Star Toaster Review
Does your child love to read or love video games?  Is your child a reluctant reader?  Are you looking for an engaging summer reading program for your child?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may be the perfect candidate to try out Orphs of the Woodlands by Star Toaster.

I can’t tell you how impressed Bookworm and I were by this program.

As part of the review, we received a one year subscription for three kids.  Subscriptions are typically $19.99 for two months for up to three children.  If your children need more time than that, you can add on an additional month for up to three children for $6.99.

Star Toaster Review
If you’re interested in the program after reading this review, but you’re not sure that you want to buy it, Orphs of the Woodlands is available for a free trial of the first 100 pages.

Getting Started with Orphs of the Woodlands

Before you purchase the program, be advised that Star Toaster recommends “the use of a monitor with a 1024×768 or higher screen resolution, and a modern release of Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, or Internet Explorer (such as Internet Explorer 8 or highter).”

Orphs of the Woodlands is a rich, comprehensive program.  Star Toaster makes it easy for both parents and kids to get started by offering four getting started videos:

  • Part #1—Reading the Book
  • Part #2a—Getting Jobs
  • Part #2b—Types of Lessons
  • Part #3—The Game

To get started, your child fills out an application and creates a character’s name.  Kids can go back to look at chapters they have already read, but they can’t jump ahead to chapters they haven’t read.  Parents can use the timeline button to see what their kids have read.

About The Story in Orphs of the Woodlands

Orphs of the Woodlands offers a 3 step approach to learning:

  • Reading Adventure
  • Academic Treasure
  • Rewarding Game

Children read a 15 chapter story about an orph whose name and gender the child picks.  This is an adventure book about a grey squirrel who becomes a spy against the night creatures that are terrorizing the woodlands.  The squirrel reluctantly becomes responsible for a settlement of orphans–The Orphs of the Woodlands.

The book is interactive.  Within the story, there are audio recordings of sounds in the book.  Simply click on an icon to hear a noise related to the story.

There are also brown links throughout that tell readers the definition of words as they read the story.

Also, sometimes they can click on the chalkboard icon and they will get a recipe or information about a plant or animal.  For example, in the sentence, “A single flower rested in a tall vase on the table next to a sack of flour,”  the chalkboard icon next to “flower” explains a homonym and that “flower” and “flour” are homonyms.  Throughout the particular chapter that explained this, the characters makes jokes about homonyms.

In addition, the links sometimes include quotes from famous people such as, “A world fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” by Solomon, King of Israel.  His reign date as well as the fact that he is known for his wisdom is also included.

While reading the story, the child is also learning about math, Latin, science, reading, writing, logic, and vocabulary.  Orphs of the Woodlands is designed to improve standardized test scores.  Lessons are reviewed at the end of each chapter before the spy works at jobs to earn his pay.

Making Money For the Orphs Through Learning

After every chapter, there are jobs the readers can do.  They do the jobs to earn gold stars which help support the Orphs of the Woodlands.  The Orphs need food, water, clothing, medicine, defense, and a source of energy.  Your child can buy food or plant it.  Once the reader completes 10 jobs in a subject, her pay increases.

Star Toaster Review
There is a bar at the top that shows how many gold stars the child needs to support the Orphs, how many Orphs the child has, and how many stars he has.  When the player has met the number of stars needed to take care of the Orphs, the player can get more Orphs.  The idea is to take care of as many Orphs as possible.  With leftover coins, the child can do projects or purchase new land.

However, if the reader doesn’t earn enough money to take care of the Orphs, they disappear.

The child is trained how to do the jobs.  Lessons are either videos, flash cards, notes, or memory typer.

To show this in action, at the end of Chapter Nine, Bookworm had 58 stars of expenses (this is the money he needed to earn to care for his Orphs) and 19 Orphs under his care.  Before he began his work, he only had enough stars to take care of 7 Orphs.

Kids can find jobs in math, science, language, vocabulary, thinking skills, character, and life skills.  Jobs can be completed at the end of every chapter.  Kids don’t have to complete all the jobs; they can pick and choose what jobs they want to complete.

The first job Bookworm tried after completing Chapter Nine was science.  An information page popped up on the wren, which was the same page that had been shown when he was reading Chapter Nine.  After rereading, he was done training.  His job was Wren Reporter.  He had to mark five comments out of nine that were true about wrens.  Then, he clicked get paid and was not paid because he got one of the five answers incorrect.  That job was then no longer available.

Star Toaster Review
His next job was Bumblebee Behavior Expert.  He had to mark four statements that were true about bees.  He got it right and earned six gold stars. Since he had previously done nine other science jobs correctly, and this one made the tenth, he got a pay increase and will now make seven gold stars per science job.

Because there are more jobs in certain categories and because he likes certain areas better, Bookworm’s pay varied by the end of Chapter Nine.  For instance, in language, he was making six stars per job, while in both vocabulary and thinking skills he was earning 10 gold stars per job.

One of his vocabulary jobs was to learn the meaning of “sensible” and “logical”.  Then, he became a job application reviewer.  He had to click all the words that are synonyms of sensible and logical.  Choices were:  wise, practical, intermittently, enticing, rational, prudent, cajoling, altercation, brouhaha.

How We Used Orphs of the Woodlands

Bookworm enjoyed this program so much, I didn’t even have to ask him to use it.  Typically, after he woke up, he would do this program for about 30 minutes several times a week.  While Bookworm is a strong reader, he tried to complete as many jobs as possible, so by the time the six-week review period had ended, he had just finished Chapter Nine.  He has every intention to finish the program.

Bookworm said, “The book is very long, but it’s exciting, so I like to keep reading.”  He thought some of the concepts, especially math concepts, might be a bit too advanced for someone who is at the younger age range for this program.  (This program targets 4th – 7th graders.)

While I’m glad that he liked the program, I also enjoyed how it seemed to enrich his education in all areas of school.  When he learned about angles in math, the concept wasn’t new because he’d already been exposed to it in Orphs of the Woodlands.

This program would be a terrific enrichment program for a child, whether he attends public school or is homeschooled.  It would also make a great choice for summer reading and would help prevent the notorious summer slide when kids lose much of what they learned over the school year while taking the summer off.

I was one of 90 people to review this program.  For more reviews, click on the link below:

Star Toaster Review

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