Monday, December 15, 2008

Time4Learning Educational Website

Hey, it's me again, with another review for you all~

This time it's an online curriculum supplement called Time4Learning. As a TOS crew mate I was given a two month free trial, in order to review this site for you all.

Here is some general information about Time4Learing:
Time4Learning is an online educational program consisting of math and language arts from preschool through eighth grade. As a bonus, they include science and social studies.
All members are provided with an automated reports section , parent forum , scope and sequence, getting started guide and much more.

I don't know that I would consider this to be a complete curriculum, but a different sort of supplement, to change things up a bit for those that don't already use computer curriculums, etc.

It's fairly easy to sign up and register. As the parent you determine "where" your child should be placed. When your child signs in, they are able to work one level below and above your determined placement.

Once inside the program, there are options to work on either Math, Language Arts, Science, or Social Studies. When you click on the desired curriculum, you are brought to a Table of contents, with Icons for each topic. Clicking on those topics brings you to the lessons in that topic.

There are some features that could be considered either pro or con, depending on your family and/or the personalities of your children.

The upper level math has "cartoon" instruction. This could be helpful for those that are reluctant learners(keeping their interest), but if you have an even semi-serious math student, they may find it to be far too slow-paced and even annoying(yes... this describes my 11 year old's reaction).

The Language Arts section makes use of "talk show" and "Game show" cartoon formats to teach. There are some attempts at humor that some families will find uproarous, and others will find inappropriate (bodily functions and things of that sort, for the most part).

The science and social studies section are more like an online textbook. The format is mostly "Read", "experiment"(for the science~ offline), and answer questions. There are some animations, that work very nicely as examples. Other than mention of evolution(this is a secular program, so I expected nothing less), the science and social studies modules are my favorites out of the four curriculums.

Now for the nitty gritty

The Pricing:
"The monthly membership fee is $19.95 for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child. At the time of sign-up, a recurring monthly payment is set up. Members can cancel at any time.
Time4Learning tries to keep costs as low as possible. We want everyone who wants to use the program to be able to afford it and so there are ways members can earn extra cash to help with their monthly membership fee. For example, we have a review and referral program which many of our members participate in. We also have payment alternatives which help reduce the cost."

Some Pros:

Preschool to 8th Grade interactive curriculum
Totally Web-based, no software to install
Multimedia lessons that can make learning fun/keep a reluctant student's interest
Tracks and reports on progress
Parent forum

Some of our "difficulties":

There is a place that mentions "Assignments", but this is not an option for homeschoolers. Apparently only "Schools" have this option, so that they can tailor the experience for each child in the classroom. The response that crew members received when asking about this wasn't overly satisfying, to my way of thinking....

"The assignments function is used by schools only, where each student is assigned a learning path by their teacher. Time4Learning is a home-based curriculum, which does not have the ability to access the assignment function. Rather, students are provided with all material needed for the grade level they are in.
For your planning purposes, we have provided the online scope and sequence (ie: lesson plans) for our grade levels and subjects.
For parents who use the scope and sequence as part of an overall way of looking at upcoming lessons and student progress, Time4Learning suggests three steps:
  • Review - Parents can first review the scope and sequence for the appropriate grade level and subject to get an idea of the lessons and activities that their student will be completing.
  • Preview Upcoming Lessons - Parents can access upcoming lessons by logging in as their child.
  • Progress Reports - To see a report on finished lessons and to see progress, parents should login as a child and look at the reports section."
These are all good and helpful, but it seems that homeschoolers would appreciate the individualization option as well, as this feels like discrimination against homeschooling teachers. Most homeschoolers create individual learning paths for each of their children as well. My hope is that Time4Learning will pass this idea along to the company that is responsible for the software.

We also had an issue with the navigation of the site. My children were constantly frustrated when they would complete the module, and try to exit out, but not receive "Credit" for doing the work because they didn't leave the lesson in the correct manner. The way it is set up seems to be very counter-intuitive. There appear to be number of ways to leave a page (a back arrow, and exit button, and an "x" out the page, and a "home" icon), and only one of them will give the child credit for the work, with the correct form varying depending on age and topic. Tutorial on leaving lesson properly. The icons really should be clear and intuitive to eliminate this confusion, not require a tutorial.....

Further, I had a hard time figuring out the thinking behind the process of the math instruction.

For example: I have an upper level student, and a lower level student:

In the lower level, the student either has to read the instruction themselves, or actively click on each bit of print to have it read out loud to them. This level is very dry for a younger student. In the upper level, there is automatic animation. There is no way to stop it or skip ahead if the student already understands the concept. It seems to me that these two methods would work better if they were reversed, with the cartoons for the younger set, with the read, and move on method for the older student. Or, for the sake of homogenity, it could be helpful if the entire program used a uniform method... either one or the other, or a combination, depending on the topic...

I hope that this review gives you some idea of what the time4learning website is like. There are clearly some benefits, as well as some things that need ironing out. Speaking of "ironing out", there is another bonus to this site... the folks at Time4Learning are happy to respond to your questions, and do try to take your thoughts and requests into consideration.

If you think this might be an interesting option for your homeschool, you can check out some free demo lessons or sign up for risk-free, 14-day money-back guarantee trial....

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