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Usually I would wait until I had a product like this longer before submitting a review. We have only had this for just over a week now, but before signing up I searched everywhere for reviews, and there are none. However there are several pages where people are requesting reviews. Anyone can try the site for one hour free of charge, but most of the games and activities are locked so you really can not get a fair idea if this site is worth the money from the free trial. On the plus side though, sign up for free trial is quick and easy and does not require submitting bank details. So, as I feel there are many people considering this site and looking for reviews, I will do the best I can now, and update at a future date.
Gridclub is a new children's educational website, offered by subscription only. It appears that this was developed primarily for use by schools, and if your child is lucky enough to attend a school that uses this site, they can access the programmes at home for free. They just need to ask the teacher for the class password. But for the rest of us, the standard price for this service is a whopping £29.99 a year, however there are many less expensive options. We used Tesco clubcard vouchers, which currently offer a 2 year membership for only £15. If you do not have Tesco clubcard points to use I would suggest going to kiddoo.co.uk for a half price offer on this product.
Gridclub is a wide collection of games and activities all linked to the National Curriculum. The site advertises 500+ activities, but from what I can see, I would say the number is closer to 200. Perhaps more activities will be added soon. The primary focus of the site is Key stage 2, ages 7 -11, but there is a fair amount of content for ages 5-7 as well. Most activities will require at least minimal reading skills. Every topic you can imagine seems to be here. There are games for spelling, reading, grammar, punctuation, addition and subtraction, multiplication, division, decimals, fractions, money, code cracking, healthy living, ict, art, science and technology, history, even foreign languages. Basically everything children might be expected to learn during key stage 2 has some type of game or activity here.
Most of the games are good. The graphics are not the best, I would compare them with Super Nintendo - Playstation 1. But they are fun and entertaining as well as being highly educational. My son's favourite is under a section on Brunel, where you build your own railway. The goal is meant to be to successfully complete your line, but he is looking for ways to crash the train instead. He also really likes the spelling games, which I am well pleased about as this is an area he needs work. He did need help on code cracking, but in all honesty It took me a few goes to get it as well. It looks like a pretty fun game though, you play as a secret agent. A large percentage of the games are very much adventure based, which I think is a plus.
Many of the games are simple, but fun. I enjoyed playing as Pict attacking Hadrian's Wall myself. The down side is, the Roman's get all the good stuff, ballista and mangonels, but I suppose that is life - or in this case death. The graphics are very limited and your characters let out a scream before turning into an angel and ascending toward heaven after being killed. You can also play as a Jacobite and escape to America. There are games for Vikings, Saxons, Tudors and Victorians, even one for the Suffragette movement. I think the Suffragette game simplifies things too much. It is also very much like rioting - you throw stones, burn things and commit vandalism. Fun - perhaps but it also trvialises the issue and doesn't teach anything really. Of course children can click on and listen to the facts on this as well, but I expect most will just burn things. The Math games are also very useful. I find it so much more fun for children to memorise facts like times tables through games than flashcards or page after page of worksheets. However, since we have Mathblaster already, we don't really need these programmes as much.
One game I was less than satisfied with is the foreign language games. I think they would be grand if you have other instruction in these languages. As a supplement to regular coursework they could be quite helpful. The site does say these games are suitable for children with little or no knowledge of the language, I do not really think you would get much out of this on it's own. The languages offered are English, French and Spanish. I see little purpose in the English option except for schools. It may of some help for a child starting to learn English, but if this is the case, the rest of the site would be useless for that child. I also found the "build your own computer game" section disappointing. In reality you change the colours and make a few rules for an ancient game of ping pong.
We do use a wide variety of educational game sites, most of which are free. However we also use Jumpstart and Mathblaster, which are combined into one subscription. I have bought a lifetime membership for this site. I have to admit, Gridclub covers far more than any other site I have found, and for pure educational value, this site definitely comes up trumps. I would compare this to having a massive library and a private tutor. It is an excellent site. Still, if I had to choose, I would choose Jumpstart / Mathblaster. The graphics are light years ahead of grid club, and the site is more fun. Gridclub is basically a site my son uses as part of his assigned schoolwork each day. Of course he enjoys it more than workbooks, and I do think children learn more when having fun as well. But this is not something he sits down and plays on his own. He doesn't ask me to get off the computer so he can have an hour or two playing this. Jumpstart may not cover such a huge range of subjects, but it offers more instruction and more fun in the areas it does cover.
So the bottom line is, do I recommend this, and will I buy it again when our two years runs out? For other families who home educate, yes I certainly recommend this. It is a wonderful resource and considering the amount of material it makes available, it is well worth the price. Even at full price, I will most likely resubscribe. For others, it would depend on the price. If you happen to have Tesco points, than a two year membership at £15 is a steal, and I think most families will find this worthwhile. Even at full price, if your child is between ages 6 -11, and you are looking for ways to supplement the school curriculum, this is an excellent choice. But while my children will happily turn off the Wii or PS 3 to play Jumpstart, I expect most children will not choose these games often in their free time. So I think the price may be too high for a set of games that most children will bypass in favour of shootem ups and racing games. This could well end up like the very expensive sets of encyclopedias many families owned when I was young. They are very educational - but not many children used them. I loved them myself - but most of my friends found that quite odd.