Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Media Review: Time 4 Learning

Media Review: Time 4 Learning

Last year marked my first “official” year homeschooling. Over the course of the year, we experimented with a variety of schooling options. I believe in life learning and am comfortable with a relaxed, very informal approach to homeschooling. However, I also discovered that I still have a strong part of me that feels the need for some type of formal “school” each day for my now 6 year old son. We primarily tried worksheets and found those boring, repetitive, and often pointless. We had periodic power struggles about whether he needed to do them or not and I found myself seeking another way to meet my need for a bit of school in every day, but not something oppressive or non-enjoyable.

Enter Time 4 Learning. I took the opportunity for a free trial membership for both of my sons. I discovered that my 3 year old was a little too young still to benefit from it and continued the trial with my soon to be 6 year old only. We discovered that Time 4 Learning fit neatly into the rhythm of our daily lives.

Though, the lessons are easily self-guided/directed even for a Kindergarten aged child, I did discover my son enjoys the program more and seems to benefit more when I sit with him on my lap while he works on it. At the beginning of our trial membership he complained that some of the lessons were boring and I discovered that those were the ones below his level, with me sitting there with him I am able to let him know it is okay to skip ahead or to just take the quiz instead of the complete lesson. After I started this approach, his enjoyment level went up and I don’t get any complaints!

At the Kindergarten level, there are lessons available in Language Arts, Math, and Science. I peeked ahead into the First Grade level and they really are a remarkably complete program/curriculum.

The lessons are self-guided and have a variety of themes—park, under the sea, kitchen/restaurant, etc. I liked the practical content included—for example to learn about measuring and measurement instruments, the child goes (virtually) to a chef’s kitchen and figures out how many cinnamon rolls can fit into different sized pans. For some areas there are supplementary stories or worksheets included. Each series of lessons about a specific topic is followed by a 10 question quiz and then the complete “chapter” of lessons is followed by a 20 question test. The tests are also self-guided and my son shows a high level of comprehension in taking them (higher than I expected, I confess!).

After completing “lesson time” for the day (the duration of which can be altered by the parent, but starts automatically at a minimum of 15 minutes), the child has the opportunity to visit the “playground” (again for a pre-defined amount of time—the default is 15 minutes). I found we spend 30-45 minutes on lessons with Time 4 Learning a day and that feels comfortable to both of us. My son can usually complete 3 or 4 different lessons and quiz during that amount of time.

We’ve spent about 6 weeks with the program now and I’ve noticed an increase in both his math and reading comprehension skills in everyday life—I think this is because we have more fun working together on the Time 4 Learning lessons than we ever did with worksheets!

We had minimal trouble with the audio on some of the language arts segments being difficult to distinguish between letter sounds.

Our only ongoing complaint for both of us is that the lessons do not let you click ahead until the instructions have finished playing—since the instructions are often very repetitive it gets frustrating to have to listen to them multiple times instead of being able to click ahead. On the tests and quizzes, you do have the capacity to click ahead.

Though I do not need to keep formal logs yet, I appreciate that the program offers a “portfolio” with a variety of reports in it for record keeping purposes. This can come in very handy!

We generally do Time 4 Learning in the morning, before the rest of day gets under way. This helps me get my personal need for “formal” school met and tidily out of the way. It makes more sense to me to have him work on a program like this instead of doing worksheets—it is similar content, but the interactive style makes it much more interesting for both of us.

Disclosure notice: The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own (and my son’s). I was compensated for writing the review.

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