Categories
Christi Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Parenting

Online Homeschooling Curriculums- A Review: Part 2

confused-homescool-review-300x300Welcome back for part two of the online curriculum review. This month I’m reviewing a site that we discovered in the spring semester of school last year. Despite being late in coming to the table I was able to sign the kids up for the first semester of the courses that we chose from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Resource Center, or LPHRC, and we opted to continue throughout the summer.

This is not a bells and whistles website with elaborate tools, games and graphics to entertain the kids with. Instead, its a very simple website that is a valuable source of online education.  And speaking of value, you can’t beat these prices. The individual behind this curriculum has a love of teaching and is happy to share his knowledge and the courses that developed out of his years of running a bricks and mortar resource center in the nineties, at very reasonable prices.  The cost for most of the online classes that he offers are 38 dollars a semester for a total of 76 for the full course. Here is the part that I found most amazing; this is PER FAMILY.

In other words, if I have three children of the right age and maturity for any particular course, it will only cost me a total of 76 dollars per course, not per kid. When you are homeschooling as many children at one time, as I am in the habit of doing, this is a wonderful option. The majority of his courses are two semesters long though he does have a short string of ten week courses, each of which can be completed in a single semester. These courses are only 38 dollars as they last for just the one semester. Again – you can enroll more than one student in a ten week course. You can read more about his pricing here. There is only one exception to the per family pricing and that is for the creative writing course which he offers to a limited number of students per semester.

Now that I have your full attention, I bet you would like to know what courses he is offering. He has an interesting collection that encompasses logic, history, religion, poetry and, as I just mentioned, creative writing. He even has at least one math class and a course that is all science projects. He has aimed the course level towards grade four up through the middle school grades but, apparently, has had high school students and some parents take the classes. Here is the page with the full listing of course options. When you click on a course title you are directed to a complete listing of the lessons taught in that course as well as the titles of each lesson. Unfortunately you are not able to view an actual lesson in any of the courses but on the page titled ‘how it works’ you can see how the quizzes work at the end of each lesson. They are self marking which I personally love.

My soon to be twelve year old and my fourteen year old both just finished the classes that we signed up for late in the 2o13/14 school year and they enjoyed them. My fourteen year old did more of the bonus material than my twelve year old did but I was content knowing that my daughter was reading solid Catholic information being taught in the ancient history and the North and South America geography classes they studied. I rarely had to remind them to do their online studies and now that they have completed them Mr. Kephart, owner of the site, will email me a certificate of completion at the end of this week. While he prefers the students to all be on the same schedule he is happy to work with your schedule and has, on more than one occasion, sent us a new link to the lesson of the week when life interrupted and one or the other child missed that week’s lesson. For our own records, I had the children email me their quiz results at the end of each lesson. In this way, I was also able to track that they were completing the lessons weekly.

Part of the beauty of these courses is that as the home educator you can be as involved as much, or as little as you want. There are, as I have alluded to, bonus materials besides the weekly lessons and quizzes. Children are encouraged to answer bonus questions and projects are sometimes suggested. A parent could use a course to teach a group of her own children at one time by reading the lesson ahead of the appointed gathering time and looking for extra online information to share. With the history courses, a parent could choose a novel to read out loud that coincides with the history period being studied. Or they can do, as I did for most of last year, simply have the children read the lesson and complete the quiz. Due to our busy family life and multiple therapy and doctor appointments last year, it made the most sense for us to utilize this program at its simplest level. This year I’m looking forward to being more involved as they engage in the poetry course, along with the History of Science classes and the Early Church Dark Ages history lessons.

There are few other supplies required for the majority of the classes; sometimes a note book or bible is suggested and a couple of courses, such as the science projects course, lists materials needed a week in advance. Online safety is imperative to Mr. Kephart and so there are no links embedded in the lessons that take a child off site. Once you have chosen a course [ or courses ] you wish to sign up for and chosen your method of payment [paypal or mailed cheque/money order] you will receive a welcome email and a url per course which you are encouraged to bookmark in your browser of choice. Once it’s bookmarked it will get updated weekly. We missed the beginning of the course last year, so I initially updated my bookmark on a weekly basis but after a while I got my fourteen year old to do it for me. Don’t let being late deter you from using this curriculum.

As I brought to your attention at the beginning of my review – this is a very simple website which I believe is a huge factor in making this such an affordable alternative compared to what’s out there. It is Catholic and run by a Catholic educator, and, in my humble opinion, a valuable option that I’m looking forward to continuing to use for some time to come. If there was one change I would suggest – it would be to allow a parent to be able to peek at one or two full lessons from a couple of the courses. Even without that option, given the generosity of the price, I felt I had little to lose by signing up for two classes last year. And I’m very glad I did.

I have stumbled across only few other Catholic online curriculums in addition to one that I am reviewing next month. However, as I have not used them, I feel the only other Catholic online curriculum I am equipped to give a proper review of is Homeschool Connections.  I’ll see you then.

 

 

Categories
Christi Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers

Online Homeschooling Curriculums- A Review: Part 1

confused homescool reviewYou may be starting the new school year in mid to late August or not until after Labor Day weekend, but either way we have rounded the homestretch and the dig date is looming on the horizon. Whether this is your first time to homeschool or you have been schooling for a few years (or decades in my case – it’s what happens when you grow a baker’s dozen in your home!) you might be looking at the many different options available. It can be so overwhelming and, with the advent of the internet, online options are sprouting up left and right. I have tried my hand at a few, as well as looked at others that I chose not to use. Typically this was due to cost per course, not because I didn’t feel confident in the quality of the classes. I will start with one of the three online options with which I have first-hand experience.

 

Time4learning  When I originally used this program they stopped at grade eight but have since added a high school curriculum which intrigues me quite a bit. I like that they emphasize that they are a curriculum program and as such the parent is teacher and in charge. They make it very clear that they are not accredited and, as such, can not issue a diploma. The parent is also the transcript/record keeper.  They do a good job of explaining how to determine credits which I know some parents find disconcerting when they try to determine the value of their student’s work and how it translates into credits.  From their FAQ section under the title How Many Credits is a Time4Learning High school course they share the following:

“Although each state is unique, a typical one-year high school course equals one credit, while one-semester courses equal one-half credit. Another way of counting credits is in hours spent on coursework. In general, 120-160 hours spent on a course equals one credit, while 60-90 hours of work equals one-half credit.”

When I have a free minute I will be looking more closely at the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling High School which Time4Learning frequently links and refers to, given that I have two high school students and several more upcoming.

I have broken down the details and my thoughts about the program into four sections below:

*Cost:

For pre-K – grade eight students the cost is $19.95 per month per student with a discount offered after the very first student when the price is discounted to $14.95.  It is not immediately clear how many courses this entails. They do share how many actual lessons are available per grade; just not how this breaks down as to variety of subjects.

Once I looked at the lesson plans and course demos, I concluded that in terms of subjects, kindergarten offers math and language arts while grade one offers the same with the addition of science. Grades three through eight offer math, language arts, science and social studies with art becoming an option in fourth grade after the first month of enrollment.

It took a lot of digging around to determine this and I’m still waiting to hear back from Time4Learning to confirm these numbers. When communicating with them by email it takes them 48 hours to answer, but first one must enroll for their newsletter. (I did not enjoy learning this detail after initiating communication through their ‘contact us’ link.) They do have an 800 number you can call and talk to someone directly, an option I chose not to use.

For High school courses the cost per student is $30 per month per student and includes four courses for each student. Additional courses may be purchased for an extra $5 per month for each course.

There are no discounts for additional high school students but they do count towards a discount for the younger grades. So, in my case, if I were to enroll all five of my current students at home I would pay $60 a month for my two high school students and only $14.95 for each elementary/middle school student, to the tune of $104.85 a month.

*Ease of Use: There are appears to be little need for additional materials as much of the reading required by the various courses is online. You do not have to worry about installing software and as long as you have a working computer and an internet connection you can access the courses wherever you are. According to the technical information, tablets equipped with Flash-based technology can support their curriculum. Ipad users can download the Puffin Academy app which is free on iTunes. I poked around a lot of the demos and for the most part the lessons appear to be easy to navigate. However, when attempting to use the grade eight math demo there was no sound and both demos appeared to freeze after the first two or three exercises were completed. I don’t know if the demo ended in the middle of lesson or if there is a bug that needs working out. High school is a new addition so it might be a bug. The curriculum is designed to be started at any time of the year that suits your needs.

*How much time must the parent as teacher invest? At the lower grades, a parent will need to be available to guide the child through the online lessons and will need to be able to read the multiple choice questions to the non-reading child and let’s face it — most children are  not reading in the first weeks of kindergarten and often not reading until midway through grade one. In the higher grades a parent should not need to be present throughout the lesson. There are supplementals available but as I can not access these I can not state how much the parent needs to be involved. They are, however, optional.

*Quality of Classes: I clicked through a large number and various grade levels of classes and was more impressed with some than others. I can say with certainty that the grade levels offered could be completed by my children at a younger age than suggested. When I had one of my high school students view the high school biology demo, I did not tell him what level it was. He guessed it was designed for a fifth grade level student due to the depth of the material and the type of cartoons being used throughout the lessons. I feel the use of cartoons in their materials (from middle school and up) is their Achilles heel. Both of my high school children and one of the middle school aged children were insulted by the juvenile feel to the cartoons. I feel I need to also point out that my kindergarten student, who enjoyed the grade one science demo, quickly lost interest in the phonics lesson.

I would strongly suggest watching and working through the demos with the children for whom you are considering using this course. It should help you to determine if the depth of material covered would work for them. Also, if you have the time, work your way through the detailed lesson plans available online to help you to decide whether to invest in this program. A serious positive is that they offer you a 14 day money back guarantee.

Conclusion: Ultimately, I believe this is a good option for families that have multiple children and really need to optimize their budget dollars. Compared to what I would pay monthly to use Seton just for two high school students, it is a substantial savings. With Time4Learning I would, however, be totally responsible for the keeping of my students’ grades and would have to issue the students diploma. Seton (which now offers the ability to submit lesson work and tests online) does grade a percentage of your  child’s coursework, is accredited, and will provide a transcript as well as a diploma for students who meet their requirements. However, if as a parent, you are comfortable with doing your own record keeping (which Time4Learning makes easy with their online records), economically Time4Learning is a serious option to consider.  I do think that it is more valuable for younger students than for high school students, though the Algebra demo was good enough to have me considering using the high school level just for that alone.

So that wraps up our first peek at one of the many options available to homeschoolers! Homeschooling curriculums have come a long way in a couple of decades, and it’s great to know that the right option is out there for your family. Throughout the rest of this series, I’ll share my experience with some of the other online curriculums that my family and I have explored over the years.