Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Time for Learning... and Fun!

That phrase has been heard quite a bit in this household in the past month.

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, Trina (just turned 4) and Richard (turned 6 during the month) received a one-month subscription to Time4Learning's new and improved Preschool program.

I have used Time4Learning in the past, and have used their preschool materials before.  I do really like the improvements.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

What is Time4Learning?  It's an online curriculum, covering Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies in the upper grades (K-8, not all subjects covered in all the years), and a lot of great readiness skills in the preschool level.  While I have used this program with kids from age 3 through 6th grade, the focus of this review in the Preschool levels.
(I tried to get a screen shot of MY kids, but I just couldn't get it in here today!)

At the preschool level, there are actually two separate levels.  The interface is cute.  In Level 1, each "category" is in a box.  Categories include stuff you'd expect, like alphabet and numbers, shapes and colors.  It also includes boxes for fruit, gardens and vehicles.  Level 2 also includes categories like letters and numbers, but also ones like making music, measuring and manners.  Within each category, there are generally four or five activities.

How it went for us:

Well, Katrina powered through all the level 1 activities in the month we've had the program.  Now, does that mean she actually knows all that stuff?  Well, not exactly.  And that was one frustration I had with the preschool materials when we used Time4Learning before too.  They can go in and complete the activity, but it doesn't really tell me if it is something they need more work with or not, unless I am sitting right there.  Of course, for ME, the point of the computer based learning is so I don't have to be involved and I can be spending that time with another student.  Trina also completed about a third of the level 2 activities.

Now, I expected Richard to power through stuff.  He's in kindergarten, and does pretty well.  I wanted to see the Level 2 stuff in action though, so he was happy to participate.  At least initially.  After awhile, he kept insisting to me that he already knows all this stuff.  Not true.  I made him go back through the days of the week category, and the time one, because I know he struggles with those.  He did end up completing all of Level 2, and a chunk of Level 1.

When we first signed up, both kids were placed into the Level 1 for preschool.  They could access either level 1 or level 2, but the default screen was set at level 1.  I contacted customer support, and they were pretty quick about bumping Richard into Level 2 -- and they were friendly and courteous in the process.  It definitely helped for Richard to have a different main page than his little sister.  And he could still access the Level 1 material.

My bottom line:  I'm glad we were able to review this product, and my kids enjoyed it.  They also learned some things, and solidified others.  I can see making use of Time4Learning at the preschool level for a short-term option -- after a baby, or during a rough stretch in pregnancy.  I cannot see it as a long-term solution, at least not in my family.  What is there is good.  There just isn't enough to make it something I'd be willing to pay for month after month.

I do have to say that I know from past experience that there is a lot more meat in the older levels.  This is a program I'd love to have available to all my kids, but for my family, it is just out of the budget.  The monthly cost is $19.95 for the first child, and $14.95 for each additional child.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about either the Time 4 Learning at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a complimentary one month subscription to the Preschool section of Time4Learning for my two youngest children.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

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