Schnickelfritz and I were recently given a chance to check out the online program Time 4 Learning. Students from preschool to eighth grade can access lessons and quizzes in math, language arts, science and social studies. There are more than 1000 lessons using screens to read or cartoon animation. The program is marketed as a base curriculum or suppliment for homeschooler or as additional practice and tutoring for students attending a traditional school.
First I had to enroll Schnickelfritz for the programs. I assigned him a login password and then went to a screen to determine his grade level. As a homeschooler of one, I always have trouble saying what grade that is--I know he's advanced in some areas and slow in others. Time 4 Learning offers a questionaire for parents of Pre-K to 3rd graders to help determine placement level. Even with the questionaire, I found Fritz was assigned to a math level that was too eay for him. The program allows students to access the level above and below them at the top of the lesson screen (see below)
If the grade above isn't challenging enough, the parent can log in and choose the Upgrade Education Level icon. The pop-up form will ask what changes are necessary and they will be may by the Time 4 Learning staff within 24 hours. The parent also sets the minimum time needed for lessons and the maximum time allowed in the playground area of the program. The default settings are 15 minutes of lessons and 15 minutes of play. Students may choose from arcade-style games, puzzles or learning games. Some students may need this dangling carrot to get their school work done, Fritz was not interested in the games.
We did not use Time 4 Learning as our core curriculum, so I did not assign specific lessons (each lesson has a code number that can be keyed into a box on the lesson screen for quick access). I allowed Fritz to choose those topics that peaked his interest--naturally he gravitated to the math.
Kids will need some keyboarding skills as Fritz had to type in "true" and "false", numbers, etc. I also discovered while trying a social studies lesson that the answers are case-sensitive so a child will be told the answer is wrong if he types "italy" instead of "Italy."
For this reason, parents might still want to sit with their kids while they take the quizzes rather than just relying on the progress report available for each student.
My one disappointment with Time 4 Learning is the text of the lessons. I preview the lesson on Hernando de Soto thinking we could use it along with our history lesson for the day. We are currently reading from a "living book" about North American explorers. I expected the online lesson to read more like a textbook (dry facts, not engaging), but it seemed more like a report written by a third grader not for a third grader. The sentences are short and stilted. This is not the example I want to set before my son who is still learning how to compose sentences and paragraphs.
I also want to relay an experience my son had while doing a science lesson. At the top of the screen he was reading was a speaker-like icon which he clicked thinking the text would be read to him. A window popped up wanting to install a program called Microsoft Agent with a warning that once installed it could not be removed without reinstalling the computer's operating system. That sounded over my head so we called the Time 4 Learning's customer service. Apperently there is a way to add the read-aloud feature for younger students but Agent is an old program that sometimes stalls the Time 4 Learning program. The staff member offerered to send me an email with a download for another program that would do the same thing. Since my son was having no problems reading the text on his own I declined. In some instances a word beyond the reading level of the text would be underlined and we were able to hear their pronunciation by clicking on them--the speaker had a definite southern drawl.
Time 4 Learning is available as a subscription for $19.95/month (additional children are only $14.95/month). There are lesson demos available on their website. You may also read what others on the Homeschool Crew thought of the program by clicking here.