As most of you know by now, I home school my boys. I started last January, and we spent the better part of that semester trying to find a method that worked. We used workbooks a lot, but the boys weren’t very interested in them; they focused more on getting the work over and done with rather than focusing on the work itself.
This year, I wanted to find a curriculum they could use for school that would actually interest them. This is a key component for our educational needs. Due to various issues, the boys get frustrated very easily, and are prone to give up when they can’t figure something out.
Because there are three kids to educate (one 4th grade, one 1st grade, and one pre-k), and because I have other things to do every day in addition to their schooling, I really wanted to find something that could function as a core curriculum. My oldest son requested that we use the computer more than workbooks, so I spent the summer looking for a computer based program that would meet our needs.
I found Time4Learning during my search, and it seemed like a good bet, but I wasn’t 100% sure about it. After looking around a little more, I found two options for trying it out. The first option would be to go join and pay the monthly fee (which is pretty affordable), and if I decided it wasn’t for us, they do offer a two week money back guarantee. The other option was to sign up for a free 30 day trial in return for a user review. I figured since I do have this blog, and I do sometimes use it to talk about my kids and my home life, I may as well do that.
So we used the 30 day trial of Time4Learning. I used the first week to look at the lessons and activities for my kids’ grade levels and plot out a rough schedule. The program does have its own Activity Scheduler that you can use to plot out how many activities to do every day, but I set our school year up with very specific breaks and weeks off, so it was easier for me to manually make a schedule.
For the next few weeks the boys used the program as their primary curriculum. I supplemented in spelling words because even though Time4Learning does have grade by grade spelling words, they are in one master list in alphabetical order. Over time, I will also supplement in more reading activities, simply because I think reading is great intellectual exercise.
After using the program, we’ve discovered several pros and cons to Time4Learning. First, the positives: Time4Learning is extremely user friendly, even for my 3 year old. I just log into the website for him, and he can navigate it pretty well on his own. As a matter of fact, each child that you enroll has his or her own login information, and the program tracks all finished activities for each child. You can even access printable activity reports for your school portfolio.
Another great thing about this program is that it makes the boys excited about doing their school work. That’s important to me, because I believe that they retain more information when they are having fun. Plus, the more excited they are about it, the less discouraged they are likely to become. This program also lets them work at their own pace. While the activities will repeat the question or prompt them for answers sometimes, it doesn’t impose a deadline or pressure them to hurry up with an answer.
From what I’ve seen of the program so far, the subjects seem to teach a wide variety of topics, equal to, and in some cases even better, than what you find at traditional elementary schools. And unlike traditional schools, if a student doesn’t understand something, he can always go back and redo it in his own time without it adversely affecting his grade or progress.
Of course, there were some cons to the program, because no education program is going to be absolutely perfect for every family. I’ll address cost first, because I know that’s the first thing a lot of families look at. The program is pretty affordable, but instead of a “per family” fee, you have to pay “per child.” You do get a discount for multiple children though. And considering the fact that the program creates and saves a profile for each child AND tracks their work and scores, I’m okay with paying a little bit extra. Pricing may be adjusted over time, so go here to check out their current rates.
Other cons that I noticed are that the upper elementary science and social studies lessons are less interactive and more block text, and some of the math and science quizzes in lower elementary require the student to be able to read a little better than their grade level. I deal with this simply by reading it out loud to my kids. Even for my fourth grader, I have to read some things aloud to him while he follows along, as he is showing to be dyslexic. And yes, this can be seen as something of an inconvenience because you can’t just leave them to it, but if you are homeschooling your kids, you are probably planning to be pretty active in their education anyways.
Another downside I’ve found to the program is in the overall grading scheme. I let my kids re-do lessons and then retake quizzes and tests if they scored poorly the first time. But the way the scoring system is set up, it averages the scores together instead of defaulting to the most recent attempt. As far as I can tell, there is no way to change this. I counter this problem by using my own spreadsheet to tabulate overall grades (also because there’s other things in their grade than just the computer work). And yes, I do grade my kids, not only for record keeping purposes, but also as an incentive. My first grader is not overly concerned, but my fourth grader likes to try to get all A’s.
Also, if you want to use Time4Learning on a tablet, you can really only do the pre-k levels like that. I tried several configurations and browsers in an attempt to use our tablet for the first grade work, but it really needs the functionality of a keyboard and mouse to work properly.
Overall, I am pleased with the time4learning program. It has a pretty inclusive curriculum, and that saves me a lot of time I would otherwise have to spend putting a curriculum together. I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, so that is a major bonus. The boys enjoy doing it, which speaks highly for the program. As long as it keeps them interested in school, I will keep using it. In fact, I’ve already signed up to continue using Time4Learning.
These opinions are entirely my own, and were written by me, not by Time4Learning.
I was compensated for this review with a free month of the Time4Learning program.