Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Ooka Island

When we started homeschooling my daughter was just going in to Kindergarten and had some skills to begin to read, but wasn't really reading. So our adventure began! It took us four curriculum and the summer just before second grade before we actually found what clicked with her (she's my first and unfortunately the guinea pig for all that we try). When the opportunity to review Ooka Island came up, I was a little hesitant to try it, especially since we'd made so much progress in the last year. So I decided I'd use it with my 3 year old instead, but however, his enthusiasm for the program was obviously contagious and before long they were arguing over who's turn it was to play.

Ooka Island is a computer based reading program designed for children 3-7. The company states, "Our goal is to teach children to read fluently and well through reading instruction that is fun and compelling." Now, my kids were absolutely thrilled with the program and loved playing it, so it did accomplish the fun and compelling goal. That for a mom is always a huge plus because you want them to love learning and they did...so I can say from that stand point I loved this program.

That's what makes this review so hard to write. While there are some great things I liked and even loved about the program, there are several that I did not like at all. For that reason I wouldn't recommend it as a curriculum, rather as a supplement to what you are already use. Here are my list of likes and dislikes, starting with the dislikes.

Dislikes

1. I noticed mistakes within some of the games as my daughter played. She was trying to put sentences from the story "Trey's Tree House" in order after reading it. The sentences she was given were very confusing. They could have easily went two different ways. So when she put it in order wrong even I didn't understand why. 

2. The level my daughter stared at was a bit below her level really. Despite taking the compass test (which you can use for older readers to place them where they need to be on the path) she had to go through her ABC's as if she didn't even know them because it's just part of the game. 

3. Once she started playing the word ? she had to decide if something was part of a word or a word. The problem with that was some of the parts of words were not parts of words. And they most certain were not phonograms. Since we have been using a phonics based program this was confusing and contrary to what she had been learning.

4. When my 3 year old began his journey on Ooka Island, it started at the beginning and by teaching him the sound of the letter M...not the letter itself, but the sound. It seems odd to start in the middle of the alphabet and not to reinforce the actually letter names for recognition at that early in the game.

5. For my 7 year old who is reading, they had her identify the sound in E sound in me, but they used ee...she then proceeded to ask why. Then they had her identify the sound at the end of the word shoe and used oo...again she asked why. It seems odd to use the wrong phonograms to teach the sound. I know it's not a spelling curriculum, however, if my 7 year old is pointing it out then that makes me wonder what I would have to fix with my 3 year old if I left him use this program.

Likes

1. FUN! FUN! FUN! for the kids. Especially in free time, when they could change their character or feed the Ooka Elves. They were asking to play so much I had to limit their time. 

2. As the parent you can track what they are learning on the Lighthouse. You can print progress reports and send them CheerReader messages, which my daughter loved getting. 

3. There are off line elements to the game as well. You can buy the actual books they rescue. There are worksheets and e-workbooks you can print for extra practice.

My overall conclusion in using this curriculum was I think it's tool to utilized for learning, however, I wouldn't use it as a complete curriculum to reading. Many of the other team members found it to be a delightful addition to their homeschooling library. You can read their reviews here. If you're interested in adding some fun to your reading lessons, then by all means purchase Ooka Island, the company is offering a 30% discount to my readers. We will most likely keep it for the fun aspects, but still use our other curriculum. You can get a individual membership for $12.95/mo or $124.95/yr. If your looking to use it for more students, then you can price increases slightly at $19.95/mo or $149.95/year. But remember, right now you can get it for 30% off!!



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