|Publisher: Alpha Omega
Review last updated: April 2011
This is one of my 101 Top Picks!
|Instant KeyPublishers InfoPricing|
See the complete review in 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.
Alpha Omega first developed their LIFEPAC curriculum, a self-instructional learning system using a number of worktext booklets for each subject. Alpha Omega responded to the proliferation of computers and improvements in technology by using their LIFEPAC curriculum as the foundation of their computer-based curriculum, Switched-On Schoolhouse.
Switched-On Schoolhouse is available for grades 3 through 12 in a completely computerized form that includes full-color graphics, videos, sound, a text-to-speech option, internet excursions, and many other features. Web excursions are not essential to the curriculum, so an internet connection is not absolutely necessary. However, the web links add extra interest and additional learning opportunities. Also, an internet connection allows for automatic updating of the curriculum.
Many parents love SOS because it really allows students to work independently. Parents only need to set up the initial program, customize lesson plans if necessary, check student progress which can be viewed in “teacher mode” on the computer, and review writing assignments. Parents can also build supplemental lessons within the SOS curriculum.
SOS runs only on Windows systems....
Bible, Math, Language Arts, Science, and History/Geography courses can be purchased individually or as complete grade level sets. The programs follow the same general format for each subject. A topic is introduced, then students are given pertinent vocabulary words to learn. Activities and/or games help students to quickly master the vocabulary words....A number of games for reinforcing concepts and material are built into the lessons for math, geography, and vocabulary drill. Students may skip these games if they wish.
Students read through each section of instructional material on the screen, then hit “Show problems” at the bottom of the screen to work through comprehension activities. Questions are presented in fill-in-the-blanks, multiple-choice, sorting, and matching....
These section questions in all subjects other than math allow students to scan the “text” material to figure out what the correct answer should be most of the time, but sometimes they must make inferences, read maps, or interpret data to arrive at correct answers. Math programs require students to solve problems. If students miss questions, those that were answered incorrectly are presented again. Sometimes hints are given such as pointing out that the error was in the spelling or indicating a map to which a student might refer to find the answer. However, such hints seem few and far between.
Once students have answered all questions correctly for a set number of lessons, they take a quiz. It is possible to set the program such that students cannot scan material when taking a quiz, so this is when you will really know whether or not they’ve learned anything....Some written responses are required in the exercises and quizzes, and parents/teachers must score these themselves....Exercises and quizzes are scored by the computer although parent/teacher override is permitted.
The program is very professional....It allows parents control over which lessons are to be assigned in which order, how lenient or tough to be with spelling of answers, grade format, and access to the internet. It truly allows students to work independently—a tremendous help for parents with little time to oversee schoolwork. Parents also set up a school calendar that allows the computer to schedule each student’s rate of progress. The computer then alerts students if they get behind schedule....
The content is non-denominationally Protestant throughout all subjects. Biblical concepts appear throughout all subjects, although less so in math than others.
The Bible program offers solid content, including some Scripture memorization. You can choose either the KJB or NASB version for Bible content....
The Language program covers reading skills, grammar, composition, spelling, and vocabulary. Periodic writing projects stretch skills beyond the short answers students write within the lessons themselves....
History and geography are combined, with geography and map work intermixed throughout lessons. An historical timeline is available to students if they choose to click on "linked" data in their history studies. Essays, reports, and special projects expand learning beyond the computer. Science programs also include a few experiments, essays, observations, and other non-computer activities.
SOS is a very sophisticated system, so it comes with a context-sensitive Help file, accessible by pressing F1....In addition, free technical support is available for SOS users should they need help with either set up or use.
Once you’ve got one student and his or her courses set up, it is easy to add additional courses and students. There is so much customization available to users that most novices will stick with the basics until they get comfortable with the program....Optional placement tests are available for core subjects at www.aophomeschooling.com/diagnostic-tests.php.
SOS makes life easy for parents, but it’s not perfect. As I have encountered in many other computerized programs, requested answers seemed highly debatable. Teacher overrides are helpful in dealing with such situations, but that requires more immediate oversight. I am continually surprised at questions curriculum authors come up with that have little value or might even be deemed incorrect by some children....
A problem cropped up in the math program immediately with the presentation of addition and subtraction problems with regrouping. Given 3-digit numbers, students will generally work from right to left to solve each problem, yet the cursor begins on the left, and it is a bother to get it to enter numbers in the logical order.
In the language program, students are frequently working from reading selections, answering questions regarding content. Unfortunately, some of the questions are too nit-picky....
With each new edition, SOS continues to improve. Graphics, games, and weblinks have been among the more visible improvements, while "behind-the-scenes" features such as the teacher search tool, customizable subject reports, the ability to zero out a lesson, and print capability for lessons, problems, assignments, and records provide parents/teachers with the tools they need. Another feature sure to be valuable to some students is "text-to-speech." Students highlight text they want to hear, choose from various electronic voices, and hear the passage read aloud. A couple of new features added for 2011 include attendance tracking and reporting and a transcript template.
Numerous SOS elective courses—some for elementary grades but most for high school level—can be added to a SOS core curriculum or used on their own. Among the electives are Spanish and French courses for elementary grades or for high school, plus consumer math, state history, The Story of the Constitution, Physical Fitness, Personal Financial Literacy, Health, and College Planner.
SOS is not a creative approach to learning since it must be very structured and controlled to be able to work within the computer format. Nevertheless, I expect that many parents will find SOS the tool that makes homeschooling possible for them.
Note: Also see the review of Monarch, the new, internet-based version of SOS.
$95.95 per subject,
$439.99 for complete 5 subject set
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 3 Complete Subj
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 4 Complete Subj
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 5 Complete Subj
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 6 Complete Subj
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 7 Complete Subj
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 8 Complete Subj
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 9 Complete Subj
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 10 Complete Sub
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 11 Complete Sub
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013 Grade 12 Complete Sub
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013, Constitutional Story
Switched-On Schoolhouse 2013, Foundations of Livin
- Suitable for: independent study
Audience: grades 3-12
Need for parent/teacher instruction: very minimal
Prep time needed: none once system is set up
Teacher's manual: N/A
Educational philosophy: computer-based, traditional
Religious perspective: Protestant
804 N. 2nd Ave. E.
Rock Rapids, IA 51246-1759
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