6 GREAT Ways to Evaluate Curriculum BEFORE You Buy

6 GREAT Ways to Evaluate Curriculum BEFORE You Buy
October 11, 2013
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6 important ways to determine if the Online Math & Reading Software you are purchasing is the best option for your child—tips from
When you are providing your children with online reading and math assessment and instruction, it’s imperative that you ensure that those tests and lessons were designed to teach your children and enable them to retain what they have learned.

So how do you know if your choice in purchasing online educational programs is the best for your child’s education as well as the money and time you are investing?

#1: Awards. Has the program you are considering won any “Educational Software” awards? Forget the “design” or “artsy” type awards, have they won EDDIEs or BESSIEs or CODIES or People’s Choice Awards, etc. Most award-winning educational software companies will gladly post these accomplishments as the competition is stiff and the awards don’t come easy.

#2: Alignment with National and/or State Education Standards. Educational software providers love to brag about their accomplishments, so they are definitely going to post somewhere on their websites if they are aligned properly with educational standards. Unfortunately, there are no certifications that states whether or not the programs are aligned, so that takes us back to Point #1: Awards. If the software you are considering is aligned properly to educational standards, then it will be an important criteria in winning the industry awards. Software that’s not aligned will not win awards. Of course, SmartTutor understands that homeschoolers go above and beyond state and national standards, but the curriculum should definitely meet these basic requirements.

#3: Age Appropriate. Is the program you are considering age appropriate and/or appropriate for the High Interest/Low Level learner? Obviously 5-12 year olds shouldn’t have inappropriate content or graphics to work with, so check out the company’s sample lessons but BEWARE, the samples are going to be the BEST lessons they offer. If the program is too hard for him/her, he/she will become frustrated. Of course, the inverse is true as well (same for the graphics). Also, the interactivity level is key for elementary-aged children. For example, typically a 5 year old should not have click ‘n drag options. A click ‘n click or tap ‘n tap option is fine, but if you are seeing a lot of difficult user-interface interactivity at such a young age, rethink your purchase.

As for High Interest/Low Level Learner, this would apply for the child that is in need of academic remediation or is educationally delayed. For example, if you have a child that is 10 years old but is reading at a 7 year old level, then you want to provide them with a program that helps them fill the gaps. A program can only do that IF the child engages with the program. He/she can’t do that if the content, graphics, or interactivity is boring or appears “baby-ish”. Again, check the samples and see if a 1st grade lesson would appear interesting to your 10 year old child.

#4: Free Trial, full version. Many companies offer a free trial period, and you should definitely take advantage of that opportunity to see if you and your child like the program and it meets the criteria stated above. Be sure to look for a FULL VERSION trial. If they are offering you anything less, ask yourself, “Why? What? and How?” Why aren’t they giving you full access? What happens when the trial expires…do you need to start over? How do you continue after the trial ends? You should expect a real trial, one that exposes the entire program AND that when it ends you can pick up where you left off simply by providing your credit card or paypal payment.

#5: Subscriptions and $$$. If you are not sure you can commit to a full year of the program, don’t! Commit to a monthly option so you can end the program when your child has received maximum value. Or, if you want to go on an annual subscription, make sure you use the program so your child learns and your hard-earned money is well spent. Look for coupons in homeschooling-type magazines and websites or contact the company directly and ask for a discount based on need or the fact that you have many children. Also, only a few companies offer a “group rate” for 5 or more children. You may want to gather a group together and buy a group subscription. If the company you are interested in offers it, great. If not, ask!

#6: Bells & Whistles. Be very, very careful about the lipstick. Yes, sometimes the voice-overs or graphics or rewards can be mesmerizing. They can hook you or your child in an instant. Take a breath and think about what you are really looking for… games or learning? Learning can and should be fun, but don’t get sold at hello. If you only remember 3 things from this newsletter, make it the first 3 points above. Glamour is for the paparazzi. Learning is for the student.

As for SmartTutor.com, they have been serving children, parents, teachers and schools for over a decade. They are an award-winning educational software program that was designed and written by teachers for students. You can bet they meet the criteria noted above, plus a whole lot more.

In addition to their program, SmartTutor.com also offers valuable, FREE resources like


As well as, informative blogs written by teachers and home-school professionals alike:

Reading: https://www.homeschool.com/newsletter/131011/16
Math: https://www.homeschool.com/newsletter/131011/17
AfterSchool: https://www.homeschool.com/newsletter/131011/18
HomeSchool: https://www.homeschool.com/newsletter/131011/19

Get started today! If you haven’t already subscribed to SmartTutor.com, do so today and receive an almost 50% discount by using the code = HOMESCHOOL. This code is valid for annual subscriptions for families that subscribe before November 1st, 2013.

Or if you prefer a monthly subscription, receive an almost 20% discount by using the code = MONTHLY, which is valid if purchased before December 1st, 2013.

One more thing! If you have the need for Flash Cards, please visit their FREE flash card site at www.MyFreeFlashcards.com (the site is presently being redesigned). Lots of great flash cards in 3 languages! All free!!!

Here is some feedback from SmartTutor families:

SmartTutor helps to Reinforce – “I also wanted to let you know how impressed I am with your program. I am a homeschool mother of two and think that the time my children spend on smarttutor.com really helps to reinforce what I am doing with the curriculum I purchased for them. The extra added practice on fractions or place value in a fun non-threatening medium is awesome! I will be telling my homeschool friends of this great service.”~ Angie N.

Results in a Week – “I just wanted to comment on the smart tutor program. I home-school my five year old daughter. She started kindergarten this year, and also goes to speech therapy at a public school once a week for half an hour. She has had 4 lessons in speech therapy to date. I was told by the speech therapist after her third lesson that I should consider enrolling her in school due to speech issues. I combined your program along with the click and read program just recently. The results in one week were amazing. When she went for her fourth speech lesson, the speech therapist told me that she had improved considerably, and not to worry about enrolling her in school. (Public school was not an option for me anyway.) Thank you for your program. My daughter enjoys it and it has given her the confidence she needs to feel she can do anything she sets her mind to. ~ Lori R.

Happy Reading Scores with SmartTutor! – “I am very pleased with Laura’s progress. She has continued with the reading materials and she loves it. Every time she finishes a section, she rushes to me and lets me know her score.” ~ Mom from Miami