One of the challenges of homeschooling is selecting curriculum that meets the needs of each child. Many families find that what fits one child, may not fit another. Or that what worked well one semester, may feel stale and stop working the next. In some cases, what works for one child in one subject, does not work for the same child in another subject.
Most families discover that children benefit from a customized educational program. Homeschool parents increasingly blend several homeschool resources to build a specific program for each child, but with too many diverse parts, this can become a chaotic process.
Time4Learning has emerged as a leading online homeschooling program that gives parents the flexibility to easily customize programs for each child.
Time4Learning provides an interactive curriculum covering;
To children, it's the fun of online learning. To parents, it's a self-running, student-paced educational system, meaning that children work at a pace determined by the parent, using as much content as one feels necessary.
Time4Learning provides reports, lesson plans, and teaching guides. There are free demo lessons online.
Homeschool.com interviewed the founder of Time4Learning, John Edelson.
Q: "What sort of homeschoolers use Time4Learning?"
A: "Our membership is varied. For instance, we have thousands of experienced homeschoolers. The experienced homeschoolers blend Time4Learning with their existing programs using us as core curriculum in some subjects and as a supplement (or not at all) in others. We find the enthusiasm by experienced homeschoolers very gratifying and we learn a lot from them. Some home school parents have provided detailed feedback, which has really helped us improve the service."
Q: Can you give examples of incorporating feedback?
A: "Our members asked for a parents forum so they could discuss different ways to use Time4Learning. As a result, we incorporated this feature. After we put the lesson plans online, some parents requested that we make format changes so their planning and reporting needs were more adequately fulfilled. We responded, for example, by providing lesson plans in easily-printable PDFs. When parents call us, we listen.
Q: How about the beginning homeschoolers?
A: "We get calls every day from people who are contemplating or starting homeschooling. We have informally called one group of starters: "Accidental Homeschoolers." These are families who had their children in schools, and through a series of incidents, decided to homeschool. This group represents those who abruptly start homeschooling with little to no preparation, most likely driven by dissatisfaction with the schools. These parents might begin homeschooling without knowing any other homeschoolers or their state laws. Their initial focus is entirely on the fact that they have lost faith in the schools and they need a better solution for their children. These "Accidental homeschoolers" start as problem-solvers who are trying to do the best thing for their children and what I find really interesting is that they initially think this sets them apart from other homeschoolers." In reality, a large percentage of today's homeschoolers started by trying to solve a problem with their child. Through their experience in homeschooling, some who started as "accidental homeschoolers" have become broad advocates of homeschooling.
Q: What do you do for beginning homeschoolers?
A: "To help these families, we have published a free guide: The Introduction to Homeschooling. We worked with a number of our experienced homeschool parents to write this e-book. It includes some resources and advice that we've learned from our veteran home school parents such as:
At least 2.5% of American K-12 students (and maybe as much as 5%) are being homeschooled and most of them have parents who began knowing next to nothing about homeschooling. In almost every case, these parents feel that their decision to homeschool was the right one despite the confusion and disorientation that took place during the first few months. Did they panic? In many cases, they did. Panic is normal, so are mistakes. Enjoy the journey.
When starting to homeschool, many parents' first instinct is to go shopping and purchase lots of new workbooks and teachers guides. Often parents start buying expensive curriculum prior to having any understanding of what might actually work for their child. This turns out to be one of the most common errors that new homeschooling parents make. When a parent begins homeschooling, they must first understand where their children are academically. We would recommend starting with two weeks of working with and observing your child across all subjects while you consider your choices in terms of curriculum and programs. You could borrow textbooks from the library or purchase new or used books for this effort. Time4Learning is a simple low cost resource for this exploration period.
Get connected. Find some mentors and friends. Speak to some like-minded homeschooling families and ask them what they do and recommend. Try to find local families with whom you can share ideas and activities on an ongoing basis.
Q: Your materials and curriculum are extensive. You cover four subjects across eight grade levels: where did all these materials come from?
A: Time4Learning works with the CompassLearning Odyssey online curriculum. It is a significant corporation, also owning Weekly Reader, which focuses on selling into large school systems. They have developed and updated the system over many years. It is in use by millions of students at this point. We license and repackage their system into a user-friendly structure for homeschooling families.
Q: Is Time4Learning more of a "structured" or "unschooling" approach?
A: We seem to appeal to both ends of this question. The "unschoolers" like us because their students can pick and choose our materials and because our activities are stimulating enough so that children can enjoy learning with our program. Children are easily engaged by our animated lessons through their computer interaction. We appeal to the "school at home" families since our lesson plans systematically cover the materials that map directly to state standards and to text books.
Q: Can you give an overview of the program?
A: Time4Learning is a standards-based program, and as a former teacher turned homeschooler parent put it: "Time4Learning has captured the essence of lessons taught on the blackboard. They are familiar lessons presented in kid-friendly interactive multimedia."
"The preschool curriculum is highly visual with great graphics and music, focusing on building a foundation for vocabulary and pre-reading skills, in addition to presenting basic math concepts with patterns, characteristics, shape, and quantity. There is verbal comprehension, vocabulary work, and of course, lots of phonics. On the math side, children begin learning how to apply basic math functions to every day problems, providing a real-world context by which to experience math. It's great! Jumping to the middle school, the language arts program is designed to build advanced reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. The math program culminates in algebra. There is an online playground for the younger kids to reward them for finishing their lessons. In addition to providing motivation, many of the online games are also fun learning games. Time4Learning can also be used both by gifted and special needs students too, because it is student paced and the level of each subject can be individually set for each student.
"I think the best way to give families a feel for our approach is to let them use the free sample online interactive lessons, available on our website. If your kids like the samples, they'll like the program. And as parents know, having the enthusiasm of the kids is a great help."
"The program is provided for a monthly fee of $19.95 for unlimited use. Additional children in the same family are added on for only $14.95. We have a two week money back guarantee and there is no contract, meaning that members can cancel at any time. This includes unlimited access to the system, the lessons, assessments, progress reports, and teaching guides.
Q: How is Time4Learning different than the CD-based learning games and educational game websites?
A: "Great question, the difference is enormous. Educational games (and I used to be in the games development business) are designed to entertain the kids while teaching them something. When we developed games, the goal was to make sure something was taught. There was no sense of having to cover a curriculum and if something was difficult to teach, then we built the game around something else. In contrast, Time4Learning covers the entire curriculum in a systematic way but does so in a fun playful manner so the children engage with the materials. I'll never forget one letter from a parent using Time4Learning:
Q: What do you feel about the benefits of computer learning versus traditional programs?
A: "I feel that children need a blend of activities (reading, exploratory learning, creative activities, social interactions etc...) and that computer-based learning is an important part of the blend. Of all the online learning choices, I strongly feel that Time4Learning is state-of-the-art.
"In terms of how much time should be spent on the computer, I'd say less than an hour per day for kids up through third grade; less then two hours for fourth through sixth graders and no more than half of the school day for middle school students."
Q: Any last thoughts for homeschoolers?
A: "Time4Learning is delighted to have become part of the home school community. To the experienced home school parents who have given us such good advice, we are most grateful. For the new ones, have fun! Homeschooling is unlike any other adventure you will embark on. You are sure to have successes, failures, frustrations, and victories:
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