Night Zookeeper- a Review
My review of the online language arts program for kids, what it offers, and if it's worth checking out as a homeschool supplement!
Is Night Zookeeper worth checking out? I think so! (especially since they have a free 7-day trial) but read on to see why I like it, and if it's something that you think might work for your own kiddos.
Let me start out by mentioning that NZK (Night Zookeeper) reached out to me, to ask if I'd be interested in trying it out and being a part of their affiliate team. I had actually been thinking about trying it out, on my own, after seeing some ads for it, so I was excited to get the opportunity to check it out.
As a quick overview, NZK mentions on their site that "after the children create their first animal, they will begin to receive age-appropriate automatic writing and quiz challenges that they must complete, as they create and collect more animals, and grow their Night Zoo!"
Upon logging in, it will prompt the child to create an animal via a drawing program (think a step up from MS Paint) and then it will walk them through a series of prompts to describe and name the animal. This, alone, was great typing practice for my 7yr old who had not had much exposure to typing yet. It also calls out needed corrections, such as capital letters and complete sentences even in this space.
Once they have the animal, it will begin giving them the challenges that they can work through. I did find them to be very age-appropriate in the adjustments that it made for both of my kiddos (10 and 7). It asked more complex questions of the 10yr old, and gave him more questions to answer about his animals than for the 7yr old.
My 7yr old definitely found it harder to focus on the writing challenges, but luckily they are able to move around the site on their own and I found the games offered also provided a lot of opportunity for him in language arts learning. In just a short amount of time, he had practiced spelling, typing, sentence structure, and reviewed common nouns and adjectives. I could actually see him progressing, and he was even picking typing up really quickly just from the questions on the animal creation portion.
They have 5 different areas they can choose from, if they want to move around the site on their own. The 10yr old likes to go straight to the Writing area, to see what prompts and challenges they have open currently. He's really motivated by contests, and they offer fun challenges and contests in the writing area, that they can choose to participate in. That's an easy way for him to get sucked into the writing aspect.
They also offer "Orbs" for the kids to earn as they move through the challenges and prompts (those are also a big motivator for my 10yr old. The 7yr old couldn't care less). They can win orbs during challenges, or also from the writing prompts...for example, they can earn more orbs by meeting specific criteria in their piece like 3 adverbs, using exclamation marks or certain question words. I felt like this was a really intuitive way for the system to gently nudge them into building complexity into their pieces, and exploring differing types of sentence structure. The orbs are used to get more animals for their zoo and to customize them. We haven't really explored this yet, but they still like earning them!
In addition to the Writing area, they can choose from Challenges, Lessons, Games and Projects. As I mentioned, the 7yr old is really drawn to the games area (shocker) but I do felt like they offered a lot of actual learning within each game, which isn't necessarily true of a lot of "learning" games, in my opinion.
I like the Lessons area as well, which offers video lessons on different LA topics, rounded out by questions which are a mix of reading comprehension and language skills. The videos are geared towards different focuses, such as adjectives, character descriptions or proper nouns, for example.
Both kiddos find it really engaging and they both want to keep going, every time they hop on. I feel like there are so many different opportunities to explore and play, that it really does work well for a variety of age and skill levels. It's not a complete curriculum, but could be a really great supplement to build on skills or round out the curriculum that you are using. It's also a great tool to have in your back pocket for days when you're too under the weather to teach, or it's just been one of those weeks...and you can feel good about them spending some time having fun while actually building on their language arts skills. I think we can't discount having a few options like that, as homeschoolers.
I do feel that the site overall is lacking a little cohesiveness, and it can be a little confusing to navigate between prompts and challenges. But since you can easily choose your own areas to visit instead, I think that's easily overcome and doesn't detract too much from the overall positive experience we have with it.
When I opened the site up to jot down a few last notes, in fact, both kiddos were over my shoulder within minutes, asking if they could get on when I was done. I don't think I can give it a better testimony than that.
**If you want to give it a try yourself, my link will get you 50% off of the yearly subscription, after the 7-day free trial! https://www.nightzookeeper.com/en-us/parents/special_offers/1?referrer=thehiphomelife **