Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time4Learning Review

The opinion expressed here is mine. I'd like to disclose that I have been supported in writing this review by receiving a free month to review the program.

As I've said before, homeschooling has not come to me as naturally as I'd anticipated.
I had visions of very structured mornings - first we'd do our daily devotions, followed by quiet playing for Brooklyn and Simeon while Lincoln read and practiced his handwriting and I taught Judah how to read. Then we would seamlessly transition into handwriting practice for Judah while I went over math lessons with Lincoln. In the meantime the younger kids would be done playing with blocks and would quietly begin putting together Lego castles. After math with Lincoln was finished, we would take a small break for lunch and the two babies would go down for their afternoon naps - without any tears or temper tantrums. The babies would sleep for approximately three hours - during that time I would finish any history and geography lessons, send the boys to their room to read, catch up on my blogs, catch up on my Psych episodes, write a new blog post, finish the laundry, make my own bed and clean the toilets. At 4 pm all my children would emerge from their bedrooms happily and well rested and we would all sing educational tunes while I made dinner. And then Mike would come home and I'd throw my arms around his neck and say, "Oh Darling! Homeschooling is the most fun ever!" and he would twirl me around and we would laugh and the children would fetch his pipe and slippers and we would all gather around his feet while he read us a chapter from The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Then I remembered Mike doesn't have a pipe OR slippers and that my children learned their alphabet by watching Leapfrog videos and that playing quietly is a joke and that naps never never happen unchallenged and I realized ... I'm kind of screwed.

Thankfully, Melissa had told me (on more than one occasion) about Time4Learning and I'm so glad she did. It has saved my butt and made me feel like less of a homeschooling failure. Originally we signed up for Time4Learning as a way to tide us over until we got our act together and came up with an actual plan that was going to work for our family. I was glad for the free month because one of my biggest fears is putting money into something that ends up not working for our family. I've read over and over that most homeschooling families put a lot of money into curriculum that they end up tossing and we just don't have money to be blowing around so anything free grabs my attention. After spending a month with the program, I'm hooked and I feel more than ok spending the $35 each month for my boys to use it.

One thing that I've really enjoyed about T4L is one of the same things I have enjoyed about homeschooling over-all...flexibility. For example, Lincoln has a difficult time with math. It doesn't come easily for him, therefore he hates it. T4L makes math fun. Their lessons are done in a colorful interactive format - instead of listening to someone ramble off facts and tell him what to do, he actively participates during the lesson. T4L even has worksheets that can be printed off that he can do with the lesson. This came in handy the other day as he was having a lot of frustration with one lesson in particular. After two times through the lesson I had him take the quiz. He scored 1 out of 10 correct. I printed of the hand-out and he went through the lesson again, this time writing down and practicing each concept. At the end, when he took the quiz again, he scored 9 out of 10 and was able to tell me what he had done wrong on the one he had missed. (It also helped that I told him he could say the questions out loud to make sure he understood them.) Most of the math lessons also have games as part of their lesson. It's a great way to get the practice in - Lincoln is having fun while also solidifying the concepts he has learned. Tricky tricky! When Lincoln finished his math unit (in this case Number Sense) he is given a comprehensive exam. He scored a 68% so I knew some of the concepts hadn't sunk in. I also realized at that point that he struggles with the terms 'test' and 'quiz'. I had to explain to him that the quizzes and tests are really for me to make sure he understands what he has learned - another great thing about homeschooling is we can go at our own pace and make sure he really understands. He seemed satisfied with that and wasn't as freaked out by the low score. When we went back into the program every aspect he had scored high on was marked with a star that said MASTERED over it, while the areas he scored low on just had a check mark with a COMPLETED over them. We spent the next few days going over lessons in the ones he didn't master and yesterday when he retook the comprehensive exam and scored 100% and he saw a huge star and a MASTERED over everything he'd done, his smile went nearly to his ears. It was good for me too; I knew spending the extra couple of days on the things he didn't totally understand had been worth it.

The curriculum for Judah (Kingergarten) is a little slow, but he seems to be enjoying it. The first lesson is computer basics, teaching how to use a mouse and navigate the website. From there it has moved onto basic Kindergarten stuff. Judah, unlike his brother, seems to enjoy taking quizzes. He tends to rush so he doesn't listen to all of the instructions half the time and misses what he is supposed to be doing, but if there is nothing distracting him he does well.

I like that T4L offers lesson plans. Coming up with a plan has been a huge struggle for me so it has been helpful to have the subjects broken down into lessons. I am able to determine how many lessons I want each child to cover during the week in order for them to be able to move onto the next level. They also have a bunch of online support and parenting forums which have been helpful when I've not know exactly how to go about teaching or helping the boys learn a specific concept.

I'm not sure how long we'll use T4L, but it may end up being our main plan. In addition to math and language arts they also have science and social studies. I usually let Lincoln do those subjects on his own since he finds them to be fun, but I want the main teaching of those subjects to be done by me and Mike. I feel less stressed about those areas as they seem to be less foundational than math and reading. We also have to supplement the math and reading a little bit. Lincoln draws a blank when it comes to basic math facts so we recently purchased some flash cards by EduPress and a CD full of skip counting songs by MathUSee. I also feel it will be important that they continue to be challenged in their reading, although T4L does a great job of introducing new sound combinations (for example, /io/ and /ou/ ) that I would probably not even think about until I realized they didn't know how to pronounce them. However, we are slowly building our own personal library and I am working at making reading a more important part of our day.

Overall, after just one month, I'm excited about Time4Learning. We still have to figure out our day and how to give both the boys equal learning time in an undisturbed environment. I'm sure that will forever be a challenge, but as far as what they'll be learning ... I'm thankful to know that part is taken care of.


Melissa said...

Yay, I am glad you guys are finding it useful! We just started back up today after a two week break. I have found it really useful for the kids to wear headphones while they do their lessons to keep them less distracted. And recently we began letting them use Jon's laptop too so they can both work at the same time. Otherwise our days can drag on and on. I need to get as much done when the babies are sleeping, because when they are awake it quickly turns into Chaos, especially now that William is walking and trying to get into everything. Oy!

BBat50 said...

This post really made me laugh. Thanks. I'm glad you are enjoying T4L. BTW, in the Time4Learning Playground there are some materials for drilling on math facts. Also, there's math facts practice gameson LearningGamesforKids.com (a related site).

Thanks for the write-up.


Christy said...

Welcome to homeschooling! We are also a Christian, homeschooling, LEO family (11th year). It can be difficult, especially when you're doing it "on your own", but it is definitely worth it.