Faith and Life Series ONLINE

Faith and Life Series ONLINE is a website offering online courses based upon religion curricula such as the Didache series and the Faith and Life series. This review addresses only the Faith and Life series. If you are not already familiar with the series, you might want to first read the review of the print series since I will discuss the online courses in contrast to the print.

First, I have to say that this is a marvelous idea. The online courses are designed primarily to be used for independent study. However, with the addition of teacher's manuals in 2013, parents can become more involved than they would otherwise. There’s no need to purchase any printed resources although they are available for purchase along with your course subscription.

Online courses are designed for students to walk through each step in sequence. An automatic bookmark tracks where students are in a course, then automatically returns to that point. Each lesson has fourteen sections. Lessons begin with a prayer. This and the concluding prayer for each lesson are both beautiful multi-media prayer experiences. However, these sometimes seem designed for an adult or older audience. They sometimes (but not always) move too slowly and have too challenging a vocabulary for the youngest grade levels, although they are likely fine for older students.

Following the beginning prayer is "The Word of God," a Scripture verse related to the week’s lessons. You might want to either print it out or otherwise make it readily visible so that it can be practiced frequently throughout the week. Next is a pretest with five or more questions. “Words to Know," which follows next on the menu, presents keywords and definitions for the lesson. The next screen reviews the lesson's Scripture verse with words and audio presentation.

The lesson section is next. These sections use the printed content of the Faith and Life student textbook, providing page references in case a student would prefer working from the book. However, lessons are read aloud online so students who appreciate the auditory input might prefer the online version. There might be two or more lesson presentation tabs that break the text material down into sections as are found in the printed texts. Hyperlinks take students to Scripture cross references if they wish to explore further. I also spotted a link to "Omniglot: the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages" which briefly explained the Hebrew language in one instance. Interestingly, this link with its multiple sub-links are all still within the website. Other links to do take students out of the website to a terrific site for interactive Bible maps that is loaded with additional information and Scripture/geography connections. Some text lessons have extra subsections that reflect material originally provided or suggested in the Faith and Life teacher manual. (These student lessons include hardly any of the material from the teacher's manuals.)

After the lesson, students can listen to a beautiful piece of music performed by The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Next are "Vocab Flashcards." The flashcards have words on one side and definitions on the reverse. Students can click to flip them over as they study. Flashcards include important people as well as vocabulary words.

Catechism questions and answers are under "Catechism Practice." These have audio narration so students can read and listen. In the youngest levels, an interactive worksheet is next. In some lessons, a fairly simple computer game provides a fun way to reinforce certain concepts. These vary from level to level and from lesson to lesson. Sometimes a screen shows a list of common prayers; clicking on a prayer title shows the entire prayer.

A feature that shows up in some lessons is excerpts from Steven Ray's excellent video series "Footprints of God." A few activity suggestions are included in some of the lessons.

Students are then tested at the end of each lesson with a lengthier test than the pre-test. The first-grade course has 10 questions while the eighth-grade course has 20. The number gradually increases between these two extremes. These tests are computer scored with records kept by the system so parents can check on how well students are doing. Unit tests and a cumulative final test are also included. The reporting feature even allows parents to see what questions students answered correctly or incorrectly. In addition, the tracking system allows teachers to create assignments and individually tailor activities for students. Students can earn "badges" as they complete lessons.

As I mentioned before, lessons conclude with a multi-media prayer. Some levels include tabs for an Audio Glossary.

I really like the concept of the Faith and Life online courses, especially for busy moms homeschooling children at various grade levels. However, for best results, parents should discuss some of the lesson material as students work through lessons, particularly with younger students. This can be done without the teacher's manuals. On the other hand, I love the teacher's manuals for Faith and Life courses and wouldn't teach a group class without one. For the first few years, teacher's manuals were not even available for Faith and Life online courses unless you purchased the print editions. However, many parents and teachers requested them, so they are now available online ($15 per course) for those who have purchased a student online course. While the manual isn't essential to the online courses, parents who have the time to use them will find the additional teaching suggestions, background information, stories of the saints, visual illustrations, and other helps enrich both the lesson content and the learning experience. The teacher's manuals can be used in a manner similar to that of the student texts—click on the arrow to move to the next page. Content of student pages is included. As an alternative, a menu to the top left shows all of the "pages" at a glance; use the menu if you want to skip around in the lesson. Online teacher's manuals have answers to catechism questions but not quizzes and tests. Then manuals also occasionally reference other page numbers within the teacher's manual, but pages are not identifiable by page number in the online versions. This is a minor annoyance that doesn't affect the main lessons. I expect that these issues will gradually be addressed since they are continually upgrading the online courses.

Spanish-speaking families can now access these courses in Spanish by simply changing the user setting to select Spanish rather than English. While there are a few minor course elements that are still being translated (primarily images with words), almost all of the text and audio for students is already available in Spanish. Teacher's manuals are not available in Spanish.

Each course subscription allows one student access to that course for 12 months from the date of enrollment. Teachers have 15 months of access. All courses can be set up under one teacher account. will set up separate access names and passwords for each child in your family so two or more children can work on their lessons simultaneously on different devices. Class prices differ, so check for group pricing discounts.

Pricing Information

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$25 per student, $15 per teacher's manual (manual only available to those who have purchased online student courses)

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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: minimal
  • Learning Environment: family or independent study
  • Educational Methods: stories, music, memorization, interactive, traditional activity pages or exercises
  • Technology: online
  • Educational Approaches: traditional
  • Religious Perspective: Catholic

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