Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Time4Learning Review

Last month, I received a free one-month subscription to Time4Learning contingent on using the program with my child and posting a review at the end of the subscription period.  My youngest daughter, age 8, had been using Oak Meadow 3 this year but I found that I was having to supplement and change many parts of the curriculum to fit her needs (I have not found this to be the case with my three other daughters who are also using Oak Meadow).  My youngest is a little different - she has a hard time concentrating and is very easily distracted.  Additionally, she needs far more "hand-holding" than her sisters did even when they were the same age.  On various homeschooling boards I had read that T4L often worked quite well with children that had attention and hyperactivity issues.  Thus, when the opportunity came along to try T4L I thought, "Why not?"

I was prepared to dislike T4L simply because I do not like my children to be tied into the computer.  Additionally, I was afraid that the curriculum would be "too traditional" for my tastes with too much screen time and not enough creativity.  I am happy to say that I was wrong.  Additionally, T4L provides more than I anticipated for both parent and child. 

My daughter absolutely LOVES using this program.  She enjoys it, and she is learning.  She has been able to retain what she learns and gain independence.  One of my favorite features of the program is the Activity Scheduler - you can determine how many and which lessons will be covered each week of your academic year.  Another great feature is the ability to change levels dependent on your child's individual needs - in other words, you are not tied into the same grade for every subject.

I was also happy to learn that the science and social studies activities involved hands-on experiments, "field work," and projects. It is not as crafty a program as Oak Meadow (few are), but there were plenty of opportunities to make and create things, record and experiment, etc.  Furthermore, if your child is interested in something in particular it is very easy to add in other crafts/experiments, but there are not so many in the program that you feel overwhelmed.  For example, my daughter created an embossed metal amulet after learning about the Inuit amulets. 

Another area which works extremely well for my daughter is the interactive nature of the learning programs and the instructional videos.  They capture her attention, and the immediate feedback on the lesson activity quizzes helps her better her understanding of the material presented.  In math, for example, I can tell that she has improved her grasp of several different concepts in just the past month.  Additionally, every lesson has a quiz or question-answer portion which assesses learning.  I used to think that this type of exercise was unnecessary, but I have to say that I believe there is value as these activities show where we need to review or work further.  I was surprised several times when my daughter didn't understand concepts that I would have sworn she did.  I am glad that we were able to go back and review before moving on.

It did take a couple of weeks to get into the groove and determine how much to do in a day, but once we found that groove it's been relatively smooth sailing.  I cannot speak for every grade level, and certainly any one program will not work for every child, but this program definitely works for my youngest daughter.  In fact, I left the decision up to my daughter and she asked to keep using T4L.  As such, I have extended our membership.  I am so glad I had the opportunity to try the program!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Eight Weeks

“You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing the small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
Alvin Toffer
The above quote reminds me that all of the small things we've done this school year are adding up to a big thing - the completion of another successful homeschool year. And that's unequivocally no small feat, as any homeschooler will tell you.  For me, it's hard to believe that we only have eight weeks of school remaining.  A lot can happen in eight weeks.  Or not happen.  It can be a veritable lifetime.  But when you start out on day one looking at a 36-week plan, getting down to eight makes it look like a very small amount of time.  It also means that many small bits -  2- or 6- or 8-week sections of the academic year - have been accomplished.  When I think about the books read, pictures drawn, sculptures created, reports written, power point presentations given ... I'm amazed at my children.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do in the last 8 weeks. Hopefully we'll keep heading in "the right direction." 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Same Question, Different Day...

As this academic year rounds the final corner, I've been thinking more and more about our plans for next year. Not so much the academic plans, but rather our extracurricular plans.  Some things are easy: swim team.  Some things are more challenging: everything else.  I have this same question every year - it's getting old.  At the same time, would I be a "real" homeschooler without this question? this uncertainty?  Of course, I'm kidding. I'm sure there are homeschoolers that don't question their plans and schedules.  I just don't think I'm one of them. In fact, I know I'm not.

One of the issues for me is that for three years I've lead or co-lead classes for homeschoolers.  Before that I organized park days, or organized group field trips, or lead homeschool girl scouts, or set up science classes  ... And even before my kids were school age I organized a cooperative "pre-school."  Basically, I'm feeling the need for a break from organizing and planning!  My dream solution would be a one-day-per-week drop-off program for homeschoolers that has elective-type classes or workshops.  It would also be free (or very cheap) - but still good quality! - because while in my dream world I could afford something like that, here on Earth I can't.  Oh, and I would love for it to only be 5, maybe 10, minutes from the house.

Another issue is that while I have enjoyed attending classes/etc for homeschoolers, I do not enjoy morning activities. I find that my kids focus best and work most efficiently before lunch, so I prefer to schedule classes, play dates, etc., after lunch. I have been able to find alternatives to what I've been doing, but they are all in the morning - and at least 30-40 minutes from my house.  Doesn't work.

I know I'll figure it out, and that no matter what we end up doing it will work out fine.  I just don't like the interim uncertainty. It's not fun.

AND. I do really wish my dream-world plan could happen ...