MaxScholar Review: An Orton-Gillingham Program

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

With our 5-year-old, Peter, still not reading fluently (normal! I know! But out of the ordinary for our kids so far.), I was interested in trying out MaxScholar, for their MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software.
While we had a lot of technical difficulties at first, once the updates to the program went through, Peter and I both had a much easier time making this work. Here's what we liked, and what didn't work for us.

I think the tactile portion of the program is very strong - Peter really enjoyed "writing" the letters on the tablet using his finger (and often had to be reminded to stay on task, because he had so much fun drawing other random things with his finger). My husband remarked that this seemed completely worthless, because he could just use a paper and pencil. But no! I explained to him that this is a "pre-writing" skill that is much more attainable for younger children who might not have the muscle strength to hold a pencil properly or form letters correctly yet. This has been a struggle for Peter, and we haven't really focused on it much because I don't think he's developmentally there quite yet. So he was really pleased with the tactile element of MaxScholar, and it definitely provided a big boost in confidence for him.

Below you can see him writing a lower case "f":

The functionality of the program was sometimes lacking, as certain buttons to progress were only available if the screen was rotated, and sometimes the scrolling function stopped working until we rotated the screen multiple times. This was frustrating, but Peter worked through it pretty quickly. Before the updates to the program came through, we couldn't finish working through any letters, because the button to progress wasn't available regardless of our screen orientation. So the program updates were a big improvement!

There is a reading comprehension component, but Peter and I were both a little confused about how that worked. He knew how to read most of the words in the exercises, but found the process tiring, so we mostly focused on the Phonics portion of things.

Peter has really been enjoying his time using MaxScholar, but I haven't seen very quick progress with this program, as compared to others that we've used.

Peter took a placement test at the beginning of his studies, but he was learning how to press the correct buttons and often got overly excited and accidentally hit the screen when he wasn't intending to, which ended up with him getting marked "wrong" on quite a few terms that he has had mastered for months. In the teacher section, I was able to manually override his settings so that he could move on to consonant blends, but even when he got to those, the process was exactly the same for every single group, and there was no moving on into sounding out actual words. Considering how much he had already been working on putting his skills to use sounding out real words (and how excited he was with that progress!), this really felt like a step backwards for us.

The teacher area makes it easy to see student progress, though it would be interesting to me if it saved examples of a student's tactile work as well, to see progress in that area. Peter's energy definitely flagged after completing 2-3 short sessions, and the promise of getting to do one of the available games if he worked without getting distracted was a huge bonus! It was exactly the motivation he needed, though some of the games were a bit beyond his skill level.

After the tactile component, I think Peter's favorite section was the auditory component. I wish that the program had the words spelled out under the pictures, because I think that would have made things more interesting (and sometimes a little easier) for a child who is learning to sound out words.

I don't think MaxScholar is a program that works for our needs right now, but I could see it being really helpful for students who need extra support learning individual letter sounds and blends! It's easy for a student to use relatively independently, and the prospect of being able to play the phonics games is a major motivator.

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  1. Hey Rosie, Meg's old pal Amanda here. She told me about your bread tutorials (which I'm looking forward to trying!) but on arrival here I saw your reading post. If you're still looking for something that fits, we have loved Logic of English in our home. Really wonderful and fun. She has some free resources online now due to the pandemic, but also a full curriculum or a la carte options. Virtual hugs to you all!

    1. I have heard really good things about Logic of English! I feel so badly for Peter, like I should have figured out how to teach reading properly by now... I've been so spoiled by the other kids teaching themselves!!


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