Thursday, June 23, 2016

ABC Mouse - Waste of Money or Worthy Academy?

As parents we do our best to give our children the best educational advancement possible. We buy books, flashcards, packets, games, and whiteboards to try and give them a head start. We try our best to keep them entertained and teach them important knowledge everyday. So when a website claims to give our children full access to a school style curriculum and help them to learn in a fun manner, you better believe I jumped in. 

If you haven't seen the many commercials aired on all sorts of TV channels of abcmouse.com, then you wouldn't know that the $8 a month subscription is a preschool/kindergarten early learning academy. It helps your kids to learn the fundamentals - phonics, alphabet, mathematics, etc. - while playing games, earning tickets for prizes, and creating academic independence. 

While I wasn't exactly convinced it would make my child a genius, I did decide to go in with an open mind. I monitored my son's usage, encouraged his progress, praised his success, and secretly tested what he had learned throughout the day. I've tested this website for about 2 months now. I never pushed him hard to specifically play, because I wanted to see if it would encourage him to continue playing on his own. 

Throughout the 2 months, I watched my son have an on-again/off-again love for abcmouse.com with a few noticeable differences. After the 2 months, I learned quite a few things about my son. Things that really struck me as intriguing and helped me learn a lot about him. 

1. He doesn't like to learn EVERY day. Which is understandable. He's 4.
2. He doesn't think games and electronics are replacements for toys and human interaction. 
3. He's very hands-on with learning and sitting down to do an activity that seems to be endless is a bit daunting. Again, he's 4.
4. He loves to learn.
5. He takes whatever he learns and applies it in everyday use. 

I knew my son was smart and I knew that he wasn't a "sit down" type of guy, but I didn't know that he was merely eager to learn more and more, just in different ways. 

As for my personal review of abcmouse.com, it consists of a few key qualities. How my son reacted to it over a period of time, how much he REALLY learned, and how well laid out I personally feel it is. I myself even tested the website, by personally "playing" a few rounds. I didn't use my son's profile though, as I didn't want to hinder his results. By the way, there are progress reports for parents to check up on and see how their children are doing. I haven't checked it as I want to allow him more time, to see if the progress is going at a steady pace. 

Now, for the results.

At first my son really loved it. He was absolutely enthusiastic as he is with anything new. He explored all the in's and out's - the hamster pets, the classroom, the books. After 2 months, he's still excited to play it, but not nearly as much as the beginning. Again, I don't push him to play on a consistent basis, because I don't want to hinder any creative thinking or "want" to play the game. If he's forced to do something, he's not going to enjoy it nearly as much. I'm the same way, so I avoid it. 

As for learning, I have to admit that it's the best money I've spent so far. He is now going around sounding out every syllable he can, trying to read the words. He's constantly thinking about what each letter who represent (C for cookie, cat, car) and he's always applying math. He thinks of problems and tries to use unique ways to solve them. He's increased his want to learn. This has not only made me incredibly proud, but thankful that I found this site. 

I'm currently in the inner workings of having my son be homeschooled for Kindergarten (yes he will be socialized through sports, exercise groups, and 2/3 onsite classrooms every week), so having this site makes me feel like he's truly getting a proper head start. Even when we spoke with the charter school counselor, she was impressed with his education. She truly thought he'd been to an advanced preschool, as he's already reading "first level" books. 

No, my son isn't perfect and no he isn't a genius, but yes this site DID help him. He's still a creative thinker, he's still artistic (and even uses what he learns in his art), and he's still interested in school. 

When I played it, I actually had fun. Some of the lessons can feel a little overwhelming, as there are roughly 8-11 activities per lesson, with 5-7 lessons per "land". Each lesson is only 1% of the entire curriculum. So yeah, I get the whole "SERIOUSLY?!" feeling. My son makes the face sometimes and will ask me "can I take a break?". Of course I say yes and I allow him to stop. 

It has books, songs, games, pets, stores for when you've worked hard for your tickets, math, reading, phonics, science, and a ton more of options for the little ones. 

While I do realize in a traditional classroom, breaks won't necessarily be granted. He will have to push on and keep moving forward with the class, but this is simply another reason why my son is going to be joining a homeschool/charter program for his first year of school. I feel like he should be eased into the whole "stay here for 8 hours and learn, learn, learn". No school isn't a prison, yes we are blessed in being able to do this, and no I don't think it will hurt him in any way. Otherwise I'd never do it. 

So to conclude this review, I say absolutely, positively, completely, confidently YES! If you have a preschooler or a kindergartner or even any child who enjoys games, you should download it. 

In fact, if you don't want to take the plunge and pay the $8 because you're unsure, they offer a FREE month trial. You'll have an entire month to monitor your own child's progress and see if it suits your families needs. If you don't like it, cancelling is one of the easiest processes I've experienced (I tested it out to make sure). Simply go onto your parent profile, click "cancel", and follow the steps. They don't charge you afterwards. They don't have hidden fees or excuses. They don't mess around. 

This is something I recommend to everyone with kids. As parent's we want the best for our kids and I truly believe that this is one of the best. 

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