Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.
One thing I decided to do differently with school this year was to try out different ways of doing Language Arts. I’m not totally happy with the course we’ve been using for several years now, so I decided to phase it out and, instead, use programs I get for review, instead. When we were offered a subscription to LightSail for Homeschoolers, I thought this sounded perfect. Lots of reading practice, writing practice, spelling…everything included. For the first week we had access to it, Mr. Sweetie, Mr. Imagination and Little Miss all loved it. They spent a lot of time exploring the books that were available to read. Since then, their enthusiasm has petered out a fair amount, but they are still using it several times a week.
The core of this program is Reading. The Premium subscription, which is what the two boys have been using, contains more than 12,000 books! That means that anyone should be able to find books that appeal to them. I have found it fascinating to see what my boys have chosen. I knew that Mr. Imagination was interested in animals, but I had no idea how much he would be interested in books with lots of factual information about unusual animals. Most of the books he chose to read were picture books with lots and lots of information in short snippets. His favorite was Nature’s Ninjas: Animals With Spectacular Skills, and he wished there were a lot more like that one! Mr. Sweetie had a harder time finding books that appealed to him. It did help when I reset his grade level, from Grade 6, which he is currently in, to Grade 3. That helped him find more books that were a bit simpler; he struggles with reading. Both boys very quickly found the feature that reads books to them—they liked that much better than reading for themselves!
LightSail is “lexile driven.” This means that each book is rated for the exact reading level, based on vocabulary. The first thing that each of the children did when they started this program was to take a test to determine their exact reading/comprehension level. They would read a sentence or two or a paragraph, and then select a word, from four choices, to complete a summary sentence. This let the program know what type of books to offer. Throughout the books they read or had read to them, they frequently ran into what LightSail calls “clozes.” These are places where a blue box replaces a word in the book, and four choices are given. The child has to select the one that fits best. Based on their answers, the program updates their Lexile level every 15 days. I just checked the data on my three children; two of them went up and down over the course of the six weeks we used this program! Here is a screenshot of one of the questions one of them had.
The parental controls are very good with this program. Many books require permission from a parent before the child can read them; this frustrated Mr. Imagination because he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to read a book about wolves, for example! Many times, that was simply because LightSail hadn’t yet checked out the book to make sure there was nothing objectionable in it. However, once it was actually about werewolves, so I was quite glad that I could decline permission on that one.
Other than reading books, there are three other areas that LightSail offers instruction for. We didn’t end up using these areas. One is Writing. There are several different kinds of writing that are offered, but I couldn’t figure out how to assign them. One is apparently accessed by clicking a button when completing a book, but I was never in the right place at the right time to get anyone to do that (imagine… my boys didn’t choose to do a writing assignment!).
Vocabulary is another area of study. This seems to only be activated when a child chooses the wrong answer when doing a cloze. The correct word is studied in several different ways. Once again, we didn’t use this feature much at all—I think I had Little Miss look at it one day, and she couldn’t make heads or tails out of it!
There is also Fluency. From what I saw about it in the information, the child reads a passage into a microphone, and then the parent listens and marks their mistakes. I didn’t even try doing this, because we don’t have a microphone that works with my computer. Anyway, we do oral reading practice every day, anyway.
Little Miss had a different subscription than the boys did. Hers is called World Book Kids, and is for her age group. She has had access to all sorts of fun books about animals. She enjoyed books about pandas, platypuses, flamingoes and many others, and also some books about a dog who gets himself into trouble and learns lessons. In addition to choosing the correct word for a cloze, she also has comprehension questions. She struggles a bit with those, since she hasn’t been able to get them read aloud to her and she doesn’t understand all the words yet. She still loves using the program, and hearing all sorts of fun picture books read to her! Here are a couple of screenshots from her pages.
There are many other resources available on this site that we haven’t used. The World Book Encyclopedia is on here, and timelines and maps from World Book, as well. One tab has thousands of videos on all sorts of topics, and another has livestreams from places around the world. We decided not to use these, because we were running out of data on our plan, and the livestreams we did look at were pretty boring. That was because of time zones—it is night where most of them are when it’s day here!
So, what do we think of this program? Mr. Sweetie has made it clear that he is no longer interested in it. He would rather read to himself from other books than try to use this program; he wants simpler books than he is offered here. Mr. Imagination likes it, but he has a hard time finding exactly the right book. Little Miss loves it! I think there is a lot of potential here, but it’s not for us. As I keep learning, over and over again, computer programs don’t work as well for us as print books or PDFs that I can print out. I am glad we used this, because it taught me a lot about Mr. Imagination’s interests in books! Now I know better what kind of books to look for at secondhand shops, to catch his interest. Have a look for yourself; this program might be just what you need! Read more reviews by clicking on the image below.