Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Having Fun with Online Learning Games from The Starfall Home Membership {A TOS Review}

The children love being able to be on the computer during the day. Ever since the older girls were little, we have found great educational sites for them to play on. In fact, when they were still preschoolers, we used Starfall Education Foundation to work on letters, sounds, and learning to read. This was a wonderful way to work on these skills for free. Then they added more advanced lessons in phonics, plus math and other subjects, in addition to activities for older students. We purchased a membership to what we (at the time) called "more starfall dot com," and the girls were using it for a while, but we got to a point where we couldn't justify the expense, even though it was quite affordable. When we were offered the opportunity to review The Starfall Home Membership thanks to the Homeschool Review Crew I decided it would be neat for Hannah and Harold to get a chance to use this fun site. 

We were given a one-year subscription to this online site which can be used by all the children in the family. All we had to do was authorize each computer that they would be working on, which was as simple as entering my email and password while on each computer. Children could also use Starfall on mobile devices (Kindle, Android, or iOS devices) if so desired. I was pleased to see that even after all these years, they have kept the low price of $35 per year. This is a family account, so the children don't have their own separate accounts to save what they have been working on. The activities can be played in any order, as many times as the child desires. Which is good, because the children both have their favorites they play over and over. 

This paid version of Starfall offers so many wonderful, educational activities that aren't available on the free site. Here, let's take a look.

This is the main screen for the free version of Starfall. The menu on the left is everything a child can use for free. The green menu on the right gives a child a chance to preview the paid version of the site.

Once a child chooses a subject and clicks the button, they are taken to that screen. If you take a look at the screenshot below, you will see that a child can only pick a handful of activities to play. 

It is the same with the first grade and the second grade levels.

First Grade:

Second Grade

As you can see, there is so much more that a child can access once a membership is paid for. And what I have shown is just the tip of the iceberg, as I didn't take a screenshot of each topic. 

After signing up for the membership, when the children access the site, they are greeted with this menu:

Math is on the left, letters/sounds/reading is in the middle, and extras such as songs and rhymes are on the right. And all the fun seasonal extras are now located on the bottom. 

Let's take a look at some of what Starfall has to offer.

Though my children are too old for the alphabet and beginning reading lessons, I did just want to share how much we loved them when the girls were younger. In the "ABCs" activities, I love that the letter plus the sound is taught in fun animated lessons, where the child is also introduced to several words that start with the letter and then gets to complete a fun activity. 

For example, here is a collage of some screenshots from the B lesson. 

Once a new word and picture appear on the screen, the child is to click the highlighted letter. They will hear the sound, plus the word, then either a phrase or a sentence will appear, which is also read by the computer (which sounds like a friendly child). After several words are introduced, the child gets to play a little game. In this one they had to drag the lowercase and uppercase letters that the bee was carrying to the correct flower. Once they successfully complete the activity, they are treated to a short animation. This really helped the older girls learn their sounds and letters (both uppercase and lowercase), plus gave them a chance to see new words. 

Once they are ready they can move onto beginning reading with "Learn to Read." 

They can play games that focus on specific word families, building words.

And then they can move onto stories where they focus on words that contain the same letter combinations they just played games with.

In the above collage of several screenshots from the story, the children are working on words containing the short "a" sound. The picture is shown with a sentence below it. The child can click on each word and it will appear on the screen while the computer sounds out each letter then the entire word, unless it is a sight word, in which case it just says the word. A child can also click the little ear icon to the left of the sentence to hear the sentence in its entirety. Once the sentence has been said in completion the picture will come to life. 

There are 15 levels, beginning with short vowels, moving to long vowels, and then to sight words, vowel teams, and r-controlled vowels. They could then move on to "It's Fun to Read" and "I'm Reading."

As wonderful as those lessons are, there are so many more ways a child can work on phonics and reading now that there is a paid version. We used to love the Short Vowel Word Machine activity. The child will focus on one short vowel at a time in C-V-C words. The computer sounds out the word and the machine creates the object. Then the child can choose to change either the beginning or ending sound.

The child could also work on "More Phonics," "Backpack Bear's Books," or "Short Vowel Pals."

With the original Starfall, there was no math at all, so I loved when they added it. A child can work in "Numbers," "Geography & Measurement," "Addition," "Subtraction," "Multiplication," "Division," or listen to "Math Songs." And those are just the math topics for younger children. First graders can also work on "Operations & Algebraic Thinking," "Base Ten Number & Operations," and "Measurement & Geography." Second graders can work on "Understand Place Value," "Use Place Value to Add and Subtract," "Add and Subtract Within 20," "Foundations for Multiplication," and "Beginning Multiplication."

First grade also contains more phonics lessons and reading with literature and informational text.

As you can see, there is a lot that a child can choose to work on. 

Harold and Hannah each had 4 days of the week where they spent the beginning of their computer time working through several different activities from The Starfall Home Membership. I had them mainly focus on math, but Harold did spend a good amount of time with reading activities as well. They also like to take time to listen to different stories and music. There is a nice selection of music by different composers along with small tidbits of information about said composer or the music. The child can listen to a sample of the music as well. Some of the composers also had a "jukebox" where you could choose to listen to several different musical compositions from each of them. There's even in a little English lesson at the end of each lesson. Harold enjoys listening to the music after he has done some math and/or reading. 

Here are some of the math activities they have been using.

Harold has worked on fractions. This activity was a matching memory game.

He's even been working on addition with regrouping. 

I absolutely love the way they help the child work through the problem. The ones column is highlighted and the child is to click the numbers to type in the answer. Then the number is broken into the tens and the ones, and the tens are moved up top. Finally, the child needs to add the tens column.

Once they get a correct answer the Skateboard Dog can continue on his adventure.

 Harold has even worked with shapes and symmetry.

And even weighing.

The following Math Journey activity is a favorite of all the children. They help the animated child along his/her quest by answering math problems correctly. I love that ramps are used for greater than/less than/equals, but there are also other ways the character may overcome obstacles. Such as building bridges or taking a lift.

One of Hannah's favorite activities is Monkey Mash where she gets to practice addition and subtraction.

When she clicks the correct answer, a monkey will pop up and grab the banana. Once there are three in a row, the game ends and the child can watch the monkeys as they go on the Cyclone roller coaster or bumper cars. 

She also likes Crazy Gator, which is the same idea, just for division instead of addition and subtraction.

Like Harold, she is a fan of matching memory games. Here she is working on money, coin values to be exact.

Hannah is also a fan of Alien Planet, which is similar to the Math Journey, only the character is making its way on the surface of an alien planet and the equations focus on fractions.

Another neat feature of the Starfall Home Membership is having access to the Parent-Teacher Center.

There is a Complete Guide for Using Starfall, where you can find guides to each of the levels. This will tell the parent/teacher what can be found, and let them know what (if any) supplemental resources are available at the Parent-Teacher Center. Those resources include worksheet generators, custom printables, projectable books and posters, and printable downloadables. 

So, what do we think of The Starfall Home Membership? 

I have always thought Starfall was a wonderful site for early learning. There are numerous, engaging activities for working on letters, sounds, reading, and math. For younger children this could really be used as a complete curriculum. However, for older children in first and second grade, it is definitely more of a supplement. Either way, children are learning in fun ways, which is so important to me. The games are wonderful for reinforcing the concepts that are being learned. 

You can find Starfall Education Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Don't forget to click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about The Starfall Home Membership.

The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wordless Wednesday: February 28, 2018 (w/linky) : Dessert With Family

But, before we get to the dessert, how about some Crazy Straw Fun!

We went to Friendly's for dinner.

Then my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter came to enjoy dessert with us. Annika was having a blast with the crayons while we were waiting.

Looking forward to seeing your Wordless (or not so wordless) Wednesday posts this week.

No button currently, and there won't be one until I can figure it out seeing as Photobucket has changed things. Feel free to still share the picture in place of the button on your Wordless Wednesday post or in a list of Wordless Wednesday linkies. Just link it to my Wordless Wednesday permalink please.

Littles Learning Link Up: February 27, 2018- Paper Plate Polar Bear in an Icy World

 Each month you will find:
  • A seasonal round-up (usually toward the beginning of the month)
  • Posts where I share what I have been up to with my early elementary children (including occasional highlight posts where I share how we used ideas that have been linked up here on Littles Learning Link Up).
Each week, I will host a link up, where you can share either what you have been up to recently, or old posts that may go with the theme.  Feel free to link up more than one post.

Each week I will continue to feature a couple of posts from those that have been linked up. 

I hope you will continue to share your wonderful posts, and I hope you will find something new to try with your child(ren).

It would be great for everyone to stop by and visit the other linked-up posts as well. Check them out, leave some comments, pin those that interest you. Let's make this a real party and socialize with each other.

What have we been up to?

Well, after our week off we have been busy, busy, busy. I'm trying out a slightly different routine/schedule for our day, and it seems to be working well. Though, when we keep adding unplanned outings and late nights to our week, it is hard to tell. 

In our Bible reading we have made it to the time of the Judges. And we are continuing to learn about the civilizations that lived at these times. We finished putting together our Ancient Egypt timeline from Home School in the Woods, and we are greatly anticipating playing the Tomb Dash game that will be a part of that review. 

Last week also included a field trip up to Buffalo, NY to watch the Rochester Americans hockey game. The children love the opportunity to see the few sites of the city. 

And, of course, we enjoyed watching the game, though they did lose.

Our field trip took place Wednesday afternoon/evening, after a fun time at co-op. Let's move on to this week's craft. 

At first I was planning on doing a different arctic animal, the walrus, as a friend had found a really cute craft idea. Then the children and I read a book called Welcome by and I decided I would do a polar bear craft. As we've done several paper plate projects this year, I figured I would make a polar bear head out of a paper plate. However, I decided to look up ideas for paper plate polar bears, and I found the cutest craft over at A Dab of Glue Will Do. It was simple to put together and the children really enjoyed making their polar bears. As usual, I did make a couple of changes. 

Here is what you will need:

Light blue construction paper
Paper plates
White construction paper
Black construction paper
White tissue paper
Wiggle eyes
Black marker
White paint
Glue sticks
White School Glue

Before co-op I cut out the different parts for the polar bear. I cut a c-shape out of the paper plate and rounded off the edges for the paws. From the part that was cut out, I also cut out the ears. (At first I wondered why we couldn't just use construction paper for the ears, then I realized using the edges from the paper plate gave it a lovely 3-D effect. 

Then I cut the white construction paper into the pieces for the bears head, snout, and tail. The head is a slightly flattened circle, a bit wider on the top than the bottom, and the snout is an oval. I also cut small black circles for the nose. The original used black pompoms, but I wasn't sure if we had any black, so I made the circles just in case. I discovered we did have the pompoms, but when we compared how it would look with them, as opposed to the paper, we decided we liked how the paper noses looks.

Now everything was ready for the children to create their polar bears.

We began by adding snow fingerprints, which was not a part of the original craft. But, I know the kids enjoy using paint, so I added this step.

We set the snowy backgrounds aside to dry while we made the polar bears.

This was a nice, simple craft. The children just needed to glue the facial features on in order. First the face, toward the bottom of the paper plate, then the snout and the nose.

Then we used the marker to draw on a smile and dots.

Lines were added to the paper plate for paws. Wiggle eyes were added above the nose and ears were added under the top of the head. The children used the black marker to add some details to the ears as well. Then we added the tail to the top of the plate, gluing it behind.

At this point the paint was dry, and the children were given tissue paper to tear into pieces of ice, which were glued onto the background.

And then the polar bear was glued on top.

Aren't they cute?

The reason this craft went so well with the book I had, is because of the ice in the background. In the story, three polar bear friends are stranded on a melting ice block that had broken away from the land and drifted them out to see. They tried to find an island to land on, but the inhabitants at each island found reasons why they weren't welcome. They finally found an empty island to call home, right before their ice was completely melted. (The poor bears were piled on top of each other, with only one bear on one foot able to stand on the tiny ice.) Then some monkeys came along and asked if they could come on the island, and the polar bears gladly welcomed them.

Let's take a look at that review schedule real quick:

Last week I shared my review of: Bytes of Learning's UltraKey Online and this week I will share the review for Starfall's Home Membership. We are also reviewing a couple of a la carte products from Home School in the Woods, including the Ancient Egypt Timeline that I mentioned above. That review will be posting in March along with several other reviews. We are using MathArt in Ancient Cultures from NatureGlo's eScience, plus I am reading the book What Every Child Should Know Along the Way from Parenting Made Practical. We actually gave Harold the 3-D Super Bead vehicles from Zirrly and the girls are going to be helping him make them. Plus we received three book from Carole. P. Roman (whose books we have reviewed a couple of times in the past.) Those reviews will all post in March. I have been using Memoria Press's new Traditional Spelling II with Hannah. I will be sharing that review in April.

Here are some things I would like to share with you:

Personally, I am looking forward to some warmer weather, so how about focusing on some springtime round ups. 

Now onto:
Littles Learning Link Up Features

On my last Littles Learning Link Up post, there were 12 wonderful posts linked up. I will be sharing a randomly selected post and the top clicked-on post

Please, don't forget to stop by other posts that are linked up. See what catches your eye, stop by, pin the post to a relevant board, and perhaps leave a comment to let the author of the blog know you have been by for a visit. I know I appreciate others commenting and letting me know they have read my posts, so I am sure others do too.

This week's randomly selected post is:

Kristen from A Mom's Quest to Teach shared Learning About the Alphabet: C is for Construction

And here is this week's most clicked on post.

Small Worlds Preschool shared The Importance of Play Based Learning.

Join the Party!

I would love to have you join in this week! What sort of activities do you do with your young children? Do you have some favorite activities you would like to share? I invite you to link up below. I will be pinning posts on one of my relevant boards, and I would love to feature some of the activities each week from what is linked up.

Please know I may share a picture from your post and link back to it, along with sharing how we used your idea in our school time. By linking up you are giving me permission to use a picture from your post. I will ALWAYS give credit and link back. Additionally, if you choose to try out any of the ideas with your child, please make sure you give credit where credit is due.

Linky will be open through Monday night, to give me time to check out all the posts and get the Features organized. Please take the time to visit some of the other wonderful posts linked up.

No button currently, and there won't be one until I can figure it out seeing as Photobucket has changed things. Feel free to still share the picture in place of the button. Just link it to my Littles Learning Link Up permalink please.

I am sharing over at

Homeschool Coffee Break

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