Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Time4Learning

A little while back, I admitted that I was finding myself at a loss for how to fill the necessary down moments that resulted when a diaper needed to be changed or a bottle needed to be mixed. While my older children are great at finding constructive things to do with their time, they're also only children ... and therefore, prone to wandering so far off track as to require a bit and harness to drag them back into a fascinating math lesson.

The answer for us in this season of interruptions came to us in the form of a trial review membership to Time4Learning, an online curriculum resource that boasts lessons in the core areas of Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. Many of the lessons are animated, and nearly all contain some form of evaluation at the end of the session--be it in the form of a multiple choice quiz or a few practice questions. The results of these assessments are then available for parent review.

We only have one internet-accessible computer in the house, and I can tell you that it never seems to be enough if I announce that now is an o.k. time to hit Time4Learning. My husband was thrilled to be able to pull off an entire day of school while out of work with a slipped disk in his back. After doing the SL reading, he simply rotated the kiddos on Time4Learning and pulled in a few other things that he counted as "funschool." He said it was one of the easiest days of school he's ever had with the kids.

Logan loves the math lessons. Since he is slightly advanced in that area, I have been able to kick his skill level up a notch and have him working on second grade topics. When we enrolled online, I assumed he would be at grade level in their course, but found that he could work up. No problem. A small icon at the top of the screen highlights the current level ("1") and allows you to select the next level up or down as needed ("K" or "2"). This no hassle fix was a blessing for a busy momma trying to check off a box or two while keeping a teething baby happy on her hip.

Jo's favorites are the Think Aloud Activities. These are reading selections that require a certain amount of comprehension and higher thinking in order to provide feedback. She's also enjoyed the Social Studies lessons, which border on the eclectic, in my book. For example, yesterday she learned about why the Motion Picture Association of America instituted the ratings system. Not something I would have ever though to actually tell her, but interesting nonetheless.

Atticus can't get enough of the vocabulary activities. Somehow, they manage to sock a whole lot of Latin and Greek into these ten minute video segments called "Word Herd." You'd be amazed at how funny these little acts are. Are they on the snarky side? Yes, they actually are. If I had a child who parroted catchy phrases in annoying ways, I'd probably steer clear of these. They were, in actuality, written for public school enrichment and are therefore designed to appeal to kids who have had their horizons broadened a bit beyond the Pollyanna level. If your family thinks "The Princess Bride" is relatively clean fun, then you're probably going to be ok. with much of the humor in these lessons.

There has, apparently, been a ton of feedback aimed at Time4Learning regarding the evolutionary content in their lessons. I will admit that we've steered clear of the science segments simply because my children and I find the idea of reading something on a computer screen a dull stand-in for the hands-on excitement of scientific exploration. Be forewarned that it's there, however, and plan ahead to counter anything that may run afoul of your beliefs.

Time4Learning is available for $19.95 a month for the first child, and $14.95 for each additional child. Access in unlimited, and levels are customizable by child. For us, now, in this season, it's been priceless.

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