Sunday, November 9, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: IXL

A couple of years ago, we had the opportunity to review the online site, IXL.  At that time, all that was available was elementary age math. However, IXL has been busy these past 2 years dramatically expanding their site, and this year we had the opportunity to review IXL Math (PreK through Grade 12) and IXL Language Arts (Grades 2-8).

IXL is not a teaching site, it is a site for children to practice what they've been learning in school, or their main homeschool curriculum. However, be sure to check the other reviews (see the banner on the bottom, I know at least one mom mentioned that she did find it possible to use it as their main curriculum, with parental involvement).

Pricing is complex because of all of the options available, starting at $9.95 for one child, one subject, one month, you can choose to add children, add the other subject, and choose a yearly plan for added savings. We received both math and language arts for 3 children for one year, a value of $169! Check their pricing to see what your specific configuration would cost.

The site itself does not limit or dictate what specific skills or grade level the child works on. With over 100 skills for most grade levels, your child will have lots to choose from, or you can assign your child to work on areas you know they need to practice.  Since we don't pay much attention to grade levels, I also appreciated that we didn't have to be limited to a specific grade level, we could choose from any grade level to match up with the skills my children are currently mastering.

When a child chooses a specific skill, they are given a series of questions. For the lower grade math, the child has the option to click on a "speaker" button and have the question read to them, however I found Little Bit (age 5) still needed me or an older sister with her to help her understand what the question was asking. This might be less of an issue for a child accustomed to workbook type questions, which we rarely use. Also I felt the lesson length should have been significantly shorter for the lower grades. While Little Bit used the program a couple of times, I don't think she ever finished a lesson and without the incentive of "getting a metal", she rather quickly lost interest.

Lexie and Ashlyn (age 11) both willingly worked on this whenever asked, and sometimes asked to work on it. I think would have worked on it a lot more if their computer had been available (it needs  a new power cord). As it was, they either used my computer, or sometimes their dad's if he wasn't using it. We also installed the IXL app on my android tablet and they sometimes used it, however the android app is only available for math, and only through 6th grade, so that limited it's usefulness. I attempted to install the app on our iPad, but we have an older operating system on the (older) iPad, and were unable to install it. However, we had good success with accessing the site through the browser on the iPad and did use it that way some of the time.

Math Awards
Ashlyn, especially, was excited to see that IXL now includes Language Arts since grammar is currently a favorite subject for her. However, she was disappointed to find that while the site gives  metals/awards for finishing a section in Language Arts, those awards don't show up anywhere, like they do for the math section. I assume this is an oversight due to the Language Arts section being new, but I can see this being a real let down, especially to a younger child. At age 11, while she enjoyed seeing the awards accumulate, the fact that they didn't in Language Arts didn't keep her from using it.

Both Ashlyn and Lexie did mention at various times that they also found the lessons to be quite long. I think a series of shorter lessons in order to fully master a skill, would be better, and certainly would fit our chaotic lifestyle better, so that they could hop on the computer or tablet and complete a quick lesson in between other things.

One of my favorite things about this site is the reports it e-mails to the parent. It lets me know how much my children are doing on the site and how well they're doing. Those quick e-mails are a great quick update. Whenever I want, I can go to my parent account and see detailed graphs of how each child is doing as well.

So, to summarize:

  • This is a great option if your child needs additional practice in mastering any or all math and language arts skills. 
  • I feel the format isn't ideal for itty bitties, but would recommend it for approximately grades 3 and up.
  • My children happily used the program without complaining, and asked to use it.
  • I especially appreciate the reports available to the parents, and the progress e-mails sent to the parent.
Things we hope they'll consider changing:
  • shorter lessons
  • include language arts awards/metals on the award page along with the math awards, or provide a separate page for the language arts awards.
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All prices and information are accurate at time of posting.

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