Our Family

Our Family

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Star Toaster

Star Toaster Review
Our latest review opportunity was from Star Toaster.  My 11 year old and I have been using the first book of their program Orphs of the Woodlands, The Treasure of  HighTower.
Star Toaster Review
Orphs of the Woodlands is more than just a book.  It is an online story, and in the course of the story there are many interactive features such as: music, sound effects, vocabulary pop ups, recipes, disappearing ink, and more.  The story begins when the student is left a note on their doorstep telling them the Woodlands are in danger and the WAK underground is looking for spies to help them stop the Night Creatures from taking over.  The child applies to be a spy and their adventure begins.  

Orphs of the Woodlands has many other academic features besides reading and vocabulary. At the end of each chapter of the story, the child goes to a place called Ivythwaite.  Here they are able to complete jobs to earn stars,  Over the course of the book there are 66 math jobs, 32 science jobs, 29 language jobs, 66 vocabulary jobs, 62 thinking skill jobs, 19 character jobs, and 6 jobs in the arts category.  Each job has a training section and then a question to answer.  Lessons may include videos, flash cards, memory typer, and exercises to improve thinking skills. The child earns stars when they choose the correct answer.
Star Toaster Review


By earning the star, the child is then able to rescue and care for their orphs, the orphaned woodland creatures. They can build projects, buy land, and build orphanages.
Star Toaster Review

Parents have their own account so they can see at a glance how their child is doing and also preview the book or any of the jobs. Progress reports are also emailed to the parent.


Orphs of the Woodlands is recommended for grades 4-7.  They offer a free trial for the first 100 pages of the story.  A 60 day subscription costs $19.99 for up to 3 children.  A 30 day extension can be purchased for $6.99.


What parent doesn't want their child to read more?  When I first found out about the review opportunity for Orphs of the Woodlands, I thought it would be great for my 11 year old son Alex.  He has been using the program 3 days per week for 20-30 minutes a day.  The story itself is very interesting and draws children in.  My children love fantasy/adventure stories and this one definitely is both of those. The features within the stories such as the sound effects, and music add an interactive element.  My favorite interactive feature is the recipes. I also like the inclusion of all of the different vocabulary words and the pop ups that give definitions, quotes, and synonyms for the words.  


Rather than having the children read for a period of time and then play games, Orphs of the Woodlands adds a fun educational element to the story.  By doing the assigned jobs, the children learn about a wide variety of topics.  They are given the skills they need to complete the jobs first giving them an opportunity to succeed.  When they do not get the answer correct, nothing is taken away, but nothing is earned either.  Alex enjoyed earning the gold stars and being able to rescue and care for his orphs.


The biggest challenge we faced with this program is that the chapters are long.  When you are working with a struggling reader who wants to be independent rather than have mom read to him, the length of time it takes to get to Ivywaite can be very frustrating.  There is a page counter at the bottom of each page showing how many more pages you have in that chapter, which does help the student know how much further they have to go.   Since this is an online program, you are reading on a computer screen and that took him longer to read the chapters then reading a regular book does.   


I would love to see a similar story in a lower reading level developed in addition to this one.  It is a great concept and would make a wonderful addition to any home, homeschool, or for summer reading fun. 

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.
Star Toaster Review


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