Monday, December 15, 2008
"Time4Learning is a new approach that takes advantage of today's technology. It's a convenient, online home education program that combines learning with fun educational teaching games."
That's what their home page says, and that was largely our experience with this site. Time4Learning presents itself as a complete online curriculum for Language Arts and Math for Pre-K through 8th grade. They also offer Science and Social Studies as a free bonus. Parents can set the amount of time their child works on the learning activities. Through the parent's login, you can also view a summary of each lesson and choose lessons to assign to your child if you want them to cover specific topics or a specific amount of coursework in a day. Parents can also change a child's level in any subject if the work is too easy or too hard.
When your child log-in, they see a control pad that directs them from activity to activity in sequential order (unless you "assign" lessons and then they can just enter the lesson number to go directly to that topic). They work through the lesson at their own pace. Most lessons are animated with cartoon like characters, but some higher level lessons involve just reading and answering questions. Students can go back and re-do older lessons at any time. Parents can click on the backpack on the student's control pad to view what their child has done and what their scores were on graded activities. Once the child's lesson time is over, they are allowed to go the the "playground", an area of games and fun children's websites (like PBS Kids). Their time there is also something you assign so you are in total control of how much free time they have.
So what are the pros of using Time4Learning in a homeschool environment? If you have multiple children, they each can have their own account and, provided you have more than one internet accessing computer in the house, all your kids can be logged on at the same time from different computers. That means they all get their work done, as assigned by you (if you chose) at the same time, but with minimal parent oversight. If you have smaller children in the house or learners that need one on one attention, having you other children actively engaged but not requiring your assistance can be a bonus. Time4Learning's materials indicate that most activities meet the educational requirements of all 50 states, so if you are a homeschooler who likes to make sure you child is on-level with what public schooled children his or her age are doing, Time4Learning could be a good tool for that. Or if you are giving homeschooling a try but aren't sure if it's a lifetime commitment or you recently pulled your child out of school and need a temporary curriculum until you find what works for you, Time4Learning would work wonderfully.
But I need to stop right here and confess my mistakes to you so that if you have the same issues, you don't repeat them. While unit studies are where my heart is, they just don't seem to be the right approach with the children God gave me. Working one on one with them really is what it takes. SO, I was desperately seeking SOMETHING educational to occupy at least one other child in the house while I worked with one of the kids. I was totally excited to try Time4Learning because I thought, this just might be the answer to my prayers. I was so excited, I made a mistake. I let my kids just "go for it." I set up their accounts, showed them how to use it, helped them log in, and let them work to their heart's content while I worked one on one with someone else. They love it...TJ in particular. And I loved it. They took turns working happily and I got to work with less interruptions with one of their siblings. I quickly changed their lesson times from the default 15 minutes to 30 to 45, and they were happy to keep working.
But I never stopped to consider WHAT they were learning. I mean, I'm NOT one of those organized moms. I didn't go in and assign work or even a certain amount of things to cover. I just let them chose. I didn't view this as our curriculum, just supplemental material-like an on-line fun version of a workbook. SO consequentially, I never stopped to evaluate WHAT they were being taught. Oh sure, the sound was up, and I could have heard, but I wasn't paying attention...I was working with someone else. Now let me preface that there's nothing BAD. No bad language or anything. It's just....well...public school-y. The humor, the animated skits; some of it just appeals to a more base level than I want my children exposed to. I found that out first hand when I played with the 8th grade level. A lesson on language art idioms contained the following sentiment to explain"pull the plug",
"Hey, uh, listen babe, I'm going to have to pull the plug on our date plans tonight."
YIKES! Not a behavior I desire for my children to emulate. Whether referring to a girl as "babe" or the idea of dating in 8th grade...I just know that's not what I want my children thinking is appropriate. There HAS to be a better way to explain that idiom. And Christians, especially young earth ones, should know that the science material is all in line with public school scopes and sequences, meaning evolution and billions of year are what is presented. (You can request to not have your child have access to the Science portion of the program.) There is a parent forum, and Time4Learning has responded to the concerns of some of the reviewers in terms of non-Christian content by creating a special forum for Christians to be able to "flag" questionable material, but it still will require great diligence on the part of the parent to check that board often and to report things you may come across. I had come to think of Time4Learning as my "knight in shining armor", and unfortunately, for me that inappropriate content is like a bunch of tarnish making the armor not-so-shiny anymore.
The bottom line on this one is difficult for me. My kids have really enjoyed Time4Learning. And I stand behind all the positives I stated above in terms of using it in a homeschool setting. If you don't have a problem with public school-ish attitude and behavior being reflected in what your child is learning, than Time4Learning could work great for you. If you don't believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, or your children are well trained in apologetics and can read lessons where the "truth" conflicts with the Truth, then even the science portion would be fine. And I think at the younger levels you probably get far less of that type of influence anyway, and it was my 7 year old who enjoyed it the most. To me, the content is a huge stumbling block-more so the attitude/language stuff than the Science, because the Science I could just have removed from their control pad, but the attitude is pervasive through the other subjects. And ever-mindful of the homeschooling family's limited resources, I think Time4Learning is a little steep. It is $19.95 a month for one child. Each additional child is $14.95. Meaning for me, with just 3 of the kids doing it, it would run $50 a month. That's $600 a year for something that is not a full curriculum. Which is too much, in my opinion. I contacted them about a "family rate" and they suggested that there are ways to lower your payment by paying in advance or by referring others, but it's still a lot of money. For $20 a month per FAMILY, it would be a much better deal.
Time4Learning offers a free 2 week trial, and I'd highly encourage you to really try it out during that time. I'd love to have been able to really recommend it, but that's just not the case because of my personal feelings about some of the content. The best I can say is proceed with caution and KNOW what your kids are learning.
To read what other TOS Crew members think, go HERE.