We can tailor each child’s education according to what works best for them as individuals!

As a homeschooling parent since 1986, I’ve seen a lot of changes in what is available to us as home educators.  It used to be somewhat limited to the biggies – you know – Abeka, Bob Jones, etc. – and a few radical (at the time) ideas like our first curriculum – KONOS!  Now the selections available to us seem almost endless!  This change is great for really honing in on what will work with a particular child, but sorting it all out can seem overwhelming.

Our family situation has also seen a lot of changes in the past (nearly thirty) years since we began our homeschooling journey.  The young elementary children and babies of those days have grown up and now have children of their own.  Our present day home has children ages twelve, eleven, eight and seven.  The three youngest of this group were recently adopted from China, so we have language skills to catch up on before we can really even begin to study academics seriously.  Our curriculum obviously has to change along with the needs of our family. So,  I took advantage of an offer to try a free month of  Time4Learning  in exchange for an honest review.

Our twelve year old is very bright, but math has been a challenge for her the last couple of years.  I confess that her math was a primary motivator for us to try out Time4Learning.  There are glitzier options, but Time4Learning is very functional, and according to her, FUN!  I will note that concurrent with this curriculum, we tested some other online options as well.  In all fairness to Time4Learning, whom we tested with the promise of this review, the others are not mentioned here by name.  I will be happy to provide the names if you wish to contact me privately.

So, what did we find?  First things first.  In my viewpoint if the customer service is bad, the experience will likely be equally bad.  I had occasion to contact customer service at Time4Learning both via the telephone and via email and got a quick and speedy resolution using both methods.  Score!

You can specify different grades for different subjects for each child.  For instance, I specified a fifth grade math and an eighth grade language arts for our twelve year old.  A student has access to one grade above and one grade below the grade level you specify at set up.   What happens if you need to tweak it more, as was my case with our emerging English learners?  There is a link to make this request.  In every instance it was the following day that the change was made by their personnel.

One of the best features in my opinion, and one that can potentially save a LOT of time is the Parent Admin area.

Beginning your school year?  Pick your subjects and the grade level for each.  Specify the start date of your school year and the ending date then hit generate.  The lessons will be automatically divided throughout that many weeks for you.  I haven’t discovered yet how one specifies planned days off or holiday breaks.  These generated plans can be saved in pdf format or in excel.  Goodbye hours and hours with the lesson plan book!

Need to have specific plans to turn in to your superintendent to fulfill the state law requirements where you live?   The Scope and Sequence area shows you what is included in the courses you’ve chosen for your student. These are a ready source for specifying those beginning of the year reports to your district.

While one of the online services we tried sent a weekly progress report straight to my email (nice!) with Time4Learning you have to view the reports through the Parent Admin area.  The reports there are very thorough, however, and at any time you can click on the actual lesson or quiz/test to see what your student was taught and the answers they gave.

After your student has used the curriculum you can view a Student Portfolio giving you access to printable reports by

  • Attendance – including the day’s tally of how many minutes the student was engaged in their studies
  • Duration – the time spent per subject
  • Student Scores – by subject

You can even print personalized student reward certificates!

As I mentioned, we tried out different online sources to see what might be a good fit for our family.  In my opinion, the major difference between Time4Learning and the others we looked at is in its set up.  Time4Learning seems to present an actual curriculum WITH LESSONS TAUGHT.  The others we looked at weren’t as clear cut.  The activities/worksheets were presented, but not the teaching material with them.  There were usually videos to help them learn the material, but it wasn’t as obvious.

In Time4Learning the lessons are more self-contained.  The ones that I previewed offered an interactive video.  The material was explained and then I was given the option of moving forward or asking them to repeat the material again.  The quiz/tests were relevant to the lesson just presented.

Another difference I see with Time4Learning is that it goes through high school.  The others we looked at stopped either at the early elementary years or at best through the eighth grade.

And still another difference is that Time4Learning provides that spectacular Parent Admin section provided with the low monthly fee for the student.  Another website we tested charged extra for the parent features.

You can also “go on vacation.”  In other words if you decide to take a month off, set your account to dormant (site says $4 per month to maintain your records) and come back to it at a later time.

Suggestions for improvement:  I would love to be able to tweak my student’s grade level (more than the one grade above or one grade below) without having to submit a request for the admin to do it.  This option was available in one of the other sites we tested, and another of our children will be using that one for some subjects in the upcoming year.  That wasn’t the deciding factor for us, but in this instance it went into the consideration process.

As a believer in the literal days of creation as read in the Bible, I have to disagree with their Life Science unit on the “Evidence for Evolution,”  and also with the presentation of “Absolute and Relative Dating” in the Earth Sciences unit.  Since such a large segment of home educators are made up of Christian families, it would be awesome if they could offer a creation track to the sciences.  I do, however, appreciate that I am able to preview the content and be prepared to address it with my children if we decide to use their materials for these subjects.  If you, my reader, are of a similar mind be ever watchful and preview the content (in all areas) being mindful that it is not from our worldview.

So did Time4Learning convince me?  Well, yes and no.  I really liked the parent features A LOT!  The low monthly fee works with our budget and actually ends up costing (for access to ALL of the subject areas for one child) about as much as we usually spent on Tikvah’s math curriculum alone.  It is low enough that we will pick and choose the subjects we want to do online and still do some things the “traditional” book route.

Time4Learning does seem to be a good fit (at least in a few areas) for our twelve-year-old so I plan to provide access to the website for the coming school year.  It was not a good fit at this time for our three children recently home from China.  But that is one of the beauties of homeschooling, isn’t it?  We can tailor each child’s education according to what works best for them as individuals.