Monday, February 27, 2012

TOS Review: K-5 Learning

I have been really eager to tell you about the online reading and math program K-5 Learning! This website has become this busy homeschooling mom's very best friend. K-5 Learning isn't actually a "homeschooling" program. It is for any kids from grades K through 5. It offers 4 reading and math programs that key in on 8 essential learning skills. It allows your child to learn independently at their own pace and at their own customized skill level. It also has very detailed and informative progress reports so that the parents can see exactly how their child is doing.

I know, I know. If you are like me, you are thinking, haven't I heard all of those claims before only to find myself disappointed? Having a child with special needs, I am always hoping that the customization of skill level or parental reports offer more than I am provided. Well, K5 Learning was everything I hoped it would be and so much more! So let me just show you around and share with you a few of the great things about K-5 Learning.

Now, remember, this is not an entire curriculum, it is geared as an after school program to help supplement what your child is learning in school, or in our case at home. However, I decided to actually implement into our school day so that I could utilize it as much as possible during our review period. This really came in handy on very busy days. Having a program where I knew that my daughter who has special needs was actually getting to work independently was a breath of fresh air. It was really great to be able to log in later and see what lessons she completed and how well she did on them.

While you can just choose your child's grade and get started, the first thing we did was sign up for a free online assessment to find out what reading and math levels Gess should actually be on. With Gess having special needs, I wasn't really sure to where to start her. Plus, this was also my chance to test to see if this program was really customizable to her learning level because I know that Gess has a much higher reading level than she does in her math. Her assessment placed Gess in the second grade level of reading, though if you notice on the assessment report it even breaks it down to show that some of her skills were in 3rd grade while some of her phonics skills were in first grade (pretty typical, I was not surprised.)



While Gess is in the 2nd grade level of the program for reading, her math skills tested in the 1st grade. So here is whats so great about the customization of this program. I can go in and assign her lessons myself, from any grade level. So while Gess is in the 2nd grade program, I can go in and assign her lessons from the 1st grade in areas where she needs help. I can also reassign lessons she may not have done well in the past. Now when Gess logs on she will have the option to do a lesson or an assignment. I usually instruct Gess which ones to do when she logs on. Now that we have Gess properly placed, let me show you how it works.

After your child has signed in you will see this screen. This is where they can choose which area of learning they want to do first. They can enter Reading and Math which leads them to the lessons or assignments in each category, drill their Math Facts, or practice Spelling (you can use their words or add your own).


One of the reasons I had to show you this screen is because one day Gess discovered the "Today's Riddle" on the right hand side of the screen and now she looks forward to reading that each and every day. You will hear her giggle or she will have to share the riddle with you. It's just really cute to hear her start her lesson off with a good chuckle. Ok, now moving on.

I love the way the math and reading lessons are done. Each segment focuses on a particular skill. It will teach the lesson to you and then have you do an interactive activity to practice that skill. It's not a game, it's a lesson, but they are really well done and Gess enjoyed them as well as learned from them. They do, however, break the lessons up and after each short segment you can stop or choose to go on. Here are a couple of screen shots from lessons Gess has done.



Sometimes they will even have games in between lessons to help you relax and recharge a bit before going on. One of the ones Gess loved most was bouncing items around on a trampoline. You would have to get the eggs from the nest to the conveyor belt without breaking them or bounce aliens from a house to the spaceship. Simple, silly, and short. Then it was back into another lesson if you chose to go on. Here's one where you have to drive a car around obstacles while picking up gems for points.


They also have a Spelling section that we did not use very much. I haven't been able to find a way to limit the number of words. For now it requires 15. We did a few lessons and when you add your own words it will focus on those if you choose that setting. However, sometimes Gess had trouble understanding what word the program asked for. I too, had trouble a couple of times and was only able to know the word based upon the definition listed on the page, not the audio portion of the quiz. I think this area will probably work well for children who don't have any special needs, but it didn't work well for us so we skipped it.

The other section they have that I am just wild about is Math Facts which is a drill for your 4 basic math operations. With Gess having Down syndrome that is something she really struggles with. She can memorize bible verses like crazy but memorizing math facts has been hard. Even the facts she has memorized like 1s, 0s and doubles gets forgotten as soon as you mix them up with other numbers. However, I have found this Math Facts program to actually be helping her! With each lesson that she does she also has to review previous lessons and she has worked through several getting 100%. Of course I have her repeat the lessons several times until she gets to 100% but the fact that you can do it over and over again is great. I can't wait to see how truly far she can go.

One thing I love about Math Facts is that is practical. In each lesson you are working on a real life, every day situation that requires math. In one lesson you go out to eat at Bistro Math. You order spaghetti and a salad. The spaghetti costs $4 and the salad costs $1 so your meal costs $5. Your friend orders spaghetti and garlic bread. The spaghetti is $4 and the garlic bread is $2 so your friend's meal costs $6.


Then you just drill the facts while sitting in the Bistro. (Gess noticed that on the wall of the Bistro is a picture of your own character that you have dressed up and created. That always cracked her up.)


Then when you are done you get a chart that shows the progress you have made so far based upon your overall performance. Here is a sample one from their website.


That is part of what the kid sees for their result. The great part is the parent can see the same chart while looking at the reports available through the dashboard.


This area also allows you to customize the settings for each operation. For typical children the speed that you do your facts is just as important as getting them right. Well, this program allows you to not only time your skill you can adjust the time level from .25 seconds up to 1 minute based upon your child's personal goals. You can also choose to click unlimited which won't time them at all. This is really good for children with special needs like my daughter Gess.

As you do the lesson you get a check plus icon if you do the problem correctly and quickly (or just correctly if you chose unlimited), a check if you do it correctly but not fast enough and it will tell you that is not correct if you get the problem wrong.

As I have mentioned before the parent dashboard is just full of information, reports and customizable tools that parents can use to make sure K-5 Learning is meeting your child's specific needs. I assign Gess lessons based upon what we are studying in school or in areas where I feel she needs refreshed but I also have her do the regular lessons too.

Because there are so many tools and options available they have implemented a great Help Center to explain how each section works. I found these extremely helpful. Without this information I am not sure how long it would have taken me to notice that I could set Gess' Math Facts time to unlimited. If you are going to try K-5 Learning I highly recommend you visit their Help Center.


As you have probably noticed by now I am quite sold on K-5 Learning. This is definitely something we will continue to use to supplement our homeschooling. I do think that the price is a bit high, but because of it's educational value, high quality and interactive hands on lessons, I can't help but think this is perfect for us and I am willing to pay that extra price each month to have it. It will help me not only give Gess some extra practice, it will give her the independence she longs for while still offering her the guidance and monitoring she needs

K-5 Learning is $25.00 a month for the first student and $15.00 for each additional student but you can save about $100 by signing up annually for $199.00 for the first child with additional children costing $129.00. You can try K-5 for FREE for 14 days with no obligation and without giving any credit card information. Your FREE trial includes both the reading and math assessment as well.

I highly recommend K-5 Learning for any family. I can see how this would be a great way for children to practice skills after school or keep them fresh in the summer. It's also a great way to supplement homeschooling by allowing them to practice in the evenings or during busy days while mom catches up on chores or blogging or whatever she needs to get done. If you want to learn more I suggest you visit their website or you can see what other members of the TOS Crew thought about it.


As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a six week subscription to K-5 Learning for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.

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