Our Experience with Time4Learning.com
My 3 (turned 4 during the free trial) year old son was very interested in it, and it took me about 10-15 minutes (broken up into 2-3 different segments) of helping him through it for him to learn the very basics of navigation. Not because the site is difficult- because he had never used a computer before this month. Once he got the basic idea of navigation he understood the prompts fairly well; it was particularly helpful that it would ask him, "Do you want to _[name/type of activity]__?" and there was a green smiling face that shook it's head saying, "yes" and a red face that shook his head and said "no" when the pointer hovered over each one. He spent a good 15-20 seconds just playing around with this and from then on didn't hesitate to select whichever one he chose. I felt like at least 50% of the activities/lessons offered were just 'fluff'. For example, "Paint It" pages were educational only because when the child clicks on a color the computer states the name of the color. Each topic/lesson contained 4 choices varying from: matching games, memory games, "paint it" pages, a short video, and had an icon which just asked for feedback from the child as to whether the lesson was fun or not. My 4 year old spent most of his time watching video clippits and coloring pages. I feel like a well-selected educational video, book from the library or a particularly imaginative coloring book would have given him a much richer experience. Most of the things he could "learn" from this site were things he already knew just from having conversations with us and reading library books.
My 6 year old is half way through the Explode the Code book 3 and we have read to him daily his whole life. He's very articulate and has a good vocabulary. However, we had to request that his Language Arts on Time4Learning was lowered from first grade level to kindergarten level because he was overwhelmed with the difficulty of the tasks presented at the beginning lessons of first grade. Then it was WAYYYYYY too easy for him. He did well through the math portions, even though some concepts were presented differently than we had studied it in Rightstart Math. He played a few times and didn't have the desire to do it anymore.
I did appreciate that there is a way to limit kids access to the "Playground" (which is ultimately a page with links to games kids can play online- many of which are hosted on other websites until after they had done a set amount of lesson time. There was also a maximum time span you could set their games to so they wouldn't be playing around too long. Neither of my kids even found the playground link & I wasn't about to encourage them to since many games include elements we choose not to support.
ReadingEggs.com at the Pre-K/K level is like an upgraded version of Starfall, with more interaction during the introduction of a new letter/sound. I felt it did a better job of teaching the letter sounds in a meaningful way and he quickly learned to recognize "M" as the sound "mmmmmm." (There was more emphasis on matching the visual cue of the letter with the sound it makes than with its letter name.) However, there was a section at the end of several lessons which was way beyond his ability. (Matching words to pictures, and not 3 letter words that had been taught in the lesson, either.) I understand the goal may have been to get him to figure it out by trial & error, but honestly, it was too difficult for him to try and "drag and drop" items with the touch pad on the laptop. He didn't have a chance of accomplishing this portion and couldn't do a single one. I helped him through this and other portions, but all in all, the lessons progressed too rapidly and I didn't understand the order they chose to introduce things in either. (He was introduce to a 2 letter sight word before even learning 10 of the alphabet letters/sounds.) He enjoyed the parts he could do, was excited to do it because the fun little 'guide' sometimes did silly and unpredictable things, but lessons progressed too quickly for him and really he could have worked on the site about 30 minutes a week and if I were working on the same concept with him that entire week at home, we could be ready to move to the next concept on the site the next week. Since the scope & sequence isn't how I prefer to teach my lil ones to read (I do not introduce sight words before learning the ABC's.), I'm not sure how well it would work as a long-term supplement.
- We want to limit our children's screen/technology time to foster good interpersonal and communication skills, as well as creativity, imagination and resourcefulness.
- We prefer to have actual books in our hands and on our shelves compared to reading online or on-screen. This allows our children to safely access stories at any time since library books are prescreened by mom/dad before checking them out.
- We already have some curriculum picked out and in progress. When adding in supplements, we do not want the areas that the scope and sequence do not match up to be more detrimental to our child's learning experience than the potential benefits of a supplement would have been. We want to reserve the ability to be very flexible with what content/concept/subject is taught and when and for what duration.
- Our budget requires us to choose wisely what resources we spent money on and to utilize free resources that are available. (Such as Starfall.com and our local library.)
These are just my observations from our experiences for our family and our children- yours may be very different- and that's okay.