A few weeks ago, I had had it up to here (you can see that, right?) with Brianna and school. It was clear that the majority of what we were using was not a good fit for her. I was ready for something that allowed both of us to clearly see what her daily expectations were and track whether or not those were being met.
After doing a little research, I emailed the folks at Alpha Omega Publications and begged asked if they’d be willing to let us review their award-winning Christian homeschool curriculum, Switched-on-Schoolhouse.
Alpha Omega and Switched-on-Schoolhouse are very popular names within the homeschooling community. I’ve always heard that people either love or hate it. We’re only about six weeks into it, but we’re leaning strongly toward the “love it” group.
The initial set-up was, well, aggravating. I’m very much a hands-on person and am fairly computer savvy, so I wasn’t expecting to need to use the very detailed, 40+ page user’s manual.
I had to use it.
The set-up process was not as intuitive as I would have hoped. Using the features for the teacher haven’t been either. There are lots of tutorials within the teacher’s section of SOS that link to online demonstrations complete with screen shots and audio that walk you through each step. I had to use these more than I would have liked – which, for the record, would have been not at all.
However, that’s the biggest negative we’ve found so far and it becomes a non-issue as you learn to use and navigate through the program. I guess something with so many features is bound to have a bit of a learning curve.
And, hey, if you have problems that you can’t figure out, Alpha Omega offers technical support, including three free webinars where you can interact live with a Switched-on-Schoolhouse expert. I was signed up for the Q&A one, but we were without Internet for over a week after the tornadoes that struck our area.
So far, the things we love are:
- You can have your child rework the individual problems that are wrong (a huge plus for us, because I’ve always done that with their papers and not all computer/online programs we’ve used allow it).
- You can leave your student’s incorrect answers when you have her rework a problem so that she can see what was wrong. You also have the option of clearing the incorrect answer.
- Parent and child can leave each other notes on individual problems. This has been great for times when I’ve felt like Brianna needed some explanation or for a couple of times when she’s had the right answer, but the program isn’t recognizing it as correct.
- The teacher key explains key concepts, so you can see why an answer was wrong or so that you understand clearly how to grade answers that were submitted for grading, such as essay answers.
- You can change individual grades. This is great for times when I can see that Brianna is right, but maybe didn’t put the answer in exactly the way it needed to be for the program to recognize it.
- You can easily (once you get than hang of how to do it) reassign assignments for days that you had marked as a school day, but you wound up not doing formal learning (like, say, if your city gets hit by a tornado and you wind up volunteering instead).
- The student can choose to have the program read text aloud – this is a huge plus for kids with dyslexia or auditory learners. The computer-generated voice is really annoying, but Brianna has gotten used to it.
- Brianna loves that she can complete her assignments in a reasonable amount of time. Some of the things she was doing were taking her forever to complete.
- Automatic grading! Need I say more?
- No lesson planning! Heaven! You can input your customized school calendar, click a button, and lesson plans are automatically generated.
- You can assign subjects for certain days. For example, I don’t like to require history and science on the days when Brianna is out of the house for two hours for Spanish, so I just “uncheck” the box for Mondays and, that simple, those subjects aren’t assigned for that day.
I’m really loving the simplicity of Switched-on-Schoolhouse, set-up frustrations aside. I’m very seriously considering getting Josh and Megan set up on it next year. I can see Josh loving it. He’s very much my “just tell me what I’ve got to do and get it done” kid.
I love the idea of him and Megan being able to work independently regardless of what I have going on – you know, for example, how Mom’s doctor appointments can completely derail a school day.
Is Switched-on-Schoolhouse the fun, hands-0n school experience that I’ve always tried to create for my kids? No, it’s basically a textbook approach in a computer format, though it does offer some interactivity with videos, interactive timelines, and games.
However, as in any area of life, there are seasons and we’re in a season where SOS is looking very appealing and I know we could still add the fun, hands-on things as weekly or monthly projects.
I’ll be posting updates of our experience with Switched-on-Schoolhouse as we go along, so be sure to look for them. To find out more, visit Alpha Omega. You can purchase a 5-disc set, which is essentially the core curriculum for $419.95 or individual discs for $89.95.
I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it. I received no other compensation for this review. The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions. Your experience may vary. Please read my full disclosure policy for more details.