NOTE:In March 2013, I learned that K5 Learning had chosen to align with the common core standards. Therefore, I can no longer recommend it in good conscience.
This is not a "review blog," for a couple of reasons. First of all, I don't want you, my readers, to think I'm trying to sell you something whenever you stop by; in fact, I explicitly hope you feel you're getting a little peek at my real life and my personal reflections, not a commercial. Secondly, I simply don't have time - in either our home learning endeavors or the rest of my life (such as it is!) - to incorporate a bunch of new products in order to write reviews; I don't know how other homeschoolers do that! As a matter of fact, when I have praised a product or service, it's simply been because I discovered it on my own, have used it for quite some time, and genuinely believe in it. And - with the exception of All About Spelling, for which I am an affiliate (but only because I love the product!) - I've not previously received any financial benefit for doing so.
Thus, when I received a request to review K5 Learning, an online enrichment program for elementary-aged children, in exchange for a free trial period for my children, I almost deleted the email without a second glance. But I'd been thinking about ways to give my daughters safe, age-appropriate internet experience and realized I could add a short, daily dose of K5 into each girl's schedule without altering or adding much onto the length of our usual "bookwork time." All the better that it seemed like a useful independent task - something to help them improve their math, reading, and spelling skills - not just busywork.
So I signed on for an extended free trial in exchange for writing an honest review, and the girls - Rachel, Abigail, and even Anna - generally used it four or five days a week for more than six weeks. Anna alternated between math and phonics lessons. Rachel and Abigail did a little spelling and math during the trial, but spent most of their time in the reading and math facts sections. And at the end of that time, we chose to become paid subscribers...which should give you a hint about how well we liked it.
Among the things that have impressed me are the:
1. customer service
I've received prompt, gracious email responses to my inquiries about various aspects of the program, many directly from the company's president himself. In fact, beyond answering my questions, he wrote to me more than once suggesting different ways I might maximize my children's experience with the program. In addition, the easy-to-use Parent Dashboard enables further customization. From all of this, it's clear to me that those at K5 truly value their customers and go out of their way to meet our needs.
We could have skipped the placement tests, but one benefit of the program is that it will customize a child's learning activities based on test results, regardless of the "grade level" indicated on the initial enrollment form. Such personalization is great, since it's highly unlikely that any child actually functions entirely within the narrow sphere of one "grade level" based merely on chronological age. I watched all three girls take both the math and reading tests and noted with satisfaction how thorough and appropriate they were.
I observed the girls doing several lessons at the beginning of our trial and was pleased to note that - unlike some similar programs - both the academic content and the attitudes portrayed through the lessons' "teaching characters" were wholly appropriate. For example, though one reading lesson focused on dinosaurs, there was only one brief reference to an evolutionary concept - which gave me confidence that other lessons would also be "safe" for those of us who do not espouse an old-earth worldview. Similarly, I never witnessed "sassy" or disrespectful attitudes in any of the characters, which was a great relief and a significant contrast to some other, similarly-marketed online programs. I was also pleased that all the girls enjoyed and felt comfortable with their "interactions" with the program's characters; the lessons were neither too babyish nor too "hip."
4. genuine skill-building activities
I want to give my girls safe online experiences, but I do not want them to get caught up in playing online games with no greater purpose or redeeming value; as a matter of fact, we don't even own a Wii for that reason. Thus, I was very pleased that K5's activities really are focused on learning within the framework of the engaging scenarios. Whenever I allow the girls to log in to K5, I can rest assured that they are either reviewing previously-introduced skills or learning something new. It's time well-spent.
Once we got going, I gave Rachel and Abigail the freedom to choose what to play each day, and they both decided to alternate between reading and math facts. This summer, though, we're going to be more purposeful, making sure to spend time on spelling and the main math component as well. And that's another huge benefit of K5: a parent can feel confident in the pre-arranged lessons and, thus, give a child independence...or she can be directly involved in setting things up; it works either way. For example, this summer I'll take some time to enter our spelling words into the program so the girls can get explicit practice in spelling that will reinforce our main curriculum. And I'll make sure they work on the main math component as well, in order to help them maintain and improve their skills.
If you're looking for a quality, online enrichment experience for your child, I highly recommend K5. You'll feel very comfortable with it, your child will have a good time, and s/he'll learn quite a bit along the way.
If you do decide to try, please click here so K5 will know I sent you.