Thoughts on Time4Learning
In exchange for an honest review, we were given a free month of access to Time4Learning.com for our two sons. The time has come to let you know what we thought of it!
As with most programs, there were some pros and cons. Overall, I thought it was a great system for children who enjoy working on the computer. My boys, who are in grades 4 and 7, LOVE being on the computer. I got very little resistance from them when I told them it was time to do their ‘computer school’. My older son whizzed right through all of his lessons. My younger son had a little more trouble as the material at his level was a bit more challenging for him. For my older son, most of what he did was review but a lot was new information for my younger son. It was kind of hard to just jump in and figure out where to start on all the different subjects in order to pick up where we left off in our regular schooling. Very little matched up. If you were only using Time4Learning from the beginning of the school year, that probably wouldn’t be an issue, but that was something I struggled with at first. In the end, and to facilitate getting enough experience to write a review, I started both boys at the beginning of their respective grade levels. So a lot was review for my 7th grader as I said, but a lot was new for my 4th grader.
Both of my kids liked the animated cartoons that were used to present the lessons. I believe those were mainly used in the Language Arts area. Math was a bit more straight-forward: read and do.
My older son had no problems doing the work for Language Arts and Math. He did some of the science lessons, too. Since Time4Learning doesn’t have science for 7th grade, he worked on the 6th grade level. He enjoys science, especially astronomy. Because he is using a devoted Astronomy text for his normal schooling, he preferred to keep going with that rather than do the Time4Learning science for the whole month. He had no trouble doing math on the computer as he was able to figure the answers out in his head. If we had continued longer, I’m sure he would have had to use paper. On most days, I had him do 2 sections in both Math and Language Arts and that seemed to work well for him.
My younger son did well with the grammar sections, but had some trouble with the comprehension questions in Language Arts at first. He would miss a question on the first quizzes but get them all right on the later ones. He doesn’t always focus well, so I think this was more an issue with how he learns than the program itself. He needs repetition sometimes. Probably the biggest challenges he had were with math. The problems he was working on could not be done in his head. To find the right answer, he needed to write the problems down, work them on paper, then select the correct answer on the computer. I’m not sure this is really an advantage over just doing them on paper to start with, as we normally do. Some math can certainly be done on the computer without paper, but most probably needs to be written down to be worked. Time4Learning does provide worksheets for some lessons, and I’ll touch on that later.
Overall, my older son would have liked to continue using Time4Learning for Language Arts and Math. My younger son prefers our normal way of schooling. Although he enjoyed the Language Arts portion, it would be hard to justify paying for him to do only one subject. It would be nice if you could buy certain subjects separately and just get what you want a la carte.
I did run into some trouble using the program at various times and I feel that I should mention these. At no point was the program unusable, but there were some glitches that need to be addressed.
In math, the program required entering commas into an answer that was over 999. This was not made clear at first and caused some correct answers to be marked as incorrect. Also, the java coding used to tell the child if their answer was correct or not was visible in the bottom bar of the browser when the mouse was hovered over the checkmark. If the child were to look, the correct answer was right there in the coding. My younger son brought this to my attention, telling me he found a way to cheat. He is pretty computer savvy and perhaps some kids wouldn’t know what they were looking at, but it was pretty obvious once you looked at it.
I did experience some technical difficulties. There were a couple of instances of server downtime when I was trying to print out reports. Also, I was not able to open several of the worksheet pdf files that went with lessons. The files would download, but I’d get a message that the files couldn’t be read when I’d try to open them. It’s possible this was a problem with my computer, but I was able to open some, and not others. Having the ability to print out worksheets was very nice (when it worked), especially for math. However, I don’t think the questions on the worksheets were the same as on the computer, so you couldn’t just print out the questions to work on paper and answer online. The worksheets were more ‘extra’ work, rather than a help for the lesson itself. It would be nice to have worksheets available for the actual problems online that need to be worked on paper rather than in the head.
I also ran into some trouble printing out reports. At the end of each week, I printed out the weekly report and any printable quizzes for each child to keep for my records. This all worked great for my younger son’s records. For my older son, information was missing. His name didn’t show up, it showed the ‘codes’ for the questions above the question text, didn’t give the score % or the date the quiz was taken. This isn’t a huge issue, I guess, but I did have to go through the weekly report and hand write this information on all his quizzes. I’m not sure why this happened but it was something that I would have contacted them about to try to correct if we had continued any longer.
Parents would probably want to go through the science lessons ahead of time to make sure they align with their personal belief system. I didn’t look at the lessons but I would guess from the titles that I might personally have issues with some of the information presented in topics such as “Greenhouse Effect” and topics discussing the formation and age of the Earth. This is a secular program and needs to be treated as such.
There were some quirks of the program that I didn’t like but that might not bother others at all. The way the math lessons are set up (pretty much the same progression of topics through the year for all levels rather than going from addition to subtraction to multiplication, etc. over several years), the disjointed history presentation that seemed to jump over large chunks of time…these were issues for me. I’m very into logical progression and chronological history, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the lessons as they are presented in Time4Learning. I didn’t see how they were ‘connecting’ from one to the next. That may just be my own hang-up because we’ve always done these things a certain way.
I’ve saved the best for last! This program was a life-saver during the last week we had it because we came down with what I affectionately call “The Plague.” My husband and I got it first and the kids were still healthy so it was great to be able to tell them to go do their computer school and they could go do it on their own without needing us too much. They didn’t do everything we normally do that week, but at least they were doing something every day, even when we weren’t up to it! I did enjoy the break from having to be the teacher for each and every subject. Language Arts worked the best for this.
I think we’d be interested in keeping the program if we could pick and choose which subjects we pay for. We’re just too ingrained in our present system to drop it completely and jump fully into Time4Learning. I think it could be an excellent choice for some families, though! I would definitely suggest that interested families take the program for a “test drive” to see if it would work for them.