July 01, 2011

Time4Learning Review

DD and I took a summer test drive with Time4Learning.  I have admired the concept of this program and wanted to try it for a long time.  I was thrilled to find that they have a blogger review program.  Through this program I was able to try Time4Learning with DD for a month in return for this review.

DD missed her friends from her Kindergarten class as well as it's daily routine so much that we started her on Time4Learning right away.  I really liked the single sound letter reviews targeted for those starting 1st grade.  They include the review of 3 or 4 letters at a time and I was delighted by how much she already knew.  It's so hard to know the depth your child's progress in school.  After all what does Enthusiastic about Math really tell you about their knowledge?  Time4Learning offers the following subjects Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, and Language Arts Extensions.

Now I had a big misunderstanding about the way Time4Learning works.  I'd read it was self motivated and children can run the software program after the first day of you sitting with them.  I did not find this to be true.  DD needed me sitting with her for the entire first two weeks.  If I needed to leave the room she would make little to no progress while I was gone.  After those first two weeks it was better, but I still had to be in the room and directly help and motivate with certain skills.

In spite of my daughter's love of Math, she didn't delight in the math section of Time4Learning at in fact she preferred not to work in that section at all.  She did like their limited sciences and I think if I asked her, I'm certain she would still recall whom Jane Goodall is.  After it became obvious she would move through that quickly I bumped her into 2nd grade science.  This was a nice feature as your child can be in one level for one thing and another for a different subject.  What does that mean exactly?  Well in DD's case she was in 1st grade reading, but by selecting the corresponding grade at the beginning of each subject we could shift up to 2nd grade and down to Kindergarten as needed for review.

As DD was enrolled in 2nd grade science she could work on 1st grade science, 2nd grade, and 3rd, had we had the program longer I'm certain she would have made swift progress through those.  The default level you enter upon opening the subject the grade your child is enrolled in.

My goal for this as a summer program was to keep her skills sharp and allow her to gain a more steady footing in her reading.  I don't know about you, but I recall learning to read like turning on a light switch, I didn't know and then all the sudden I did and could read anything.  I doubt that is how it happened, but it is how I remembered.  I greatly wanted Jessica's light to come on.  In this respect Time4Learning showed me just how complicated reading is.  Letter sounds aren't simple, they are complicated and the English language has so many words that break the rules.  Their first grade "language arts" program is very good providing a single set of  lessons to explain "sh" and in another "ck".  What I found lacking was a short vowel sounds.  I went back to the Kindergarten level, but that is so different, in that it blends a bit of history with reading, science, and play that it didn't help DD, not even after I found the Kindergarten letter reviews.  The entire Kindergarten segment seemed like it was "teaching down" after the straightforward fun learning of the 1st grade program.

The Language Arts Extensions was the bane of my efforts.  This takes a story, and reads it to the child.  That seems fine and teaches a lesson with the story, but then the child has to read it alone, unlike the Language Arts review which uses words the student has learned to sound out and words they know and has the ability to click on any given word to hear it read.  Not so with Language Arts Extensions; after the child reads it through once by themselves (this should have been the time of the program "reading together" but our computer didn't do that) they then have to read it through two more times and answer questions about the story.  Shoot by the end of all those readings what is left to retain - I had it memorized!  These lessons do not have any bearing on letter sounds the child has already covered and it is a big struggle, these stories also lack the cadence you expect in beginning reader books.  I wouldn't even start those until the child has a solid reading foundation, and then I'd skip the repeated re-readings.  Twice alone is surely enough.  I found this in the Parents Forum so clearly I'm not the only one dealing with these issues.  Perhaps taking Extensions away and sticking them to the end of Language Arts would be helpful.

Time4Learning has a parent support forum, which sounds great and maybe it is for some people but I found it very odd that my question had to be moderated before they would allow it to post.  So instead of getting a answer as quickly as possible, my question couldn't even be seen until a moderator looked at it.  Eventually a reply came two days later, but it was directing me out of the program and off site to other places, which I found very odd for a paid program.  Perhaps a backdoor to the parent forum, which I had to register for separately from the parent login would help with this.

I also found it odd that to preview the lessons I had to work through them myself first.  If you do that and complete the lesson it flags it as completed and if you you merely start the lesson it shows you on your child's records.  I saw on DD's screens that lessons could be assigned but that is a feature designed only for classroom settings and isn't available at all to individual home families.

Did DD like the program?  Well that's a question I would like an answer to as well.  It was like pulling teeth to get her to sit down at the computer to do her school work.  At first I made it so she had to do that before she did anything else online and that was somewhat motivating for her.  As I felt her moving out of her depth with the compound consonants my desire to push her diminished in my own frustrations to review short vowel sounds with her to aid in her reading efforts.  Truthfully, and contrary to my efforts getting her there, as soon as she would start the program she seemed to delight in the familiar characters and the learning format.

Time4Learning has an educational playground for the students to use when they are done with their class time.  After DD figured out where the best games where she wanted to leave her class window small so she could watch the countdown timer.  I found that to be counter productive and insisted she maximize the classroom window during class time.  The program allows a up to 59 minutes of playground time after (0-59 minutes) of classroom time have been completed.  These amounts are controlled by the parent account and I found them annoying.  We did all of our class time and then DD could have playground time, I didn't care if she played it all afternoon.  After all it's educational, fun, and safe what more could you want in an online program?  But if she played for 59 minutes it would kick her out and I'd have to change it to lesson time required 0 so it would open the playground time back up.

We did most of our lessons in the morning, leaving the afternoon open for lunch and then play.  But the timers don't like that and will log you out if you leave them for lunch, which is fine, but when DD would return for her playground time guess what?  The countdown timer for her schooling requirement was insisting it was time for work again.

Above I mentioned the program was moving faster that my daughter's retention and ability to learn and I truly believe that.  They say you can repeat the lessons as many times as you want, but I ask you:  If they didn't want to do it in the first place, what makes anyone think a child would do it a second time?

This program is not a stand alone teaching tool and they tell you that - sort of by calling it a foundation.  I thought it would be okay as a stand alone program for the summer months but it really doesn't work as a stand alone at all.  Without a complete program some things slip, such as handwriting at the lower levels.  They do have a handwriting program and a spelling program, but each one is it's own website with it's own billing.

I really wanted Time4Learning to be a good match for us, I just don't think it's quite right for where and who we are right now.  I am handicapped and stress drives my pain through the roof, which in turn makes it extremely difficult for me to repeat the same concepts over and over to my daughter one on one.  Trust me I hate that fact about myself, but it doesn't change the fact.  I thought the self motivated potential of Time4Learning would help us, perhaps a tutor would have been better, right when we win that lottery we don't play...

All images within this post are merely linked URLs from the Time4Learning website and they reserve and retain all rights to their own stuff. 

1 comment:

Heather Landry said...

Thanks for sharing your review Liz!