Over the years our family has used a lot of different curriculum, but have never tried out any of the products from Alpha Omega Publications until just recently. Both of our girls are using high school elective courses through the Switched on Schoolhouse Division of Alpha Omega this year. We have had some experience with both Consumer Math as well as the high school Civics course.
A Little About the Company and the Product:
Alpha Omega Publications is one of the long standing names in homeschool curriculum circles. They are a tried and true in the industry, and I honestly don’t know why we have not tried them before this. There homeschool division has several different product lines.
Each of these divisions carries with it the high quality associated with Alpha Omega, but in various formats that meets the varying needs of different families and students within each family.
The Switched-On Schoolhouse product line contains both core curriculum subjects as well as elective course. Our experience for this review is based on having used two high school level elective courses: Consumer Math and Civics.
The Switched-On Schoolhouse courses are provided on a physical CD that can either be loaded completely on to your local hard drive or left to be used in the CD-Rom drive of your computer. When loading the software, there were easy installation instructions that shipped with the product.After completing the installation, there are both a student and teacher dashboard to allow you to move to fully utilize the software.
Among the teacher dashboard is easy access to
- setting up your school,
- creating your student accounts,
- assigning courses to your children
- navigating grade reports,
- customizing the features of the software, and
- even a mailbox that reminds of you of papers and certain assignments that require teacher grading.
Most of the assignments are fully graded by the computer, which makes this a very low teacher intensive curriculum to use after the initial set up. There is also functionality built in to insure the safety of your children’s schoolwork, such as the ability to backup as well as restore data and to either import or export a students work or grade reports. This is a great way of producing a student portfolio for the year.
The student dashboard is similar to the teacher dashboard in it being the place to go to for just about anything the student needs. From this dashboard the student can
- Access their daily lessons,
- Access messages that may have been sent to them from you, their instructor, with reminders, words of encouragement, or notes of things still needing to be completed,
- Access tools to be used during assignments, such as a dictionary, periodic table, and calculator,
- Access grade reports and a listing of any outstanding assignments, and
- Access screens that allow them to customize the background and other features to make the student dashboard more personal.
How We Used It:
Once the software was loaded and the set up completed, our girls worked very independently. I would periodically go into the teacher dashboard to check their grades, grade essay questions, and to make sure that they were keeping pace with their assignments. The girls did the rest.
They found that on average a lesson would take between 30-60 minutes to complete. This seems to be right on par with how involved they are with their other high school level classes.
Upon entering the lesson for the day, they would see a screen similar to this:
They would read through the material provided, highlighting text from the lesson as they felt was necessary. After completing the reading and watching any videos contained in the lesson, they would then click on the Problems button in the bottom left corner of the screen. This would bring up the problems for that lesson. The nice part of this screen is that the lesson is still fully accessible in the split screen view so the student can toggle between the questions and lesson.
At any point both the student and teacher can see exactly where they are with respect to completing the entire course. This seems to be a real motivator for our children. In addition, because the computer automatically grades the majority of the student’s work, there is no delay in moving on to the next lesson if a satisfactory level has been accomplished.
This was really our first use of computer-based courses at the high school level. Our family has certainly used different on-line programs, software, and apps as supplements to our math curriculum, educational games, and for foreign language instruction. I honestly wasn’t sure how we would like the Switched-On Schoolhouse approach in being a very hands-on, literature rich family. After using this software for some time now, I can say that it does get a big thumbs up.
Things we liked:
- The automatic grading for most of the lessons
- Consolidated teacher dashboard that allows for me to see everyone’s work in one place
- The split screen that allows the student to toggle between the lesson and the questions for the day
- Integrated testing to assess mastery
- Personalization of the student screen
- Customization of the settings in the program for spelling accuracy, etc.
- The thoroughness and breadth of material covered
- The data security in being able to backup the child’s work as well as export for additional access while managing drive space.
Because our family has used a large amount of literature and hands-on learning, it was an adjustment to some extent for our girls. Although everything is contained on the computer, it still very much had a traditional textbook feel.
All in all, we were impressed with the overall experience we had in using the Switch-On Schoolhouse high school electives.
**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the Switched-On Schoolhouse Consumer Math course from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.