Wednesday, June 8, 2016

We Gave MaxScholar a Try

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

With a struggling reader, I have often heard of the "Orton-Gillingham approach" and the "Lindamood-Bell Process" and wondered if such things might help my child succeed.  Thus,when I was offered an opportunity to review the MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs by MaxScholar, I took it.  My hope was that by pairing MaxGuru with some other recent ELA work my children and I have been doing, my daughter might finally "take off" with reading. 

Since I also have a kindergartner who is learning to read, I was happy that I was given the chance to add a second child to the one year license for MaxGuru that we received as well.  I had high hopes that
MaxScholar would be a complete win for both of my younger children.

What Is MaxScholar?

MaxScholar is an online program which can be used on a tablet or computer and is intended for students in grades K-12  who struggle with reading due to Dyslexia, ADHD, learning disabilities, and more. It uses a multi-sensory approach which incorporates the "Five Pillars of Reading":

  • Phonetic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

Within MaxScholar are:

  • MaxPhonics - This sections uses the Orton-Gillingham method to teach the basics of phonics. (The method, I find, is sound, but in an online format, did not appeal to my children as much as I hoped it would.)
  • MaxReading –This section uses the Lindamood-Bell process to teaching reading comprehension.  (My two younger children are not advanced enough in their reading to read passages from this section, but my older child is and may use this section later on.)
  • MaxWords – This section focuses on spelling, prefixes, suffixes, and Latin and Greek roots.  (We did not explore this section much.)
  • MaxVocab – This section allows students to play games with new words. (This section drew my children's interest.)
  • MaxBio – This section exercises reading skills through reading biographies.  (This section is way above my younger two children's reading levels, but I noted biographies of interest in it nonetheless.)
  • MaxMusic –This section uses song lyrics to teach ELA and also allows students to have fun doing such things as playing on an on-screen piano.  (Because MaxScholar is made for a wide range of homeschoolers and "regular schoolers" some of the artists highlighted are pop ones I would not encourage my children to explore.  Others are classical ones, etc.)
  • MaxPlaces – This section focuses on reading while learning about different places around the world.  (We did not explore this section much, but plan to in conjunction with future geography studies with my oldest.)

Our Experience

With such a wide variety of menu items to learn and practice reading skills with, you would think MaxScholar would be a hit for most children.   However, I have to be honest, the program did not win my two youngest over.

My youngest, at five, was complacent about using MaxScholar most days and could even manage it on his own sometimes.  However, he never asked to use it, and, when he was asked to use it, just before he logged in , healways made sure to set a timer so he would not have to stay on the program a minute longer than he was required to so.  (We do most online things for 15 minutes in a sitting.  For some things, my youngest conveniently forgets to set a timer or asks if he can have more time.  Not so for MaxScholar.)

Sometimes, my son worked on MaxScholar on one of our laptops by himself.  Sometimes my husband, a sibling, or myself sat nearby to help.  All the time, he moved along with exercises at a fairly steady pace. 

As our review period drew to a close, I asked my youngest what he thought about MaxScholar.  He said:

I like the word games.  I do not like anything else, except where you draw the letters.

I could use it by myself, but had a hard time sometimes, so Mom helped me. 

It helped me learn spelling and reading.   

I don't want to use it anymore.  It's not really that fun and it does not help me much.  I like other things better.

So be it.  As a former ELA teacher and current tutor, as I sat next to my youngest child, I could see how the methods employed by the phonics portion of MaxScholar were sound, but they simply were not interesting enough to ignite a desire in my son to continue the program.  

MaxScholar is also not something that my daughter wants to continue.

My daughter, at eight is a struggling reader who cheered when I told her it was time for me to write our MaxScholar review, because she knew that meant she would not have to continue with the program any longer.  For, more than once during our review period, I reminded my daughter that we had made a commitment to try the program and that we needed to honor that commitment.  The program might not be a favorite for her, but it is sound, and, given a chance, might help her.  Many children are helped by it... Her response to such reminders was, "Not me!"  And, frankly, I have to agree. 

While MaxScholar is based on solid methods and presents them in a logical way, which, as former ELA teacher and a current tutor, I can see benefiting many children, as a parent, I have to admit my child is not one of the children that the program can help.

Between the time when I agreed to reviewing MaxScholar and when we began it, my daughter and I had a heart-to-heart about resources and she told me that most online things "just aren't my style." However, we also talked about how some online things can be quite helpful and that, since she wants to improve some skills, we could keep trying some.  Thus, when we first logged onto MaxScholar she was willing to give it a go.

Her willingness quickly dissipated the clipped phonics sounds in the audio proved hard for her to decipher.  Our remedy for that was for me to repeat the sounds the computer spoke.  Still, we were off to a bad start.

Another day, we tried a placement test, which I admit, we never completed, because she disliked it so and there are only so many battles a mom can handle in a day.

Still another day, I introduced my daughter to the games and music sections. These were more of a draw for her, so I used them as a carrot for the phonics work sometimes (but did not let her play around in the music section too much, because, as I previously mentioned, I did not like all the artists presented in it.)

In the end, when I asked my daughter for thoughts to share about MaxScholar, she said:

Some of it was too easy.  Some of it was too hard.  Some of it was too confusing. 

I did not like the lady, my teacher.  Her sounds were hard to understand.  My mom had to sit next to me and tell me the sounds. 

The only good thing was the games.  The real games.  Hangman.  The music game.  That type of thing.  The other things where you had to do letters were not real games.  They said they were games, but they were not, so I did not like them. 

I do not think it helped me and I am not continuing

So, as you can see, even though my daughter struggles with reading, she does not struggle to make her opinion known, and it is not from the wind that she gets that. 

Could MaxScholar Be a Good Fit for You?

I tend to be clear with my opinions, too.  Thus, I want to close out this review by saying that even though MaxScholar was not a hit with my youngest son, nor my daughter, it is not a bad program.  In fact, now that our review period for the program is over and my two younger children do not want to use the program, I might give my oldest son free reign with one of their log-ins.  I have a feeling that my son, who is an online learning aficionado will enjoy some of the more advanced readings within the program, and his enjoyment of them will make the remainder of our one-year license worthwhile.

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

I also would add that 90 Schoolhouse Review families checked out MaxScholar and some met with HUGE SUCCESS!  Just because the program was not a good fit for my children, does not mean it will not be for yours.  So, do be sure to check out the other reviews and even to try a free trial.

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