This software makes it possible for me to homeschool my child. That’s the quick answer. I’ve done a mix of public, home, and private schools for my kids, based on what our whole family’s needs, and their individual needs, are at the time.
Why we chose Time4Learning
At this time, homeschool is right for my middle child but I just didn’t have the energy, time, or frankly motivation to be his teacher. Time4Learning takes care of that. Lessons are provided in video, audio, and written format. Assignments are given on the online platform and wrong answers are immediately corrected with friendly and engaging audio feedback (“no, that’s not quite right, an idiom is ____, let’s try that again”)
I had suspected that my 8-year-old needed some more time with mom after reading Hold Onto Your Kids (book review here) but I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do the traditional homeschool of mom directing the curriculum and providing the lessons. I was hoping there was an online program, or a series of videos and audio lessons that I could buy as a boxed set that would do most of it for me. What I found after a few minutes of searching was even better. Enter Time4Learning.
What is Time4Learning?
Time4Learning is a completely online program that covers all the educational, record keeping, and grading requirements of homeschooling. Students can work at their own pace and parents can keep up with exactly what they’ve worked on through the parent portal. My son loves the engaging (they’re funny!) videos, and I love that we don’t have to keep track of a bunch of *stuff*.
It’s a subscription program, with optional language and extra science programs for just about $20/month per child. Well worth it, considering I was paying that much just for extra once-a-week Spanish lessons at public school.
In case you don’t know me, I’m Cara, a full-time working (from home) single mother of 3. I’m passionate about giving my children the foundation they need to be healthy functional adults eventually (aren’t we all?!). My oldest child has special needs, my youngest is in part-time preschool, and I often get up at 4 am to get my work-work in before the day starts.
I’ve found that the food, education, and social aspects of our culture aren’t always something that works for my particular kiddos, so I try to be flexible and work with their needs as well as my own. Part of this for me is that I need minimal stuff, and to stay on budget. I’m not a minimalist, but I am so much more happy when I have to deal with less. So a completely online ‘homeschool’ works for us.
Our passion is the outdoors, and we do what we need to to keep ourselves healthy both physically and mentally so we can go enjoy nature.
Time4Learning Pros and Cons
If you’re considering minimal homeschooling, Time4Learning could be right for you. Here is what I’ve found works well for us, and what I’ve found was a little bit of a struggle.
- It’s all online. No books to buy, and if we travel, which I plan to, it will be easy to continue with what we’re working on anywhere.
- The video lessons are engaging. I usually have my son listen to the lessons while I’m doing housework, so I listen in too. They’re funny, cute, and easy to understand.
- Immediate feedback on quizzes and assignments helps kids correct and really understand what they’re missing without the frustration of doing an entire assignment wrong and then having to redo it.
- All the subjects are covered– Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Language, Science.
- There are extra Language Arts and Science classes for those who want them, this is awesome for us since my son (he takes after me, those are my favorite too) loves both of those subjects.
- The kids can work ahead at their own pace. There is a bare minimum of each subject that I want my son to cover each week but if there is still time in the school day he can do whatever lessons he wants to do- for him it’s usually science.
- Flexible schedule and times. We still keep traditional school hours, but we tend to jam all our online school into 3 days, have the 4th day to makeup anything that needs to be reviewed, and then Friday we do Library/Art/Music (I use Garage Band on my computer with an electric guitar for this).
- I choose the schedule. Since I do most of my housework and errands on Mondays and Tuesdays, those are the days when I can stop what I’m doing more and help my son with his school work, so I have him do more work on those days. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I do more writing and video recording for my own work and interruptions are harder for me, so he has less work to do and usually just chooses to do language arts and science.
- It’s easy to make sure you’re on track. My biggest fear with choosing to homeschool was that I would miss something academically and he would have a hole in his education. Schedules in Time4Learning are made with a couple clicks, so it’s easy to make sure the work is covered during the school year.
- You can speed up the school year. The first week we tried this, he was done with all his work in 2 days. That didn’t work for me ;) I needed this particular child to be working on school work at least 4 days a week, to keep him occupied. So with a few more clicks, I adjusted our schedule so that he was occupied and learning all week long.
- There is a 30-day trial. If you want to check out if this works for you, just try it for 30 days. That’s what we did, and we ended up continuing. The first week I used it I hadn’t even withdrawn him from school yet. Note about that: This isn’t the first time I’ve pulled a child out of school when it wasn’t working for them, and occasionally the word ‘truancy’ gets thrown around, so you may want to check your local laws, but it was best for our family. I wanted to see if it worked for us or not, without fully committing. And thankfully nobody decided to make me go to court over it ;)
- The interface is a little clunky. There is a side for the kids to log in, and a side for the parents to check work and make schedules. I have to print the schedule from my side, and then help him follow it, rather than it being integrated in his side. Once he does the work, it does show up as ‘done’ for me, but I have to go back in and load the schedule to check.
- The assignment numbers are 6-digit combinations of letters and numbers, which can be tricky for him to search for and complete. If he does everything in order, it’s just fine and we don’t need to use the numbers, but if he needs to re-do a quiz it seems a little more difficult than it needs to be to actually find it again.
- There is full access to everything for the kids. I wish there as a way to only present the work that I wanted him to work on, in that order, but he has access to everything. The first couple weeks he was curious and started clicking around in the more advanced lessons, and failed a few quizzes (since he skipped entire sections). This all shows up in the ‘attendance’ and ‘grading’ sections, and brought his average down for the week. This doesn’t really matter overall, but it kind of defeats the purpose of having an average for each subject.
- It’s not completely hands-off. This is understandable, since he’s 8. But for those looking for a completely online no-parent involvement school, this doesn’t quite fit the bill. I have him do most of his stuff when I’m listening in, so that if I hear that he continuously gets things wrong, I can step in and see what’s going on. Usually it’s that he tried to skip a reading section, and moved onto the quiz or assignment before he was ready. Again, this is completely age appropriate.
- I don’t feel it provides enough math practice. Even though my child can pass the tests, I feel like he needs review of a subject at later times, rather than move along and never go back. So I provide supplemental worksheets, and we’re working on multiplication flash cards and I’ve downloaded a few math games on the Kindle for him as well (with freetime enabled to block all other content… he has access to math, Duolingo, and books there)
- It’s looking at a screen for hours a day. I do this too (with work) and I don’t love the aspect of this much of childhood being in front of a screen. But it is what it is right now. He uses blue-blocking computer glasses when he’s doing school work without a lot of breaks (some of the projects bring him away from the computer for a while)
Public vs Private vs Homeschooling & Socialization
My decision to keep my son home and do online school has nothing to do with me thinking it is ‘best’ or ‘most ideal’. It’s just what works for us right now. As far as the socialization goes, when you look at attachment theory, you see that in the elementary years it’s most important for children to learn form those who are more mature than they are (read more about attachment theory here).
My goal right now is to do what is needed for my kids right now ;) I hope to help him eventually return to public school, and I have the confidence that with Time4Learning academically he’ll fit right back in.
Socialization is always something that comes up when discussing homeschool, and from what I have read and observed, most kids of this age really don’t need hours and hours of peer interaction each day. Kids need to be learning from adults primarily, and when they are a little more mature, and able to easily hold onto mature values, they are better equipped for more peer interaction. When kids spend tons of time around other children, they end up mimicking the other kids- rather than looking up to and mimicking adults.
For this reason, I don’t feel pressured to be involved in homeschool groups, co-ops, and activities. We do sports, we are active in the community, and we certainly don’t actively avoid other people. But I also don’t feel like he is missing out on anything by not being around peers for hours a day, and I don’t try to re-create this within our homeschool setting.
It seemed like as soon as we decided to pull him out of school, I was throttled with ‘ideas’ for activities and socialization suggestions. The advice came from a good place, but we need to remember that just because something is normal (and in our culture age segregation, also called peer orientation, is normal), it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s best.
If you’d like to give Time 4 Learning a try, you can click here and take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee.