Thursday, February 3, 2011

Headsprout Review Part 1

We were so blessed to receive a year long subscription to Headsprout Early Reading program in exchange for an honest review on my blog. My dear friend Sherry contacted them about our situation and told them how much Hunter would benefit from it considering his circumstances and they told her to just have me contact them. They have been ever so polite, generous, and helpful throughout the entire length of our partnership.

Hunter received the subscription in October and he was able to get started a few weeks before he checked into the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital for his bone marrow transplant. In the mail we received a map and stickers which he uses to keep track of which lessons he has completed. We also received a good deal of paperwork explaining the program and promoting some of the follow up programs and materials that Headsprout has available to customers. We also received a basic set of Headsprout reading books.

Before his long hospital stay, Hunter made a good deal of progress through the program. I was glad that he became familiar and comfortable with it before I was away from him for a month.

I realized at some point that the program required me to print out special supplemental books for Hunter to read. The way it works is that you print them as they become available upon completion of certain lessons or "episodes" as they are called in this program. I contacted Headsprout to ask if there was any possible way for me to have early access to these printables because not only would my husband not have access to a printer in the hospital, but he wouldn't really be able to leave the room. I would not be seeing them either, so there was no way for me to print them and bring them. Immediately they responded that they would like to help by shipping me a box of all of the books and supplemental material. The Mini Sprout Stories Kit arrived within that next week. I was very pleased with and impressed by this gesture.

Hunter was able to maintain some progress with his Headsprout episodes in the hospital and he continues to make progress now that he is at home. He is ready to start episode 34 and I am definitely noticing him reading with increased frequency and accuracy outside of the program. His confidence has certainly increased as well and he's not even half way finished with the program.

My husband has hooked up an extra hard drive to our television and now Hunter is able to actually do his Headsprout lessons from his favorite spot in the house... lounging on the giant red bean bag chair.
I personally love everything about the program. But my favorite part is that it is fun and simple and doesn't require any paper or pencil. Hunter is not a fan of writing and I think it's great that this program focuses totally on reading because he's not particularly ready for writing. So, he doesn't leave the lessons frustrated.

I'm not familiar with phonics in general so I cannot critique their technique of introducing blending or other important aspects of learning to read phonetically. However, I can say that I was impressed with how quickly Hunter was practicing to read real words. He didn't just practice sounds for a while before he applied what he'd learned to actually reading a book. Instead, he was immediately learning to read real words and that seemed to motivate and encourage him.

Another thing I've noticed is that he retained what he had learned despite large gaps in his practice. At times he went weeks without viewing an episode and this doesn't seem to have set him back in the least. He was able to pick right back up where he left off. I would imagine that this is not the way that the program was designed but since we have had extenuating circumstances (and others reading this review might have similar circumstances) I was quite relieved that Hunter didn't seem to "lose" any of the information he'd received during the earlier lessons. This means he actually learned the information!

Hunter's take on Headsprout so far?

What's your favorite thing about Headsprout? It's not long. (the episodes are not long)
What is your favorite character or world that you have visited so far? Dinosaurs!
Do you feel like you have improved in reading a little, a medium amount, or a lot since starting Headsprout? A medium amount (and I would agree)

We will continue to update you on Hunter's progress as he works toward episode 80. In the meantime, you can check out another review of the program at Living and Learning. Their experience has been different and will give a different perspective.

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