You probably already know that we’re reviewing Alpha Omega’s Switched-on-Schoolhouse this year. I posted my overview late last school year, when we started, and I’ll be doing updates throughout the school year, with a focus on each of the individual subjects.
We’re using the 10th grade complete homeschool curriculum for Brianna, which includes: English II, Old Testament Survey, World History, Biology, and Geometry. She’s entering 11th grade this year, but after a rough year with another biology program last year and not having taken geometry yet, we felt like the 1oth grade curriculum was the best fit for her.
Switched on Schoolhouse Installation Tips
You may recall that I had some installation issues frustrations when we installed SOS last year. Well, thanks to Brianna’s hard drive crashing, I got to completely reinstall the program. I’m happy to report that the second installation went much more smoothly. I wanted to pass along a couple of tips that made a big difference for me.
First, I recommend having your school calendar written out ahead of time if you’re going to use the custom calendar feature. Knowing what our school days were going to be made setting up the calendar quick and easy.
Second, it was much easier to install all the subject discs at once before clicking “next.” Last time, I had thought that I would like to install one subject and see what it looked like before moving on. That made the whole installation process a huge hassle. Installing all the discs and once, clicking “next” and having the program generate the assignments all at once was much simpler.
Pros and Cons of Switched on Schoolhouse
One of the things I have noticed about all the Alpha Omega products that we have used is that there can be a lot of material. For example, Horizons math, which we used from 2nd through 6th grades for Brianna, has something like 160 lessons, plus 16 chapter tests. That’s 176 day’s worth of work for a 180-day school year. Seems like there were quizzes, too.
Suffice it say that we never finished a math book in just one school year. That was a bit of a problem when it came to using the auto-assign feature with SOS since we don’t do all academic work every day of the year, such as field trip days. There was one day last week when Brianna was assigned for biology an experiment, a project, a quiz, a reading assignment and a chapter test – all in one day!
I think I’ve taken care of that, though. I added four extra weeks to the end of our school year and labeled them “summer term.” That way, the assignments are spread out in a more manageable fashion and I can either have Brianna work on the assignments over the summer, reassign them for the beginning of the next school year, or ditch the extras. I’m not necessarily a stickler for finishing all the assignments in every book.
Although Switched-on-Schoolhouse is very textbook-y, which is something we’ve always shied away from, it’s the perfect program for Brianna for right now. She says it’s her favorite of all the things we’ve tried for high school. She loves that she can do her work in a reasonable amount of time; the assignments are, for the most part, easy to understand; and she can choose to have the text read to her if she needs to, a bit plus for a kid with dyslexia.
I love that lesson-planning and grading are done for me. Other than having to personally check things like written reports, essay-type answers, and problems that Brianna has flagged for me, the majority of the grunt work is done for me. There is no butting heads about answers because the program is doing the grading and giving the feedback, not me.
You may be wondering about the variety of problem types in a computer-based learning program. While there are your standard true/false, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blank, there is more to Switched-on-Schoolhouse than that.
There are concept answers, which have to be manually checked by the parent. These usually require two to four sentence answers. The teacher section tells you the key concepts that should be included in the answer, making it easy to grade even though you may not be completely familiar with the material.
Written reports are also required. These are written in your computer’s word processing software. When you go into the teacher section to check work, there is a button for you to click to view your student’s report. Again, you’re given a message telling you the key components that you should be looking for when assigning a grade.
There are also projects, such as research papers, and there are science experiments. So, Switched-on-Schoolhouse is more than just workbook-type answers.
Subject Spot-Light: English II
Brianna is enjoying English II, which is a relief. We had so enjoyed the grammar program we had used up until this point that I was a little worried about switching. English II starts off with the basics, teaching basic language structure, such as noun and adverbial clauses – both what they are and how to write them.
That’s one thing that I like. Once a concept is taught, students have to put it into practice in their own writing.
After language structure, students move into reading skills and writing – first practicing writing effective sentences, then putting that skill to work writing essays, an area in which Brianna and I have really butted heads over the years, so I’m glad to hand it off to her computer.
Other concepts related to writing are also addressed, such as plagiarism, a trap that can be easy for students to fall into thanks to the overabundance of information on the Internet. Students are taught what it is, how to recognize it, and how to avoid plagiarizing in their own writing.
I really appreciate the broad scope and sequence of Switched-on-Schoolhouse’s English program. There are so many topics that I want to cover in a school year, but you know how hard it can be to make sure that you cover everything. With English II, I’m confident that Brianna is covering the basics that I would expect a high school student to experience.
Other topics that will be coming up as we progress through the year are:
- Developing a paragraph
- Expository essays
- Giving speeches (which, I hope, will reinforce what she learned in her Toastmaster’s class last spring)
- Taking notes (much needed, though I did notice her taking notes in church last Sunday…yay!)
- Short stories (reading them, writing them and critiquing them)
Overall, I’m very excited about what is coming up for Brianna in English this year. It sounds like it’s going to be well-rounded and comprehensive and we’re looking forward to it. And, I’m excited about Switched-on-Schoolhouse. It’s such a relief to finally feel that I’ve found a good fit for high school for Brianna.