Sunday, March 22, 2009

Final Review of Time4Learning

Below is my final review of Time4Learning. I have also included all previous reviews in this one so that it would be easier for me to link this review on the Homeschool Crew webpage. The final review is about the pricing of Time4Learning. So please scroll down if you have followed the rest of the reviews!

When I first learned about the opportunity of reviewing the site of Time4Learning, I was wondering what this site was all about. So I went on their website and read about what it was.
Time4Learning is using the technology that we have in hand these days to create an online home education program with educational games. Not knowing what to expect, I was a bit skeptical about it… I mean how can an interactive websites be so much fun? But I had already known about the Webkinz site and I wondered if Time4Learning would be as good.

I am impressed… It is well done and fun to use. My 2nd grader has a blast with it while the younger ones are taking a nap. There is a lot in there to keep him busy – language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. He can advance at his own pace and go back on some notions that he doesn’t quite get the first time.

We already were using technology in our homeschool and this easy for us to include in our schedule. Time4Learning have many programs going from preschool up to middle school. It can be used with homeschooling families, after school as an alternative to tutoring, learning centers or supplementary workbooks and is also popular to sharpen the skills during the summer time.

Children like to learn while using technology – well I know mine do! Time4Learning have lessons, exercises and assessments. They are trying to continuously update their site with more interesting features. They are in partnership with CompassLearning which provides the Compass Learning Odyssey. In the week to come I will give you more details about this interesting website and how it was used in our family!

After playing with the site, I suddenly discovered that there is a parent section with our own password... Cool! What is there? I wondered...

So off I went and dived in. I discovered lots... Let me tell you what a parent can do...
The first thing you see when you enter the parenting section is which child is registered and their loging and password. This is useful if you want to go print their report which can only be accessed after entering their own registration information. You have the possibility to add another child, cancel your child or change the time specification for a child which is originally set to 15 minutes.

You also have the possibility to make your account dormant in case you need to take some time off from Time4Learning with a discounted billing so you won't have to pay the full amount during that time. You also have the possibility of update your credit card information or your account information when changes are made ( this is handy is you move or if you receive a new credit card for whatever reason like fraud or just expiration). Finally you also have the possibility to cancel your account or reactive it whenever you want too.

The best additional resources for me were the lesson plans. In this section, you can select the year where you child is and get more information on a particular lesson. Unfortunately, not every lesson have a document that you can print to complete the lesson but as a general rule there is a lot more for sciences and language arts in the first primary years (preschool, kindergarten and first grade are the ones I have checked...)

You will also find a parent's forum where you can exchange ideas with other homeschoolers or even find homeschoolers in your area (please keep in mind that this site is American so there might be more US homeschoolers registered in here than Canadian ones!). I must honestly admit that I didn't check the forum that much so I can't tell you what I think about it...
Finally, the last things in the parental section are Hints and Help, a getting started guide and a contact us link. These three sections will help you navigate through the site and get help when you need it.

I've mentioned earlier that the only way to print the report for a child is to log into his/hers account. This can be accessed when you press the backpack where it is written My Portfolio. The report is fantastic showing you where the child has understood the subject or what needs more work. You have the possibility to print for a specific subject, a specific activity and for a week, a month or a date range. The reports show all the activities a student avec completed, how much time the student has spent on each activity, the score the student had for the specific activity and the answers on the quizzes and tests.

Personally, I would like to have the option to be able to print such reports for all my kids in the parents section. This would permit me to keep track of their progress without having to go through their account. Apart from this specific little thing, I think the parents section is well thought and have a lot of functionality.

Time4Learning is not a uniquely Christian program. They are aligned with national standards in the States which means that the science section is mostly based on a secular point of view and you won't find any creation references. However, even though there is this "problematic" as some christian homeschoolers would see it, I think it is wise to explain to our children why there is a difference of view on this specific subject.

Time4Learning knows about this and they are flexible to adapt your account to reflex your choices. I have been told that it is possible to remove the science part of the program if you wish to pass on this since there is so much information with evolution reference. However, it looks like that homeschoolers have discussed the pros and cons and methods of using Time4Learning from a Christian perspective in the parent forum.

The folks at Time4Learning are always working toward process improvement and are listening to the parents when they have suggestions or ideas. I think it is important for a company who offers such a service to be flexible and open to new opportunities. Time4Learning is one of such companies from what I can understand.

I think their Languages Art and Mathematics section are great for review and supplement materials during the school year and even during summer time if needed. However, I suggest that the parent sit down with the child while going through the science portion of the program so that you can know exactly what your child is taught during his/her time on Time4Learning.

So after spending some time looking into this internet tool, I was wondering how much they were charging for it. So I clicked on the signup link and discovered that it would cost 19.95$US per month to have access to this site. And if you want to register other children the price goes down to 14.95$US per month for each child.

WoW! It doesn’t take long to make a calculation. Personally I find it a little bit expensive but it you take in consideration that you have a complete Language Arts and Mathematics program from that much I guess it’s a good price. But taking in account that the system is not Christian or that the fact the characters tells not so funny jokes at times, I don’t think it’s the best for my kids.

Mind you, I know that my oldest had fun using the system for the month we were testing it for the review. And I thought it was well done. But paying 20$ per month for this while I can get a multitude of software for our computer at home?

Oh they are flexible in the terms of the registration. There is a 14 day money back guarantee and you can cancel any time since there is no long term contract.

It looks like Time4Learning is trying very hard to keep the cost as low as possible. I have to keep in mind that they modify the system regularly and add more things too! Still with the exchange these days the price is more expensive at the end for Canadians. But if you are interested in this internet tool in your homeschool, please be aware that Time4Learning that there is a possibility for members to participate in a review and referral program which will permit you to earn extra cash to help with the monthly membership fee. Also they have payment alternatives to help reduce the cost.

For us, well, even though we had fun with this wonderfully made internet tool to learn, we won’t become a member just because of the cost (we do have 4 kids after all!) and the instability of the value of the dollar.

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