February 26, 2018

Online Educational Games for Kids: The Starfall Home Membership {Review}

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While learning is an important business, it doesn't have to be boring. It's always nice to add some fun into the mix. I'd say this is definitely the case when you have young children, but I think we can all agree that it's equally important to keep things interesting for all ages. Of course, students at a younger age need a little extra enticement from time to time. While we don't rely heavily on learning apps for our day to day schoolwork, I've found that using the right one could be very beneficial to complement some of our lessons.

We have tried a few in the past that have proven to be really helpful, so much that we tend to utilize them more often than not. The Starfall Home Membership from Starfall Education Foundation is one of those types of programs. We've been continuously using it for the past few weeks and I have to say that my son has been enjoying it quite a bit. I really like it, because it creates a fun learning environment for him that includes plenty of games and activities in a variety of different subjects, such as math and reading.





Starfall Education Foundation offers both a free and paid version of their app that not only works on a traditional PC, but also through an Android, Kindle, or iOS device. Some of the essential reading components are available in the free version, but in order to gain complete access to all of the activities, including math and expanded reading content, The Starfall Home Membership paid subscription is required. The cost is $35 for a complete year of unlimited access for the entire family (even grandparents) with one easy login to authorize each computer or mobile device in your home. Having access to the remaining locked content definitely makes getting a paid version worth it, especially if you have younger children at home. 







HOW WE USE THE STARFALL HOME MEMBERSHIP


When I had originally entered the dashboard we had to play around a bit to really get used to the setup, which is completely normal with any educational app–there's always some type of learning curve. A trip to Starfall's Parent-Teacher Center really comes in handy, and I definitely recommend making a visit here, first. Not only did we find a variety of helpful tools and resources to supplement our homeschool lessons, but there is a page called Complete Guides to Using Starfall, which offers a collection of PDF downloads to help parents and children get acclimated with the program. These guides are broken down into grades and sometimes subject matter, and pretty much serve as a scope and sequence to help direct parents towards areas of the program that their child should be working on. I cannot stress how handy these guides are. Originally, we just went right in and started working on the activities, and while some of these are pretty self-explanatory, the guides offer a more direct path on what children in a certain grade level should be working on or could benefit from using.








The program offers a vast collection of children's learning songs, as well as activities and lessons in mathematics and phonics. Everything is targeted towards younger students in the Pre-K to 2nd grade levels. It's really hard to pinpoint what activities my son enjoyed the most, because there are so many– naming them all here would just turn this post into a small novel. I did want to highlight just a few of our favorites (although there are plenty more than this).


Simple Learning Activities: Sometimes we like to take it easy and just do small refreshers on things that my son already knows, for instance 3D shapes. Here is one where he enjoys matching up objects to the respective shapes. 






There are even holiday themed activities like this fun balloon match game that he enjoying playing the week leading up to Valentine's Day. 





I appreciate how organized the math dashboard is. The left column on the main page shows basic topics, but when you click into each one, some things are more broken down, for instance the Geometry and Measurement page shown, below.





Working through some of the math challenges are fun, and I like that these include simple addition and subtraction lessons, as well as other topics like basic currency.









WE'VE BEEN SPENDING A LOT OF TIME IN THE READING AREAS


A main focus that we have been working on is simple spelling words and early reading practice. I love that there are plenty of lessons to choose from in the Starfall program. We worked through some of the activities that included learning sight words, while also practicing reading books from the Talking Library. All of the books in the Talking Library, as well as other areas of the program even offer the option for the stories to be read aloud. I found this feature to be extremely helpful and was delighted to hear my son follow along with the storytelling. 




 









This Learn to Read area was one of my personal favorites. It not only breaks down the words in the story, but actually articulates phonetic sounds to help children recognize how to read each word.












One hidden gem that we just recently found is in the It's Fun to Read area. It includes mini lessons for art and music appreciation. My son especially enjoyed that there was an extra collection of "jukebox" songs with Beethoven's nine symphonies.








During down time my son delights in dancing and listening to the motion songs that are included in our membership.







As I had briefly mentioned, above, there is also a Parent-Teacher Center on the website. In addition to the teaching guides, I've also discovered that the company has other fantastic tools. The supplemental teaching resource area offers hundreds of free worksheets to not only accompany what my child is learning through the app, but these also work for other lessons and activities that we're doing at home.








Two of my favorite resources in this area are the custom printables and worksheet generators (available for both ELA and math). Here, I can create a worksheet using the company's already provided template, and cater it with what we need to cover. I love having a teaching/learning resource that can be adapted to fit our needs.





 
 Here's a sample of a spelling page that I started to create for a marine life unit study.





There is an additional area that offers projectile books and posters to accompany our homeschool activities.


A projectile picture book about Vincent van Gogh





One feature that I would like to see implemented in the future is the ability to be able to save account settings from one device to the next. Although there is not a lot to add to the account profile, there is this one area called Who Am I? where children can create an avatar of themselves. Once saved, instead of seeing the default character show up throughout games and activities, they will see their own personalized avatar. I think this is a really neat feature, but I've noticed that you have to recreate your child's avatar in each device being used, because it doesn't reflect over even after logging in. Also, if you delete cookies on your device, then the avatar will reset back to the default. Although it only takes a couple of minutes to recreate a new one, those are extra minutes that could be spent doing learning activities. It would be a nice feature to have the option to save that avatar, so you don't have to keep recreating it. An option to have multiple profiles may also be handy for when you have more than one child, so that they can each have their own personalized character and not have to use the same one between each other.

My overall opinion of The Starfall Home Membership is quite favorable. My son loves to learn, but he prefers more hands-on activities, and typically doesn't favor computer work as often. The fact that he actually enjoys the activities in this program and wants to do more and more of them is pretty astounding! While we don't solely rely on the learning app for all of our lessons, it has definitely proven to be an extremely helpful supplement for some of my son's educational needs, and the best part is, he's having tons of fun using it!







Read what the rest of The Crew had to say:

 
The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews}

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