Time4Learning is a website for homeschoolers for pre-kindergarten through high school that covers math, language arts, social studies, and science. It is built around CompassLearning Odyssey®, an online, interactive educational system that has been in existence for many years and was acquired by Edgenuity in 2016. CompassLearning Odyssey/Edgenuity is used by many traditional schools through other interfaces, while Time4Learning provides the interface that works for homeschoolers. Students pay a monthly membership fee. Time4Learning is a curriculum provider rather than a school. That means they cannot be accredited, and they don't issue report cards or diplomas.
Parents have their own login where they can set up student lesson plans and assignments as well as access records of student work. Student schedules and records can be printed out. Parents can select default grade-level courses, select particular courses, and customize lessons and assignments within courses. Time4Learning will set up special configurations if needed. For example, you might have a child working at third-grade level in most subjects but fourth-grade for math.
The design of courses varies by both subject and grade level, generally combining animation, images, text, and response activities. Some courses are fast moving, while others have lots of repetition and move more slowly. Both graphics and teaching methods are tailored to the age of the students and the content, with lots of variety within each course. However, for quick learners, there can be a lot of wasted time. While the courses teach the necessary content, lessons are slowed by cartoons and transitions. Also, concepts are taught, practiced and repeated, which is an appropriate teaching strategy, but sometimes there's too much repetition. For example, students answer math questions, and even if they answer correctly, the answer is restated by the computer and the explanation of why the answer is correct is given. It seems to me that the child who answers correctly should be able to move on without the reteaching. The redundancy might be helpful to some students and boring to others. On the other hand, students can review prior topics or retake lessons whenever necessary—a very helpful feature that is missing from some other online programs.
Some lessons have printable worksheets. If the screen shows “Resource” under the title of the activity, you can click to access a worksheet. Worksheets are also accessible through the Parent Administration section.
High school courses frequently use more traditional teaching methods than do lower-level courses, and many of them follow a similar pattern. They begin with a lesson presentation by a real person, either on-screen or as a voice over with graphics. Some courses use more creative lesson presentations, such as in English III where costumed actors portray authors of works to be studied. Whatever the style of the teacher, lessons are aided by computer graphics, images, and diagrams. Short lesson segments are followed by a one-screen summary of key points. Then students are presented with one or more practice questions to answer. A quiz usually wraps up each lesson.
Subject Area Coverage
Math coverage aligns with national standards for PreK through eighth grade, although that does not mean that courses cover everything required by your state. As the math starts to get more difficult, students will need to use paper and pencil to do some of their work offline then enter their answers on the computer. For high school, students can choose to study Algebra I or II, Geometry, Trigonometry, or Pre-Calculus. Time4MathFacts is available to students at all grade levels at no extra cost. It is powered by Reflex, one of my favorite game-based, math fact drill programs. It is probably best for grades two through five, but it should still be fun and effective for older students if they need to improve their fluency with math facts.
Language arts courses include phonics and reading skills, comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary in the lower level. They stress reading comprehension and fluency rather than phonics in the upper elementary grades and above, while also adding grammar, the study of word roots, literary analysis, and critical thinking. Time4Learning has a built-in writing component called Odyssey Writer for students in third grade and above. Students click on an icon to access it. Writing prompts appear, and students can then write within the program. Since the program is not able to evaluate student writing, it includes a simple scoring rubric for parents to use for grading. In high school English courses, there are detailed scoring guides that parents can use to help them evaluate writing assignments. Writing seems to be one of the weakest areas of the curriculum since students will often need more guidance than is provided for some writing assignments.
For an additional fee, Time4Learning’s sister business, Time4Writing offers a choice of 15 online courses that each include the supervision of a certified teacher. Each eight-week course focuses on one topic such as writing paragraphs, writing mechanics, or writing essays, Courses are available for grades two to five, grades six to eight, or high school.
High school courses for language arts combine literary analysis with composition, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and communication skills. Students begin writing research papers in English I. Again, parents need to evaluate students’ compositions.
Social studies begins in second grade. Go to http://www.time4learning.com/social-study.shtml for more information about what is taught in each grade. In the younger grades, social studies coverage is not intended to be complete, covering all the standards. Topics covered at any one grade level are often a hodgepodge of topics rather than a logical progression through a chronological study. While content is a little light in the primary grades, in fifth grade and above there seems to be plenty of content for a year-long course even though Time4Learning has a disclaimer that says the courses do not cover all state standards. Topics are very eclectic in fifth and sixth grade, but seventh grade offers a chronological study of U.S. History. You should be able to use these levels as complete courses as long as they are covering topics your child needs to learn. There is no social studies content for eighth grade; instead, students are given access to the seventh-grade course material or high school level U.S. History. High school students can choose from five courses: U.S History I, U.S. History II, World History, U.S. Government/Civics, and Geography.
Science courses gradually ramp up the number of activities per grade level. but coverage is not intended to be comprehensive before sixth grade. Science for kindergarten through third grade incorporates lessons from Science4Us and includes 395 activities.) While first grade has only 22 science activities, third grade has more than 200. Science is generally not a great concern in the earliest grade levels, so the fewer number of activities up through second grade should be sufficient. Fourth and fifth-grade science is presented through lessons on an assortment of topics, but it should be considered supplemental for these levels. (There are 172 science lessons—called activities in Time4Learning—for fourth grade and 220 for fifth grade.)
Beginning with sixth grade, middle school science is presented in three complete courses that align with state standards: Earth and Space Science, Life Science, and Physical Science. An add-on “Nature of Science Supplement” can (and should) be used along with any one of the middle school science courses. These courses combine animated lessons with instructional videos, worksheets, quizzes, and tests. They include some online and offline projects for students to complete. For high school, students can choose Biology, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, Chemistry, or Physics, but these do not include a lab component.
High school students also have two elective courses for Health and for Economics and Personal Finances, Optional foreign language and art courses that originated from other companies are also available. Time4Languages foreign language learning powered by Rosetta Stone. For an additional fee, Time4Languages includes instruction in your choice of English, Spanish, Chinese, Latin, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian. Time4Art is available at no extra cost for sixth months to Time4Learning subscribers with students in grades four through twelve. Offered in partnership with Creativity Express, it is just one course with 16 lessons. it teaches art history and appreciation along with art activities done either with offline media (crayons, paint, etc.) or with a digital paint program.
Assessment and Rewards
Quizzes and tests are built into each course to ensure comprehension. The program shows when students have completed activities, quizzes, and tests. Time4Learning has an automated reporting system that tracks test and lesson scores as well as the time spent on each activity. Parents can easily print weekly reports, customizing them by date, subject, or type of activity—a big help for record keeping and portfolio documentation. There are also tests that simulate standardized tests, although scores on those tests are not factored into the student’s achievement in Time4Learning.
Some of the material for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade seems rather easy for the designated grade level, with quizzes that students can pass with little effort. But this isn’t true all of the time. For example, math lessons for middle school are probably as demanding as most textbook-based courses.
Time4Learning also has an “online playground” for students up through eighth grade and a "gameroom" for high school students. The lower level includes a timer that allows children to play these "safe" games for up to a time limit set by the parent. Playtime can be set to zero if parents don’t want children playing games at all. (There is no timer for the upper level.) Games are actually ones that children will enjoy, and they might well be used as rewards to motivate children to learn. High school students also have access to Time4Friends, a moderated social media network just for high school members of Time4Learning.
You Also Need to Know...
The curriculum is secular and is tied to national and state standards to some extent, so you will encounter some of the same issues you would with any public school curriculum. For example, the middle school Life Science course has a unit on evolution that is totally one-sided in favor of evolution which will be a problem for many families. A secular outlook shows up elsewhere in subtler ways, such as in one history lesson that teaches that religion arose out of societies, reflecting societal needs rather than through divine revelation.
Since Time4Learning is not an actual school, they do not claim that courses meet all state or national standards. Parents and teachers can see how many hours a student spends on each subject which is some help in determining whether or not they need to supplement, and Time4Learning offers free assistance that can help answer other questions about course content.
The Time4Learning website has many pages with details, screenshots, demo lessons, course outlines, and other information that you can investigate to learn more. Time4Learning will run on most computers with internet access, although a fast internet connection will surely be helpful. Because it uses Adobe Flash, if you want to run it on an iPad, you need to use the Puffin Academy app that is available free at iTunes. The Puffin Academy app from Google Play is also the way to access Time4Learning on Android.
Time4Learning might seem a little confusing because it is such a complex program, but there is plenty of help on the “Getting Started” page as well as within the courses. I could always find pertinent help somewhere when I needed it. Also, Time4Learning provides support by phone, by email, and via chat.
In summary, Time4Learning is one of the most thoroughly developed educational websites. While it is possible to use it for a large part of your curriculum for some grade levels, you will generally need to be using other resources alongside it for a complete program.