21 March 2011

An Honest Review of Time4Learning's Homeschool Website

Well, you didn't think I'd give you a dishonest review, did you? ;-)

The website Time4Learning approached me to ask if I'd be willing to try their homeschooling website for a month with my girlies and then write a review on it. My month is up! Th girls and I went there several times, though certainly not every school day. I haunted the parent forums and had the girls try several assignments in each subject level.

But before we begin, you need to know about our typical homeschooling practices and philosophy so you'll know why I feel the way I do about Time4learning. We all have different styles of teaching and learning, so no one curriculum is right for all of us.

First of all, our Groovy homeshool is a Christian homeschool. I do not demand that all our resources be Christian based - ie. I don't need Scripture verses in my math texts and sermons in my history books - but I will exercise my parental authority to censor reading material that I find overtly offensive to my faith. If a particular book or series or curriculum continues to offend, I will ditch it.

Secondly, I am a strong proponent of unit studies. I firmly believe that learning is more solidly entrenched when one object of study is approached from many different directions. This puts us in the position of usually scheduling our schoolwork around historical events. We can study related events in the same time period, art of that era, science discoveries related to the time or person we're learning about and write papers related to those topics. Spelling words are from the vocabulary found in our studies. In short, everything, but math and grammar are related together by a strong central thread. Right now we are studying slowly trough the Presidents of the Untied States. As we do we are learning about food, dress, morality, science, language, major issues like slavery, reasons for war, the political systems of the world, and great literature.

Thirdly, I am also of the opinion that homeschooling allows us the freedom to have a child who functions at different levels in different subjects. Ask me what "grade" my girls are in and I have NO idea. When they are ready to move on, they move on irrespective of their age. So one child may be in 4th grade math, 8th grade reading, 6th grade spelling, and 6th grade science. I really don't keep track, so I find the concept of trying to mash a varied child into a cookie cutter "grade" of expectations where some things would be too hard and others would bore her in their simplicity.

Fourthly, let's face it, I am eclectic. I know...you are shocked. I don't like to be locked into schedules and preset expectations!!

So now, I humbly ask you to take all this baggage of mine into account as I give my review:


Time4Learning is, in their own words, "a convenient, online home education program that combines learning with fun educational teaching games."

Let's look at the pros and cons of the program. Shall we?

From here on out, I'll highlight the Positives (as I see them) in blue and the Negatives (as I see them) in Deep Orange:

You pay for the program on a monthly basis and are given a 14 day money back guarantee. So you can try it for two weeks and bail out if, for some reason, it isn't a good fit for your family - and there are no return shipping fees because it's all online. THAT's a good deal!

We had to start out with Time4Learning by entering each girl in a "grade". As you can imagine, this was tough for me. But I slated Silly-Head as a 4th grader and Girly-Girl as a 5th grader.

Well, at least I think I did. ;-)

There is a WORLD of support for new users. There's a lovely "Getting Started" guide to help moms and dads navigate the website and understand how it works. It was a wonderful resource for me. You can also get help in planning out our school year.

There is the usual FAQ section, but there is so much more. You can email the administrators for help - and they do respond fairly quickly. You can pump more experienced T4L parents for help and advice on the forums. You can use the website itself to plan out your school year. You can preview your child's lessons before they do them and you can opt to have a child who "doesn't get it" do lessons over again as often as you like.

As a side note, each child registered has her own home page and records. This makes it cery easy for the parents to monitor each child's work You can keep track of all that has been mastered and what subjects still need work on your child's "Progress Report".

The program worked without a hitch on my 5 year-old Macintosh. That was a big plus for us since we're moving into the era where many online programs have hitches and glitches when we try them. Time4Learning worked perfectly, every time.

Unfortunately, we quickly ran into problems for Silly-Head. She is a poor reader and the fourth grade curriculum was far too verbose for her to handle. One short email and the Time4Learning crew moved her to a lower grade. Now, as I'm looking back over the parent info, I see that I could have just moved her grade-wise in one subject instead of all of them. That's a nice feature if your children, like mine exist on several grade levels!

We still had a conundrum though, in that while she is smart enough for advanced (in elementary school terms) science and social studies, I have to read the instructions and text for her or she gets frustrated. If we dumb the text down so she can read it herself, then it feels baby-ish and boring to her.

And there is alot to read. Onscreen text. At my desktop. Ugh!

I have trouble reading passages/books online and my girls didn't care for that aspect either. They'd much rather curl up on the sofa while studying! It was very hard for wither of them to stay focused while reading on the screen, so I had to divide their lessons into much shorter segments.

Girly-Girl is a much better reader, but still got fatigued more quickly than usual by reading onscreen. Also, in one particular lesson there was a flashing graphic right next to several paragraphs of instructional text. She actually had to hold a piece of paper over it so she wouldn't be distracted.

Speaking of animation - Time4 Learning uses high quality, entertaining animations in many of the lesson presentations. The girls really enjoyed those. The animated instruction seemed much more apropos for the computer screen medium than the more text heavy presentations. The girls laughed frequently, and retained what they learned. The lesson was then nicely enforced in follow-up exercises.

Sadly, some of the humor used was "potty" humor involving multiple manifestations of gas, etc. I noted on the forums that this seemed to start in the third grade curriculum. It wasn't horrible, but also wasn't entirely uplifting, if you know what I mean.

I also learned on the forum that that God's Name is used as an exclamation in some of the sixth grade Language Arts lessons. That doesn't sit well with me. Nor did the creepy story Girly-Girl was supposed to read in her Language Arts about Houdini's wife and her persistant attempts to call him back from the dead. The story reeked of the occult. Girly-Girl read a couple of paragrahs and then called me because she was disturbed by the direction of the reading assignment. I scanned the rest of the story and we decided to scrap that lesson.

Moral of this story? If you do choose to use Time4Learning you, as a parent, will NOT want to go on auto-pilot. You will want to review the lessons ahead of time so you can discuss or weed out objectionable material.

On the plus side, there were book and reading assignments given from real books with comprehension and discussion questions to be completed after each chapter. There are also worksheets and charts in various subjects that can be printed off and filled out to complete various lessons.

I must confess that we didn't look much at the math or science curriculum. We've been using Math-U-See since day one of school and our science is informally sprinkled throughout our year as it fits in with our unit studies. I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the girls' studies to try something totally foreign to them. I did look at the math and science lessons myself, though. What I saw seemed orderly and well presented.

One feature on the site that the girls truly loved was the "playground". There are a number of wonderfully fun games for the kids to play. Some reinforce problem solving, some involve educational reinforcement and many are just silly fun. And they all WORKED - which, I will stress again, is a HUGE plus for ancient Mac owners. Even better (at least from a mom's perspective) there was a built in timer. So when "recess" is over, the website kicks your darling child right back to their lessons with no nagging from Mom. :-D

One problem I would forsee if our family were to use Time4Learning exclusively is the issue of having one computer and two children. I think it would complicate our schedule greatly to try to find a way to schedule all the lessons for both girls so that they could actually have the computer time they would need. For a family with many children, this problem would naturally be multiplied.

I also don't like the idea of them spending THAT much time on the computer - even in a learning situation. I much prefer reading aloud and interacting with them!

However, I could see Time4Learning as a viable program for a single child family or for a family that is going through a stressful time and needs a curriculum that is simple to use and fairly complete. They really have done a good job of making the site and the program thorough.

So, as is the way of all curriculum, Time4Learning is a TOOL. For our particular family I don't think it is a tool I would use often enough to be worth the monthly fee. But you and your family may feel differently.

Perhaps you need the ease of a curriculum where everything is laid out before you. Or perhaps you have a child that needs lots of structure and visual cues. Or perhaps you just need something new and different to spur your homeschooling efforts to new heights. You may even find Time4Learning very valuable as an added resource to the curriculum you already use. We are currently studying U.S. Presidents and the history in each of their terms of service. Girly-Girl seemed to enjoy learning more about how government works in the Time4Learning Social Studies program. It was a nice addendum to what we were already doing.

Anyway it goes, Time4Learning is certainly worth a try. Remember, you can - more or less - try it before you buy it. So check it out, I'm glad I did!


Unknown said...

Thanks Groovy. I'm an older stay at home mom who has decided to homeschool my son with autism (he is 9 yrs almost 10)but will probably start at a much younger grade level to get him motivated because he is visual, immature (not being mean but he relates a lot to his niece and nephews who are 4-6 yrs in age) he is getting better socially since I travel with him quite a bit and he has in the past received some decent therapy through Easter Seals. Anyway I like your review and will check this out during the free trial period. If you have any suggestions or know others who have positive experiences homeschooling a person with autism, please send me an e-mail. Thank you so much - Valerie - vallli64@yahoo.com

Andrea Sproston said...

Thank you SO much for this blog! I have just recently decided to Homeschool our twin "7th" graders. I have been contemplating whether to use this tool or not and do believe I will after reading your blog. Overall it seems positive and for two 13 year old boys who may not like a whole lot of hovering this may be the tool we are looking for. I have, however, decided to use my own Science curriculum and am presently in the progress of completing that "class" for them. Not every aspect can be perfect and I am glad you gave such and honest review! ~Andrea~

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thorough review. You answered many of my questions. :O)

What would your opinion for this program for a 3rd grader (high reader) to supplement summer learning while public school is not in session? Basically to avoid brain drain. We typically do workbooks (Summer Bridge by Carson-Dellosa) but I was wondering about this just to jazz things up.


groovyoldlady said...

Andrea, Glad I could help. I hope your boys enjoy the program!

Rhonda, T4L is PERFECT as a supplement! And if your child excells in particular areas like reading, you can change the grade level you use for that one subject.

Teresa Bibby said...

Hi, my grandson is in the 7th grade and I want to put him into a public school for 8th grade I want to find out if he passed. How do I find the information to show the school that he passed?

groovyoldlady said...

HI Theresa,

I assume you mean that your son did his 7th grade work on T4L. If that is correct, I would suggest that you email the administrators for the information you need. They are very helpful folks!

Nancy Hamm said...

I'm about to undertake the quest of the century.. At least that's what it feels like. My 11 year old Aspbergers boy ( oyyy) and 12 year old Girl are excited to start this homeschooling journey. I am as well, on the outside, hehe.. THANKS so much for the great review groovy girl. We will probably use this as a tool as well.. Blessings!

Dary said...

I too have a son with aspergers and he is in 2nd grade. I want to do this program but I was wondering about record keeping just in case government officials want proof of compliance and not truant. Or compliance with curriculum etc. What is your opinion. please and thank you.

Dary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dary, I have used this program for a year now and love it. As a parent I have a separate login and can view and print all of the records from time spent on each assignment and class to the grades...its very handy. Just print it out and stick it in a file for safe keeping.

American Academy National Home School said...

Parents would always want the best for their children. When it comes to their christian home school programs, they will do everything in order to send them to school. They are capable of enduring the pain in their pockets, especially when payment for tuition fee comes. As long as they can give their children the gift of education, they don’t mind how much the tuition would be. They consider education to be a priceless gift for their children; even if it will have to be at home.

Melissa Humphrey said...

Wow! Thank you for this clear and comprehensive review of Time4Learning. Very helpful!

Anonymous said...

thank you sister! I have a 13 year old son that needs more independent work. I am looking at T4L for English. We've always used online school for that, but this offers more freedom than a live classroom environment. I appreciate your review

Anonymous said...

Can Time4Learning be used as an exclusive curriculum instead of just as a supplement? In my state, it requires that I have "the equivalent" of my grade level work- would I be able to solely use Time4Learning to achieve that?

Anonymous said...

Are there any other sites similar to time4learning, that are better? Any you would recognize? We tried time4learning. My girl disliked it a lot. :(

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

let me rewrite that:

Are there any other sites similar to time4learning, that are better? Any you would "recommend"? We tried time4learning. My girl disliked it a lot. :(

Thank you,

Robin White said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Carter said...

Yes.. I have a 6th grader and we use it as our core curriculum. Love it!

Unknown said...

Do you get to pick when you want to do it like only on weekends or week days but not on weekends?

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this home schooling and I'm looking to use this as a core learning for my 3rd and K child what can I expect ? Also when or if u ever return them to a public school do theh provide all the stuff you need ?

Jennifermomof4 said...

What curriculum are you currently using? I'm a new homeschool mom of 3 homeschoolers (5,7,10). We are currently using My Father's World curriculum, with Spelling City and Math 6. I feel like I'm failing, as it seems to easy to homeschool. Can you give me some advice?

Anonymous said...

Articles and content in this section of the website are really amazing. Great ideas indeed! I will surely keep these in my mind!

Homeschooling online &Online Homeschooling

Anonymous said...

Articles and content in this section of the website are really amazing. Great ideas indeed! I will surely keep these in my mind!
Homeschooling online &Online Homeschooling

Unknown said...

Hi Nancy, I am in the same boat. Going yo be homeschooling my 11 y.o. son ( also with Aspbergers). This is so new to me and it can all seem overwhelming. Good luck to you on the journey!