I just had the opportunity to review a fun interactive online program from Star Toaster called Orphs of the Woodlands.
This is one of the most unique programs I have ever come across.
It is no secret that I am a big fan of reading. It has been challenging for me to get my son (who is dyslexic) as excited.
I understand his concerns and frustrations. I also don’t want him to miss out on great stories. What he does lack in reading skills he more than makes up for in problem solving. He loves games.
The Orphs of the Woodlands combines both an exciting adventure store with fun games. There is even some strategizing involved.
The story begins with The Treasure of High Tower. The main character is a squirrel. Josiah got to name his squirrel. He named him Squirrel Wilson. I was pleased he didn’t name him after a famous football player. That is progress, my friends.
The story starts by telling us that the Night Creatures had orphaned many other animals, including (in our case) Squirrel Wilson. The Night Creatures have terrorized the land and Squirrel Wilson becomes a spy. This requires Squirrel Wilson to interact with other interesting characters and complete many odd jobs. Squirrel Wilson has taken on the responsibility to care for the little Orphs (orphaned animals). He must take on projects to help feed and clothe, provide security and more. It is quite involved!
The recommended reading level is 4th – 7th grade.
I want to share a few highlights and features that make this program truly special.
This page starts us at Chapter 7. The pages are "turned" by clicking the arrows at the bottom right or left. Throughout the page the reader will find highlighted words or special features that can be clicked on to go to find a definition or learn more about a certain subject. This page has a letter than the reader needs to open up.
After clicking on the envelope in the middle of the page, we just see a few words on the page. We can tell from a previous lesson by the bottle of purple liquid at the top of the page that this letter has been written in invisible ink.
Viola! There is the rest of the letter. Pretty cool spy work if you ask me!
Every page of the story is filled with interactive things to try and to learn. There are even recipes to make!
Which brings us to the next few screens. After the chapter is read (it can be 20-50 pages long) we have a whole list of jobs available. They include jobs that use math skills, vocabulary skills, memory skills. science and more!
Some of our favorites have been the Life Skills. Maybe it's because we like to cook and eat.
At this point in the job listings, Josiah has already completed several jobs. The ones left are Life Skills and The Arts.
When Josiah gets to the job for "Bean Specialist," this recipe comes up. It is one that he previously read about in the last chapter. "Stomachache Stew."
He reads all of the ingredients and pertinent information about the dish and clicks on the little recipe icon. It brings up the recipe itself.
After he is done training for the job (there is always a little review beforehand) he gets to answer the question for gold coins.
After hitting the "Get Paid" button it lets him know if he answered correctly and how many gold coins he received. After he has answered so many of any job skill correctly he gets a pay raise. Now don't you wish it was like that in real life?
After Josiah has completed all the jobs listed he can then go buy land or projects to help take care of his orphs. This is so much fun...I can't even begin to tell you.
Obviously, Orphs of the Woodlands has been big hit at our house. I do have a few observations.
Because Josiah is dyslexic this isn't a program I could let him loose with. I had to sit with him and assist him with the reading. He is doing beautifully with his reading, but he still gets overwhelmed with small font and the amount of reading he is required to do.
Also, there is quite a bit of memory work. What I did appreciate so, so much about this program is that they teach the student how to practically memorize a piece of information. I love that!
I also love that there is focus on life skills, art and music. This isn't a "one note" curriculum.
I have heard that there is another book coming out (Yay!). In the meantime we are thoroughly enjoying our journey in the Woodlands with Squirrel Wilson.
I do need to mention that regular purchasers of the program will get a two-month subscription (for up to 3 children) One month extensions are available for those of us who might need more time. You can check it out for yourself with a FREE trial!
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