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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Star Toaster - Review

Oh, what a wonderful thing this was for us to try.  Eventually.

It is from a company called Star Toaster and the product is called Orphs of the Woodlands, which was designed with 4th through 7th graders in mind.

It is wonderful.....and.....sort of hard to explain.  But, I will do my best!

It is a book.

It is a video game.

It is an adventure.

It is a job.

It shows responsibility and accountability.

And, it even gives you a taste of parenthood.

Confused yet?

Here is how A-man explains it.

"It is sort of like Reading School, but you can do other things.  Math, language arts, history and stuff like that.  By doing this stuff, you earn gold stars.  You earn 6 gold stars after you finish one lesson.  Then, you use those gold stars to give the orphs water and food and stuff.  The orphs are little mice that are orphans that you rescue by doing projects and you give them a place to live.  Then, you go read some more and keep going back and forth.  I get to be the squirrel that saves them.  There was a bad guy that came and burned down the squirrels house with his little minions.  There was a prophecy that I (the squirrel) would be the person that would stop them and free all the orphans and help them get actual homes.  The squirrels parents threw me out the window to save me and yelled something out the window when they tossed me out.  I couldn't hear what they said and they died in the fire.  So, part of what I am doing as the squirrel is searching for the evil guy's secret lair where he keeps his minion guys.  I am not going to kill him or anything when I find him, I am just going to put him in jail....or something."


So, do you understand yet?

Here is my interpretation/explanation of Orphs of the Woodlands for you:  You read a chapter in their on-line book.  Then, when you are done with the chapter, you can go do "jobs" to earn stars to then turn around and feed, clothe, medicate your orphans.  It is really kind of ingenius.  You work on vocabulary, reading comprehension, memory skills, math, and even sneaky school stuff like developing character and learning recipes.

Super cool, right?

That being said, we got off to a rough start.  This was designed with A-man's age and gender in mind.  I was so excited because he hasn't really embraced fiction reading the way I would like him too.  He always has bigger and better things to do than sit down and read a book...even if it was a great one.  So, yes, unfortunately, when we started the Orphs of the Woodland, I briefly turned into a nag.  I totally had to force everyone to log on.  Well, not entirely true...L-girl went on with no trouble.

But, S-girl and A-man.....moaned and groaned....complained and whined.  Every.  Single.  Time.  If I hadn't had the obligation to keep pushing on because this was a review product, I would have let them quit and that would have been a shame.  Because somewhere around the middle of Chapter 2, actually probably closer to the beginning of Chapter 3, everything changed.  Somehow it was interesting.  Somehow there was concern for the orphs and their lack of parents.

I only have one negative/drawback.  It is small and sort of petty.  But, I will admit to it anyway.  I don't like that one of their selling points is "improved standardized test scores".  I understand why it is there.  That kind of thing just bugs me because, it is just seems a little like teaching to the test.  To me, it implies that they aren't really learning....they will just do better on the test.

But, that is my only disappointment with Orphs of the Woodlands.

Take a look at a little video explanation of some of the cool things you can find whilst saving little orphaned mice.

You can get the 60 day subscription to the first book in Orphs of the Woodlands, The Treasure of High Tower for $19.99.  The good thing is that you can use the same subscription for up to 3 children, at the same time.  You also have the option to extend the subscription another month for a small fee, if your kids move mine did in the beginning

It took a little bit, but we all love this one now.  It isn't just one of those ones that mom thinks they should love, but, in reality, they hate.  They are interested.  They are engaged.  They have a sense of responsibility for their orphans and want to see how good of a spy they are.  All good.  Really.  You can even get a free trial, if you aren't sure.  We are excited about the second book....coming soon!

Take a look at what other TOS Reviewers thought of Orphs of the Woodlands.  I suspect that we were not alone in loving this one!