(Disclaimer – I received a free trial of Time4Learning and was compensated for my time. The thoughts and opinions I shared are completely my own.)
Homeschooling 3 kids between ages 4 and 8, with a 4 month old baby to boot, can be quite the circus act. While my eldest is almost 8, in 3rd grade, and becoming quite independent with his schoolwork, I still find it a struggle to keep him occupied at certain times during the day.
He tends to finish very quickly sometimes, before I have a chance to get something else together for him to work on. And if both boys are finished school and I’m busy with Keekers or Miss E, it can be a recipe for disaster! They are boys, curious, and full of energy (especially when they’ve been cooped up for 2 weeks with colds!) and always on a mission of some kind.
While I know it’s not good to keep them constantly busy with schoolwork (they need room to breathe and be creative after all!), it’s also not good to leave them to their own devises for too long. Then you’re just asking for trouble.
So what’s a busy homeschool mom to do? I don’t like them watching TV or playing online games – we’ve even limited the time they have on the iPad because they would fight for turns and expect it all the time.
Fortunately I was introduced to Time4Learning – an online educational program that encompasses a broad range of subjects, and is appropriate for age 3 up to grade 8. This isn’t your average games portal. Believe me, I’ve been searching and searching for a program that would offer more than one subject of study and wouldn’t just be teaching or just games. I always approach anything computer related with extreme caution as I know that my kids have a tendency to get addicted to electronics very easily! To be honest, I was really skeptical that this program would be any different than a typical computer game. Boy was I wrong!
What I love about Time4Learning:
When you first login, you set up each child to have their own account. You choose their age and grade levels. You can also choose different levels for different subjects – for instance, my 8 year old is in a higher ability level in reading than in math, so I can put him at a lower level for the math lessons.
When they login and use the program, it keeps track of their progress. And by progress I don’t mean “game scores”. There are different subjects to take lessons in – all are age-appropriate and include (but are not limited to):
When your child uses the program, it tracks their answers to quizzes and which lessons they have completed so you know where they need help.
Parent interaction is as much or as little as you desire. You can let them complete the lessons and do the quizzes on their own and check their scores. There is also a section to view the Scope and Sequence for each grade, subject and lesson. For me this is too much involvement since we already have our curriculum planned, and are planning on using this more for activities, but if you are using this program as more than a supplement to your schooling this section is very helpful!
Select the subject and number of weeks they’ll be working on it, then input if you want them to do the lessons, quizzes, worksheets and tests. Generate a schedule which shows the lesson to complete, save to PDF and print – voila, the lessons are planned for you!
As well as a Learning section, there is also a games area (with a timer!) called The Playground. This is the place where the games are at. The Playground area has games within itself, but it is also linked to a lot of really great educational games websites (like PBS Kids!). My kids DEFINITELY wanted to immediately go to the Playground area and skip over the lessons. However, I set up the timer (which you can set permanently or daily) which shows them the minimum amount of lesson time to complete BEFORE they’re allowed to play on the Playground.
Bonus – you set the maximum amount of time to play on the Playground! I don’t know about you, but my kids aren’t so good at listening to a timer when they’re engrossed in the computer. And I can’t always be there to make sure they get off as soon as the timer goes, or the next person gets their turn. The Playground timer kicks them out of the games area once the time is up :D No chance of going over the amount of time you want them to play! I like that the kids can play on some of their favourite sites and still be kept to the timed games session.
What my kids love about Time4Learning:
My 6 year old LOVES the Ranger guy in the Language Arts section. They review phonics sounds and rules for spelling different words. The instructions are clear and the characters really engaging! He’s only in first grade but he loves to read and do any of the reading activities that go along with it.
My 4 year old can login (with my help) and easily pick from the lesson areas as the picture labels show her what the lessons are about. Each section has a storybook or video about the topic and some kind of game or activity (patterns, matching, painting, etc.). Some of the instructions are difficult for a 4 year old to catch, so you would definitely want to be nearby to help so they don’t get frustrated.
My eldest is almost 8 and probably benefits the most academically out of the program. He’ll whip through a lesson and take a quiz, then move on to the next topic of interest. Yesterday’s science lesson was on hearing, and there was an experiment to go along with it!
I love that there are hands on opportunities to experiment with what you’re learning! He couldn’t wait for daddy to get home and work on the project with him. (Under the parent controls section of the website it outlines what projects and activities there are for each subject so you can see what’s coming up and what materials you might want to have on hand.)
What I would change about Time4Learning:
We liked most of what we saw on Time4Learning. One thing I might change is the Playground access for younger ones. Since all of the games are available to be clicked on, for my 4 year old it would be less confusing, frustrating and time consuming to only have available for playing those games that are for kindergarten age and under.
Because the games section is linked to outside websites, you’ll need to monitor what games and sites the kids go to. It might be nice to have parental controls to turn off some access.
In all, I was pleasantly surprised at our experience with using Time4Learning. As I mentioned I am extremely picky about what and how much I let my kids do on the computer. But Time4Learning is a program that I am very pleased with, for the ease of use, different levels of parental involvement, engaging lessons and activities, and depth of material covered. If you’re looking for a program to enhance your homeschool, use as an after school activity or an alternative to tutoring, or even as your school curriculum, Time4Learning is definitely it!
To give you a jump-start, Time4Learning is giving away TEN 14-day trials to my readers!! You can enter using the widget below. I hope you win!