Orphs of the Woodlands {Review}

4/15/2015
Star Toaster Review

I'm so excited to share my review of Orphs of the Woodlands, an online educational resource and game by Star Toaster.

In this unique online reading program, your child is the main character - a gray squirrel who has been orphaned by Night Creatures. His dream is to one day fight them, but on his quest to become a spy, he finds himself responsible for a settlement of orphaned critters, called orphs, that live in the woodlands.


The orphs need food, water, clothing, medicine, defense, and a source of energy, and your child can earn goldstars to pay for the needs of the orphs by completing jobs.

I have been reviewing the first book in the Orphs of the Woodlands series, The Treasure of High Tower, with Malachi, my 4th grader. Geared towards 4th through 7th graders, Malachi is on the young end of the range for this program so it has been challenging at times. But, we absolutely love this program and I'm excited to share our experience with you!

Our experience:

Upon logging in, Malachi first watched a series of 4 videos to learn how to use the program:
  • Reading the Book
  • Getting Jobs
  • Types of Lessons - videos, flashcards, and notes
  • The Game

Then, he filled out a Spy Application. This was fun and created a feeling of suspense! He chose an alias name for his character, the grey squirrel. Then he chose a favorite color, and selected qualifying characteristics. He chose characteristics of himself: honest, faithful, kind, cheerful, wise, self-motivated, diligent, and brave. I noticed that he didn't select trustworthy, and he admits he needs to work on this character trait. Well, he is! He is learning the importance of being trustworthy in this program through lessons, quotes, and the values taught through the story.

At the very bottom on the application is the question: Are you willing to learn? Malachi was very eager to enter yes!

Getting into character - a spy! :) 

After submitting your application, you start reading the book.

It is a very interesting story, but the chapters are a bit long. The first chapter was 27 pages. At first, there was not a way to tell how many pages were in a chapter, but they added that feature during our review. However, that backfired. Malachi had a hard time getting started, knowing how many pages there were in the chapter, as he was overwhelmed by the number of pages! So, it was not a bad thing that he didn't know after all (at least to get him started). I would love to have the option to turn this on or off.

While you are reading, vocabulary words are highlighted so you can hover over them to reveal synonyms that are arranged easiest to most challenging. So instead of one word, your child is learning several words at a time. This knowledge helps you complete jobs at the end of the chapter. 

After the end of the first chapter, your child's character has the opportunity to do jobs to earn money to care for the orphs that are not in his care yet. He has sent them on their way to Ivythwaite to find refuge until he can earn goldstars (currency of the woodlands) to care for them. 

To earn goldstars, Malachi had a chance to review the vocabulary words from the story, study them, and then use them correctly by answering questions. When he has selected his answer, he clicks "get paid" to submit. Cute! Then he gets paid with goldstars that pop out of a toaster. 

As soon as he completed the lesson, I was sent an email on his progress. 
The journey through the Woodlands has just begun, and Malachi has already learned a lot! Vocabulary is the focus of the first chapter. Rollovers with synonyms make learning vocabulary easy. Synonyms are arranged from the easiest word to the most challenging. The first word in the series tells what all the synonyms mean. To see the vocabulary lessons, visit Malachi's Skills Page by logging into MY ACCOUNT using your parent password. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your child's educational journey.

It also let me know that he completed 9 vocabulary lessons and read 27 pages.

Then it tells me what's coming up! I loved this!
In the next few chapters, Malachi will meet Professor Forp and view his fun videos about place value, the decimal point, the abacus, mean, median, mode, pH and acidity, and the lever and fulcrum, and algebra. There are also lessons on vocabulary, Latin phrases, thinking skills, inspirational quotes, nutrition, cooking tips, and tessellation. Wow! There's a lot to learn in the Woodlands where learning is always fun. Malachi will enjoy the adventure. 

Professor Forp is funny. He teaches math and science in Orphs of the Woodlands. You watch his video about pH. He makes learning fun.

So far this is just the tip of the iceberg in this awesome program!

To check his progress, I can log in to my Parent Account to view his stats. When I logged in, he had completed 9 jobs, read 40 pages, rescued 6 orphs, completed 2 projects, bought 1 plot of land, and started one orphanage! From this screen I can also view his skills completed.

Below this is a link to Malachi's Student Account, when I hover over that a link to Student Progress pops up, and I can see the jobs he has completed and what he missed:


When I click on Review, I can see what he saw and know why he didn't get paid for a job (he didn't have the right answer!).

When he clicks Continue Reading, when he logs in next, it will take him to the next chapter.

Malachi struggled with the amount of reading the first day and finished the reading with my help, but the 2nd day, he read Chapter 2 by himself. The next day, he not only read chapter 3 and did his jobs, but he started Chapter 4 to get a head start for the next day. Once he got a settlement started, he was more motivated to read! Plenty of questions involve comprehension, so I know he's actually reading it.

I really love that there is so much reading involved! This is a real reading program and not just a game. I love that it is challenging him in so many areas, but it's also fun.

There are 8 subjects and over 300 lessons in this program: Math, Science, Language, Vocabulary, Thinking Skills, Character, Life Skills, and The Arts.

For my visual readers this is how those subjects are laid out in the program:


I'm so impressed with the amount of subjects covered in this program - especially math and vocabulary! He's learning so much, and much of it is new and challenging. Malachi says the program makes him feel smart because of all the new things he is learning, but not so smart when he misses one and doesn't get paid for a job.

His favorite subject is life skills, and they bring a fun hands-on component to this learning time. It has been fun trying some of the foods that the critters in the story eat. We have tried many of the recipes from the Woodlands, like Greasy Gooey Goulash!


The recipes are named by Bicker - a bad tempered chef in the Woodlands who gives the tasty recipes distasteful names to discourage the critters from eating them because he gets to eat the leftovers! I learned this from one of the myriad of emails that Star Toaster sends while your child is using the program. He met Bicker right away, but didn't learn why he named the recipes such distasteful names until later in the story.

One of Malachi's favorites was Pitiful Peach Pie and he begged me to make this pie!

The graphics in the program are excellent and even the jobs are visually appealing!

Peach Peeler was Malachi's favorite "job," probably because he was looking forward to that peach pie!

He has a whole computer screen full of screen shots of recipes he wants to make. So far, we have been clicking on the recipe and then printing the screen, but it would be so much easier to have a printer friendly option to print the recipes. A printable cookbook would be so fun to have as a token of our time with this program!

More about Orphs of the Woodlands:

  • The book is interactive. It has vocabulary rollovers, inspirational quotes, recipes, spy letters that expand when you click on them, disappearing ink, TOP SECRET spy files, memory games, music, sound effects, and more.
  • The program is designed for advanced 9 year-olds to 13 year-olds (or 4th through 7th grade).  
  • Designed to be completed independently by the student in sixty days. (A one month extension is available to purchase). 
  • As children read the story, their parents are sent progress reports periodically. 
  • Lessons are presented using videos, flashcards, Memory Typer (an application in the program that helps students memorize stuff), or notes. 
  • Students earn goldstars (their pay) for jobs they complete. For every ten jobs done correctly, they earn a pay raise.
  • After completing their jobs, children visit Ivythwaite to build their settlement for orphs.


  • Goldstars are used to pay for “orph care” expenses or to do projects that lower the cost of caring for orphs. Goldstars are also needed to buy land and build more orphanages.
  • The goal of the game is to rescue as many orphs as possible. Taking care of the orphs is the incentive to learn. (As of Chapter 14, Malachi has rescued 42 orphs out of 50 possible). 
  • Orphs of the Woodlands is designed for homeschooling, but would also work very well as a summer reading program.

Benefits:

  • A reading program that covers 8 subjects! 
  • Children learn independently!
  • Teaches decision making and logic. Teaches children how to think
  • Children learn how to improve their memory and pay attention to details. (They create TOP SECRET spy files by remembering facts about characters.) 
  • Encourages positive character traits, values, and leadership skills. 
  • Teaches life skills such as cooking and nutrition.
  • Encourages children to "learn new information daily." 
  • It's fun! 

Malachi's was so excited to complete the book today.

Here are his final stats:

  • 50 orphs rescued
  • 279 jobs completed
  • 11 projects completed
  • 2 orphanages started
  • 3 plots of land purchased 

I've heard lots of squeals over the last hour as he diligently finished the last chapter. He's a super happy kid - finishing the book was a big accomplishment for him! (376 total pages!)

Orphs of the Woodlands has captivated my ten year old. He enjoyed the adventure so much that we can't wait for Book 2 in the series!

Go read my Crewmates reviews to learn more, or try it for yourself! The first 100 pages are available with a free trial! If your child is in the 4th-7th grade range, I highly recommend you give it a try! 
Crew Disclaimer

2 comments:

Lisa M. (aka. Lisa @ Farm Fresh) said...

I am happy to see that Malachi enjoyed it so much! Seth wasn't as thrilled...but he's a very definite audio learner, so reading on the screen was so hard for him--though he doesn't have problems reading his regular books. He didn't hate it, but he didn't love it either. I agree about the long chapters. And we are trying out the recipes too! Nutty Nut Bread is the first one on the list!

Star Toaster said...

Michelle, I really like your blog! Thank you for the kind review. I especially enjoyed the photos of Malachi. Wanted your readers to know that they can still try “Orphs of the Woodlands” for FREE. It’s a great way to get a head start on the next school year. Those who complete the FREE TRIAL receive a 25% OFF Promo Code for the entire program. Thanks again for the wonderful review! Happy Learning! ~Marlene

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