Learn with Homer is a comprehensive literacy experience presented on the iPad for children ages 3- to 6-years old. The initial product includes a mix of 24 stories, folklore, poems, rhymes, folksongs, with 30 “Learn to Read” lessons and 33 “Discover” lessons focusing on nonfiction topics and vocabulary. Most important: it supports phonemic awareness, classic literature, and integration of non-fiction texts that boost vocabulary and critical thinking.
The name is a shout-out to the Greek poet, Homer. The app has transmuted the classic poet into a clever mascot and main character, namely a pigeon poet named Homer.
Learn with Homer principally targets parents and their young children. The company CEO, Stephany Dua, notes it’s easier to get feedback and iterate with parents than it is with schools; it’s tough for a small edtech company to address both the parent and school markets well. And finally, Dua asserts that parents should be driving the kind of change in school programs that support teachers. Give parents a comprehensive literacy tool, she says, and they can become “real partners” in their children’s early education and even advocate for education quality.
There are four main segments of Learn with Homer along with the Hat
Shop where kids can put on a “thinking cap” for their learning journey:
Learn to Read: This sequential section is aligned to Kindergarten Common Core Standards. Children can go slowly and repeat skills as needed; along the way, they complete challenges. There is a strong phonemic awareness component with multiple levels in all for kindergarten. Although the initial version of Homer will have only five levels, Dua plans to release 17 more levels once she sees how children work through the initial ones.
A killer feature is an interactive element that lets students view a video of how to pronounce a letter sound and then record themselves emulating that skill. In this section, phonemic awareness skills are woven together into literature with a poem, which further integrates the skills.
At the end of each lesson, students are prompted with a
question that encourages them to complete a recording and a drawing.
These creations are captured on a child’s “pinboard,” which they can
retrieve in Homer’s Clubhouse. Parents can see and comment on these
creative gems on the website in a way that keeps the “parent view”
completely separate from the child’s adventure.
Discover the World: Children encounter non-fiction segments aimed at helping them build vocabulary and knowledge, a key component of the Common Core Standards.
segments are included via thematic packs featuring six lessons a piece.
Dua describes the app as both “linear and non-linear,” weaving into
lessons the nonfiction piece with the characters, asserting that
powerful learning occurs across domains.
Homer’s Clubhouse: This is where kids can create artwork and store recordings accessible also on the parent website. Parents can leave voice and written comments for their children.
Story time: This library of
classic literature unlocks stories as children progress through the
lessons. Dua says she wants the illustrations of classics to have the
same punch as the popular media children currently experience. While
Homer houses 24 poems, folk songs, folk tales, and original stories,
myths and fairy tales will be part of future releases.
The initial product, which debuted in August 2013, featured only modest support for writing:
Dua expected that by September 2013, students will be able to trace
words on the “drawpad” where they currently respond to lesson prompts.
Eighty printable worksheets on the parent website will provide some
some additional writing skills practice.
The pricing of the initial version of Learn with Homer better suits families than it does classrooms: The free app features 30 lessons including two
"Learn to Read" levels and two "Discover the World" packs. Up to three
children can use one account. Homer’s "Clubhouse" is free, and includes
storage for up to 500 recordings and drawings per child. Additional
content is available via In-App purchase, bundled as “levels” each for
$1.99 and “packs” with a discounted price of $5.99 for multi-pack
By contrast, teachers would need a way to register 20 to 30 students as well
as a dashboard to track progress.
Learning Specialist, Yellin Center for Mind, Brain and Education, New York
I have used this tool with several students. I often have children who come to me with early reading challenges. Specifically difficulty learning their sound-symbol correspondence, early decoding skills/word attack, sight word mastery and comprehension. Parents are often eager to provide support at home or in a child's downtime. However children who are struggling readers will already have a lot of "work" to do in their 1:1 reading and language services and in school interventions. Therefore I always advocate that the goal of at home learning is to provide fun, engaging and low stress ways to build early reading skills. Learn with Homer does just that.