Monday, October 4, 2010

Time4Learning Review

Recently, we were lucky enough to enjoy 30-day trial membership to Time4Learning in exchange for an honest review.  So, here’s my review, based on an adaptation of the star-earning potential I use for Rich Review book reviews.

1. EASE OF USE: Is the site/service easy to navigate for both parents and kids?  It earns half this star if I can quickly catch onto its overall benefits and use while clicking through it between dishes, laundry, phone calls, kiddo needs and sundry other Mama-demands.  It earns the other half of this star if my kids (with a little bit of help from Dad or me) can navigate it with lots of smiles and few frustrated outbursts.

Verdict? ½ *  + ½ *= a full *  Since I am a believer in limited screen-time for kids and also have limited online time myself (with lots I want to do during that time), I did not use all the features available at Time4Learning.  But, I know I easily could have if I had wanted to.  The site is very parent-friendly and allows for many options – lesson planning and tracking, homeschool use, after school use, summer use, skill building, full-on curriculum… And, with a whole page of Helps & Hints it is hard for a parent- even a multi-tasking, nursing-and-therefore-somehwat-sleep-deprived-and-brain-deficient one like me to navigate.

And the kids?  My children caught right on!  And, that is saying something, since they are not allowed much time in front of any screen, and certainly have had only minimal experience to date being allowed to navigate anything online.  Truly, it took but a few times for my kids to point to show me which activities they wanted to try or what they wanted me to click to do the lessons.  Then, lo and behold, one day when the phone rang and I told then, “Wait a minute for Mommy,” I came back to find them happily navigating a lesson on their own.  (Okay, not such a plus for the “obedience” habit we are working on, but a big testimony to how engaging and easy time4learning is for kids!)

2. RELEVANCE: Does the site/service provide information and ideas we can use right now, or in the relatively near future? It earns one star if we find ourselves ready to click away.

Verdict?  A hands down star!  The authors of Time4Learning obviously know early learning skills and aims.  I was very well-pleased with the selection of literacy, math and other skills that the lesson activities explored and the kids were 100% engaged in most of the pre-K and K lessons they tried out.  Kudos to Time4Learning for being fun and educational with an appropriate scope and sequence.  Trust me, not only did the kids enjoy and learn with the site, but I so appreciated having it during this hectic period of our lives with a family death, a newborn and lots more.  Truly, it was great to have something educational on hand that was guaranteed to engage the kids, keeping them in one place without me having to clean up a mess afterwards (and if you know anything about our skill-and-lerning pursuits, you know the messes can get quite big!), so I could deal with some other things.

3. PRACTICALITY: Does the site/service provide practical suggestions or solutions for challenges, activities, etc.?   It earns one star if it pushes us to take an actual step on our homeschooling journey that is in line with our goals and beliefs.

Verdict? a 3/4 *  If I was not such an anti-screen-time Mama, I would definitely give Time4Learning a full star for practicality, since it provides ample easy-to-access, almost no-prep (but an internet connection, of course) lessons and activities for the kids and can even be the core of a full curriculum.  However, I must say I am a strong believer that young children should have extremely limited screen-time (TV, computers and all) and adolescent children should have rationed screen time as well.  Thus, I have to knock it down a ¼ star at least.  That being said, for those who do not subscribe to this same screen-time ideals as I do, Time4Learning could earn a star and then some for practicality.  Truly, it’s a full package that can be used to provide the main dishes of all your child’s learning needs or just a tasty bite or sweet treat here and there.  I know my nearly-five year old not only asked for “learning time” on the computer after using Time4Learning, but also begged for more, more, more once he was allowed on. 

4. LONGEVITY: Will the ideas/learning provided by the site/service help us in a year, two or ten? It earns another star if I think our family would be happy to revisit it time and time again in the future.

Verdict? a full *  The kids, as I have mentioned, really liked Time4Learning.  I did, too.  Not only did it give me a few minutes of calm during a phone call (and all Mamas know how important that can be!), but it reinforced and introduced some learning concepts.   I can definitely see it continuing to do so straight through the kids 8th grade year.   Lnaguage Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies.  It’s all there.

5. VALUE: Is the site/service one that would be worth tipping the budget to subscribe to or was this one-time use enough? If I think I will be trying to find room in the budget for it, it earns another star.

Verdict?  A ½ star (but read my crazy reason why)  As I mentioned before, I am not a big fan of too much screen time for young children.  So, by the very fact that Time4Learning was so engaging to my kids, it loses a ½ star from us.  Now, I know that doesn’t seem fair.  Time4Learning is great so it loses?  That doesn’t make sense, does it? Probably not to many, but I have to go with my gut.  My kids really liked Time4Learning, but I do not like nagging and fights.  And, if you could have heard my wee ones nagging me to use Time4Learning and arguing about why they should not have to get off it when I said computer time was done for the day, you’d understand my verdict here.  I simply don’t want to raise my voice any more than necessary nor do I want to train screen-time junkies (even in the name of quality skill-and-knowledge building, which Time4learning offers).  So, until I do a better job at teaching my young ones some good habits – like moderation and obedience, I won’t be scrambling to put a paid membership to Time4Learning into my family budget.  While the kids love it and I liked it, too – both for the way it promotes learning as well as for the few minutes it gave me to take a phone call, fold some laundry or do some dishes in peace, even with its low price, I simply can not stretch our overburdened budget (darn that mortgage!) on a regular basis for something I want to use only as an educational treat at this point. Still, once my kids get a bit older (and have learned a bit more about self-regulation of screen time), I can see myself considering a membership to Time4Learning.

In short, I would recommend trying Time4Learning to anyone – home or traditional educated.  It can work as a core curriculum or as a supplement.  Plus, you have nothing to lose by trying it, since it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Disclosure:  This review is written based solely on my own opinion and no monetary compensation was received for it.


Kerry said...

Great review!! Your reasoning on the "Value" section cracked me up. It's just too good....LOL. Glad I happened across your blog today. I'm a mom homeschooling older teens and we used T4L for the middle school years and it was a perfect match for us, but I totally understand your wanting to limit screen time for your younger ones. I really enjoyed your review!

Anonymous said...

I loved reading your Blog and your reasons for your ratings.
It made me chuckle a bit when I heard your "views" on screen time . As much as I want my children home-schooled and I want to be the one teaching them,I will admit I am not very good at it :( So anything that will help me in doing it in a easier & more fun way I am all for!
I love going to the library and renting videos and using the Tv and internet ,So Thank you for this review ,I bet would be perfect for our family :)


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