Monday, December 15, 2008

A Review of Time4Learning


If you've been homeschooling for any length of time, I'm sure you've experienced homeschool burn-out. If not a full-fledged burn-out, you've probably had days where it seems like there was little time to teach. Overscheduling is difficult to avoid and we homeschooling moms wear many hats. It would be nice to just hand a hat over on occasion. Fortunately, there are programs like Time4Learning to help the busy homeschooling family.

What is Time4Learning?

Time4Learning is a multi-subject, state standardized, online subscription service for preK-8 students. The subjects of language arts and math hold the primary focus with social studies and science offered as supplemental and bonus subjects. Upon registering for a subscription, getting started is extremely easy. You can read a previous posting on our experience in the first weeks of using Time4Learning here.

How does it work?

Once logged on, your student can choose what subjects they'd like to tackle from the Launch Pad. Each subject has a clickable button graphic. Subjects are further broken down into lessons. With each lesson being marked as complete when done, the student can systematically work through the lessons of each subject independently. A parent can sign in and preview any lesson without having that lesson marked as completed, if closer parental supervision is desired. If you'd like to assign your student subjects and lessons to complete, the Activity Finder is available for use. Each assignment is given a number, which can be referenced in the Lesson Plans in the Parent Administration Area. Simply give your student a list of assignment numbers they are to complete and they'll be able to quickly find them with the Activity Finder.

How do you know whether your student has completed the assigned tasks? Time4Learning tracks all assignments completed, date and time of completion, and scores earned on quizzes. Knowing Time4Learning is helping parents keep accountability, your student will be motivated to complete tasks. Perhaps an even better motivational tool is the Playground area. You can read more about this feature in a previous post here.

How are the lessons presented?

Lessons are presented in a fun way through animation. My kids enjoyed the lessons and working independently on the computer. My youngest particularly liked the science section and quickly competed all that was available for his grade and continued on to the next. Both of my kids, ages 9 and 11, would request Time4Learning when given the option of what school work to do next. For children that are visual learners and tire easily with a lot of written work, Time4Learning is ideal. The lessons also keep the attention of children who can be distracted easily. Advanced students will appreciate being able to work as fast as they'd like and at various grade levels among differing subjects.

Time4Learning sets the stage for individual work, but parents need to check on the progress of their student for full optimization. While Time4Learning does track progress, the software allows the student to progress on through the lessons, or continue to repeat lessons, regardless of how they are performing. My son did not perform well on a quiz, yet he was able to continue on to the next section. All lesson can be repeated at any time and it is easy enough for a parent to reassign lessons that need a bit more work. Parents will need to log in to see if there are any areas where their student is struggling and need addressing. Time4Learning is not intended to replace the homeschooling parent nor should it.

What is the content like?

Academically, the content is based on state standards. The Math and Language Arts sections are considered to be comprehensive and serve as a core resource. The Science and Social Studies topics are provided as a free bonus, though they certainly could be used as jumping off points.

While alignment with state standards can be seen as positive, some Christian homeschoolers may want to be aware that this alignment means evolution content is in the lessons. Also, the humor in the lesson is definitely geared towards the child user and sometimes crosses over into crude category, especially in the upper grades. While kid appealing, it may not always fall in the realm of what is appropriate within each individual family. If this may be a concern, I would suggest you preview lessons to get a feel for the content in this area.

Is Time4Learning adaptable?

Time4Learning has put an effort forth to help make its product adaptable for many. The tools and support are in place to make this program a foundational curriculum, a supplemental resource and even a remediation tool for tutoring or after-school programing. Whole subjects can be removed from an account upon request. For example, if a parent is not ready for their child to be exposed to evolution, they may have the science lessons completely removed from the account. This could also be done with any other subject that you'd prefer learning take place from another source. Also, grade levels can be adjusted up or down for each subject, making this a resource that can be customized to your child.

Time4Learning has set up a moderated Parent Forum covering a variety of topics. Here parents can chat and share about the various ways they use Time4Learning for their own homeschool. I spent some time browsing the Parent Forum where parents can share how they adapt by posting in a variety of topic message boards such as Supplemental Resources by grade, Special Needs, Time4Learning for Summer Use, Christian Perspective and more.

Is there parent support for subscribers?

I found the parent support and customer service to be fabulous. The information provided when getting started is well-organized and comprehensive. Time4Learning really goes to great lengths to make sure its users understand how the system works and can be utilized. Furthermore, feedback is requested and appreciated as they are always trying to improve the site to meet the needs of members better.

The experience of other parents has always my best source of support and the Parent Forum proved to be quite useful in answering any questions or concerns. Members can also join in a real-time chat Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-2pm EST to ask questions of Time4Learning Member support. Any time I needed to contact customer service, I always received a prompt, professional, and courteous reply.

Who would most benefit from Time4Learning?

Time4Learning can be used as supplemental or as a core curriculum. To use as a core curriculum, a Scope and Sequence and Lesson Plans are provided to help in planning. I personally liked to use the program for those busy times of the week when I couldn't give individual attention as much as I would have liked.

In addition to busy families, Time4Learning would work particularly well for families with multiple ages. Younger children can be more independent and continue on with school lessons while individual attention is given to older students. Because the subscription can be renewed on a month-to-month basis, this would also be an excellent option to consider during time periods when homeschooling is more difficult, e.g. when the family has new additions or during prolonged illnesses. It would also be a great tool for working homeschooling parents or new homeschoolers.

Time4Learning is available for $19.95/month, with each additional child at a discount price of $14.95/month. If you pay for twelve months at once, your fee is only $169.95 for each child. You can get a pretty good feel and overview of the program by viewing the lesson demos, where you can try out some of the lessons, visit the Playground and more. If this product is of interest, I recommend you take advantage of the 14-day risk-free trial offer. This will give you an opportunity to fully explore all that Time4Learning offers as a helping hand to your homeschool.

2 comments:

Kris said...

Is this a program you will continue with in your own curriculum?

Heidi said...

Kris,

I probably won't continue at this time as we have too many other things we are diving into at the moment. That would put it strictly into the supplementary category; with the financial belt-tightening, it isn't a cost I can justify.

However, I have used this in the past when things in our homeschool needed regrouping, yet I wanted to keep the learning continuing. I would use it again if a situation that limited my available time came up...or if I win the lottery and have that dreamed of unlimited homeschool budget.