who really enjoys reading. We weren't able to get to the end and I want to find out what happens!!

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Star Toaster Review

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New American Cursive #TOS review

Memoria Press Review

Memoria Press is great for penmanship work books. The New American Cursive:  Penmanship Program Workbook 1 is geared for first grade and up and is the best place to start to help your children regain the art of cursive writing. $22.95 from Memoria Press, there are three books in the series. 

I taught my oldest 2 cursive, then the middle two some how flew under the radar. My daughter, the 5th in the line up asked to do cursive so we brought it back out for her. As we were doing it I realized the two middles had no idea how to read cursive and decided it needed to be introduced for sure. I tried the New American Cursive with my 7 year old to get the ball rolling.

Looking through the New American Cursive was wonderful, it looks just like I practice cursive without even knowing. It is a slang almost from the traditional loopy cursive, and printing.

So why bother with cursive in our age of technology? Kids don't write anymore anyhow. My biggest reason is for them to be able to read history. Whether it be the Declaration of Independence or their Great Grandma Virginia's letters. Much of history will be lost if this generation doesn't learn cursive.
Memoria Press suggests some reasons as well;
1. Cursive improves fluidity and continuity of thought in written communication
2. Cursive improves neural connections in the brain
3. The hands-on process of learning cursive develops the mind and fine motor skills.

We utilized the cursive daily. I would show him how to make the first letter, which has numbers to help show the strokes you use. Then I would have him make the letters. There are three pages per letter. The first is the instructional page where the letter is taught. Next is a practice page where they will write the letters. I have been doing both of these in one day since the learning one is really short. The third page is a place to practice the new letters. I would assign this the next day. I then would move on to the next letter. I think I needed to have more practice though. I seemed like he would forget some of the letters. Repetition is going to be important and I am planning to incorporate more review. If we learn H in the morning I would like him to make some in the afternoon as well, just to emphasize the learning.

There is a review page after every 3 letters which can help you gauge if they are getting the letters down or not.

My son isn't much of a reader or speller yet, but as we learn letters I think it is good for him to learn the cursive way alongside the manuscript. That way I do not having to teach letters twice. Seems like a win for both of us!

I love that the next book in the series incorporates scripture! I really think after we get the letters down, the next step I would like to take is for him to artistically proclaim the scriptures.

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