Friday, October 25, 2013

Schoolhouse Crew Review: VocabularySpellingCity

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VocabularySpellingCity is an online game site for grades K through 12 to help teach vocabulary, spelling, and other aspects of language arts.  They gave our family a free VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership for up to 5 children in exchange for my honest review.

Even without paying a penny, you can access quite abit of game-based language arts learning on their free site. The Premium membership ($29.99 for one year for up to 5 children) gives access to a bunch MORE games, and also increased record-keeping options.

This is all designed for schools, or a more "traditional" styles of homeschooling than we use. It has lots of great features for setting up your own spelling lists, and assigning daily assignments and giving tests and all kinds of things that I'm sure are extremely helpful for both teacher/parent and student, if you are using a typical language arts curriculum with spelling lists and vocabulary lists and such. I'm sure I would have greatly preferred to learn my weekly spelling words using the fun games on this site instead of sitting there and drilling them into my head like I did when I was in elementary school.

 photo wordorama_zps693e47d4.jpgI tend to hesitate to sign up for computer based reviews because my girls just don't get much computer time, so adding in a "required" computer time, especially for both of them, can be challenging. But one thing that I noticed right away, was that VocabularySpellingCity has a free app for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Lexie and Ashlyn each have an iPod Touch, and I have an iPad, so that really increases our options.

As soon as I got the information about setting up our account, I set things up on my computer, and then downloaded the app onto my iPad and both of the girls' iTouches, and told them they "had" to play this new game at least some every day LOL.  To begin with, since we don't have spelling lists per se, I told them to just use the pre-made lists on the site. I was interested to see that, while they started out with some of the first grade lists, to get a better feel for the games and how things worked, then they started choosing word lists based on interests or other things we were studying. Until this week, we'd been doing a sun/moon/stars theme for the little kids' circle time, and a few times, I noticed Ashlyn had gravitated toward (ha! no pun intended) the list of space related words.

A couple days after we started using it, the girls had a writing assignment in another subject. I've taken a very laid back approach to correcting spelling, believing that, like grammar, when they are ready, they'll ask me to help them find ways to "get up to speed", and I've seen them become more aware of spelling in the last year or so. But, since we're reviewing this spelling list program, and I was looking at something they'd each written, that did have some misspelled words, I decided to combine the two.

So now, if I notice one of them misspelling a word on something, I go in and add it to their spelling lists on VocabularySpellingCity! It helps them work on "problem" words, but is still low-key enough to fit nicely into our eclectic style of homeschooling.

One thing I noticed, that I think would frustrate me if I were trying to make sure my children "did their homework" regularly on this site, is that it is possible for them to do things on the app without being logged in. If they do that, there's no record of what they did (this may be true on the website as well, but it was using the app that we ran across it). Not a big deal in terms of the practice they're getting, but might be problematic from a record keeping standpoint, especially since, apparently, it automatically logged Ashlyn out without her even realizing it. She "noticed" when she wanted to use a feature that was only available on the premium site, so she couldn't access it without being logged in.  Not a deal breaker, by any means, but something to be aware of.

What did we think? I love that it's educational and on the iTouch! I like being able to check in from my computer and see how they're doing. I'm not "using it to it's potential" because of our homeschool style, and because of that, while I appreciate the premium features, I'm not sure I'd find them cost effective. If you need to keep close records of what your child does, the premium features are definitely worthwhile! Anyone who "does spelling" in their homeschool, will find this helpful, and if your child is in school, it would probably be well worth your time to input their school spelling lists and let them "practice' this way.

Lexie's favorite game is Hangmouse (as the name suggests, it's like hangman). Ashlyn is less enthusiastic, I think if she was required to "do spelling" in some form, this would be better than traditional methods, since I don't require that, but DID require her to use this program during our review period, she's not into it.

To see how other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew used this program, click on the banner below.


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All prices are accurate at time of posting.

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