Sunday, 24 March 2013

Reading Eggs

(disclaimer -this is a sponsored blog post for  an extra long free trial of Reading Eggs. Though, I’d write the same without any incentive)

We home ed, and have a 7 yr old and 4 yr old who weren’t too interested in reading. Throw in a bit of parental angst, and I decided to have a little look at Reading Eggs. We’ve heard good things about it over the years from Real Life friends, and bits on forums, but I’ve been reticent about encouraging screen time for learning. Call me old fashioned, but I feel kids lives should involve more movement than clicking the mouse. When we are discussing things I’m usually quite distracted by the bouncing child I’m talking to- apart from screen time and sleeping, one especially doesn’t do ‘still’.
Anyway, I got onto it and it was easy to sign up for the free trial, then add extensions with a promo code- here’s one I can give to you UKB24MBT for an extra 3 weeks. You can use up to two promotional codes a year, so if you get googling for another you may be in luck.
I’ve been quite glad for the longer free trial, simply because the girls go in fits and starts. Sometimes they have a couple of days of wanting to do a lot, then a week of not touching the website. Overall though, its a hit.
I deliberately didn’t work too hard at finding my way around the site, so the girls have had to find things for themselves. For quite a while the lessons were the main interest,and the eggs were interesting just for themselves. It wasn’t too long before personalising their avatar,and finding the shop so they could spend eggs became really exciting, as has the music cafe where they can enjoy the songs again, and again, and again (ok, they thrive on the repetition but I don’t. We do resort to headphones at times).
They encourage each other- if one fancies some Reading Eggs time, the other often will want to do the same (we luckily have some old laptops from DH’s previous ‘life’ as an IT geek) so they can both be on Reading Eggs at the same time if they want. They also watch each other working on it, with helpful co-operation appearing at times. Flower (age 4) isn’t so hot with touchpad ‘mouse’ functions, so for the timed activities she likes either an adult or big sister to help with the clicking- but yesterday she actually did it all, all by herself with her grown up just sitting close.
Flower started right at the beginning, and Princess did the test to suggest a good place to start. They have both completed entire maps (about 10 lessons per map) and enjoy moving along the maps. The basic technique used is Phonics. I don’t pretend to know a lot about different reading schemes, just that there are some- but as this is working for the girls I haven’t needed to look further.
At the starting levels, some areas are locked so Flower can’t access some areas that Princess can. Though, to be quite honest Princess hasn’t wanted to explore those areas so it hasn’t been an issue (I understand as you work through the levels different parts become unlocked- Flower has big padlocks and greyed out icons in her screen).
We’re just running out of free trial time, and we are definitely going to have to pay for the girls to continue using it.
They are enjoying the progression and similar styles to the various lessons as they go along,so they can anticipate what is required, and of course many of the instructions are verbal as well as/or instead of written.
So, what to criticise? Well, I’m not keen on rewards (Eggs), but the girls obviously are. I suppose I have not forced them into using the program, so if they find it too much pressure they can walk away. This isn’t particular to Reading Eggs, just any reward based system (I’ve been reading about motivation, can you tell?).
The free trial really is too short. Kids have a lot of things in their lives- 2 weeks just isn’t long enough to explore and try out whats on offer with Reading Eggs. Honestly, if I hadn’t found the extra promo codes we wouldn’t have known the girls enjoy it enough to pay for. We haven’t got there yet, but I have heard mixed reviews about Reading Eggspress (for 7-13 yrs)  from friends with older kids. Princess only has a couple of maps left to do, so I’m hopeful she will enjoy Reading Eggspress as well. Flower (aged 4) as I mentioned, struggled with using the computer controls for activities against the clock- I guess it may be easier with a real mouse rather than a touchpad, but we don’t routinely have one accessible these days. It wasn’t a problem for us, but she also had a while of absolutely loving to hear the response when she gave an incorrect answer. She knew it was incorrect, but enjoyed the reply so much she deliberately went through giving wrong answers. The eggs weren’t important enough to her to make her spoil her fun!
There are books, flashcards and things you can buy to accompany the website, but we haven’t felt the need to get anything.
I signed up to this for the benefit of Princess, and expected Flower to be interested too. At 4, I feel she is a bit too young for any activity encouraging screen time, but we won’t be stopping her. Likewise, if she loses interest in it, I won’t be pushing her to keep at it. Flower actually has more interest in reading from books than Princess did at this age (this started before we got Reading Eggs, but has continued). Different temperaments shining through.

The girls enjoy it because its fun, and know they are picking up some useful information along the way. I’m happy that they are having fun, and I can see the difference in their reading. Princess isn’t just watching me type or read emails, she is reading bits of what I am doing (hmm, not always helpful!) and Flower is reading to Rainbow. No pressure, no hassle from an anxious parent- so I reckon Reading Eggs is worth it just for that!

The parent anxiety isn’t helpful at all really- that’s just the pressure I feel from having non-home edding family and friends who still expect National Curriculum to happen at home. Or, make comments how Princess isn’t reading well, and if she was at school... Well, if she was at school she might be part of the 17 % who leave school with inadequate readingand writing skills. This way, they are having fun, and will read (what they want) when they is ready. 
Overall I think Reading Eggs is working pretty well for us.

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