Switched-On Schoolhouse and Monarch

Switched-On Schoolhouse review

See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

Alpha Omega Publications (AOP) first developed their LIFEPAC curriculum, a self-instructional learning system using a number of worktext booklets for each subject. Years later, AOP responded to the proliferation of computers and improvements in technology by using their LIFEPAC curriculum as the foundation for their computer-based curriculum, Switched-On Schoolhouse (SOS). Most recently, they created Monarch, an online version of SOS.

Because both programs share most features in common, I will address those first.

Both SOS and Monarch are available for grades three through twelve in a completely computerized format that includes full-color graphics, videos, sound, a text-to-speech option, internet excursions, and many other features.

Many parents love SOS and Monarch because they allow students to work independently—a tremendous help for parents with little time to oversee schoolwork. Parents only need to set up the initial program (with SOS) or sign in to their account (with Monarch), customize lesson plans if necessary, check student progress which can be viewed in teacher mode on the computer, and review writing assignments....

 monarch online For both SOS and Monarch, individual courses for Bible, math, language arts, science, and history/geography can be purchased, or you can purchase complete grade level sets. Numerous elective courses are also available.

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 games help students to quickly master the vocabulary words....A number of games for reinforcing concepts and material are also built into the lessons for math, geography, and vocabulary drill....

Students read through each section of instructional material on the screen, then click “Show problems” at the bottom of the screen to work through comprehension activities. Questions are presented mostly in multiple-choice, sorting, and matching formats....

In all subjects other than math, these section questions allow students to scan the text material to figure out what the correct answer should be most of the time. However, sometimes students 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.

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. Exercises, quizzes, and tests are scored by the computer....

Both SOS and Monarch are professionally produced, and AOP continually works at improving the courses. Courses allow parents control over which lessons are to be assigned in which order, grade format, access to the internet, and how lenient or tough to be with the spelling of answers. In both SOS and Monarch, “At-a-Glance Assignment Indicators” highlight past-due lessons making them easy to spot....

The content is non-denominationally Protestant throughout all subjects. Biblical concepts appear throughout all subjects, although less so in math than others.

The Bible programs offer solid content, including some scripture memorization. You can choose either the King James Version or the New American Standard Bible for Bible content....

Language courses cover reading skills, grammar, composition, spelling, and vocabulary. Periodic writing projects stretch skills beyond the short answers students write within the lessons themselves. Book reports are included for grades three through eight.

History and geography are combined, with map work intermixed throughout lessons....Essays, reports, and special projects expand learning beyond the computer. Science programs also include a few experiments, essays, observations, and other non-computer activities.

More than forty-five elective courses—some for elementary grades but most for high school level—can either be added to an SOS or Monarch core curriculum or used on their own....

Both SOS and Monarch now have “text-to-speech”—students highlight text they want to hear, choose from various electronic voices, and hear the passage read aloud.

SOS and Monarch are very sophisticated systems, so in the teacher mode they have a context-sensitive Help file as well as links to specific tutorials. In addition, free technical support is available for current subscribers to Monarch and for SOS users for two years after the purchase of the newest version.

With each new edition, SOS and Monarch continue to improve. Graphics, games, weblinks, and attendance tracking and reporting as well as a template and report for creating transcripts in SOS have been among the more visible improvements....

SOS and Monarch make life easy for parents, but they are not perfect. As I have encountered in many other computerized programs, requested answers sometimes seem highly debatable. Teacher overrides are helpful in dealing with such situations, but that requires more immediate oversight. To reduce the number of computer-graded errors that might be debatable, SOS and Monarch have added additional variations of possible answers to numerous questions.

In the language program, students frequently work with reading selections, answering questions regarding the content. Unfortunately, some of the questions are too nit-picky....

I encountered another potential issue in math courses with the presentation of addition and subtraction problems with regrouping. Given three-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.

You can purchase optional printed SOS placement tests for the five main subject areas.

Differences Between SOS and Monarch

SOS runs only on Windows systems. Computer equipment should be fairly current for the program to run at a decent pace, for smooth viewing of video clips, and for the use of sound. Web excursions are not essential to the curriculum, so, for students using SOS, an internet connection is not absolutely necessary. However, web links in the courses add extra interest and additional learning opportunities. Also, an internet connection allows for automatic updating of the SOS curriculum.

Monarch is web-based, accessible at any time from computers with a consistent, high-speed internet connection. Monarch will run on computers with either Windows or Mac systems.

SOS offers more features than Monarch although these may or may not be important to you. In SOS, 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 parents that most novices will stick with the basics until they get comfortable with the program. But once you’ve used it for a while, you should experiment with all of the fine-tuning features such as the ability to customize your calendar, create assignment options for students, customize subject reports, and even edit and create subjects....

Monarch is not quite as sophisticated, but AOP is continually adding and improving its features. Curriculum updates to Monarch are able to be released in real time all year round, rather than in an annual release like SOS....In addition, in Monarch, a virtual keyboard for foreign languages makes it easy for students to type the proper symbols and characters. And there’s no worry with Monarch about backing up data since it’s stored at a secure location and is maintained for seven years after your subscription ends.

Another major difference between Monarch and SOS is the ownership. Customers purchase SOS for up to five students to use on one installation at a given time. Their curriculum is reusable. On the other hand, Monarch is available on a subscription basis by the month or the "year." One student may use a subscription for 12 months (with leeway given for up to 18 months) with a year subscription. Monarch's family plan accommodates up to three students, providing you with up to 50 courses (from the five core subject areas) for a year so that you can customize with course content across more than one grade level if needed.

It seems to me that the number of potential students in your family who might use the curriculum, the computer platform, and your internet connection would be the biggest factors for determining which option best suits your needs.

Summary

In spite of the computer-delivery platform, SOS and Monarch are not a creative approach to learning since course content must be very structured and controlled to be able to work within the computer format. Nevertheless, many parents will find that these programs make homeschooling possible for them, and some students will appreciate being able to work independently.

Pricing Information

All prices are provided for comparison only and are subject to change. Click on prices to verify their accuracy.

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 3, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 3RD GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 3, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 3RD GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 4, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 4TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 4, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 4TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 5, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 5TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 5, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 5TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 6, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 6TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 6, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 6TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 7, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 7TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 7, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 7TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 8, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 8TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 8, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 8TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 9, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 9TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 9, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 9TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 10, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 10TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 10, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 10TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 11, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 11TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 11, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 11TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 12, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 12TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse, Grade 12, AOP 5-Subject Set - Math, Language, Science, History / Geography & Bible (Alpha Omega HomeSchooling), SOS 12TH GRADE CD-ROM Curriculum, Complete Set

2013 switched on Schoolhouse Constitutional Story Elective for Grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 SOS, CD-ROM

2013 switched on Schoolhouse Constitutional Story Elective for Grades 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 SOS, CD-ROM
  • $38.95 List Price at Amazon.com

2012 Swithced on Schoolhouse Foundations of Living Elective for Grades 9, 10, 11, 12 SOS, CD-ROM

2012 Swithced on Schoolhouse Foundations of Living Elective for Grades 9, 10, 11, 12 SOS, CD-ROM

2013 switched on Schoolhouse Consumer Math Elective for Grades 9, 10, 11, 12 SOS, CD-ROM

2013 switched on Schoolhouse Consumer Math Elective for Grades 9, 10, 11, 12 SOS, CD-ROM
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Instant Key

  • Suitable For: Independant study
  • Audience: grades 3-12
  • Need For Parent/Teacher Instruction: very minimal
  • Prep Time Needed: none once system is set up
  • Need For Teacher's Manual: N/A
  • Education Philosophy: computer-based, traditional
  • Religious Perspective: Protestant

Publisher's Info

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."