When we were offered an opportunity to review the Complete Home Learning Suite by Essential Skills Advantage (ESA), I was on the fence about whether or not to accept it. I had heard positive things about ESA and appreciate that they are not aligned to the Common Core like so many other curriculum providers out there. However, I was not sure I wanted to commit to yet another thing that would require my children and I to be home to use. For we own no portable internet-ready devices and, thus, any time that we use online programs, we must be at home - a place that, oddly, even though we are homeschoolers, we are absent from quite regularly.
In the end, though, I decided that ESA could be helpful in our situation. Since we are often out and about immersing ourselves in experiential learning, clubs, co-ops, and such, when we are at home, I like to be able to open-and-go with much of our skill work. Further, I find it helpful to have things on hand that will engage one or more of my children in independent learning while I work with another. ESA promised just that. The children could log in and learn on their own without fuss.
What Is ESA?
In a nutshell, ESA is a supplementary learning program for elementary aged children that provides online streaming activities for:
- Reading at K-6 levels through Phonics work and Reading Comprehension
- Spelling at Grades 1-6 levels through "Fun with Spelling" and "Spelling Stumpers"
- Language & Grammar at Grades 3-6 levels with Creative Writing, Grammar, Vocabulary, and Writing Fundamentals
- Math at Grades K-6 levels with Complete Math, Operations, and Concepts
- Science at Grades K-3 levels with Earth & Space, Life, and Physical Sciences
- Geography at Grades 3-5 levels with American & Canadian Geography, Map & Globe Skills, and World Geography
Each time students log in, they can choose which subjects and levels they would like to work at in order to progress at their own pace. As they do, a "Marks Manager" feature tracks their progress for parents so that parents can easily view which activities students have completed, what scores they have been getting, etc. Parents can also print certificates for completed units if they wish. Thus, the program offers flexibility and accountability.
Our ESA Experience
For our review, I was given a one-year online subscription for two students. My plan was to have my daughter and oldest son use the program independently to work on skills in 15 minute increments at least three days a week when we were home.
Well, you know what they say: "Life is what happens when you are making other plans." While we did use the program regularly, as things turned out, one of my children could not use it independently, and the other often pushed his 15-minute increment longer.
My daughter was excited to try the program, but was quickly crestfallen when she realized "how hard" it was. She is not a strong reader and got frustrated right away by "all the reading" that was required even at lower levels of the program "even with math". In all honesty, there was not that much reading, but my daughter is quite a reluctant reader, and I had mistakenly built ESA up as something she could do all by herself, not realizing that there is not an audio feature that reads every word of text to students. (There are some parts that are read, but not all.) So, right away, my daughter became disappointed
My daughter did plug along with ESA, however, using the program with help from her big brother, dad, or me. Still, she never took to it. She said:
It's just not my style. It's online, and I prefer offline games or short online things... And I do not like things that say, "good job" and make sounds after each thing. It's just too much for me. The sounds bother my ears. I don't really want to keep using it, but people who don't mind sounds and sitting at a computer might like it.
My son, on the other hand has had more success with the program. He used it completely independently and told me he'd write my review. LOL.
Here's what my ten-year-old had to say:
ESA has most subjects people study, such as Reading, Math, Language, Science, and Geography. It is an online program. You can choose what subject and level you want to study.
My mom asked me to do Math and Language with ESA. They were pretty much the same as most other Math and Language things, except you don't have to write. You only have to type. Just typing makes it a little better to do Math and Language, but I still dislike the subjects, so I was not interested in that part of ESA.
I was interested in other parts of ESA. My favorite ESA subjects are Geography and Science. They are easier than the other subjects for me and I can actually use them, unlike the Reading part of ESA that confused me.
Geography has four smaller subjects - Maps and Globes, Canadian Geography, U.S. Geography, and World Geography. I have tried all of these, but not in every grade level available. Right now, I am using Maps and Globes, but the others are good, too. (Canadian Geography is hard for me though, because I am from the U.S.A.) I like how the geography activities sometimes say, "Look at the map. Click on what you are directed to." It is easy and fun.
I also like Science. There are subtopics. I have used Earth and Space Science, Life Science (I think that's what is is called), and another science whose name I do not remember. Of these, I like the Living Science the best, because I know a lot about it. I am able to review easily with it.
I want to continue to use ESA, because it is fun as long as I don't have to do things I do not understand. I think the program is good for people who know a lot, but cannot always remember things, because it can help them review it.
The program does not tell you answers when you get something wrong, but it says you have not finished the lesson.
I think my son pretty much summed my feelings and thoughts up about ESA with his review.
ESA is a worthwhile program for children who like computer-based learning and need to review concepts and sharpen skills. It does not aim to teach, but rather to supplement and solidify learning through online practice. With over 14,000 lessons available at K-6 grade levels, the program can help you assess and teach your child if online learning is your child's style.
Homeschoolers, afterschoolers and school children can use the program. In fact, ESA is used by over 20,000 schools and in many homes.
If you'd like to try ESA out this summer, you can get 75% off using coupon code ESA75.
You can find ESA on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and on the ESA blog.
You can also find out what 100 Schoolhouse Review Crew families thought about ESA.