AutoLearner was developed with three goals in mind:
I can confidently say that this product achieves a level of success in all three of these areas. After reviewing the provided product, and two of the lesson packs, however, I am still going back and forth about how I actually feel about the AutoLearner!
I intended to use this in the car to review some blends, digraphs, and 2 vowel sounds that Aidan and Caleb both know when reading but struggle with for spelling purposes. We spend quite a bit of time in the car for gymnastics, karate, and other activities and I wanted to take advantage of the talking points. When I went to use it, however, I had a problem.
Does not fit on this carseat back
I tried tucking it into the seat back pocket but it simply wasn't flexible enough to attach. Since this is the smaller fuel efficient car we try to use for activity trips with only one or two kids, this is the car I had really wanted to try everything out in. In fairness to the company we didn't actually own this car when I agreed to the review, simply knew we would be purchasing a second vehicle soon and that it would be our errand car as much as possible.
It fit perfectly on our Suburban seat backs, and the website did warn that seat headrests should have no more than a set diameter, but I think the product has to lose points from me in terms of not being completely accessible. The biggest disadvantage to only being able to be used in the Suburban is that the kids are simply farther away from it and some can't see it at all.
Lesson Logistics & Talking Points
These simple lessons did absolutely catch the kids attention. The lessons are purchased on the website for a very reasonable price (.99-2.99) and then they are downloaded and you can print at home or bring to a print shop. They can be purchased with white or black backgrounds (go with white if you plan to print yourself). Lessons are inserted into the holder and displayed one at a time. I had hoped that the kids would be able to change the lessons even though I couldn't while driving but the holder was too secure, which isn't actually a bad thing.
I was pleased to see 2 vowel rules and blends/digraphs included, beyond simple numbers, letters, & colors. Looking through the website I did see a couple things that concerned me in that the alphabet set uses multiple letter sounds (mixing short/long vowels, a phone for p) for the pictures and that concerns the teacher in me. Not that kids can't learn that sometimes letters make different sounds, but I firmly believe that sticking to one sound at a time initially helps kids learn faster.
Because of it's limited application, I can't quite recommend this product 100% yet. That being said, I think the idea is solid and the lessons themselves (with the exception noted above) are engaging, educational, and interesting. I am actually trying to figure out if there is a way I can display the lessons in our school room during the week we are focusing on those spelling rules just as one more visual reminder. I would personally not buy the holder (yet), but I would consider the lessons alone as they are affordable and can really engage a parent child in meaningful learning conversation.
As for the holder, I am thinking it would be really fun to use to display road maps, photographs, and itineraries on our long car trips. I didn't try it, but it should even work as a dry erase surface!
I am still as torn on this product as the day I agreed to do the review! It was a pleasant surprise in some ways and a disappointment in others. I can't recommend it whole heartedly but neither can I discount it's value for another family. If you are looking for something to make car rides more educational and to spark conversation definitely pop on over to their website and see if the AutoLearner might fit your family's needs. I certainly wish these busy moms luck as they continue to develop and promote their product!
In exchange for an honest review, I was provided with an AutoLearner holder and 2 lesson sets at no cost. For more information, visit the Autolearner website.