Friday, 17 April 2015

Orphs of the Woodlands {Review}

What do a secret spy, stars, a toaster, secrets, knowledge, Orphs and character have in common?  They all belong to a wonderful new online educational program brought to you by Star Toaster. We are currently exploring the wonderful new online educational adventure book The Treasure of High Tower from Orphs of the Woodlands series.  It so much more than you can think of.  Think of it as an online twaddle free adventure suspense novel that enriches your children's vocabulary, builds and encourages their character, builds their academic skills and has a game all rolled into one.

Orphs of the Woodlands is a series of adventure books begining with The Treasure of High Tower. It is a cliff hanging suspense filled twaddle free, vocabulary rich story.  It is designed to be an adventure story built around a full curriculum. It is the first of a series of books.  The curriculum covered in the book is divided up into over 300 lessons!

As we have progressed through the book it reminds me of the quality and calibre of a G.A. Henty novel. The designers have done a brilliant job of seemlessly marrying curriculum learning within a well told story.

What we received
A subscription to Orphs of the Woodlands Book one The Treasure of High Tower for three students. The book is 375 pages long.

How we used it
Signing up to Orphs of the Woodlands was very easy via their subscription page.  You create an account using your name, email address and password.  This is the parent account.  Once you have paid you can log in and redeem your student accounts.  Each student account uses the same email address as the parent account but uses a different password chosen by you.

The story is written for a strong grade four reader up to and including grade seven.  Nathaniel is not reading at that level yet so we logged in each day and I read the book to him.  Each time we saw a hyper linked word we would click on it and read the pop up box.

There is so much to the book the easiest way to describe it to you is by way of the following screenshots.

To start each chapter we would login  and be taken straight to the secret journal page which gives the student a summary of where they are in the story. The program auto remembers where they are in the book when they log off. 

In the skills report area you can see the eight learning areas that are covered in Orphs of the Woodlands. As the student completes jobs they are paid.  Pay rates are indicated in the shield.  All pay rates start at six gold stars and pay increases happen as the student improves their skill set in the particular area.  The chevrons indicate how far through the job list the student has progressed. Each category is hyper-linked to the job area where students can re-watch lessons or do the jobs that are available.  Jobs are only released to the student upon completing a chapter of reading. 

There are no second chances.  If a student completes their training and decides to proceed and do the job and then get the answer wrong there is zero pay and  the cross is highlighted.  If the learning is successful and the students answers the question correctly then the tick is highlighted.

 The top of the screen has a book tracking meter so you can see at a glance where you are in the book.  When you reach the end of each chapter you are given a summary of where you are in the game and a short note of what you need to do next. The bottom of each page has a number and beneath the number is a note telling the students how many pages until the end of the chapter.  This was a wonderful incentive for Nathaniel to keep going. 

Once you click continue you are then taken to the job area.  Select the skill are you want to work on and then the job board appears.  For example here in the language area there are 11 jobs to do.  The student can then choose which job they would like to do first.  They are paid immediately upon completing a job correctly. We have both loved the creativity of the job lists in the various skill sets. Every single chapter is different.

Here is a sample of a job. Each job is in the form of a multiple choice answer. You click on Get Paid to see if you have selected the correct answer each time.

Prof. Forp loves to teach the students and he encourages the students to learn New Information Daily.  You can watch a sample of his lesson on Science Lesson: pH and Math: The decimal point point on YouTube. You can access lessons within the chapter as you read or you can wait until you go to do a job and watch the video in your training. 

One of our favourite lessons in the book are the life skills lessons.  They involve practicle life skills.  Here is one of the first ones we did.  This inspired Nathaniel to go outside and pick leaves to try and create his own special brew.

We're loving the latin phrases used through out and a little bird tells me they are working on adding audio of the phrases so that the students can practice reading the phrases correctly.

Once your student has completed their work it is time to play!
This is Ivythwaite where your student has to make decisions on how his orphange will work and how he will care for the Orphs in his care.  IF he does not care for them properly they will leave and not return.  The stakes are high.  Students need to earn enough golden stars to maintain what they have as well as save up in order to adopt more Orphs.  It is also stragey based in that they can keep purchasing esentials or else choose to purchase propterty and equip the Orphs to become self sufficient.  The game constantly encourages the students to pay attention and learn the true value of knowledge.

For the Parent
  • Regular emails updating you of your students progress. The email contains a summary of what the student has accomplished in the chapter (lessons completed correctly) and what they will be learning or doing in the next chapter.
  • Emails explaining the concepts behind different jobs in the different areas.
  • Notes explaining how to use different parts of the program equipping your to get the full benefit of
  •  Log in and select a student, from there you can click through and view their skills page and see their progress at a glance.

Cost of Orphs of the Woodlands
  • FREE trial.  This is the first 100 pages of Book One.  
  • Book One The Treasure of High Tower  $19.99. This is a 60 day subscription for up to 3 children. (375 page book)
  • 30 day extension $6.99

Recommended Age Range
  • 4th to 7th Grade

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I am impressed with the Support team at Star Toaster, they were professional and prompt in answering any questions I had.  We had a few technical issues and they helped me within an hour of contacting them. 

We have not completed the book yet and are looking forward to working our way to adopting and caring for all the Orphs at Ivythwaite.  When I asked Nathaniel what his favourite part was he replied that he couldn't choose any one thing as he LOVED everything.

One of the things that impressed me most so far in our journey through The Treasure of High Tower is the fact that personal character plays an important role in the formation of the story.  Excellent choices equal excellent role models to grow with.

We are looking forward to enjoying the next instalment of Orphs of the WoodlandsThe Treasure of High Tower would make an excellent summer reading program or a wonderful family enrichment online schooling supplement. To read a more detailed explanation of each area be sure to read the FAQ area under the general tab in the support area.


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