Benesse Challenge Touch Review!

9 Sep

 

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Last year I introduced you to Benesse’s Challenge Touch/Kodomo Challenge program on this post. The program is for elementary aged children and offers a monthly downloadable curriculum. Many of you were just as interested in this program as I was.
This summer when I visited Tokyo, I happened upon their new Aoyama Area Benesse in the Shibuya/Omotesando neighborhood. The one in Aoyama is the flagship store, but there are locations all over Japan. These “Area Benesse” offices can help you answer questions about Benesse programs and products, sign up for services, try out materials, etc.

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When we entered the building, we were immediately greeted by very friendly staff. One staff member helped my 7 and 5-year olds get started on some activities while I asked another staff member questions.

The biggest question I had was, “Can we use the Challenge Touch program in the United States?“.

The answer was yes… and maybe. Yes, as long as you have reliable internet connection, you can use the Challenge Touch tablet and download the monthly curriculum anywhere. The only problems you then face are:

  • Benesse will only ship its products to a Japanese address (at least that’s how it is currently). So you will either need to go to Japan and buy it while you are there (we had them ship the tablet to our hotel) or have it sent to a friend or relative, then have them ship it to you.
  • If your tablet happens to break, you will need to pay the shipping back to Japan, as well as have your friend/relative ship you the new one, which can be costly and a hassle.

We decided to take the risks and sign up to do the Challenge Touch program for one year. I thought the pricing was very reasonable. With the exchange rate the way it is now, it came down to about $25 per month (and the tablet is free as long as you continue the program for at least 6 months!). I also signed up for the insurance program, which was only about $15 per year. If you sign up for insurance, if your tablet breaks, you can get a new one for around $30 (otherwise I think they said a new tablet costs about $300).

A few days after putting in our order, our package arrived. In it was our tablet computer and some paper educational materials like workbooks and a kanji dictionary. (They actually sent us materials for the wrong grade at first. I contacted them and they immediately sent me the correct grade level).

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We charged up the device, entered our login information, and then downloaded our first month’s program. It was pretty easy! (If you don’t know Japanese well, all of this might be difficult to navigate. The program is designed for children grades 1-6 who can speak Japanese already, not for adults learning Japanese for the first time).

The program was very easy for my second-grader to figure out on her own. She had a lot of fun playing with all the features. She completed her first two assignments in Kokugo (Japanese) and Sansu (math) and declared it was awesome. The program does a really great job at keeping kids motivated and having fun while learning. We are currently going on month 3 of using the program and she still loves using the Challenge Touch every day.

Other things we love about the Challenge Touch program:

  • There is an online library where you can borrow 5 electronic books at a time. There are hundreds of titles to choose from! This is included in the monthly fee.
  • You can practice writing kanji and play a game where you learn the multiplication tables, even when you are not connected to the internet.
  • My daughter enjoys sending me emails every day.
  • Just 3 months into the program, I can already tell my daughter is better at reading and writing kanji.

Some cons:

  • I didn’t realize Benesse sends out paper materials every few months, even if you just signed up for the electronic version. This is great, except I feel badly my aunt in Japan has to go through the hassle of forwarding all these materials over for us. I wish I could just pay a little extra to have everything sent to the U.S.
  • I am constantly worried my kids are going to break the tablet, haha. We have a rule in our house where they MUST be sitting at a desk if they are using it (no standing, walking around, laying on the couch, etc). We’ve also lectured them about not pressing too hard with the pen. So far so good.
  • The voltage is different here. Easy problem to fix though, we just use a transformer:

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My kids normally use headphones as well when doing benkyou (study) on the Touch. We highly recommend this one! It is sized perfectly for kids’ heads, had a durable cord, and I don’t have to worry about the volume being turned up too loud. Headphones are a must for us because with 3 kids running around our little house, it can get quite noisy and hard to concentrate.

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Bottom line is that we are so glad we took a chance and decided to try the Benesse Challenge Touch program. I can see us continuing for the next few years, and may even get a second device for our son when he begins first grade. I hope that someday soon they will make the program downloadable for iPads– wouldn’t that be nice?

Read more about the Kodomo Challenge program HERE and feel free to contact them if you have any questions. They are very nice!

 

I am NOT affiliated with Benesse and have NOT received any free products or compensation for writing this review. 

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6 Responses to “Benesse Challenge Touch Review!”

  1. Rose September 9, 2015 at 11:35 AM #

    thank you so much for writing this post!! As I already wrote to you in facebook, we are currently thinking about getting the tablet for our kids too..
    though I still have some questions like – we have two kids.. will I need two tablets then, or can they share it?
    If the subscription ends, can you still use the the program and repeat the things you´ve learned again (like starting 1st grade again), or will some functions be disabled and therefore it becomes “useless”?
    I guess I will have to visit one of their centers too when we visit our family next time…
    love~

    • Hiragana Mama September 9, 2015 at 1:35 PM #

      Hi Rose! I can answer some of those questions. As far as sharing the tablet, you can only do that if they are working on the same grade level. Each tablet can only do one grade at a time, so if you have two kids in two different grades, you need two tablets. The tablet will store all lessons for up to a year, then they are deleted. However, lessons that are on the tablet can be completed more than once. My daughter, the perfectionist, wants all her scores to be 100% so she will do all her lessons over and over. Once the subscription ends, I guess the tablet would become “useless” other than the few games and programs that are on there that don’t require internet.

      We paid for a full year. Once that year is over, our credit card will be automatically charged for another year unless we call and cancel. The tablet we are currently using can be used all the way through 6th grade (if it lasts that long).

  2. Mio | Third Culture Family October 10, 2015 at 1:17 PM #

    Since you’ve done both the written and touch versions of the program, which do you like better? I’m sure there are pros and cons to both types…

    You mentioned that Benesse sends out printed materials every month even if you go with the touch program. Can you explain this part a bit more? Is it just supplementary stuff that is nice to have or are they a critical part of the monthly curriculum?

    Thanks!

    • Hiragana Mama October 11, 2015 at 8:59 AM #

      Yes, there are definitely pros and cons!! Being a busy mom of 3, I don’t always have time to sit down and do Japanese practice together with each of my kids, so in that respect, I like the tablet better. My daughter can do it on her own, and she thinks it is more fun. The only pro I can think of for the paper version is that I think there’s definitely value in practicing writing with a real pencil on paper.

      So the printed materials are not every month. A whole bunch of material comes with the first shipment (with the tablet), and then there was another packet for summer vacation practice, but after that we haven’t received anything. I think there might be another paper packet coming for winter vacation. They are nice to have, but I wouldn’t consider them critical. Hope that helped!

  3. Tom Hamilton April 1, 2016 at 2:09 AM #

    Although my daughter has used the tablet version for a year or so in junior school up to age 12 we didn’t know that a) it *cannot* be used in junior high, which is only *1* year up, and b) it cannot be given to anyone else or reused even by entering into another contract. I find this distinctly unsustainable, a waste of resources, and highly stingy on the part of the company.
    Imagine *not* being able to give an old cooker or TV to a friend, or being able to resell your car, since it’s value is essentially zero.
    At least the company should offer used tablets, and enable them to be switched between users. I have a friend who is using the paper materials and wants to use the tablet but it’s too expensive. They can’t use my daughters, so they end up losing out.
    Whould you like to comment on this insane business practise Benesse?

  4. Fiona MacLeod-Green May 15, 2016 at 10:11 PM #

    I was only allowed to enrol in the print programme for Year 1: Benesse were quite clear that they would block my overseas internet access to core programme materials if I tried to get around enrolment restrictions via using a Japanese address. Despite that hiccup (?!), I am quite pleased with the paper course so far, since it forces my student to “write and remember”, rather than “swipe and forget”. But I do wish there was the electronic option available for us overseas – we were really looking forward to using an Ipad for Japanese studies!

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