One of the Most Engaging Learning Games I’ve Ever Seen

Starfall
When we were initially given the opportunity to review the Starfall Home Membership, we approached it with curiosity.

My kindergartener was already familiar with Starfall and the free resources from the Starfall Education Foundation.

She had used bits and pieces of the site for nearly a year to reinforce her learning.

But I wanted to find out if the Starfall Home Membership could be more than just reinforcement material.

I wanted to know if my daughter could learn math and English concepts with Starfall. To know if the online math learning games and phonics games of the Starfall kindergarten curriculum would be enough.

And, of course, I wanted to know if Starfall’s learning games would benefit single parent homeschoolers.

Understanding that a learning game does not replace the teacher, I still wanted to see how Starfall could make the single parent homeschooler’s work a bit easier.

Starfall Home Membership Description

The Starfall Home Membership is very inexpensive. For $35, you receive one annual account for use by your immediate family. Starfall even includes the grandparents in the membership.

To put it in perspective, that’s the same as a nice dinner for two or three people. Or eight gourmet coffee drinks.

And your purchase is 100% tax deductible as a contribution to the Starfall Education Foundation.

Once you purchase your membership, you are immediately mobile-ready. All you need do is download the free Starfall app on your device.

For some reason (that I haven’t researched yet), my daughter’s Android device would not download the app. So, I was glad Starfall also had an app she could download on her Kindle.

Because we both thought we knew what Starfall had to offer, we dove right in.

We went straight to the Welcome to Starfall page. She had fun going through many of the phonics games.starfall home membership review

But since my goal was to find out what the kindergarten curriculum offered, I started doing some research that same evening.

When I really started looking, the first thing I noticed was the banner encouraging parents to visit the Starfall Parent-Teacher Center™ (which is available on the www.starfall.com website even without a membership).

After identifying myself as a grown-up by entering the sum of some large numbers, I was taken to the Welcome Page.

On that page is a button for the complete guide to using Starfall.

Score…Guides!

In the guide are descriptions of:

  • what is available on the desktop browser,
  • what’s offered in the free and low-cost mobile apps (the Starfall Home Membership gives complete access to all activities),
  • what products are available for purchase,
  • and supplemental parent-teacher resources.

There were even more guides underneath that information.

Yay! Homeschool prep made simpler. (Something this single parent homeschooler loves.)

There are Parent-Teacher guides to:

  • The Starfall Pre-K curriculum
  • The Starfall Kindergarten ELA curriculum
  • The Starfall Kindergarten Math curriculum

And I was pleasantly surprised to find guides to:

  • First-grade reading
  • First-grade math
  • Second-grade reading
  • Second-grade math
  • The Starfall book levels

Since my daughter is a kindergartener, I downloaded the kindergarten ELA and Math guides.

Included in those guides is a wealth of information, detailing all that Starfall offers within each curriculum.

I was excited to see the guides’ suggested associated products that are available for purchase in the Starfall Store. (My daughter was giddy to know a Backpack Bear plushy exists.)

Supplemental Resources

Below each list of associated products, the Starfall guides also suggested supplemental Parent-Teacher Center resources.

Turns out, clicking on the tab labeled Resources takes you to printables that you can customize. There are also projectable workbooks, big books, and posters.

In addition, there is a Downloads page with resources to assist in phonics, writing, and reading.

I love this aspect of the Starfall Home Membership because, on occasion, our Internet can get a little trippy. Having materials that I can print beforehand keeps the school day flowing and frustrations down.kindergarten curriculum

kindergarten curriculum
Color by Word

Finding all the resource material was amazing. But, I still had not found the answer to my question.

Would Starfall’s learning games benefit the single parent homeschooler and make their work a bit easier?

I found my answer in the Kindergarten ELA and Math Teacher’s Guides (located under the Curricula tab).

There’s More!

[with glee] I know! More guides!

I found the ELA Kindergarten Curriculum guide to be very helpful in providing a suggested lesson plan.

I especially appreciated the Progress Monitoring Assessment Tool. Starfall provides Entry, Mid-Year and Exit assessments.

My daughter and I completed the Entry Assessment. Because my children prefer not to be tested, I was relieved to see my daughter complete it without too much complaining.

The directions and questions were simple enough for a 5-year-old. And for the mother of a 5-year-old.

The only downside I found to the ELA guide is that it is targeted mainly toward classroom teachers. Many of the instructions regarding set up and flow would have to be adapted for homeschool parents.

It would be nice to see a guide for parents that may only have one homeschooled kindergartener. Or even notes on how to adapt if families don’t have a designated homeschool room.

The Math Kindergarten curriculum also provided a helpfully suggested lesson plan and progress monitoring assessment tool.

Here, my daughter did not complain about the entry assessment.

And, again, I wished for a little more targeting to homeschool parents in the guide.

Afterward, armed with a little more knowledge and excellent supplemental resources, we revisited the Starfall app.

Going through the resources and guides gave me more clarity on my daughter’s starting point.

(Which means, as always, parents do your homework first.)

Going through the app again…for the first time

Since she is comfortable with her English alphabet and colors, we began with Pre-Decodable text and Backpack Bear’s Books.

When she played with the app on the first day, she was introduced to Backpack Bear. So, restarting here was good for her.

I should note here that – as is common – the site appears differently in the desktop browser than the mobile app.

On the desktop, where to begin is clearly marked “Start”. That was not the case in the Kindle app.

learning games

While it should have been obvious to start at #1, handing the Kindle to your kid without precise instruction creates a delay.

(“Doh!”)

So, we had another hiccup in yet another starting point. (Leading me back to parents, do your homework.)

Once I understood where to tell her to begin with the activities, we started with Math Songs. I wanted to help reinforce her work with the calendar.

In the math section, I noted that the concepts would have to be taught before letting her loose in the games. However, the addition and subtraction section helped to teach the concepts through consistent practice.

My daughter loved that throughout the Math curriculum, the image she created of herself made cameo appearances.

(Way to grab her attention, Starfall!)

We then went back to ELA and Backpack Bear.

kids educational games
Learning math words with Backpack Bear

One of my favorite parts of the Starfall app is the Talking Library. My daughter can follow along while the book reads to her.

And Backpack Bear’s Books are no different.

I found this to be helpful while preparing meals and when mommy needed to play her meditation music for 5-10 minutes.

A pleasant surprise was the Starfall Songs section.

In the Guide to Kindergarten ELA, you find it under Rhyme and Rhythm.

There you see sing-alongs, nursery rhymes, and folk songs.

What I was unable to locate in Starfall.com were some of the songs suggested in the Starfall Math curriculum.

However, the CD containing those math songs are available in the Starfall Store at an affordable price.

Something I believe to be notable:

Because my oldest daughter attended a Spanish speaking public school for 3 years, she struggles at times with decoding. She also struggles with English translations of previously learned concepts.

So, I included her in the calendar concepts section. She now has her own calendar posted in her bedroom. This helps her recall the English days of the week and months of the year.

We also include her in the short vowel phonics games. This helps to strengthen her grasp of the short vowel sounds. (Which do not exist in the Spanish language.)

Because of discovering this, I am eager to introduce Starfall phonics to my extended Costa Rican foster children.

And they are eager to learn.

So, I go back to my question.

Is Starfall (specifically the Starfall Home Membership) beneficial to the single parent homeschooler?

I would say that overall, the Starfall Home Membership is helpful to the single parent homeschooler.

While it is not a substitute teacher, I would recommend Starfall’s Kindergarten ELA and Math Curricula, along with the additional Starfall resources.

For me, both the Talking Library and Starfall Parent-Teacher Center™ are worth the price of admission on their own.

And thinking about how Starfall’s phonics games have helped my oldest daughter, despite wanting more from the guides, I am still pleased with the curriculum.

 

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