If you’ve been looking into literacy apps for your kid, then chances are that you’ve heard of the Learn with Homer app…
Homer is a very popular app for learning to read… But:
Is it worth it? Is it the right choice for your child? How much does it cost? Does it cover anything else apart from literacy?
This review addresses all of these questions. By the end of the article, I think you will have a clear understanding of what to expect when you download the app, and will be able to tell whether this app is the right choice for your child or not!
*Affiliate disclosure: This post may include affiliate links, meaning I could get a little commission if you buy from them, at no additional cost to you. This helps keep the information on this blog free and available to everyone.
What is Homer Reading App?
I was really curious and excited about the Homer App because it is actually not a game, but a program in itself that -according to the creators of the app- follows an explicit, systematic, sequential curriculum.
This is something that I like, because research (and personal experience) really shows that this is the most effective method for teaching children to read.
I will clarify the terms though, because it is full of so many big words… However, these terms are, in reality, really simple to understand!
- Explicit meaning that the teacher (in this case, the app) will teach sound and letter correspondences to children in a direct manner. As opposed to a non-explicit approach, which relies on the student’s ability to work out the relationships between sounds and letters through repeated exposure.
- Systematic meaning that it is a planned approach (it follows a system).
- Sequential meaning that it follows an order.
If you really want to understand even more about the Synthetic Phonics approach for teaching children to read, I recommend you read this post.
The idea is that this app takes children into a set path that starts with the introduction of a letter sound and its correspondent letter name and graphic representation, and moves towards reading and spelling words with that sound in conjunction with other sounds that the child has already mastered.
The app also places a lot of importance on Phonemic Awareness.
Phonemic Awareness is the ability of hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds in words.
For instance, the word ‘cat’ is formed by the individual sounds /k/ /a/ /t/. Someone with Phonemic Awareness can easily identify these 3 sounds, but also knows that when you add, replace or delete one of its sounds you can get new words (for instance, ‘cats’ is formed by adding a new sound, ‘mat’ is formed by replacing the initial sound, ‘at’ is formed by deleting the initial sound…).
It is worth mentioning that the app allows for a great deal of customisation…
During the registration process, you are asked a series of questions about your child’s age, knowledge of numbers and letters, but also about your child’s taste (is he/she into unicorns, princesses, cars, etc.) in order to make the experience more personal and in line with the child’s personality.
My experience with the Homer Reading App
The foundations of the app seemed great, but did it live up to the expectations I had?
Well, yes and no…
I found that the path that was set for my older child was a little bit too basic for her level.
Don’t take me wrong…
The principles were right: the activities focused on letter names and letter sounds, she had lots of opportunities to develop Phonemic Awareness, for blending sounds into words, to practice spelling, to practice sight words, but the materials on her reading path were not challenging enough for her.
So, what did I do?
I also have a toddler (3 years old at the moment)… She knows some letter names and sounds, but really very few. I am aware I haven’t been working with her enough on this, and I haven’t been consistent enough.
In fact, setting time to consistently sit with her and work on this has been on my to-do list for a while, but you as parents know how it’s like.
Besides, I have been trying to work out the right way to do it with her, because she still has little attention span. It really has to be in a way that is really fun and engaging for her!
So, I thought: “Maybe this app can help me with that first initial step of teaching letter names and letter sounds at the same time, and with helping her develop Phonemic Awareness”…
I decided to create a second profile (the Homer app allows for up to 4 different profiles under the same account), for a 3-year-old, that only knew a few letters, and waited for Homer to see the reading path it set up for her.
The path this time was appropriate for her level.
I like how much emphasis it puts on sounds.
Children are not only presented to this is the letter A, but ‘this is the letter A, it makes the ahh sound’ and now… Let’s practice!
For instance, an activity could be (after being introduced to a sound) tapping on the words that contain that specific sound.
Another activity could be to repeat the specific sound after the cute red monkey that gives the instructions on the app.
If you want to watch specific examples of these activities, I suggest you watch this Youtube video about Learn with Homer.
Specific examples around minute 5:20!
My toddler is still using the app on a consistent basis. Actually, she uses it almost daily, and she asks for it… She actually says: ‘Can I have my letters class?’.
I have noticed she is definitely learning about letters and sounds.
She also enjoys the other parts of the app: They have dozen stories, the creativity activities, and educational games. She even loves the maths part. Yes, there is a maths part as well!
These other parts, as the name says, are games and stories, but they are educational.
For instance, I was watching one story with her, and it was all about learning about the concept of dividing things equally. On this particular story she was presented with a couple of activities were she had to divide a number of objects equally. It was all done pretty nicely and in a very fun way for the child.
Homer uses American English. That might be something you appreciate, you don’t mind or you even don’t want… Just wanted to make you aware!
In our case, it’s not the accent we are most used to in our environment, but my kids are super used to it from watching cartoons and television so it wasn’t confusing for them. They didn’t mind at all.
I like that the app has a 30-day free-trial, so you can actually see what is all about, and check if the app is actually the right choice for your child.
After that, the app is $9.99 a month.
However, if you go for the annual subscription, you can save quite a lot. The monthly subscription will work out for less than $5 / month! (total of $59.99 per year).
If you have a young child that needs to learn about letter names and sounds, and develop Phonemic Awareness, Homer could be a very useful tool to set up the right foundations that they need to become fluent readers.
Of course, this should be in combination to working with them. But you won’t need to set so much time aside, and do all the hard work all by yourself with your toddler. This app can support you in that way.