Time4Learning.com (Review)

When my wife and I decided to homeschool our son because of bullying issues at his school, we needed to find a homeschool curriculum provider quickly.  Although we’d been thinking of homeschooling Jakob for a few weeks, we really hadn’t researched the possible choices for curriculum and found ourselves panicking a little.  West Virginia state law mentions something about providing an outline of instruction when you first notify the school board of your intent to homeschool.  Since we felt Jakob’s safety was in immediate danger we wanted to have something in place in case an outline of instruction was requested of us.

Many homeschool programs cost hundreds of dollars up front since you pay for them a year at a time.  While that cost certainly wasn’t completely out of our reach, it wouldn’t have been easy for us to come up with the money fast enough to have a program in place to begin homeschooling Jakob immediately.  I came across Time4Learning.com on some homeschool review sites, however, and both the positive reviews and the low monthly cost ($19.95 a month, with a two-week money-back guarantee and the ability to cancel at any time) convinced me to give it a try.

I’m glad I did.  We’re only a week into the program, but we can already tell this is definitely the right one for us.  The lessons provided by Time4Learning are comprehensive but fun.  It’s more or less self-directed, but I find myself wanting to be right there next to Jakob as he goes through his lessons, both to help him understand the lesson and to learn a few things myself!  The different subjects are presented in different formats (the math lessons are often presented by animated “teachers,” while language arts features appropriately features more actual self-guided reading), ensuring that learning doesn’t become monotonous.  Time4Learning makes it easy to track Jakob’s progress, and redoing lessons that give him trouble is a snap.  Lesson plans and progress reports are both thorough yet easy to read and understand.  Time4Learning takes a lot of the stress out of the somewhat overwhelming thought of homeschooling.

There’s more to school, and to learning, than math, social studies, science, and language arts.  Because the lessons are self-directed, it frees Tiffany and I up to plan extracurricular activities for Jakob.  Tiffany has plenty of time to provide art instruction (although, after a month in the program, Time4Art opens up for students) and PE, and I’m enjoying covering creative writing techniques with him.  I honestly feel that, thanks to Time4Learning, Jakob will learn more, and have a more well-rounded educational experience, through homeschooling than he could through the public school system.

I’d recommend Time4Learning.com for anyone who homeschools or is considering homeschooling.  With the low monthly cost, money-back guarantee, and ability to cancel at any time, you really have nothing to lose.  If you find it’s not right for you, you’ll be free to try something else.  I’m convinced, though, that Time4Learning is a fine homeschool program that most anyone will find to their liking.

The opinions presented above are mine.  I would like to disclose that I have been supported in writing this review by receiving a free month or equivalent to write a review of the program.  This payment has in no way influenced my opinion of the program.
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Homeschooling

As I wrote about in a recent HubPages article, Tiffany and I decided to homeschool Jakob after having problems with bullies at school.  The bullies themselves were bad enough (one in particular was guilty of at least one attack that went way past the definition of “bullying”), but we felt the school administration just wasn’t taking things seriously enough.  If circumstances had been different (i.e., if we had assurances that the “main” bully who had Jakob on the ground kicking him viciously in the back), we might have continued trying to “work” (read: fight) with the school to get the other, admittedly less severe, bullying incidents addressed.  But the school could not — would not — assure us that Jakob would not be attacked again (and I’m calling it what it was — and attack, not “mere” bullying) and, since we have the ability and the means to take Jakob’s education into our own hands that’s exactly what we’ve done.

We’re now three days into homeschooling, and it’s already proving to be a rewarding experience.  We’ve always known that Jakob loved to learn stuff, even though he hated going to school.  His grades have been quite good for the last several years of school; his lowest grade on his first (and, of course, only) report card from 6th grade was a 97, with five 100’s.  This is without ever bringing home homework or a book to study for a test.  He’s quite bright, if I do say so myself, but I think part of why his grades were so good is that he just wasn’t being challenged enough in school.  Being able to see him go through his homeschool lessons and take his quizzes and think about what he’s learning is fascinating.  His bright blue eyes light up as he’s doing his work.

We’re using an online curriculum supplier called Time4Learning.com, which I’ll write up a more in-depth review on later (probably over at HubPages).  We chose it mainly because it has an affordable monthly fee and can be cancelled anytime in case we decide we want to try something else, but after looking into it in depth we’re pretty happy with it.  We’re supplementing the “main” subjects provided by Time4Learning (Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science) with electives of our own design.  My wife is utilizing her knowledge of art to provide Jakob with an art class and projects and I’m going to be teaching him creative writing.  He’ll also have book reports, phys ed, and music.

I’ve heard at least one person say that perhaps our decision to take Jakob out of school will teach him that it’s okay to run from problems rather than face them.  I must admit that’s a fear that I had initially too.  However, I don’t feel that it would have even been possible to adequately face the problem, given the attitudes of the school administration.  We told Jakob at one point that it was okay to defend himself, even if he got in trouble for doing so (we were told by the assistant principal in charge of bullying that if Jakob didn’t fight back the bully would be disciplined, but if he did they would both be suspended for “fighting”).  Jakob’s not much of a fighter, however, and I think if he had tried to defend himself it would have only increased the hostility from the little brat attacking him.  From all appearances, Jakob’s main attacker wasn’t going to get any better, and the aforementioned assistant principal’s statements to us didn’t exactly instill confidence that our son would be safe.  She was more concerned with “getting to the bottom of the hostility” rather than facing the fact that this bully was going to end up hurting our son while she tried to psychoanalyze him.  I  believe it’s only a matter of time before the bully moves on to another target (actually, he already had at least a couple of targets other than our son); perhaps the next time he’ll get expelled and the other kids will be safe from him then.  We just weren’t willing to let our son be the one to get hurt enough to take care of the problem once and for all.

There’s too many stories these days of young kids taking their own lives because they were bullied for years without any help from their parents or their schools.  Maybe it’s an overreaction on our part, but we’re just not willing to take the chance that our son could be the next headline.

Searching for Cornstalk

 

Jakob, Jenna, and a statue of Chief Cornstalk

Jakob and Jenna with a statue of their ancestor

 

My son Jakob had a family tree project for his Social Studies class, and he needed a fair amount of help from his dear old parents.   Tiffany did most of the work for him to be honest, because once she got started researching her side of the tree she just couldn’t stop, especially after she made a big discovery.  She came across some strong evidence that she’s descended from Chief Cornstalk, mighty leader of the Shawnee in the 1700s, through his daughter Bluesky.

I didn’t really know much about Cornstalk before this project, but it’s a fascinating story that had ramifications for West Virginia and even the entire country.  It’s more than a little tragic, too, but I suppose much Native American history is, after the arrival of the Europeans anyway.

Basically, the gist of it is that Cornstalk’s Shawnee lost a decisive battle against the Virginia militiamen in 1774.  But sometime between then and 1777, Cornstalk decided that peace might be worth trying and tried to befriend his former enemies.  By that point the Revolutionary War had started up and the British were attempting to coax the Native American tribes into fighting against the rebellious American colonies.  Cornstalk didn’t want this, but he felt somewhat powerless to stop the other Indian tribes.  He went to warn a garrison near what is now Point Pleasant (and near the site of the battle in 1774) and was taken hostage when he admitted that he wouldn’t stop his Shawnee from attacking the colonies if that’s what the other Indian tribes wanted.

Things didn’t end well for the Shawnee chief, as he was killed out of revenge for an Indian ambush against a couple of the garrison’s soldiers.  You can read the story in a little more detail, as well as find out about Chief Cornstalk’s curse, by reading my article on it here.

 

Jakob & Jenna

Jakob and Jenna pose in front of one of the murals near Tu-Endie-Wei

 

We drove up to Point Pleasant last weekend, intending on visiting Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, the site of a memorial to the Battle of Point Pleasant as well as a few important figures from that time, including Chief Cornstalk himself.  We didn’t know that we’d be arriving in the middle of Battle Days, an annual festival commemorating the battle and the lives lost there.  The kids had a good time (although Jakob grew impatient, as is his nature) and got to see an actual Revolutionary War-era cannon being fired a couple of times.  Jenna especially seemed fascinated by the Mansion House Museum.  Formerly an 18th century tavern, it is the oldest hewn log house in the Kanawha Valley and has been preserved as a museum.  It has displays of antiques and heirlooms of the era, as well as what is believed to be one of the first large square pianos to be brought over the Alleghenies.

We had fun helping Jakob with his family tree project and are glad we were able to take the kids to the Battle Days festival and thus get them just a little bit closer to their famous ancestor.  Though the story of Chief Cornstalk is tragic, it’s a fascinating reminder of the richness of history that can exist right in your own backyard.

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Bullying

So one of my least favorite aspects of middle school and high school is rearing its ugly head again.  This time, of course, I’m not the one being bullied (although sometimes it can feel like that at work, but I’m sure my District Manager and his superiors would call it “performance management”).  My son, Jakob, almost 12 years old and with thoughts sometimes several years older than that, is the victim this time.

I would expect him to be called “geek” or “nerd” or the like, since he’s quite bright and makes straight A’s and isn’t very athletic.  In those respects he’s a lot like I was at his age (if I do say so myself), and those are the names I got called.  I’ve long since come to terms with being picked on throughout my teenage years; to be honest it didn’t really bother me that much at the time, much less now.  I get the feeling, though, that Jakob isn’t going to let things slide so easily.

It doesn’t help that there’s physical harassment going on to supplement the name-calling.  I can’t recall very many times when I was physically assaulted (there was the occasional shove, or knocking books out of hands, etc, but no actual punching or kicking).  Jakob’s already been shoved several times and knocked to the ground and kicked in the stomach once.  It’s starting to add up to becoming a huge part of his life, and it doesn’t help that he isn’t willing to talk to us about it as much as he should.

There are so many kids these days committing suicide as a result of constant bullying, and that’s my biggest fear.  Jakob has always thought dark thoughts at times, has always said self-disparaging things.  We’re working with him now to try to get him to see that we are doing what we can to stop the bullying, and also to see that it won’t last forever.   So we’ve gone to the school, we’ve filled out a report, and I’m awaiting a phone call from the 6th grade principal to see what she has to say about everything.

Yesterday I wrote a “Tips to Stop Bullying” article for HubPages.  It’s a mixture of a learning experience for myself, as well as things I think are necessary when facing this situation.  I’ve been told it’s a good article, so maybe you’d like to check it out.  If it really is a good article, I just hope I can live up to my own words.