My daughter loves Orphs of the Woodlands and really thrived using it. It is fun, easy to understand, and jam packed with learning activities.
So what exactly IS Star Toaster and Orphs of the Woodlands? Sounds a little crazy doesn’t it? Probably makes it that much more appealing to our young learners. Anyway, essentially, Orphs of the Woodlands is an online, interactive educational book. With the purpose to unleash a love for reading, Orphs of the Woodlands makes reading fun by transforming the reader into a spy of the WAK Underground with a task to rescue the orphs. Sounds fun, right?
The Orphs of the Woodlands story is about a gray squirrel that the the student gets to name (the student takes on the role of the squirrel in the story). The name then becomes a part of the story they are reading. It’s set up so that the student reads the story and then does tasks to earn gold stars that allows the student to provide for the orphs he or she adopts through various means like food, water, clothing, medicine, energy and defense. If enough stars are not earned, the orphs disappear. The goal is to rescue them and care for them.
After reading the story for the session, Professor Forp has a video that the student watches to “train” the student before beginning his or her jobs. These jobs are what earns the stars to maintain the orphs.
The jobs are categorized into 8 categories: Language, Vocabulary, Math, Science, The Arts, Character, Life Skills and Thinking Skills. Through the jobs and the story adventures, the student meets new characters, explores, completes jobs, and overcomes obstacles.
The adventure of being a spy and helping the orphs is fun for the student. At first, when I read that the orphs were orphaned by the Night Creatures, I thought maybe it a little dark. But that’s really not the case. In this case, the orphs lived in a place called Ivythwhite until they were orphaned by the Night Creatures. However, the Night Creatures are only defined as the creatures that come out at night and you are keeping the orphs away from them so it really isn’t dark or scary.
Star Toaster did a great job of weaving so many subjects and so much content in and out of the reading and games. In addition to math and science and reading, things like cooking instruction, famous quotes, and Latin were woven into the reading, jobs, and games. And I really loved the emphasis on LEARNING to learn and Critical Thinking skills.
There are times when the squirrel character (the student) is mentored, taught about the importance of memorization and is advised to “pay attention!” They are instructed how to learn and how to pay attention. Professor Forp gives excellent instructions on the jobs they must do. Once they do the job, they can earn the gold stars to take care of the orphs they rescue. With the stars they can build an orphanage (my daughters favorite), get the orphs the things they need like food and clothes and shelter or even buy land. All the while they are still deep in the adventure of the story.
The other great thing about Star Toaster is that they provide the parent with their own sign in to check the progress of your students. Additionally, regular email progress reports were sent to me whenever my daughter complete a lesson. This was great to see the skills that were worked on, where she needed help, and how she did. It even tells you what’s coming up.
Overall, I really liked the concept of Orphs of the Woodlands. Though we try to limit screen time, I thought this was well done and jam packed full of learning. My daughter enjoyed it and I think she was definitely learning.
Pros – I thought it had a great emphasis on fun learning, lots of subjects were covered, and the website was high quality.
Cons – The lessons were pretty long and there was no way to redo jobs. (My daughter didn’t like failing with no chance to retry. It could be for a lesser reward but something to give another chance would be great.)
What my daughter thought –
“I liked the adventures and learning grammar in a fun way. You get these fun learning lessons with Professor Forp – he’s fun! And at the end of the chapter you get to play games and it’s super fun.”
We were given a year trial of Orphs of the Woodlands series to review, focusing on Book 1: The Treasure of High Tower. 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, but you can do a free trial and experience the first 100 pages of the book! It is geared to students in grades 4th-7th.
Though obviously we are homeschoolers, I think this program would be an excellent way to keep learning going in the summer or for afterschooling for those that traditionally school. We will definitely complete the book and look forward to seeing what the next book has to offer. I know we will want to check it out!
Star Toaster offers a free Trial of Orphs of the Woodlands, so give it a try for yourself.
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