I’ve used the free part of the Starfall Education Foundation website (people often shorten it to just “Starfall”) many times during my seven years as a public-school teacher and five years homeschooling my own children. I can tell you in this review of The Starfall Home Membership – my younger kids are loving it!
My two older children learned to read early and quickly. My youngest child is doing fine (she’s 5 and starting to do some first-grade reading) but has taken a little longer to learn to read than my older children. I was very excited to get a paid yearly membership to Starfall for her because I was still looking for fun but educational learning games to use with her.
Language is social, and children like to use websites like this along with a friend or parent, especially at first. Sit with your child and act really excited about it until they understand what they can do with the website. When you have to compete with TV and tablets and all the other entertainment available in our modern age, Starfall’s videos and games are a good help to get children started with reading. Use it to get your child excited about reading and to help them get the idea of learning how to read.
When I taught public school, I had many students who liked to read decodable books online, and Starfall books were the most popular with my students. My kids prefer to hold a paper book. So, YMMV. Your child might like decodable books online or might instead prefer physical books. You can print out the Starfall books or order them. They only cost around a dollar per book to order them.
Here is a video of some of the extended Starfall language videos – my five-year-old did the tongue twisters lessons many times so that is what she’s doing in this video:
Starfall added a fantastic Parent Resource Center. There are many included printables for language arts and math, and this is where you have the option to print out the books on the website. With all of the resources there, you could easily tailor lessons for your child week-by-week. My kindergartener likes to do these printables. I appreciate the way that they’re organized on the site because I don’t have to spend time searching for what I need. Need some long a printables? Boom, they’re right there where they should be. No need to dig through piles of stuff. I could easily and quickly find something to go with my child’s needs.
Starfall also has several apps for mobile devices, which include games. These were ok, but my 5 year old has used that the most so far.
The paid yearly membership included more games. My 5 year old was happy to have more games to play. She went straight for the math and music. No surprise! She loves those areas. She went into the first grade areas for those and did very well with working through them on her own. The math level is not easy – she’s just one of those kids who is more math-oriented.
A triangle math activity:
Here is a little video of her using a math game. It’s great!
The quality of the games is good. I have a yearly subscription to another similar website that I bought myself when they were having a special. Starfall’s games are better. There is no linear pathway in Starfall, which I see as an advantage for my children. My children want to look at what they are interested in, and they have very low tolerance for something that is too hard or too easy. When my 5 year old began playing the commutative math game, she first picked one that was too hard. All on her own, without whining to me, she was able to back out of it and pick an easier level. A frequent complaint on the other website is that they have to slog through repetitive games on a level that they already mastered before they can move on to something else – or, my 7 year old has played a game on her sister’s profile and gotten it stuck on a harder level than what my 5 year old can do. Starfall’s sandbox-type exploration is something that my children strongly prefer.
The music lessons cover composers and have clips of music and a little history. My 2nd grader also enjoyed these a lot! Here is a video showing my kindergarten child playing with one of the music lessons:
A The Starfall Home Membership is $35, which is much cheaper than other paid-membership websites that are similar in concept. I had no idea that The Starfall Home Membership was so cheap. I paid more than that for the packet of kindergarten worksheets that my 5 year old is working through as part of her main curriculum this year, and Starfall includes basically all of the same content in the form of printables, plus has all the games and other content.