MaxScholar Review: Online Orton-Gillingham Software for Home Use



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.

Does your child struggle with phonics, comprehending what they've read, or understanding new vocabulary terms? MaxScholar aims to help parents and teachers with several tools for reading and phonics through their MaxScholar Orton-Gillingham Software.

What's Orton-Gillingham?

The MaxScholar program is inspired by the method of using audio, visual, and kinesthetic (touch) instruction in a step-by-step manner to achieve grapheme and phoneme connection. In clearer terms, their software helps kids learn how letters combine to create sounds and words, and it uses a variety of fun and engaging exercises to do it.



How does the program work?

There is a lot to become familiar with when starting out. To be honest, it can be a bit overwhelming, so I was happy that I was provided with some instructional videos to help me know the best way to get the most out of the program.

To start, there are two versions of the learning software, one for student use in the home, and the other for classroom use. The classroom version comes with a teacher dashboard to monitor progress, look for trends, and help plan based on the child's individual learning needs. The home version just includes the student account, but I found it to be adequate for what we used the program for.



Upon using the program for the first time, you'll see it has three program components:

  • MaxPhonics, which introduces kids to letter sounds and teaches them patterns in  phonics to help them both sound out new words and become familiar with repeated words in the English language
  • MaxReading, a more robust offering, which guides children through the basics of reading for comprehension, finding the most important parts of a reading passage, and helping them to summarize and communicate what they have read
  • MaxWords, a vocabulary program that gives kids access to a variety of words and word uses, which I think could also make a fine spelling alternative
Which program you start with will depend on the age and stage of your child, but there is a placement test available to help you know where to start. 

In addition to the three major "core" offerings, there are some nice extras, such as MaxMusic. In this activity, kids pick a song from favorite artists, then follow the directions, such as find all the verbs in the song lyrics. We don't listen to a lot of modern Top 40 music, but it was a perfect example of how MaxScholar tries to meet kids at their level and engage them in reading methodology without making it seem like work.





There are also MaxBios, MaxPlaces, and plenty of games within each module (my son's favorite part.)

How did we use the MaxScholar program?

First, we picked a level that we thought my son would read at. To be honest, he is 10 and reads at an 8th grade level, but his spelling and writing is at a 3rd grade level, so we picked 3rd grade. We were presented with stories (or chapters) to choose from a grouping of categories like "household chores" and "ethnic foods", and I helped him select one that I thought he would like. (Note that this program can be used as much as or little as you like within each activity. If you, as the parent, would like them to skip an activity or a story selection, you can.)



Within the story screen, you'll be prompted to find all the highlighted vocabulary words. When the child clicks on them, they'll get a definition. 


Next, the child will be prompted to read the text. (Prompts are always presented in both visual and textual form.)

Then, the child can do a highlighting activity that helps them learn about the topic, main idea, and important details.

Then, the software will grade your child and give them a score, along with the right answers. (Note: I did this quickly as an example, hence the zero percent.)


Next, the child is prompted to write an outline. After that, they can practice their writing exercises by answering their choice of three types of questions: open-ended, summary, or general.

If they get an answer wrong, they are prompted to go back to the text (but they don't have to.) After the questions are done, they'll receive a score for the entire set of chapter exercises. As you can see from the photo below, when I quickly went through a chapter to show you how it works, I entered a lot of wrong answers.



I was given an F and encouraged to go back and relearn. Games aren't unlocked until you get a passing score, so for kids who are motivated by the games (like my child), this could be a way to get them to go back and fix their work.

The teacher dashboard gives you some flexibility, but it took some time to learn and set up. Here is what you see when you login:


What did we like about it?

I really liked that this program used visual and auditory prompts. The directions were very clear, so my child had no questions on what to do next. After doing a few of the chapters, we had a rhythm, so he knew what to expect and was able to prepare for each phase of the learning.

The games were very rewarding. There was a version of hangman that my son enjoyed, as well as a word search. I liked that he was learning even as he was playing.

The teacher dashboard (if you go that route) is very comprehensive. I didn't have to sit beside my son the entire time while he was learning. While I did help him through the first few times, after that, he was on his own, and I could just check in through the dashboard and adjust settings or lessons as needed.

(Note that you can skip some of the exercise components, such as outlining, but this can only be done through the teacher dashboard. If you get the home version, your child will need to progress through all the activities within a chapter.)

We liked that we could pick and choose what chapters to read. Learning about other foods and places was a treat! We could prioritize topics that coincided with other subjects we are studying in our home school.

This is a comprehensive learning program with much overlap between the "programs." The MaxReading, for example, covers vocabulary and allows for sounding out and auditory support, so there's a phonics component, as well. As the child progresses, all three learning cores are continually emphasized.

Who does it work for?

This program works well for someone who wants a completely computer-guided reading solution. If you're more of a hands-off teacher or are short on time, you can get a quality reading/phonics/vocab solution in one. This program might not work well for someone who wants to have more input into their child's assessment, however. In the highlighting exercise, for example, I had issues with a few of the examples that the software suggested were the "important details" of the text, and there was no way for me to grade my child based on my own understanding of it. 

Since I had the teacher access, however, I could turn off the required highlighting activities in my dashboard. 




Given the choice, I think I would like to have kept the activity, but have some control to override the grading. 

As someone who writes professionally for a living and understands that there can be nuance in these types of lessons, I found the rigidity of the grading a bit outside of my teaching style. For the typical parent who is not as interested in sharing their experience with writing and language learning, this is the best choice. 

Summary of our MaxScholar Review experience

This high-quality, user-friendly program will get your kids well on their way to better reading comprehension, with a positive side effect of learning about the world around them. For those seeking a hands-off approach to language arts, this is a solid pick. Get the best experience through the Classroom version, which gives you a teacher dashboard to check up on your child, as well as give you the ability to skip exercises as you wish.

Where can you learn more?


MaxScholar has an active presence on several social media channels. Follow their updates and get advice for implementing their program at their accounts on:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest

You can also check out their website or read what other reviewers had to see in these homeschool reviews of MaxScholar.

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