Friday, April 20, 2012

Curriculum Review: Time4Learning





We have had the privilege of a free 30-day trial of Time4Learning, an interactive learning website designed for homeschool, afterschool, summer study, or whatever you need.    The website has a full curriculum for preK through 8th grade.  It includes math, language, reading, science, and history/social studies.

Each child was assigned to a grade level and given their own log-in information.  The child could then login and click on which subject they would like to work on.  Using a simple system, they could easily figure out which lesson was next in their learning.  If the level they were working on seemed too difficult or easy, we could step up or down a level quickly.  If I wanted to permanently change the default level for one or more subjects I could do that from the parent account.  Lessons are arranged into units with "quizzes" at the end of each unit.  On the parent page I got full reports including the amount of time a child spent on each lesson, the score received, and I could access completed quizzes to see what each child did.  I could sort or search through the reports easily, setting the date range to suit my needs.  Many lessons have printables, so they child can get further practice as well as writing practice.

At the beginning of the trial period I signed up Eden, Caleb, Zeke, and Josh.  This was really great to have the opportunity to try out Time4Learning for four children.  I feel like I received FOUR free trials, not just one.  About halfway through the trial period I switched Caleb to "Kindergarten" so I could try Malachi out on it.  Eden (finishing 7th grade) and Caleb (finishing 5th grade) must be too old and set in their ways.  They did a few lessons just to humor me and adamantly insisted that I not sign them up for Time4Learning.
Josh loves using the headphones and working on the laptop computer.

Zeke (finishing 2nd grade) and Josh (finishing 1st grade) loved Time4Learning.  I never had to ask them twice to log in and "do some school"...they often volunteered to do it on their own, but when I did ask them they never complained.  This is HUGE.  Big enough for me to consider signing them up for the summer months.  I think one of their favorite features was the playground feature.  After spending a set amount of time on lessons (which I was able to preset), they could have a set amount of time (again, preset by me) on the "playground".  The playground is a really cool collection of games or links to other sites (like Veggie Tales!) that have games that are safe for elementary kids.  The games are safe, clean, and fun.   While the playground links to other websites, it is still timed and when the timer is done, their game shuts off.  I love that.
Josh and Zeke frequently had younger children watching over their shoulders, which was great, too.

Since Zeke and Josh spent the most time using Time4Learning, I was most familiar with their grade levels.  Time4Learning has some specific teaching styles that I really liked.  I liked the reading approach for Zeke and Josh.  For example, one thing they would work on is reading a passage and it would time them.  Then the computer would read the passage back to them, demonstrating as well as giving tips on how to read aloud fluently.  They would then read a second time and hopefully their speed and accuracy increased.  It worked well every time I watched them.  The best part about this was their attitudes--it was done in such a way that Zeke and Josh were both motivated and encouraged to read fluently. 

No doubt about it, Time4Learning captivated my active, distractable boys and motivated them to do their schoolwork.  When I had the right level selected for each boy, it seemed to have a good balance of both challenging and easy material.  In that respect, I hold Time4Learning in high regards.  Because of that I am considering purchasing a subscription for the summer months for Zeke and Josh.

Now for the cons.  I sometimes wondered throughout the trial period if the boys were having so much fun that they were distracted from real learning.  The boys were never "forced" to do a quiz before they could move on.  So if I wasn't watching, they would whip through units and never complete the quizzes.  It's ok because Time4Learning isn't our core curriculum, but if it were, I'd have to be much more involved with making sure they boys mastered the lessons before they moved on.  Zeke was especially frustrated with the math.  That's not surprising, because he is easily frustrated with math no matter what we use.  If we were using Time4Learning for our math curriculum I would have had to do quite a bit of fill-in teaching.  The boys also seemed to zip through lessons like nothing.  Again, this could be the fault of my boys in particular, but there was no stopping them from progressing to the next level.  If I wasn't watching, they completed (not necessarily mastered) many lessons very quickly.  If I tried to divide the grade level out over the course of a year, I think they could complete each day's work in an hour or less.

Another con I experienced was with the parent interface.  I like the things that I was able to control and change.  I missed some features that I have in SOS.  There is no good structure for lesson planning.  There is a worksheet that lists the number of lessons for each subject in each grade level, so you can do a little math to figure out how many lessons your child should do each day.  This is tedious for me, as well as difficult to keep track of.  I would love to see a way for the parent to assign lessons so the child can know each day what he/she should do.  I would also love for a parent to be able to jump a child to the middle of a grade level.  If you want your child to skip a unit, there's no way for the child to keep track any longer of where he/she should be.  When they login, it tells them to go back and do the lessons they skipped.  If you are using Time4Learning as an afterschool or summer study program, you may want to be able to assign the subjects and topics that your particular student needs the most work in, but there is no way to do that currently.

Finally I will mention my experience having Malachi do Kindergarten on Time4Learning.  This was not a good fit for him.  They use a whole-language approach to teaching reading and I have both feet firmly in the phonics camp.   Malachi quickly learned how to click to get the right answer and progress without really learning anything.  He also had "help" from older siblings from time to time, which gave the appearance that he was learning when he actually wasn't.  The lesson I took away from this is that my kindergartner (or preK) needs me to sit beside him through every lesson.  On the positive side, Malachi also enjoyed Time4Learning.

A word to the wise:  There is no, and I mean NO, learning solution for students where the parents do not have to be involved.  Whether you are homeschooling, private schooling, or sending your kids to public school, you as a parent should be involved.  Don't take a back seat and expect a program or curriculum or another teacher to teach your child all he/she needs to know.  Time4Learning is no different.  While it's a great program, you should be close by to monitor your child's progress and assess where he/she needs more help and practice.  Time4Learning (just like any other electronic teaching method) is not a babysitter.

Thank you, Time4Learning, for the opportunity to post a review!  I was not paid to write a positive review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

2 comments:

  1. Wow! What a Great review :) If I wasn't already using Time4Learning I would have been grateful for all of the information you provided. My kids also love T4L. Of course my kids love anything where they can be entertained while they are learning ;) Again loved the review & your blog :)

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  2. Wow! What a Great review :) If I wasn't already using Time4Learning I would have been grateful for all of the information you provided. My kids also love T4L. Of course my kids love anything where they can be entertained while they are learning ;) Again loved the review & your blog :)

    ReplyDelete