When starting to homeschool, many parents' first instinct is to go shopping and to buy a year's worth of curriculum. This is 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 recommend that you start out 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. After a few weeks, you are in a much better position to start making curriculum commitments.|
Also, parents should get connected. Find some mentors and friends. Try to find 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. Be aware that the homeschool world is a collection of many strong-minded people with a range of views. There will be plenty of people who have widely divergent views from yours. Expect to have to meet ten families to be sure to find two to three that you will consider "like-minded".
Use the net! The Internet provides an amazing ability to find people with similar situations. Are you looking for secular curriculum for children with reading difficulties but gifted in math? Are you looking for interactive curriculum appropriate for a Christian family or for attention deficit children with aspergers?
You can find collections of people with just a few hours searching on the net. On the Time4Learning parent forum, there are moms with decades of experience homeschooling, ready to answer questions on all sorts of topics. Discussions include questions like how to set up kid-safe email and how to blend Time4Learning with other curriculum.
Our Interview With John Edelson, Founder of Time4Learning
Time4Learning is a leading provider of online interactive curriculum to homeschoolers. Time4Learning is an online interactive student-paced curriculum. Time4Learning provides language arts, math, science, and social studies. It covers middle school, elementary school, and preschool.
Homeschool.com interviewed the founder of Time4Learning, John Edelson:
Q: First of all, congratulations. I gather that Time4Learning has three times more members than a year ago. I see lots of discussions about Time4Learning on the forums. To what do you attribute the growth?
A: The homeschooler enthusiasm for our service has been very gratifying. I think it's largely due to the fact that we are an affordable, flexible, easy-to-use, student-paced online learning system. And the fact that the kids like learning with Time4Learning. As any experienced homeschool parent will say, help in motivating the children is huge.
Also, Time4Learning delivers our curriculum 100% online. It is all web-based so there is no expensive registration or mailing at signup. We do our marketing through the Internet too. This keeps our costs low. And while we do answer the phones for 11 hours/day, we do the majority of our support through email and through our online homeschool parents forum. We believe that the best education relies on a great mix of approaches, including the net.
Q. What subjects and grades do you provide?
A: Today, we offer language arts and math from preschool (highly animated, lots of music, very interactive) to middle school (some animation, more text, very interactive) as well as science and social studies for 2nd through 7th grades. Sample lessons are available online for anyone to look at (no registration is necessary).
Q: How much does Time4Learning cost?
A: The cost is $19.95 per month and it is risk-free. This means that you have a 14 day total money-back guarantee. There are no registration fees or lock-ins. If you want to end your subscription at any time, you can. No contracts. This includes unlimited access to the system, the lessons, assessments, progress reports, and teaching guides (for supplementary use). I'd encourage interested parents
to give it a try.
Q: Do you think that the Internet is the future of education?
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. I know that children are motivated by computers and most careers will require strong computer skills.
Q: Homeschooling parents see many advertisements for homeschool programs. How can they possibly make an informed choice?
A: First, I would count your blessings. Ten years ago, homeschoolers had a hard time locating any curriculum choices. They traveled great distances to curriculum fairs which were often poorly supported by vendors. Many publishers were hostile to the idea of selling to homeschoolers. Having many choices for online or paper-based curriculum easily accessible is a great thing. And remember, some countries do not even allow homeschooling.
Q: Good points. But still, how should a parent build a homeschool program for their children.
A: I would first distinguish between experienced homeschool parents and beginners. For beginners, I advise trying to avoid the common but often repeated mistakes of buying a complete packaged curriculum because it appears "easier to administer and a safe way to get started". The reality is that most children do not fit any of the "curricula in a box" and it can get you off on the wrong foot. Our advice is to start with the core subjects of language arts and math and start layering in a program. To help new 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's a collection of the best ideas that we've learned from our veteran homeschool parents.
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
impetus is that they have lost faith in the schools. 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 enthusiastic homeschooling parents started as "accidental homeschoolers".
The "Sports Season" Approach to Homeschooling
From John Edelson: One veteran homeschool parent told me that she follows the "sports season" approach to keeping her kids interested and they use Time4Learning as part of it. She explained to me that although her kids were excited about the start of the football season, they were pretty sick of it by the end of the season. And their enthusiasm for basketball also burns out by the end of the season. She applied this "sports season" approach to curriculum: she rotates the materials through the year. After a season of one approach, she puts that curriculum away and takes it out next year when it feels fresh again. Time4Learning, with its modular flexible approach, fits well with these eclectic
Experienced homeschool parents know that choosing curriculum that best meets the needs of each child is a never-ending process. 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.
Q: Isn't it difficult to mix and match different curriculum?
A: Yes and no. What is really difficult is to use an approach that isn't working. Experienced homeschoolers know that the blend of programs produces the best results and the happiest families. Let's take the example of language arts in second grade. Many parents use Time4Learning as the core curriculum covering advanced phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing process, and grammar. But they supplement Time4Learning with a handwriting, journaling, and reading-a-book-a-week type program. Note how this provides a very diverse set of learning methods for one subject which is a key to success.
Q: Why does Time4Learning stop at 8th grade?
A: We get that question from our parents about ten times a day. They really want us to go all the way up through high school. We are looking to provide high school sometime in the next year. We are also hoping to expand by offering a set of teacher-led Time4Writing.com courses (available in March). Many homeschool parents find writing to be the most difficult area to work with their students so we will provide teacher-led courses.
Q: Is Time4Learning a secular or religious curriculum?
Time4Learning is a secular standards-based approach. We have many Christian homeschoolers. I think it is striking that while we don't get many people who are homeschooling primarily for religious reasons when they first start homeschooling, we have a lot of them who have been homeschooling for awhile. As one mom explained to me: "I started only using very Christian materials but after three years of homeschooling, I'm comfortable with my children's religious and spiritual development but I'm getting frustrated with how hard it is to get them to study. I found Time4Learning really helped us revive our academic spirit. We don't use it for every subject but it provides a welcome change of pace everyday."
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. CompassLearning is part of Reader's Digest & Weekly Reader group. For education, they focus 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 it into a system which is user-friendly for homeschooling families.
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 curriculum is highly visual with great graphics. Time4Learning presents the education in single interactive chunks which most children find a lot easier to engage with than the more commonly-found model of pages of text with some multimedia added. Because Time4Learning is student paced, it can be used both by
gifted and special needs students. The level of each subject can be individually set (and then adjusted as necessary) for each student which is a feature appreciated by a lot of parents.
About Our Sponsor: Time4Learning
Time4Learning's language arts program in early elementary curriculum (preschool through second grade) focuses on reading fluency, vocabulary, and phonics skills. The blending activities help children to identify sounds and decode words. Children also learn story elements and begin to analyze characters and settings in text. The second and third grade language arts teaches children grammar and continues to build reading and decoding skills with a focus on reading comprehension, sequencing, and literary response. Students
begin learning elements of the writing process and concentrate on listening and speaking skills. In the fourth and fifth grades, language conventions and reading strategies are further developed. Students expand upon literary knowledge through exposure to various genres. Grammar skills such as verb tenses, dialogue, and spelling rules are reviewed and applied. Students comprehend and respond to stories using critical thinking skills and written communication. Sixth graders through eighth graders are immersed deeper into literature, writing, and grammar. Advanced comprehension skills are developed through the use of context clues, figurative language, point -of -view, and cause and effect. Students learn to create summaries, identify main ideas, and compare and contrast story elements
within various literary genres including: news, articles, short stories, persuasive texts and poetry. The writing component focuses on proofreading and editing skills, allowing students to apply their knowledge of conventions and appropriate use of grammar.
Time4Learning's math program starts with the most basic math concepts such as patterns, characteristics, shape, quantity, sequence, and comparisons (taller...shorter). Time4Learning's fun approach helps children feel confident and for children who have developed math anxiety, the patient, amusing (and private) approach of the computer does wonders to rebuild confidence. Time4Learning from the start teaches how to apply basic math functions to every day problems, providing a real-world context by which to experience math. Time4Learning's math program
is broad teaching arithmetic and operations, geometry and spatial reasoning, measurement, data analysis and probability, and algebra (think abstract reasoning and logic, not just equations).
For more information visit Time4Learning and try the lessons for free.