JumpStart World - 2nd Grade (JSW) is a PC CD-ROM program designed to boost math, reading, and thinking skills in second graders. Included in the box are the first two adventures and an online two-month subscription to JumpStart World. You can "continue the adventure" and subscribe online and receive an additional 10 adventure packs.
Adventures 1 and 2 include over 90 learning games that teach 50 skills. Students must master the material in adventure pack 1 before moving on to adventure pack 2. A handy parent area allows you to customize your child's screen experience and check up on their work. JSW is not a complete curriculum but an enhancement to what you use already. I think of it as the "icing on the cake" for my son Daniel.
We found it very easy to install JSW and set up the program. Our computer had only the minimum requirements, so I needed to upgrade my video card to make the program work better. Minimum system requirements are as follows: Windows XP or Windows Vista, Pentium III 1GHz or faster, 3D video card with 32 MB dedicated memory with DirectX 9.0c-compatible driver, 256 MB dedicated RAM (512 recommended by JSW and seconded by me; 1 GB if you are running Windows Vista), 24X CD-ROM drive, 1 GB available on hard drive, 16-bit color, 800 x 600 screen resolution, and DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card. DirectX 9.0c, Quick Time 7.1, and Windows Media Player 10 are included with install. You must also have a broadband Internet connection. Basically, what all of this means is that if you have an older computer you may not be able to use JSW.
I have a theory that most kids are smarter when it comes to computers than their parents, so I just showed Daniel the program and let him go. He was initially frustrated with it. He is a reluctant reader, and some of the activities assume that students are good readers. Daniel reads at a low second-grade level and has found that some of the activities require more reading than he likes. Math is his favorite subject, so he spends more time on math games and activities than on those requiring reading.
After letting Daniel play with JSW for 30 days, I walked him through several of the activities that I felt he could improve on. It was just as I thought; they required him to READ, which he preferred not to do with a "game," as he called the program. So we talked about how this was not a computer game but a learning program, and he asked to stop having to play it. I said OK, and that was it for about two weeks. Then one day he asked to play JSW again and has asked every few days since then. When the pressure to perform was off, he was able to enjoy the learning experience. This is what I believe is the strength of the program--making learning fun!
I also let my sixth-grade daughter use JSW. She found it to be fun, but she did say that she felt it was for above-average second graders, not average students. There was nothing that frustrated her, but she and I both felt that some of the activities moved too fast for the average 7 to 8-year-old. We also found some of the background music a bit annoying, so we just turned down the sound.
So, do I like JSW? Yes, I do. It is not a total curriculum but a highly technical way to enhance learning. After seeing the program in action for three months, I plan to buy the next few adventure packs, but not at suggested pace of one per month. We are moving at a much slower rate, which is okay! The only thing I would change about JSW is giving the purchaser access to the progress reports, parents' tips, and member website for a full year, rather than just two months.