I used to dread preparing my lesson plans. With so much information crammed into the traditional teaching manuals and student texts, there was never any way to complete an entire year’s curriculum under normal circumstances. (Don’t you remember leaving large chunks of unread material at the end of your public school year?) As a work-at-home mom, the problem was made even worse by frequent client calls (which we ignored) and 3 toddlers clamoring for my attention. There was no way to block the noise during my teaching, and with my daughter’s already short attention span being challenged, school was starting to really become an impossible chore.
It wasn’t until a discussion with another (very successful) homeschooling mom of 9 that I found there was another option. She was married to a computer professional, and was simultaneously teaching up to 5 students at a time with several older desktops set up in one “school room.” They used Alpha Omega’s Switched-On Schoolhouse, and they loved it!
At first, I was against any such method. How could I be considered a “teacher” if I sat my kid down in front of a computer and let it do all the instruction? What if she got over-stimulated or PC-addicted by the daily interaction with my Dell? What would I do during that time?
We started small, ordering one used Switched-On Schoolhouse subject disc from Ebay. I was willing to give it a try. After a very simple installation process, we were ready to begin. I gave her a small work area by our computer, some headphones for the audio features, and let her go! I could not believe the results.
My daughter was cruising through lessons in no time. She was reading everything on the screen and using the right-click text to speech options for words she couldn’t pronounce. She was careful and prepared for quizzes and tests. She was soon completing Science, Math, English/Spelling, History/Geography, and Bible in less than 2 hours. We had time left for handwriting (which is important when you’re computer-based), health, and quiet reading time.
Did I need to assist? Sometimes. I would always stay close by while she worked, usually folding laundry or working alongside on my laptop. She would occasionally ask me for help, but not too often. She was becoming very independent, results-oriented, and confident. It was almost too good to be true.
Will computer-based learning work for every child? I can't say for certain, as every child is different in their learning style. There is a learning curve for students who don’t type well yet, and the program can be particular about what it accepts as a right or wrong answer. What I loved about it, however, is that I can go back in and give credit for items that I feel were correct, and I can always reassign problem lessons or botched quizzes. There is a greater amount of flexibility with the newer versions.
For a unique solution for students 3rd grade and up, you may want to consider a similar program. Low-cost buying techniques are discussed in “Homeschooling Curriculum on the Cheap: 10 Ways to Learn for Less.”