I was thrilled to be asked to review the web-based curriculum, Time4Learning, for TOS’ Schoolhouse Review Crew. Time4Learning is a complete core curriculum for grades pre-K through 12 that’s even keyed to the government’s Common Core Standards (if that’s something you’re tracking). It’s not only a fantastic resource for homeschoolers but for also families desiring extra after-school tutoring, or to keep their children’s skills sharp over the summer break. And, it has been one of those unexpected yet GREATLY appreciated blessings that’s revolutionized our plans for Jackson’s 6th grade year! It couldn’t have come to us at a better time.
We received a six-month subscription to Time4Learning’s 6th grade curriculum, and plan to continue to use it as our core curriculum this fall. Subscriptions are sold by Time4Learning for $19.95 per month (per student; additional students in a family can be added for $14.95 per month) for grades pre-K through 8, and those for grades 9-12 run $30 per student. Signups are really easy; the parent creates an account and adds the child or children who’ll be using the curriculum (who’ll then create his or her own password). There are parent tutorials that help the parent to learn to generate a lesson plan (for the week, month or year), review each child’s work and quiz results and learn how to use the currriculum, and help is available from Time4Learning either via email or telephone (during business hours). I saved our lesson plan for the entire school year, and I print each week’s lesson on Sunday evening to slot into our weekly schedule. The Time4Learning lessons run on a PC or Mac; currently, they are not compatible with iPads, iPhones or iPod Touch. Completed lessons are recorded in the student’s records and the parent can review these at any time.
You can view lesson plans here; they are categorized by grade and by subject, so you can see the scope and sequence of the information your child will be learning over the course of a year. In addition, on this page you can also watch actual lesson demos. Parents may access lessons both a grade above and a grade below the child’s grade, if the grade’s lessons are too easy or too difficult.
Each morning, the child logs into his account. The parent gives him the lesson number (a 4-digit number found on the lesson plans), which he enters into a box on the lower left of his screen. (You can also access each lesson by logging into the subject and clicking from there, but we find the other way simpler.) The lesson then pops up on the screen. Some subjects are taught by engaging and clever (not to mention funny) cartoon characters that the student interacts with, and other subjects are read silently by the student who then interacts with Q&As and fill-in-the-blanks. Here’s a summary of what we’ve experienced so far:
Language Arts/Language Arts Extensions: Time4Learning’s language arts program might be the most enjoyable way I’ve seen to teach this often-dry subject that sometimes causes misery for students! Divided into two sections, Language Arts is more focused on reading comprehension, vocabulary, literature (in many formats, including poetry) and writing. The Language Arts Extensions take the ideas covered in Language Arts and “extend” them; going deeper into reading and comprehension, writing, grammar and parts of speech, punctuation. The lessons are well-presented by funny cartoon characters; I don’t think I’ve ever found myself so entertained by a grammar lesson! And yet, the teaching is truly informative as well as enjoyable. Reading assignments are either provided in excerpted form online or in a list of books that can either be purchased or checked out from a local library. There is also a program called the Odyssey Writer, which gives writing assignments in each lesson segment so that the student may put to good use the things he’s learned. By the end of the school year, the student will have grown in both language skills, ability, understanding and knowledge….and perhaps even in a little wisdom!
Social Studies: The 6th grade curriculum in this area covers both world history and geography as well as American studies. Students begin with a unit on the ancient Hebrews, then progress to the early civilizations of India, China, Rome, the Middle East and Africa, as well as an overview of each region’s religious affiliations. 6th graders then skip thousands of years to learn about American history from the 1800s, states and statehood, and end with the American political and economic system. I found the information to be presented clearly and concisely. Each page of a lesson (which usually contains 5-8 pages) contains photographs of interest, maps of the area being discussed, or short quizzes designed to show the student’s understanding and mastery of the subject matter. New vocabulary associated with the subject matter is highlighted and even pronounced and defined in pop-up boxes. The material is interesting, and the lessons cover quite a bit of material.
Math: Time4Learning uses cartoon characters again in mathematics, to teach new concepts and present quizzes on freshly-taught information. Again, the cartoons make learning new topics interesting, funny and even exciting. The lessons are presented efficiently and relatively quickly: the new topic or skill is presented and a demonstration is made of how to work the problem. Then, the student is given several problems of that nature to work; sometimes multiple-choice answers are given and sometimes it’s a fill-in-the-blank. If the answer given is incorrect, the cartoon teacher explains what the right answer is. After a few practice rounds, another quiz is given for the student to demonstrate mastery.
Of the four core subjects given, we had the most trouble with the math section. Perhaps the concepts were taught too speedily for my son; or perhaps the format is just so different from curricula we’ve used before that he’s found it difficult to adjust. (He’s very used to the spiral method of math teaching; Time4Learning focuses more on one math concept at a time.) For whatever reason, he found it more stressful to work problems in this program than usual. Because I don’t want him to equate math with anxiety, I think we’ll choose another curricula for his math lessons. That’s not to say, however, that this won’t work beautifully for another student.
Science: Time4Learning teaches science similarly to the way it presents social studies information in the 6th grade lessons; information is presented on a 5-8 page montage that the student reads to himself and clicks through. Questions, experiments and quizzes are included so that parents ensure that the student understands the material covered. The subject matter is fantastic and thorough and covers everything from:
- The scientific process itself (how to conduct an experiment plus defining terms like control and dependent/independent variable)
- Properties of matter (including the periodic table, our favorite!)
- Properties of plants
- Energy, force and motion
- Electricity and magnetism
- The earth, moon and sun
- The human body
Within each of these topics, the lessons are able to go pretty deeply and cover a lot of material, so that by the end of the year the student will have covered a lot of breadth and depth in scientific studies.
We always really enjoy science and experiments, and I expect that we’ll find this a very interesting year. However, I would recommend for parents and children studying Chapter 1 to spend a little more time investigating and studying the scientific vocabulary and its definitions. We found that the explanations just needed a little extra off-screen work to solidify in our minds.
Time4Art: After a student spends one month interacting with his lessons on Time4Learning, he may access a fairly new section of art lessons, Time4Art. These are also taught by cartoon characters and include art theory, art history and art techniques. Students may also scan and upload pictures of their own art to be displayed on the Time4Learning website. Users of Time4Learning receive 6 months of art with a paid subscription, and may purchase art lessons for the remainder of the year for $10. This is a fantastic inclusion into the curriculum and is especially helpful for those parents who aren’t quite sure how to teach art!
The Playground: At the end of each day’s assignments, the student gains access to Time4Learning’s Playground for 15 minutes of play. The Playground has a variety of fun activities, including games (Pac Man, Asteroids, Tetris and others), kids’ websites (Clifford, Veggie Tales, NASA for Kids, etc.), puzzles, language-learning games and creative design play, including comic strip building and Lego activities. This has been a great delight for Jackson. We generally limit the time he’s allowed to play computer games to none, yet these are enjoyable and a nice reward for a day’s work. We’ve seen no ill effects from this, just something he can enjoy for a short time, then move on to another activity when his playground time comes to an end.
My conclusion? There is a lot to love about Time4Learning.
- Well-organized lessons and lesson plans that are rich, full and age-appropriate
- Teaching styles that make learning fun (even with grammar!)
- Excellent graphics, maps and photos
- Clearly-taught concepts and ideas
- A website that organizes your lessons and your records
- Reasonably-priced subscriptions
My only recommendations for new users are for parents to regularly review their children’s progress and lessons, and provide additional teaching when needed (for example, for new terms and vocabulary or new math concepts).
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