I was invited to try out Time4Learning’s online curriculum for a month, in exchange for a fair review. Of course, freebie junkie that I am, I jumped at the chance. Also, I needed help teaching Math, since I was able to get the Funnix Reading program (free too!), and that took care of the reading.
What I liked about Time4Learning is that it goes at the child’s own pace, and that it fosters independence. After the first few lessons, I could leave Raine’s side and do other stuff—but still on hand to explain when I sensed that she was having difficulty grasping the concepts or understanding the instructions.
I signed Raine up for the Kindergarten level—you can change to one level up or down, if your kid finds the current level too easy or too hard—and it had Language Arts, Math and Science (the Science was from the first grade level). They have the scope and description listed, so you know what your child will be doing.
I initially thought the first half of Math was too easy for Raine—sorting, patterns, greater and lesser, number recognition—and I wanted to request for a level up. But the other half—measurement, calendars, money, addition and subtraction—were concepts we hadn’t tackled yet, so we stuck to the level. Besides, it was a good boost for her to easily ace the quizzes in sections she was familiar with; it made her feel better when we were working on the harder lessons. Besides, it's good to strengthen the foundations.
We didn’t really go into the Language Arts. She knows her letters and sounds already, and she is starting to read on her own. She actually found the first part, Print Awareness and Active Listening, boring so I didn’t push her to work on this section. We didn’t explore the rest of the available lessons for Language Arts, so I can’t really give much feedback on it.
We both loved the Science part, though we were only able to do the section on living and non-living things, and amphibians.
Here’s the nitty-gritty:
What went on
First Raine would login, and then she’d choose her lesson for the day. I’d let her do Math first, and then she could choose to do Science or Language Arts after finishing at least one lesson. After lessons, she can go to the virtual playground, where there are a plethora of games and activities, and links to other cool kiddie sites. The website has a timer—which you can set—that counts down the minimum time your child must spend doing lessons before she can move on to the playground. You can also set the timer for the playground. Nothing happens when you go over the set time for the lessons, but once time’s up at the playground, the game ends abruptly.
What we like
- It’s engaging. Raine loved “doing Math” so much that even on take-a-break-from-lessons days (weekends), she’d beg to do Math as a treat. I admit to using Time4Learning as a bribe to do her reading lessons and her writing worksheets.
- It’s easy for Raine to navigate. After the first couple of lessons, Raine could login by herself, choose her lesson and take the quizzes on her own. There was even a tutorial on drag-and-drop mouse skills, which let her be more independent.
- It seems more a game than lessons, which is why Raine loved it so. Colorful animations, music and fun tasks (drag the gold into the correct treasure chest, for example, helped teach about sorting) made the lessons easy to absorb.
- Corrections were presented gently. If Raine didn’t answer the question right, the concept would be explained and demonstrated again, with an encouraging “Try again!” after. Once she got the right answer, there was a “good job!” or similar praise.
- It’s non-reader friendly. In the Science section, for example, Raine had to click on “living” or non-living” to classify the object in the picture. When you hover the pointer over the word, the program will read it out for you, so even if I wasn’t beside her to read the options, Raine was able to correctly answer the questions. All the lessons are narrated (sometimes too slowly and tediously, in my opinion), so there isn’t any problem about not being able to read directions or questions.
- There are progress reports and lesson plans that are available online and for printing, making it easy to monitor your child’s progress. Sadly, this is one feature I was not able to maximize. I always put off reviewing Raine’s actual progress. Since I was almost always in the room when she was doing her Math, I had an idea of what she was doing; still it would have been nice to have a concrete report of it.
- Nothing to download! It’s all web-based, so I didn’t have to burden my hard drive.
- Getting started guides, FAQs and parent forums are available, in case you need help.
Things that were so-so
- As I mentioned earlier, sometimes the narration was too slow and tedious, Raine would start squirming around. But I suppose this allows all users ample time to understand instructions or the concept.
- In the quizzes, the phrasing of some questions were confusing (to Raine at least). She understood the concept, but not the instructions. When I rephrased the questions, she got the answers right. Again, this is more a personal quirk than a bad thing about the program.
- In the playground, the games are grouped according to activity type, which is good. But I also wish they had more information about the game—a quick what-it’s-about, for what age/skill level—available immediately. You still have to click on the game and wait for it to load before you can check if it’s appropriate for your child. Sometimes, by the time Raine settles for a game she can actually play on her own, her time’s up!
- I can’t work while Raine’s doing lessons. Since we share a computer (rather she shares mine), when it’s Time4Learning time, I get booted off. I do use this time to read and play with Breeze, or I print out my reading materials so I can still be productive.
Would I recommend this program? Yes, definitely. If I had the extra budget, I would sign Raine up. I could see her making progress, and really enjoying herself as she learned. There are so many available activities, worksheets and lessons that you can really use Time4Learning as your main curriculum (for Raine’s level at least).