Thursday, April 4, 2013

Time4Learning review

A month ago we decided to check out the website as an option for homeschool curriculum. To be honest I've never been huge on technology for kids (I know, I know) but I really felt like trying something different, and the kids are always game for anything on the computer. Here's my opinion on the program, as a whole and by grade. We tried out three grades for our three older kids: 1st, 4th, and 6th. We did vary on language arts using one higher grade, and math using one lower grade level depending on need.

My first impression was very mixed. I had looked over the website prior to the trial, and it shows an organized lesson plan and an Activity Scheduler. We used a virtual school years ago for my oldest, and I was expecting an actual scheduler that would let me pick and choose lessons set over a specified timeframe, and that those lessons would show up day by day for the student's use. Instead, the Scheduler is merely something you can print out and use as a guide. Not what I was hoping for as an all-inclusive program. Something that Time4Learning does very well is maintain grades and activities for a portfolio. If we were in a state that required overview of those items, this would probably be of great value. Since our situation does not evaluate grades or standards by age, this was not a helpful feature for us.

Coral tried out the first grade platform, with kindergarten language arts since she's still learning to read. I wasn't wowed by it and she quickly lost interest in anything but the science portion. Unfortunately that section is rather slim at just 13 lessons; in 30 days I could only entice her to log on four times and every time, the only thing she wanted to do was watch the animal videos, which were certainly cute but not what we were hoping for as an all-inclusive curriculum. There are many other online programs out there that I felt were a better match for this age group.

Ibis was working on the fourth grade level, with third grade math. She spent the most time on Time4Learning by far, wanting to log in almost every school day to complete the language arts lessons and try out the math. Ibis has a very short attention span and can be a real challenge to motivate and teach, so I was pleased with her interest. Over time she became more proficient with using the program, and I could see her scores improve. One of my favorite aspects of the program is the immediate correction of incorrect answers, and an explanation of why they're incorrect. This quick feedback is excellent for the short attention span. The only negative I saw was the ability for her to quit lessons mid-sequence; about half of her activities are marked as incomplete. This is more due to her personality than the website itself.

Alexei checked out the sixth grade level. He was immediately skeptical (typical twelve-year-old boy) and tried the program a dozen times. He was okay with the math lessons but felt like the language arts were too simple and had no interest in trying science on a computer versus real life. He's much happier completing the free math practice sessions at Khan Academy online, and prefers hands-on for everything else.

In the end, we chose to purchase a monthly subscription for Ibis but not for Coral or Alexei. It meets her needs and personality; it gives her the ability to pursue math and language arts independently, and to feel successful when she answers a question correctly and gets instant feedback. It is exciting enough to keep her focused a lot of the time, which can be difficult with standard books and exercises. However, I don't think Time4Learning or ANY online program should be the only curriculum pursued; doing everything on a computer really sets a child up to miss out on real-life opportunities that can't be duplicated virtually.

The above opinions are entirely my own, and I was compensated with a 30-day free trial of Time4Learning for this review.

1 comment:

Aandwsmom said...

What a great review! We used Time4Learning for 5 years until my boys outgrew it. It was great for my older son who was like your daughter and had a short attention span!
I loved the keeping records part as all I did at the end of the year, was print it all out and put it in a folder in case the State asked! I still use the PreK level in my childcare as a supplement to our hands-on activities!
Happy Homeschooling!