Wednesday, March 17, 2010

S.O.S.--so far, so good!

Have you missed me???  I sure have missed blogging!  Spring break is over, though, and it's back to normal here.  Also I have not enjoyed any late nights this week--the time change to Daylight Savings Time is brutal on this "29-year-old" I tell ya.

I wanted to give a much needed update on our experience so far with Switched-On Schoolhouse.  First of all, we love it and plan to have Micah, Eden, and Caleb all doing it for the next school year.  Currently Eden is doing all the 5th grade subjects--Bible, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Science, and History--as well as the Health elective.  Micah is doing the Health elective and 5th grade Bible.  Caleb is doing 3rd grade Bible.  Eden is also finishing up her 5th grade A Beka Arithmetic (she only has 36 lessons to go) and her penmanship.  In an effort to relieve *some* of the pressure I feel to "get everything done", I eliminated spelling and reading for the rest of the year for everyone.  Eden will get those in her SOS curriculum.  Micah and Caleb read waaaaayyyy more books than are required by their reading curriculum.  In fact, they have either read all their books anyway, or will read them voluntarily.  But I don't feel the pressure to make sure it's done.  Reading is NOT something they need help with.  I can see now that they are going to get TONS of practice in spelling once they start SOS, so I am not concerned about missing these last few spelling lists. 

So far nearly everything with S.O.S. is great.  I have only one small rant.  I feel that their Arithmetic is slower-paced than A Beka's.  Comparing 5th grade to 5th grade, SOS does cover some things that A Beka does not, but A Beka goes farther and does harder problems than SOS.  I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this one point.  Since she is doing very well in her Arithmetic currently, but we also want her to get a feel for how SOS Arithmetic works, I deleted any lessons from SOS that repeat material she has already mastered.  That left very little for her to cover (except a very interesting unit on using a calculator and some needed review on geometry).  I may end up doing the same sort of "pruning" when she moves up to 6th grade, then have her move on to 7th at a faster pace, if it seems appropriate.

There are other "issues" that I read in reviews of the program, and I haven't really seen them as a strong or valid negative against the program.  One of the most common complaints I read is that the program is looking for a specific answer, and while your child's answer may be correct, the program marks it as incorrect.  It is easy for me to navigate and override any grades I feel are unfair.  Eden has had a few places where she got frustrated after using 3 attempts to answer a question correctly.  I only have to remind her to go on, and I will take care of it as soon as I have a chance.  It's SO easy to take care of--I can send her a note on a specific problem to guide her toward the answer, override the grade, reassign it, or allow her to skip it.  All sorts of options, none of which are very time-consuming for either of us.

Eden seems to love the communication features of the program.  She loves to send me notes--either to ask me questions, or just to say Hi.  She also enjoys the journal feature of the program.  In fact, I think she loves everything about doing school on the computer.  She finishes her work quickly and accurately.  Every day she has been done "early."  Wow, this homeschooling thing might actually start to "click" and take off with my kids!!

I wondered how Caleb would do with the computer.  He certainly loves to play on the computer, but that doesn't mean he would love to do work on the computer.  He only has Bible right now, so it's not a super-great indication of how things will go for him, but so far he really does enjoy it.  He looks forward to his turn.  He is doing great with typing.  The work seems very age-appropriate.

Well, my afternoon is fading quickly and I already borrowed way more free time than I actually had available.  :)  But I really wanted a chance to say how well the SOS is coming along.


  1. We don't use all their programs...but use them for electives. We enjoy the ones we do use. We've used Spanish and Ohio History so far.

    As the older 2 get into highschool, more of their electives will be these programs as well.

    Our kids got upset too over the program marking wrong the close answers... or if they add the word THE...stuff like that. I just overrode it as well, but found it to be a hassle.

    I KNOW if I had as many as you do schooling at the middle to higher levels all at once...they'd be doing the entire program as well.

    You are an amazing woman and a great encouragment for me. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us out here in cyber land.

  2. Thanks for this review! I was waiting to hear what you'd have to say about the Math. I looked at their core for 5th grade and had noticed that a lot of stuff on it was stuff Daniel was doing in Abeka with his 4th grade curriculum. I was curious to see if you'd find that a problem. I've been talking with Daniel about SOS, and he loves the idea of working on a PC. I may yet decide to use it sometime when I have the money! Thanks again, Steph!

  3. I am so glad I came accross your post as we are considering this for at least Math(my almost 9 yo and 7 yo are currently in ABEKA and it is a little much for my almost 9 yo/end grade)
    Your daugther is using the whole program you said and some Bible?

  4. Yes, Eden is doing Bible, Language Arts (which comprehensively includes reading and spelling), Arithmetic, Science, and History. She is also doing the Health Quest elective for grades 4-7. One of the hardest things about switching for me is that I am a loyalist. When I love a product, I tend to stand by that product and have difficulties even considering something else. I'm loyal to A Beka, but it is SO difficult for us to manage right now. It's very time consuming in comparison to SOS. My 9-yo, Caleb, is finishing up 3rd grade A Beka, and we have him doing 3rd grade Bible on SOS. We also had him take the online placement tests (those are free) just to get an idea of how he would like entering his schoolwork on the computer. He's doing well and enjoys it.

    An interesting side note--I was looking online last night at our state's standardized tests (MCA) and specifically at the sample test for Math. Almost NONE of the problems on the test were things that Eden has done in 5th grade arithmetic. NO long division, NO multiplication, NO finding common denominators for fractions, NO averaging. TONS of geometry, TONS of estimation, TONS of patterns/graphing and so on. I think she would flunk that test if I didn't do some prep work with her!!! To think that she has spent the whole year working diligently on all these BASIC math facts, and none of them appear on the test. I was apalled, but not with Abeka, with our state! You can see those tests here: MCA Item Samplers.

  5. Oh, I looked at it again and saw ONE averaging problem. And other problems where she would need to calculate the range, median, and mode. I'm thinking "WHAT?!?" I majored in math in college, so I took a LOT of math classes. I was very good at math even in high school. That said, I didn't learn what mean (the word for average), median, and mode meant until I was in college. It's a little absurd to think that our 5th graders are being tested with these terms.

    On the other hand, I think A Beka does way too many long division problems. They beat it like a dead horse. :) It would be good to see SOME balance, and possible SOS does provide that. So while it may not be moving ahead as quickly as A Beka, it is meeting some gaps or spreading out the lessons a little differently.

  6. I just wanted to let you know that I found this post - (I posted a question about using is on your first one). Thank you for the update!
    I remembered as I was reading this post that I decided to use the Lifepac curriculum for Math and Language Arts, as I feel both of those should be done on paper or workbooks. But I'm happy to hear that the experiences you have had so far with SOS have been good! That's makes me feel better about considering them for our curricula. I am still doing the comparison between the school district curriculum and the homeschool curriculum. Here in Utah they do not test the kids at all, standardized or yearly; so I want to make sure that they are learning at 'least' what they would in public schools, but then be able to supplement more that I feel they should be learning and more in depth as well.
    Thank you again for sharing! I am really enjoying your blog! It is very encouraging for this first-time homeschooler in August! :)