Friday, September 7, 2012

Reading Kingdom~ (Let's keep going, says the owl)

I reviewed Reading Kingdom about a year and a half ago with Youngest, when he was just three (Click here to read that review, so that you will have the background to my review "update" as well as some of the philosophy behind Reading Kingdom). Now admittedly, 3.5 was a wee bit on the young side, so I was interested to see how he would get on as a 5 year old, who has had more exposure to the alphabet and some reading instruction, as well as more dexterity with the keyboard and mouse.

If you read my previous review, you will see that there were some issues we had in the Sequencing and Letter Land portions, where the timing was very difficult to manage, and created a fairly frustrated boy (and thus frustrated mother).

I am happy to say that most of the *timing issues have been worked out, and there is now a longer period of time allowed for the child to perform the expected task. Additionally, for those children who might need even more time to complete a sequencing or typing task, parents now have the ability to adjust the amount of time allowed. It's a little tricky to find (parents & teachers tab, my account tab, scroll to the bottom of the screen) but rest assured, you can adjust the response time from the default to 25% more on up to 200% more time.

Another revision to the  program in "Letterland" was to allow the parents to choose whether their children would be clicking on the letter on a keyboard on the computer screen, or typing the letters on the actual keyboard. We chose to use the physical keyboard on my laptop, and it worked quite well. I am still very happy with the way they show the keyboard on the screen, and "assist" if there is some trouble finding the correct key on the keyboard.

This time, when we started the program and he took the assessment, he was definitely placed in an appropriate level for his current abilities. The screen on the left is fairly representative of many of the words that were presented to him in the sequencing section. When he started, the letters of the word that he was spelling remained visible to "match" the entire time. There were also a few 4 letter words, which helped to keep him satisfied with the level he was working on. As he progressed, he had to pay attention and REMEMBER the letters, as they disappeared before he was asked to pick them out of the selection of letters below. This relates a little bit to the *timing which I will get to next.

While the timing issues we had before seem to have been worked out, we discovered one more this time around, which had something of a negative impact on Youngest's enjoyment of Reading Kingdom. While he had ample time in which to respond, he had to wait for approximately 10 seconds between tasks. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it was enough time that he often tended to get distracted between words. For example:

Program says "Type these on the keyboard" (A grouping of letters appears)
Youngest types them (Cheering is heard) a slight pause then:
Program says "Type that one again" (A particular letter from the sequence is shown in a word)
Youngest types that letter,  the word is spoken by the program, and we hear applause.
10 second delay before the next grouping of letters shows up.

We had a lot of wiggling around, and playing with fingers on the keyboard and touchpad during that "down-time" while waiting for the next set of tasks to load.
Now it is interesting that Reading Kingdom has this to say about "Readiness": If your child is able
  • to sit and do school like activities for 15 minutes at a time
  • to express ideas in complete sentences
  • to match shapes, and
  • to use a computer mouse and keyboard (with adult assistance if required).
If your child has these abilities, he or she is a good candidate to become an early successful reader.
Generally speaking these do apply to my son, and he does have a great attention span, as long as things are not lagging, which is the feeling I get with Reading Kingdom (however, the mellow pace that caused problems at our house might be just the calming factor needed at someone else's home)

Thankfully, the timing seemed to be less of an issue once we moved out of LetterLand. The pauses in the Reading and Writing lessons didn't feel quite as long, and there was a greater variety of activities for Youngest to try which added to his interest.

So, here's how it's working for us so far~ (playing a game of "That's bad!" "That's Good!" this time around...not wanting to emphasize the bad, but the good definitely follows in each instance )
The Bad: I don't often "Force" my children (Particularly those under the age of 6) to do any seriously structured school work. However, in this case, because it was a review item, and because I *did* want him to apply himself a bit, I did require him to do Reading Kingdom  (perhaps with less regularity than I would an older child, during the school year vs a new 5 year old during the summer...). This led to a few tears once or twice, and "I don't want to do Reading Kingdom today" on a regular basis. The Good: I thought it was interesting that almost invariably AFTER he completed a lesson he would turn to me with either a casual "That wasn't so bad, Mom" or excitement when he reached a particular goal~ so it wasn't as bad as he thought.... over and over and over! (Silly boy!)

The Bad: He hasn't reached the "I want to do more" stage with this program, and I'm not sure he ever will. There aren't many bells and whistles (not always necessary), and the timing issues could still be worked on some more, which might help with the outside distractions. The Good: Nevertheless, it is a steady little program that really doesn't take that much time, but encourages progress.

The Bad(?): I do want to take a second and mention (In case you didn't read my first review) that this is NOT a phonics based program, so if that doesn't jive with your teaching philosophy, then Reading Kingdom may not be a great fit. The Good: On the other hand, if phonics just isn't working with your child, and you don't trust "whole language" then Reading Kingdom may be right up your child's alley!

In spite of my son's love/hate relationship with Reading Kingdom, when this screen showed up he was extremely excited! He completed a passport! Yeah!
Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Reading Kingdom
  • Product:Online Subscription for Reading Kingdom Program
  • Ages:4-10
  • Price: Free 30 day trial $19.99/month or $199.99/year (For those with more than one early reader, additional readers are $9.99/month or $99/year)
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.
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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