FOTR - Families on the RoadZion NP

Switched on SchoolHouse Cirriculum Review

~by Michele Moore

Christian Perspective, Grades 3 and up

Overview Switched-On Schoolhouse is a comprehensive, Christian homeschool curriculum that offers computer-based learning for grades 3-12. With animation, video clips, and other fascinating multimedia, Switched-On Schoolhouse is the perfect Christian homeschool curriculum for today's generation. With this flexible, best-selling curriculum, you can customize student learning to fit individual educational needs.

We use SOS for my son for 3rd grade. We have enjoyed most of it. Last year we used Abeka and while it was great curriculum it was too many worksheets for my son.

Here are some pros and cons from our experience with SOS this year.

PROS

  • Very user friendly. We jumped right in and neither my son or I had any difficulty figuring out our individual teacher/student applications.
  • You can use this on more than one computer. You install the software on one main computer (preferably the one your child will be on most often) and then you can install the "client" version on other computers. The computer with the main install does need to be on in order for the "client" computer to access the information, but it has allowed me to be in checking on his progress without standing over him and looking ahead at planning while he is able to continue working. It would also allow 2 children to work on school work at the same time and allow you as a parent to monitor both. This is a feature I have used a lot as it seems like in our house the main desktop is always in use by someone, but there is usually a free laptop.
  • Very easy to customize. You can decide which days are school days, how long you want to have your school year last, whether quizzes and tests are open book, change due dates to allow more time on a project, reassign missed problems, change grading if the computer grades something incorrect for spelling or incorrect word order or just because you think the question is vague. Also if your child has mastered a skill you can allow them to skip some of the problems on the assignments by unassigning them. You cannot skip whole lessons without answering at least one question, but if your child has mastered fractions and is ready to move on you can choose for him/her not to have to do 35 problems.
  • Very inexpensive and has NOTHING to store or copy or try to find at the library. Except for science experiments everything you need is within the program. And in our box there was a list of everything we would need for science for the whole year, and a very inexpensive way to order it (less than $25) so we didn't ever have to scramble to find the things we needed.
  • My son loves working on the computer. All the subjects have lessons with games and web links or little videos built into the lesson to show another aspect of the subject. He has really come a long way this year and has developed a stronger independent learning ability. He still wants us to sit and work together and still likes our reading time, but for him...at least for most subjects, he is loving it.

CONS

  • While having my son work on the computer has been a blessing as I have been chasing my 2 year old, I miss the time we spent at the table learning together. The computer isolates the learning, and that time together, learning, sharing ideas, seeing the light of understanding and interest in his eyes... Well, for me that is one of the best aspects of homeschooling, and I miss it.
  • I did not like the History aspect of this years' curriculum. Don't get me wrong, it was interesting and challenging, but I felt like at times it took some obscure points and had it on the assignment, quiz, and test and elevated it to the idea that "if you only remember one thing about the farming community it should be when the farmer in this one part of the country plants his lettuce" Also we had done communities and community helpers and we were ready to move on. I wanted him to start on history and geography, so after a couple of months we stopped using SOS for History. I don't feel cheated though because it was a personal preference and when we bought the complete curriculum the pricing was basically buy 4 get one free, so I looked at it like, well we aren't using the free one. Much better than the feeling I had about all the Abeka we didn't use after spending $500.
  • I hate the way spelling is handled in Lang Arts. They introduce a list (poorly...more later), focus on something else the next day, and the next day have a spelling quiz. There is just not enough time for him to learn these words in the traditional ways and I can tell you he remembers it for the quiz and loses it. But because of the way spelling is lumped in to Lang Arts you cannot postpone the quiz without postponing all grammar and reading as well. And if you do that you quickly fall behind. SOS does not allow you to skip around in the lesson order, you must complete lesson 1 to move on to lesson 2 and so on. Also these list are based on spelling rules like I before E except after C, but this rule is never actually stated and taught. They just give a list and talk around the rule and it makes it confusing. Also the list is not grouped by whether or not it follows a rule, it is alphabetical. This is a pain for 2 reasons 1) I cannot assign ABC order without rewriting the list 2) It makes the concept even harder to grasp If there is 2 words that are _ie_ _ and then one that is a rule breaker followed by 3 that have cei and then 3 more rule breakers it is hard to follow what they are trying to show you as a pattern. If these words were grouped by type, the rule would be more evident.

So, next year we are using SOS for bible and math, going classical for science and history (this will allow me to be across the table again and make it easier to teach 2 the same subject matter even if on different levels, also it allows me to change it up to allow for interesting museum or field trips and not bury them in extra work), and I am still searching for Lang Arts. I would use SOS if not for the spelling issue, and I may still and keep cheating around it and doing our own thing as we have been, I have not decided. The rest of the Lang Arts program has been very good.