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May 31, 2016

Essential Skills Advantage TOS Review

Essential Skills Advantage has come a long way since my family last had access in 2014!  It's very streamlined and fun.  Last time, I think it just covered reading and language for K-6th grades.  We have been able to review the Complete Home Learning Suite which has grown to include all these subjects!
  • Science for K-3rd (earth and space, physical, and life sciences)
  • Reading for K-6th (phonics, reading, and comprehension)
  • Math for K/1st-6th (number concepts and math operations)
  • Spelling for 1st-6th (fun with spelling, spelling master, spelling stumpers)
  • Geography for 3rd-5th (map and globe skills, world, US, and Canadian geography)
  • Language and Grammar for 3rd-6th (creative writing, grammar, vocabulary building)

I have to say, it was the geography that really sucked me in.  I think it's super important for us to learn about, but when you have kiddos struggling to read or do math, you don't think as much about that kind of subject.  This will be a perfect summer learning opportunity while we set aside some of our other subjects.

Xavier is a huge science fan, so he enjoyed having the 3rd grade science program.  He just finished THREE science classes at co-op (yes, all the kid took at co-op was science and PE type classes), so he enjoyed having yet another science outlet.  Xav can work on it whenever he wants to, completely independently, which makes *me* happy.

Merrick (I may have mentioned this before) LOVES school, as in {bigfatpuffyheart}'s it.  This is not something he can complete on his own, though.  Xav or I usually sit with him to help.  A few times there has been something that doesn't require reading, but mostly he needs assistance.  Even when he did need reading, he did great matching the first sounds in the answer with the words on the screen.

When the boys would complete an activity, they hear encouraging things like
  • A crowd saying "WOW!"
  • "Good job!"
  • A guitar riff.
  • and "I appreciate your effort."
It seemed silly, but Merrick and Xav just loved hearing these.  We especially liked the last one.  We grinned and laughed about it at first, but it has since made it's way into our every day vocabulary.  I get such a kick out of their faces when I say that to them.  One night, Xav didn't particularly love dinner and when he told me, he said, "but I do appreciate your effort!"

ESA can be used on iPads and Android devices.  I asked Xav (my poor guinea pig) to try it on my Kindle.  He was able to use it in my browser, but he did need to do a fair bit of zooming in and out to see well or touch the right locations.  He was frustrated, but completed several activities.  I don't really recommend using other devices, but we love ESA on the laptop.  That's portable enough for most things anyway.

Merrick and Xav often used ESA during the week when Malachi had appointments.  They like to invade his sessions, so I would take the laptop to their room and they would "help" each other complete their activities.  It was a great way to keep them busy and distracted.

I was able to monitor their progress easily.  I simply log into my classroom and select "marks" under the boys' names.  I can see all of the subjects each of them had done.  The first screen shows how complete each subject is and the average score achieved.  Clicking the blue circle under that, I could see the same information for each sub-heading.  Clicking further still, I'm shown each activity under that.  If I click one more time, I see how many attempts Xav made on each activity and the average for that activity.  Xav didn't repeat any activities, so I basically just see the same information from the previous screen.

I can create a report which shows the number of activities completed (ex. 5/6 or 12/12), a letter grade, a percent correct, and any notes I want to add.  That can be done at any point in the program.  Once a section is completely done, I can print a certificate.  It shows the date you created the certificate rather than the date of completion, so if you need that to be accurate, you'll have to get them done right away.  You can save them as PDFs.

ESA is an impressive educational supplement, especially if you are looking at online learning for children who enjoy using media over textbook learning.

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