My children and I recently had the opportunity to review an amazing, new online educational program: Orphs of the Woodlands from Star Toaster. Was this ever a review that was fun and full of surprises too. What a fun program for the whole family to enjoy together! My oldest son is a rather reluctant reader too so anytime I have a chance to introduce them to something that makes reading fun, I just cannot pass the opportunity up. 🙂
It all begins with a story, The Treasure of High Tower and a squirrel who applies for a job as a spy. As your child completes the application for employment, they are ultimately creating their character (the spy squirrel) who is the main character for the remainder of this book. My son choses the name of Squirrel SpeedFire for his story. As you read your squirrel journeys and fights against the Night Creatures who are terrorizing the Woodland Orphs; he also ends up being responsible for the care of a number of these Orphs as the story progresses. However its sweet to see him develop a heart for the orphs who are depending on him and a greater desire to learn and grow as he takes on more and more of a role in defending the Woodland and the Orphs within.
Overall there are 15 chapters; the chapters are a bit long – for that reason we made this into more of a read aloud, for family time. And all three of my children (ages 9, 5 and 3) have thoroughly enjoyed every word that has been read thus far.
As the story progresses its fun to see the opportunities within for the children to have some hands-on experiences too. My oldest son loves all the recipes that are within this book so we have taken time to make a few; others we have written down and plan to make in the near future. As I think I have said before my oldest son is a srtruggling learner; attention and focus are really hard for him so it was great to see, as we read, that there were points like this where we could take a break and do a bit of learning experientially.
One part of this story that I really appreciated too was the wide range of Latin (I admit I love those languages) and vocabulary that my children have learned (and continue to learn) as we read. As the story progresses there are words that are highlighted in orange/red color, that they can hover over with the mouse to see the definition. And as they get into various jobs after each chapter, these are often a part of a review where they have the chance to earn gold stars to help maintain the Orphs that are in their care.
There are so many treasures hidden within this story! Lots of opportunities to learn, and experiment with a variety of things. I think there must be over a hundred lessons ranging from math to science and grammar, vocabulary, critical thinking, character/virtues, life skills, fine arts and home economics. The program is full of tips to help children remember details – from memory tests, to lots of great reminders from Professor Forp to “pay attention!” Professor Forp is a character full of information and with a great love for learning. He shares this through encouraging NID’s (New Information Daily). I love the enthusiasm and encouragement this character gives as you go along in the story ~ fostering a love and desire for learning in all of us.
How many stories can you find that allow you to complete various science experiments, learn and explore Latin vocabulary, challenge yourself with new concepts in mathematics, bake yummy nutty bread and even get creative with various forms of art? This online book is truly a treasure!
As you progress through the story and the activities within you see that there are a wide range of learning styles within this program to help children master the variety of educational material included from: videos, quizzes, flashcards, typing tests for memory. Very versatile in how material is presented – so helpful and fun!
At the end of each chapter there is a list of jobs that shows up as “Help Wanted”. And this is where there are a variety of topics to be reviewed and completed; lessons can be reviewed before the job is done, to help encourage success. Each job is a fun way to review what they have learned and in some cases (like math) to help cement the concept a bit more if there is a struggle with understanding it all. The more skills that are learned, the higher their pay will be and the pay is a great help in the story for maintaining the Orphs that your character is responsible for.
How do we keep track of all this good stuff our kids are learning? There is a handy Skills Page in the Parents Section that can be reviewed to show what concepts are being taught as the story progresses. There are also very helpful e-mails sent with progress updates.I admit I am terrible at logging in to various programs for this sort of thing, so the e-mails were something I really appreciated being able to see while I was online throughout the week.
There is a game in all of this too? No way! As your child earnsThis requires some thought, lots of strategy and planning too! There are lots of great projects they can complete to reduce the cost of caring for their orphs. And the more they do and grow, the more Orphs they can care for and protect. Some of these projects include growing their own crops for food and medicine, expanding their land, building more shelters, and even methods of defense that can be put in place for the Orphs to defend their home.