A huge benefit for those crazy seasons in life

We used Time4Learning as a fun activity supplement, for our five and a half year old, Hannah, and our four year old, Gabriel.

It is easy to set up accounts with Time4Learning. As the parent, you have an account, where you can sign in to see what your child has done the last day, week, or month. If they have done tests or quizzes online, you have access to their test scores. You can also print reports and certificates.

You can set amounts of time that the child has to spend working on lessons, before they are allowed access to a “Playground” area (and you can also set how much time they spend in the playground area.) For the levels we were working in, there was really no need for spending time in the Playground as the activities themselves were a lot of fun and similar to the playground activities that they could do at their ages. Perhaps in the higher levels it would be nice to allow the child access to the “playground” for a period of time after completing his time in the “work area”? There are lots of puzzles, action games, activities, and other educational games in there.

There is an online forum for parents as well, where you can just get to know other parents or ask questions about the program.

Each child that is signed up has their own account, and an individualized learning path. They can proceed through the program at their own speed as they master the subject material. The material covered is customizable. If you know exactly what grade your child is in, you can easily sign up for that grade. The child has access to a grade below and a grade above as well – perfect for either moving the child up a bit as he /she masters areas, or for moving them back if they need more practice with the basics.

Are you not sure exactly what grade level your child should be in? Simply answer a set of questions during the sign-up process, and the Time4Learning administrators will set your child up in the correct grades. Once you have access to the accounts, you can go in, assess the content yourself, and then with one click, move your child up or down a grade if necessary. Each subject can be adjusted independently of the others. Is your child a science whiz who detests numbers and is only starting to read? No problem. She can work in Grade 2 science, Grade 1 reading, and Kindergarten math, and progress in each subject at her pace.

We had Time4Learning set up in the PreK level one and two for Gabriel. He spent time listening to stories, making patterns, playing memory games, “painting” online, playing “find-it” games, “which is which” games, and recall games. It was easy for him to navigate around by himself, though I was usually sitting right beside him. He really enjoyed the extra challenges of the games I hadn’t tried with him yet, like Memory, and surprised me by doing really well at them. He did great with a lot of topics we’ve already been touching on – colors, numbers, alphabet, and seemed to progress very quickly using the program to work on counting, rhymes, and other “tougher” topics.

After each little “chapter” with usually four activities built around a topic, there is an option to choose how much fun the activities were – “a lot fun, just a little fun, not fun”. For the first week or so, Gabriel always picked “just a little fun,” because he said the blue cartoon guy (the guy in the logo at the top of this review) had a weird voice. After the first week or so he admitted that most of the games were “a lot fun.” Maybe he got used to the voice! 😉

We did find a few of the activities at the PreK level suggested “going to school”, including schoolbuses, stories about school classrooms, etc, which was kind of surprising to me considering that most people who use this program are apparently homeschoolers. However, Gabriel didn’t even seem to notice. And there’s always a big celebration when he finished something, fireworks and all. . . .

Hannah had Time4Learning set up in a few different levels. It took a bit of browsing through the three different levels we had access to before we were able to decide which levels were appropriate for her. There were a lot of fun phonics and math games that she really enjoyed and seemed to learn a lot from. She found the science and social studies sections interesting, but said the cartoon characters that have discussions teaching the topics were annoying. Despite her love of science, she seemed to gravitate more towards the Math and Learning to Read activities that apparently didn’t have annoying characters.

To be fair in the “annoying character” assessment, the only animated thing my kids watch is the very occasional Veggie Tales, so their experiences with animated personages are limited. Other children may not find the characters annoying at all! Again, there was an insinuation in several of the activities about “going to school”, including buying lunch in the school cafeteria and “My teacher said I had to write a report on. . . ” from a cartoon child wearing a backpack. It’s not necessarily a negative thing, just something we were surprised by.

With four little ones, there are certain very busy seasons in life. We are currently in one now as we prepare our house to go on the real estate market and prepare for a transfer to a new town more than 1100 km (almost 700 miles) away. The painting, the floor laying, the clutter busting. . . it’s chaos around here. In this busy season, it has been a blessing to have a program that the kids could do independently for half an hour or so as well. They’re not at an age yet where they can really help with the getting ready, but require constant supervision, and need their minds kept active. It’s been a blessing to be able to log one of the kids on to the computer and let them learn and have fun, while also being able to get something done in the same room or around the corner.

As an added bonus, ALL the kids really enjoyed gathering around the computer for the lesson times, so there would be four little munchkins seated around giggling and interacting with each other as either Hannah or Gabriel handled the mouse and went through different things.

So, if you are like us and don’t really feel a need to have the computer be a huge part of your child’s early education, you may not want to do a full year of this program. BUT, you may still find this program a huge benefit for those crazy seasons in life. Maybe you’re on bedrest, have a newborn, are getting ready to move, there’s an illness in the family, you’ll be taking a long trip. . . there are many reasons this program might be a blessing to you and allow formal school to still get done during those busy times.

If you are more of a family that likes to include technology from an early age and your kids learn well in that manner, you may be looking for a computer based core curriculum for homeschooling. This program could be a good fit.

If you’re wondering about security and reputation, they are a Better Business Bureau certified company. You can also read their privacy policy here. As with any time a child is on the computer, though, parental supervision is a must and with older children, I think appropriate filters and guards would be important if the child will be unattended for any length of time. I don’t think there would be anyway they could access anything questionable through the site itself, but in random clicking my children were sometimes able to open another internet window. (The baby was often able to open another window by pounding on the keyboard. Apparently there’s a keyboard shortcut? Who knew?) So, safety first. If your child will be on the computer for any reason, even if only this program, I suggest making sure you have precautions in place so that he/she can’t stumble upon anything you don’t want him/her seeing.

The monthly membership is $19.95 for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child, and you can sign up quickly and easily by visiting Time4Learning or looking at their contact page for email, phone number, and addresses. They have no contract, and bill monthly until you contact them to cancel. They offer a 14 day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. You can also try a free lesson demo and see screenshots of many activities!