Thursday, January 9, 2014

Switched On Schoolhouse Review

Let me start by saying this...I'm NOT getting paid to do this.  I'm not linking up to anything or anybody in this post to draw traffic. I'm not asking for a recommendation. I don't even want to go there:-)

Everything about my blog is completely user-shared. Meaning this...there is not one post about something on my blog that I have not personally done or do not personally do every.single.day. I'm not here to give you ideas on what you CAN do, but am here to share with you what I HAVE done. :-) When I'm looking for information, I don't want a multiple choice list with 30+ ideas on it. I want 1 or 2 suggestions that someone else has done, had success with it, and is still continuing to do it. I don't want their one-time-use-here's-a-review approach on something. Now, that's just me. :-) That may not be you! You may like the multiple choice approach and that's great! This article can still be for you :-)

READ ON......

Five years ago when my oldest daughter was entering 3rd grade (she is now in the 7th), we needed to try a different home school curriculum with her. We had been using BJU Press and loved it, but felt she needed something a little more student-guided and not parent-fed :-) BJU makes schooling very easy for the parent, but sometimes too easy for SOME (and I say SOME) children. I am not bashing BJU PRESS because I have used it for my second child too. I feel they teach things very precisely and in a very organized fashion, laying the groundwork for middle school very well. Anyways, we felt the need to try something different. So we tried this...



Switched on Schoolhouse is put out by Alpha Omega Publications and is a Christian based curriculum that offers the five core subjects, Math/Language Arts/Science/History/Bible, in a format that is fun and easy to use!

Your child will have to know how to type as this curriculum is done exclusively on a computer and the child will be required to type in their answers to the problems in their lessons. A fun way to teach your children to type is here and this is what we used with our oldest and are now currently using with our second child who will be going into third grade next fall. She will begin using SOS for her schooling so we are getting a jump start on her typing! Both of our girls love the Typer Island and our oldest still  "types" through the games often just because they are that fun! 

How the program is laid out:

This is a completely customizable system. You can purchase your childs grade in either a 4 or 5 subject set. The 5 subject set includes the Bible curriculum, the 4 does not. You can also purchase each subject individually for your child's particular grade. LOVE  this option! The curriculum comes with an installation disc, but you can read all about that on AOP's site here :-) 

The curriculum is set up with a student log on and a teacher log on. The teacher part has EVERYTHING a homeschooling parent ever dreamed of! Customizable school calendar, grade and record keeping, tools to customize each subject to the needs of each of your students, and the list could go on and on! You can print off report cards and quarterly reports to help you have paper records to file for your homeschool record keeping. I did a post a while back about organizing the record keeping aspect of homeschooling and you are welcome to read all about it HERE! 

Each subject in Switched on Schoolhouse that is required for state testing (Math, Language, Science, History) is covered very thoroughly, enabling the student to be very prepared to take their yearly state tests. 

The lesson format is set up in the form of the student reading all of their lesson material and then having 10-30 questions that they have to answer from the material they just read. It takes the student a few weeks to get the hang of being solely responsible to retain the information that they read :-), but once they figure that out, it's easy as pie! 

The best part of using SOS is that you can load this entire curriculum on a  laptop and take it on the road. For families who are in ministry and travel a lot, or for military families who need to move often and don't have places to set up a great homeschool "room", or for the family who is at home and needs a more flexible form of schooling,  Switched On Schoolhouse is a God-send! Even though we don't travel and I stay home full time, I did teach College Music at a local College for two years and I took my oldest daughter with me sometimes and she would do her schoolwork on her laptop  while I taught. It worked very well for us and she didn't miss any school! We now have our schooling set up with our oldest working on the computer in the kitchen while my husband and I work with the others at the kitchen table....perfect!!

The subjects come very equipped to teach the student not only through reading, but through hands on experiments and projects. The student will be required to write research papers, complete hands on science projects, and make other projects pertaining to each subjects requirements. The nice thing about it is that the teacher can log in and change the project settings for each subject. Some things are just not necessary for certain age levels and you can "un-assign" the things that you don't feel are important for your child to complete. 

Switched on Schoolhouse also offers a wide variety of Electives for students in Middle to High School with a few language electives for the elementary grades. Here is an exerpt off of SOS explaining the various electives they offer...

"Switched-On Schoolhouse offers a variety of elective courses to diversify your student's study. Mostly designed for middle and high school grades, these courses are made to enrich Switched-On Schoolhouse's core subjects. Here is a list of electives offered in this Christian homeschool curriculum: 
American Literature (7-12),
 British Literature (7-12), 
Business Computer Information Systems (9-12), 
Civics (7-12), 
The Civil War (9-12),
 College Planner (9-12), 
Consumer Math (9-12), 
Earth Science (8-12), 
Elementary French (3-6), 
Elementary Spanish (3-6), 
Essentials of Math (8-12), 
Family & Consumer Science (7-12)
, Foundations for Living (9-12), 
French I and II (9-12), 
GED Preparatory History & Geography (9-12), 
GED Preparatory Language Arts (9-12),
 GED Preparatory Math (9-12), 
GED Preparatory Science (9-12), 
General Science III (9-12), 
Health Quest (4-7), 
High School Health (8-12), 
Pre-algebra (7-9), 
Secondary French (7-12), 
Secondary Spanish (7-12), 
Spanish I and II (9-12), 
Speech: Essentials of Communication (9-12), 
State History (7-12), 
The Story of the Constitution (7-12), 
Trigonometry (9-12), 
Twentieth Century American History (9-12), 
Vietnam Era (9-12), 
 World Geography (8-12). "

Another plus to using SOS is that the curriculum checks for updates made to the curriculum daily. I never have to worry if my child will be learning out of date material or material that is incorrect. SOS does a good job of keeping material current!

Cost Comparison:
Compared to a lot of video schooling out there, SOS is VERY VERY comparable in price. Just to give a few comparisons, I went to BJU Press and looked at their online schooling..here's the breakdown..I used 7th grade as my comparison because my oldest is in 7th this year.

Online with or w/o books - $800-$1000
DVD with or w/o books - $850-$1050
Hard Drive with or w/o books - $700-$900

Switched on Schoolhouse offers 7th Grade 5 Subjects, Brand New, this years current curriculum for...drum roll......$450.00!!! Now that is retail price right off AOP's site, but we never do that. We buy ours off Ebay for 1/3 the price and get the previous year's edition, or off of Craigslist if the seller will ship it to us. This year we bought 7th grade 2012's version off Craigslist for $125.00 :-) 

Let's compare that again....$125 for SOS or $700-$1000 for another curriculum. Hmmmm...even if you bought SOS BRAND NEW right off the AOP site, you are still paying a fraction of what it costs to do other options. 

$125.00 also means that you have everything you need for schooling outside of printer paper and pencils :-) LOVE IT! 


Pros and Cons:

Pros: Covers each subject very thoroughly. Easy to set up. Very mobile, making it a plus for students who need to have a moving school without lugging lots of books around. Keeps the schooling concise without a lot of "rabbit trails" :-) Frees the parent to have more time to concentrate on helping the student(s) with trouble areas due to the parent not having to verbally teach every subject to every student. Covers the subject material very well. EASY parent set-up and is customizable to each students particular needs. Makes it very easy for Moms who need to take a sick day. You can take one and the kids won't get behind in school!!  

Cons: I personally have none, but putting myself in another individuals shoes and looking at it from an outside perspective, there might be a concern that it isn't possible to finish a child's complete days worth of schooling in 2-3 hours. Well, we've been doing this for 5 years now and the schooling is finished in 3 hours everyday and her yearly state tests have gotten better and better each year. I have my own personal opinions on how long schooling should take, especially when you are home schooling, but that is for another day :-) If there were any cons to using SOS  it would probably take the form of the child having to be able to type well before they start using the curriculum in grade 3. BUT, if you get some type of typing program like the one I listed above, it won't be a problem at all! We didn't start the typing program with my oldest until 2 months before she was to start 3rd grade (SOS), so the first few months of school were S.L.O.W. and tedious because her typing skills were slow :-) After she got better at typing, that problem resolved itself.

All in all, I have been very pleased with SOS and will continue using it for many years to come. If you have ANY questions, please feel free to ask or to suggest any materials you have used for your home schooling that have brought good results! Information shared is a positive to every homeschooling family! I hope that if you are looking to make changes to your homeschooling curriculum, this post has been helpful to you and has given you another option to look into! Happy homeschooling!


32 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! We are trying to decide what curriculum to use for our 6th grader next year and I found SOS and I'm seriously considering it.
    It has a lot of negative feedback online though in terms of the depth of information it provides--do you see that?
    I know there's always negative stuff out there so I'm trying to weed it out and find out if it would be a good fit for us! :)
    Thank you again!

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    1. It is my opinion that depth of information can only be achieved by how far the parent and student want to dig :-) There is no curriculum, in my opinion, out there that can truly cover everything in every subject. All I know is that the information SOS gives for each subject gives the student enough information to be able to rate above average in their yearly testing if they study hard and do all the work required. SOS gives many many hands on activities, projects, and written reports with all the major required subjects. In fact, sometimes I unassign some of them because I feel they give too MANY!! :-) I believe the biggest adjustment that we faced with using SOS was that my child had to come to grips with the fact that her grade depended entirely upon her. No more sitting and listening to Mom tell her everything that she needed to know. SHE had to learn it and SHE had to recall it :-) It really helped her get out of the "spoon feed" me mode of education. SOS could be compared to life after college....if you need/want to learn something you must do all the work to learn it.:-) I LOVE IT and my child loves it! You really just have to try it to see...good luck to you and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!! Let me know how it turns out for you!!

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  2. Amen to the digging comment! You're right! It's how much effort we BOTH put into it!
    We are sold on it and will be starting it with my 6th grader next year. I'm excited to start!

    P.S. They really should have paid you for this review! :)

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    1. Wonderful! I am so glad that you are going to try it!

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  3. I have three students home next year. They are all adopted form China and are older. Our rising 6th grader is almost on grade level in every subject (except reading) so I was thinking about purchasing the 6th grade level set for all three of them and then adjusting for Math. The older two are 9th/11th but way behind grade level except for Math. They can all do the same Bible, History (since 6th is world history and that is a requirement for HS), I already have the Math curriculum for the older two. My question is this… can you purchase one set and use it for three students? In other words, can you "enroll" 3 different kids in the 6th grade class online for one price? or is there a difference between the completely online set and the discs that I see on ebay?

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    1. Lauren LockhartJune 11, 2014

      Yes! When you install the start up disk and set up your school, you can add as many students as you need! We have always bought our sets off Ebay..usually last years set as it is the same just cheaper! The disks you see on Ebay are the same thing as what you see on Alpha Omega Publications. The disks are loaded onto your computer and then you are ready to go! The setup instructions are very easy to follow! My middle child is getting ready to do 3rd grade and since her older sister (who is in 8th grade) already did 3rd grade, all we have to do is go back into that school year and add my middle child as a student and set her up the way we want it for her and we're in business! The beauty of Switched On is that it is SO customizable to whatever you need! Hope this helps answer your question and thanks so much for stopping by! Let me know if I can help you with anything else!

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  4. Do you know if this can be loaded to both a laptop and also our home computer? Thank you

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    1. Yes, you can load it on to both! I did that one year so that one of my daughters could go with me while I did student teaching and not get behind on her schoolwork. It was great!

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  5. Is there any way to not make the math multiple choice? I'd rather grade than have my kid sit there and subtract the last number to find out that two of the choices aren't it, just based on that.

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    1. You can change the setting for number of attempts per problem.

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  6. Lauren,

    Thank you for such valuable information!

    I used SOS for my daughter in 5th grade, but did not think that this program could be re-sold or bought used. Wow!

    Did you have to purchase a new "product key" from SOS to download the program you bought from EBAY or Craigslist?

    Warm regards,
    Sandra

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    1. No. The sets that we bought either off Craigslist or Ebay came with Installation disks just like they do if you ordered them new! Now if you want to use a curriculum that is older than 4 years, then you would need to purchase an installation disk that is only 1-2 years old so that the database can be up to date. The reason for this is that SOS does not support curriculums older than I believe 4 years? But if you have an excellent IT technician, or happen to be married to one as I am, then it's not a problem :-) We usually buy curriculums that are 2-3 years old and have never had a problem!
      Hope this helps and thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Thank you for this information. There are a lot of bad reviews out there but I really want to like this. I am going to try this for a couple of subjects and see how it goes.

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    1. Great! Glad to know that the information was helpful :-) SOS isn't for everyone just like ABEKA and BJU video school wasn't for us. SOS gets bashed a lot I think due to the fact that they don't update their graphics as much as everyone else. They do update their information database every year just like everyone else does. Keeping the graphics simple helps keep their cost down. It is my humble opinion that kids get WAY too much in the graphic department...I like simple schooling :-) Hey, even if you try it and it doesn't work for your family, that is OK! You will find what works for you....Happy Schooling and thanks for stopping by!!

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  8. I have had to start working so I got SOS for my 3 children, 3rd, 6th and 8th. My high-schooler already has her courses. My third grader is almost ready to take off in reading, but is just not quite there yet. I read the lessons to her and I type her answer. I really don't want her to have to be focusing on too many skills at once. I also removed the spelling penalty from all but Spelling just so that she could learn without worrying about that.

    Question: I am wondering how you have supplemented the Spelling? Have you found a printable word list or anything like that? I have browsed Spelling City.com and found that many have entered the word lists from various levels there to play games and print worksheets and such to help with the spelling more than what the program does. Any thoughts?

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    1. Both of my girls were avid readers by the end of 1st grade (reading out of the Scriptures on their own) so I've never had any trouble in the spelling department. I think in your case you are doing the right thing! Removing the penalty for spelling in all the other subjects and then finding alternative sources outside of SOS to improve her ability is the way to go! I used alternative sources when it came time for my 3rd grader to learn multiplication tables this year and it worked fine. I helped her in the lessons a lot more so I wouldn't have to go back and rework things, but gave her extra things to do outside of school to improve her speed and accuracy. There is no homeschool curriculm out there that covers everything or provides absolutely everything a student needs, so sometimes we have to reach out for other supplements to help us out! You're doing the right thing! Thanks for stopping by and happy homeschooling!

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  9. PS. Great review, I hope it is ok that I pinned it! Please let me know if not and I can delete the pin. (I didn't see a widget on your page for pinterest.)

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    1. I don't do Pinterest myself, but I have no problem with you sharing it there for me! Thanks!

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  10. Hi!! Thank you so much for your review! I plan on using this for my third grader this year. My concern is all the typing, but I plan on getting her started on that typing program you suggested soon! I also don't want to loose all handwriting and paper pencil work. Does SOS offer anything paper pencil assignments, or is that something I will have to supplement with? THANKS!

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by :-) To answer your question, to get more of the paper/pen experience, you can print off any lesson that you want and the kids can fill in the answers for themselves. I have been trying out a new Handwriting Curriculum "Presidential Penmanship" with my girls for the past two years in order to get more handwriting in, and we LOVE it! The lessons are short, but very meaningful! Might be something you'd like to check into too...happy homeschooling!

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  11. Any reviews/comments from folks who have used SOS for high school? Does it adequately prepare the student for the ACT or SAT and to get into a decent college?

    Many thanks- Jeannie

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Jeannie! I personally do not have any children getting ready to take SATs yet, but I have a friend who has consistently used SOS and LifePac (SOS in booklet form) and has had two children go through college and has one more getting ready to go. Both girls did amazing with their SAT's and and did not have any trouble with college placement. I think one of the things that SOS does very well is that they teach the student to "self teach". Very needful, in my opinion, for college classes and lectures! Thank you for your comment!

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  12. Im thinking of trying SOS for my two 6th graders. But have read lots of bad reviews about the curriculum. Yours has been a refreshing change to the negative reviews read so far. It is so hard when you and your children are struggling with homeschooling to find something that works. We have been using ACE for many years now.
    As it was the only homeschooled curriculum we knew of at the time. Living in England there are not many choices and none are produced by a British company. So ACE was one of the only curriculum you could buy with out getting into shipping cost and long waits for schooling to arrive. We have been living in the USA for the pasted 4 years. And have become increasingly unhappy with ACE.

    Thank you for your review on SOS which has helped me greatly to concider buying this for my children. I would be very greatful to hear anything more you might have to say on this curriculum.
    One question I do have is, what sort of laptops do your children use and does each child have there own?
    Anything you have to share about SOS WILL BE VERY HELPFUL.
    T Hill

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    1. Hello T H and thanks for stopping by! I will do my best to answer every question you have! Switched on Schoolhouse uses a data base to store student records. The data base platform is built on Microsoft SQL Edition which is included with the software. The database software is rather demanding on the performance of a computer so I recommend that you make one computer your database host and each additional computer can then connect to the main computer. The benefits of this are twofold. First of all, you will only need one higher performance computer and second, you will not have to worry about backing up student records on more than one computer. The main computer should have at least the optimal recommended performance as SOS states on their installation guide here https://glnmedia.s3.amazonaws.com/pdf/sos_manual/SOS/Install_and_Setup_Basics.pdf
      Additional computers that connect to the main computer will not need as high performance so the minimal system recommendations will do. SOS is a windows based application so all the computers need to be running Windows Vista or newer systems. A quick look at Newegg.com is a great place to find some refurbished laptops at the $200-$250 price range that will work. We have used HP Elite book laptops for the past couple of years which have worked great! We bought these at Newegg.com. And yes, each of my kids have had their own and have also at times shared. I highly recommend using Crashplan.com to backup your main computer. It is the only backup application that we have found for home users that can back up a running sequel database. Since your school records are stored in this database, it is vital that you back it up on a regular basis! Hope this helps and feel free to ask any and all questions you may have!

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  13. Thank you for your quick reply. I have now purchased laptops and the 6th grade SOS. thank you also for the offer of asking any and all questions I may have.
    I'm sure when I receive our SOS CD-ROMs and have them loaded on to the laptops I will have many question I would like/ need to ask. We look forward to enjoying our new SOS schooling.
    Tracy.

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    1. Wonderful! Glad to help answer questions and wade the waters of getting SOS set up! Happy schooling!

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  14. Hi Lauren, just a quick question - we received our SOS curricula this week and set it up. So far the kids are loving it - I'm just getting used to the set up. Do you know if you can reassign units within subjects that have already been completed? For instance, if a student has done poorly with a specific lesson and you want them to try again?

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    1. Hi TH! Thanks for reaching out! Yes, you can go into the Teachers setup, choose the lesson they were working on or finished, click on each problem and choose the "reassign" option. It will then pop back up in the students lesson queue as an incomplete lesson. You can reassign each and every problem of the lesson, or only the ones you really feel they should redo! I hope this answers your question! For a more comprehensive answer, click on this link that takes you directly to SOS's question and answers for more details! https://www.aop.com/support/switched-on-schoolhouse-faq

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  15. Does SOS have a teacher on board that grades the reports?

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    1. Everything is graded the minute a student clicks "complete" or "finish"! That is one of the options that I loved the most about SOS! All the grades are kept in the system and are current every day so you and the student can see if the grade lowers or raises. It was a great motivator for my kids to see their grade percentage for each course in front of them daily because it gave them a form of "competition" to see if they could raise the grade or keep it perfect :-) Thanks for stopping by!

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  16. We are doing a free trial right now. When the children answer essay questions, is there information provided covering the main points that the child should be making in their writing to assist with grading the written selection?

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    1. Yes! You as the administrator will be assigned that question for review before it can be graded. They give you all the major points that should be included in the child's written paragraph to help you know if they have grasped the concept of the question. Thanks for stopping by!

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