Friday, April 17, 2015

Star Toaster: Orphs of the Woodlands (TOS Review Crew)

I don't know about you, but my older children have enjoyed stories with animal main characters that were fantasy/medieval based. My youngest hasn't yet been introduced to those literary treasures, but we have discovered that he does enjoy that theme in general, thanks to our latest review from Star ToasterOrphs of the Woodlands is on online educational experience that incorporates a number of different learning opportunities and styles, all couched in a medieval fantasy storyline. 

The basic concept is that your child reads an adventure story from the perspective of the journal of the main character (an orphaned squirrel, my son chose to name his “Peanut”). Peanut has been recruited as a spy for the WAK underground. The WAK is trying to find the treasure of HighTower before the night creatures (who are responsible for creating the orphans (Orphs) of the woodlands). 

The story is an interactive text, with underlined vocabulary words and concepts that open up for Peanut to read and learn. He loved learning more about things like gem stones (One of his favorite things, as he loves Treasure)

As Peanut shares his story he rescues as many other Orphs as possible and cares for them at Ivythwaite cottage, dipicted in the center of the graphic below by earning minted (toasted?) stars. The stars are used to purchase new land, various buildings and resources that will help to care for the orphs. The startoaster creates the gold star currency that the main character uses to pay for all of these items. 

In order to earn the stars, the main character must complete a variety of jobs. These jobs are short lessons (training) in language, vocabulary, math, science, art, thinking skills and character skills, followed by a quiz (the actual job). As the jobs are completed successfully, the squirrel’s pay is raised. 


EXAMPLE Training Screen

Example Job Screen (Completed)

My youngest is a couple of years younger than the target age for this program, but his reading is reasonably advanced, so he is able to decipher the majority of the story. I have found that he has been able to remember the vocabulary words fairly well, with a little bit of review (which is incorporated into the vocabulary training/jobs). The other jobs also typically have some sort of "review" to teach the concept

As the chapters are fairly lengthy for a young reader (remember, my guy is close to the target age but not quite there), I sometimes will use the story as a read-aloud. He sits by my side, reading along, and we stop at the various vocabulary words, to make sure he hears the definitions the first time through.

His favorite part of the program is earning the stars and purchasing buildings and goods to take care of the Orphs. This is a great incentive to complete jobs. The job content (whether vocabulary, science or one of the other subjects) correlates to the chapters of the story, and the difficulty of the jobs tends to advance as the chapter numbers climb. 

We found some frustration in that when he fails at a job, there is currently no chance to go back and do it again, to earn those stars, he just has to continue with the next job. I would prefer that there be two or three chances to get it right, especially when attempting new material. To counter-act this, I try to sit with him when he does his jobs, and will tell him to go through the job “training” again if I see he is marking an incorrect answer.

Orphs of the Woodlands could be a great "summer bridge" for elementary/middle-school students, whether they are public, private, or homeschool students as well as a fun tool for any time of year. It is an engaging program that will sharpen their thinking skills and help to build great character skills as well. Be sure to check out the video on their about page to see some of what I've talked about clearly laid out.

My Youngest thinks it's "Terrific!" and loves that he gets to build and care for his own community while engaging with an exciting adventure story.
I think it's "Terrific" too! I appreciate the introduction of excellent vocabulary in a great story that we can share together. It fits a "unit study" approach with all of the topics covered in the jobs that the main character must complete, and touches on all of the learning styles, which is also a win/win situation.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

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Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday... SPRING!

This is what Spring looks like in our neck of the woods... 


What does Spring look like where you are?

Linking up with Wordless Wednesdays: 
Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Musical Nuggets for Good Friday through Easter (YouTube Style)

Here are some of my favorite "Contemporary" Easter Season Songs that I thought I would share with you. Oddly enough it is more difficult than one might expect to find well written, Contemporary songs that proclaim the JOY of Resurrection Sunday

Some are older, and some are newer~

Who but God ~ Wes King

Was it A Morning Like This

Lamb of God ~ Twila Paris

Time in Between ~ Francesca Battistelli

Live Like He's Alive ~ Jonny Diaz

Phillips, Craig and Dean ~ You Saved The Day

Michael Card ~ Known by the Scars

Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me) ~ Casting Crowns (One of the "remakes" of an old hymn that I actually like. :) ) 

Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed ~ Keith and  Kristyn Getty 

Saving the World ~ Clay Crosse ~ this is one of my very favorites, and pretty much distills it down to the simple essence...

If you find that you would like to purchase any of these tracks, feel free to use my affiliate links below, or purchase from your favorite Christian Book Store.

             Who but God            Was it a Morning               Lamb of God             The Time in Between         Live Like He's Alive
                                                   Like this?

    You Saved the Day        Known By the Scars          Glorious Day                Christ is Risen                  Saving the World
   (No link)                                                                                                          He is Risen Indeed


Friday, March 27, 2015

Lord Heritage Homeschool Office (TOS Review Crew)

My next review is for the Home Educator, not so much the Home Educated.
Lord Heritage offers the HomeSchool Office, an all-encompassing organizational tool for the use of home educators everywhere.

The HomeSchool Office utilizes a pattern of schooling with an underlying Biblical basis.
You might notice an anacronym spelled out in the tabs across the parent dashboard:

After "Home" and "Team" you'll see the heart (or if you will, the POWER) of the program:

Plan Where you enter in the basics: Subjects for each student, your Yearly Schedule (blocking out the dates that you will be schooling, and noting free dates on the calendar), A Master Schedule (the basic hourly schedule for the week), Projects that you might be planning for the year (Including materials and cost), as well as a place to plan your schooling budget. Pretty comprehensive!
Those who are Type A, schedulers may really enjoy using this part of the program. The ability to enter and list every little detail is something that highly organized people will appreciate.

Order Allows you to view your Calendar in a monthly, weekly, or daily format, and to create daily and weekly "To Do" lists as well as schedule events, reminders, etc. (I personally had a difficult time utilizing this portion of the "office" but I'm sure it has to do with my pencil and paper organized brain... I don't use the "Calendar" function very well on my iPhone either~ )

Work  Similar is function and form to the "Order" Calendar~ this is the area that your students utilize, similar to the learning portals so many schools use these days~ access their scheduled assignments and lists.

Evaluate This is the place to keep track of attendance (Particularly helpful in some of the more restrictive states), as well as grades, which is useful for end of the year evaluation and ties into transcript purposes.

Report Does what it sounds like it does~ uses the information entered in to create a "report card" and/or transcript.

You can view some larger, more full page screen shots/Sample Pages on the Lord Heritage website.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
My Thoughts : 
I can see that this would be an extremely helpful program for someone who is/does any of the following:
  • Type A
  • Easily understands Electronic Organization
  • A Large Family Homeschool
  • Uses a Traditional Curriculum
It may be a little less useful to:
  • Well, Type B would probably apply here... ;) 
  • The Pencil/Paper Organized
  • Those who use self-paced curriculum, either online or offline, as those are difficult to "schedule,"  and many of the online curriculum don't necessarily use "grading" but rather "mastery" of a topic. 
  • Eclectic home-schoolers and/or un-schoolers, who don't tend to "Schedule" a lot of their time (However, this may be a useful tool for these same groups, as it might help nail down the work that they are doing in a more concrete way~ just have to be creative in its use).
Truthfully, it was not a good fit for us, as we fall much more into the second list above. However, it could be well worth your time to take advantage of the 30 day free trial to check it out and see if it is a good fit for your family. 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say, as their experiences and opinions very likely differ from mine. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wordless... (Kind of...) because it's the first Wednesday in Spring!


After all my snowy Wordless Wednesday posts...

When we think nothing is going on, can't see any progress, MAJOR work is being done!

Linking up with
Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Musical Nuggets for you (YouTube and "art" Style) Take 2

Returning to the concert fan art (Drawn by my eldest)/ favorite songs posts...


From his new album (releasing April 7, 2015) ~ a gorgeous new song...
You may have heard it on the radio~
if not, I assume you will... 

Note from Chris on this single: When I sat down to write "The Maker" I just wanted a reminder that the Creator of everything not only created me, but also loves me. It blows my mind when I Stop to think about the One who spoke the universe into existence, who parted the Red Sea and who rose from the grave, is the same One who lives inside of me. I know we go through a lot in this life, trials and joy and everything in between, but how awesome that through it all, we can say: "I love The Maker, and The Maker loves me." 


This is a great song in and of itself, and the story behind it is just amazing!
We heard it when we saw her in concert last fall.
You can read her interview with New Release Tuesday to hear it for yourself.

Fun Fact~ Eldest gave Unspoken copies of her artwork on cardstock...
When they were done signing autographs for the evening,
Ariel came up to her to ask for *her* autograph with big sharpie
(She had already put her artist signature on it, so that was really sweet!) 
Again~ These fellows are just fantastic songwriters
with a great sound and message.
Bonus! Their mp3 album is on sale on Amazon right now!


What are some of your favorite artists? How about favorite songs from THESE artists? Are they the same as mine, or different?



I love trading in points(450), earned during normal searches, for ($5) Amazon Gift Cards!


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