Veritas Press approaches education from a classical Christian perspective, and as such, has created a variety of curricula to help other parents educate their children in this way. Their reading program Phonics Museum now has a companion app that can complement the curriculum or stand on its own! The premise of the program is that your child is in an art museum, the Phonics Museum, engaged in art and learning to read at the same time!
The child chooses an avatar and begins their journey. Miss Biddle is the museum curator, and she's kind of eccentric and silly. Percival the Knight is their guide, taking them on their exploration. It's very "edutainment" in presentation - the child is guided through play-based learning exercises that include videos, tracing letters, listening to music and playing games. The games are things like animals catching their food, which you help them do by touching the screen when you hear a word that starts with the designated letter or finding the target letter by visual recognition. As they work through the activities, learning letters by sight and sound, they complete levels and earn virtual awards, and this is a fun incentive for young children!
The app starts at the beginning and assumes no prior knowledge. My four year old knows her letters and sounds, so it's been a little below her level, but that doesn't deter her from playing. By about the 3rd time through their unique alphabet song, she was starting to sing along with it, and she seems to enjoy the app overall. However, I noticed there were times she was asking me to sit with her. I'm always in the same room when she plays the iPad, but she was wanting me to help because she was having a hard time hearing and distinguishing between some letters, and I believe it's because they carry the consonant sound, making them sound as if they had an /uh/ at the end. That /uh/ was all she was hearing. Once I taught her to isolate the beginning of the "buh" or "duh" sounds she was able to distinguish between the correct/incorrect answers and play the games independently. She also had to figure out how to trace the letters with *her* finger, and not try to touch the shadow finger, but once she mastered that, she could do the letter writing easily.
The only other thing of concern was some of the initial language. Upon starting the first video I was shocked to find one character was somewhat rude and disrespectful. He used words and phrases like "ugh," "die of boredom" and "dumb." I find this inappropriate and unnecessary, especially for the target age range. After that, I haven't particularly noticed anything concerning, but I was taken aback by that.
Overall, I believe this is a nice supplemental program for my preschooler. She really enjoys the app, and it has many great features. I get an email from Miss Biddle every time she completes a lesson. Although I am always aware of when and what she plays on the iPad, I don't always sit over her, so the email lets me know how quickly she is progressing through the app. I also love that ART is woven in naturally in a fun and relevant way for this age. Phonics Museum App is great review for her at this point, and we will continue to keep it in her "Preschool" folder to choose from during her iPad time. The app is for ages 3-7, beginning readers, and I find that an accurate age range.
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