Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Starfall Home Membership {review}

My daughter just turned five years old and is a delightful little student.  She is very precocious, and as a third child, she is always wanting to run with the big kids, including doing school with them.  When she was about two yeas old, and was infatuated with my iPad, I let her play on the free Starfall app from Starfall Education Foundation.  It was her special little school time, and in no time, she knew all of her letters and their primary sounds.  More recently though, we were given the opportunity to review The Starfall Home Membership so she was excited to have something familiar, but more varied and in-depth and appropriate for her skill level.  My three year old likes to join in on the fun sometimes as well!


Starfall began in 2002 as a place for children to have fun learning how to read.  It included a handful of books, videos and games.  Many people know about the free resources on Starfall.com, but The Starfall Home Membership allows your whole family to utilize one account to sign in and access all additional content.  Your account can be used by everyone with just one login, and it also works across mobile devices - Android, Kindle and iOS.  We have used our account on my MacBook Air, iPad Pro and a Kindle Fire.  All have worked with no issues!

Once I sign in with my account and authorize the device, I don't have to continuously sign in, which is a nice feature.  I can just open the website or app and let them play.  This is not a sequential or leveled program, so none of the activities are locked.  Children can play and learn anywhere, go back and forth between activities, and repeat anything as they wish.  I like that they have the freedom to enjoy the activities that are most developmentally appropriate and interesting to them.

Some of the activities that we have done include building CVC words, learning about the calendar, practicing measurements, listening to music and poetry, and so more!  I couldn't begin to tell you about all of the individual activities and skills covered, but there is quite the variety of interactive reading and math games.

The Short Vowel Word Machine lets the children switch out letters, to make new words.  Since Eleanor is right at the word family/CVC stage of learning to read, this is a good activity for her to see that connection, and how changing just one letter changes the sound and meaning of a word.

Starfall.com review

In other areas there are books that are read to to the child, and many of these are popular folk tales.  While it doesn't replace a physical book and snuggle time, it's a great activity for the child who just can't get enough of books and read-alongs.  I can tell the Goldilocks story a hundred times, but my three year old would still ask for it again.  Obviously, I like that this is one of the featured stories!  We can listen to Goldilocks while I'm working nearby.

In addition, there are many enrichment activities.  Eleanor was delighted to find the poem My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson in the poetry section.  The big kids had used this poem for memory work and recitation, so she was thrilled to have their poem in her program.  The poems are just one of the many activities under the 1st Grade Reading: Literature and Informational Text section.

Two other great sections there are the Art Gallery and Music sections.  There are short, informational readers that expose the children to classic works.  Since we do Picture Study and Composer Study in our homeschool, these are great little supplements when they happen to line up.

Starfall.com review

Another favorite area is The Starfall Sing-Along.  It's like a children's music app, where they can listen to nursery rhymes and songs.  These are songs like Baa Baa Black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle, and The Wheels on the Bus.  Eleanor (5) and Eloise (3) love to sing contemporary music with their older siblings, so I sometimes forget that they need the simplicity and the literary value of  nursery rhymes and children's songs.  They both really enjoy this area!

Starfall.com review

In addition to all of the reading and literacy activities, Starfall also offers numerous math activities.  You can find easier activities like sorting buttons and coins, to place value games to division and fractions.  You can find skill-appropriate activities by clicking on the 1st/2nd grade buttons if your child is older.  These are great supplemental activities for any math curriculum, and a fun introduction for students just learning to explore numbers and measurements.

Starfall Parent-Teacher Center & Starfall Store
For the adults who are facilitating the learning, there is a comprehensive Parent-Teacher center.  It has the complete guide to using Starfall for each grade level.  For my Pre-K student, I can open one guide, while the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade guides are split into ELA and Mathematics.  The guides cover which activities support which learning skills, as well as supplemental items from the store that correspond to the skill.  There is also a very thorough Resource center where you can print or create a variety of worksheets to use in your home.  The Starfall Store showcases the apps, books, CDs and other materials that complement their online program and their curriculum kits.  These resources would obviously allow you to use the program in a more systematic and purposeful way.

Final Thoughts
As a parent, I fully believe in the value of unstructured play, outdoor time and learning through real-life at this age.  However, I also recognize that we live in a society where technology is undoubtedly part of our lives, and that teaching our children how to responsibly use technology in moderation is important.  If I am going to allow electronics, I want to make sure the time is used wisely, so an engaging, educational resource is always a hit in our home.  As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I love that Starfall Education Foundation includes classic stories, nursery rhymes, songs, classical music, and art as part of their approach to literacy.  Their math activities are also play-based and fun for my preschooler.  I find it a very well-rounded online resource.  The Starfall Home Membership is $35/year for your entire family.  Overall, both of my preschoolers really enjoy the activities and I am happy to utilize it as part of their school a few times a week.

The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews}
This graphic contains my FTC statement.

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