Friday, September 9, 2011

TOS Review: BigIQkids

I was so excited when I got my homeschool materials this year. I was like a kid at Christmas opening a present! I just love going through all my new materials and was having a good time until I realized that I had nothing for spelling. Last year my curriculum included it, this year it didn't. I was bummed and was trying to figure out what I would use when I got some good news. I was chosen to review BigIQkids for the TOS Homeschool Crew.

BigIQkids is a unique online educational program for grades K-8 that is designed to help students reach their full potential by offering exercises for them to do in math, spelling and geography. Now I was not only excited about the spelling, I was eager to see how friendly the math section would be to my special little student, who happens to have Down Syndrome.

Once I managed the online registration process and really began looking at the program, I was quite pleased with what it had to offer. Each lesson is accompanied by it's own "tutor" which is an animated character that guides you through the lesson. While it did take some getting used to, we actually found that having audio instruction presented visually was quite helpful for Gess. I was also really pleased with how clean, pleasant, and inviting each lesson was. It was colorful and engaging without being distracting.

At first I was disappointed that it was not set up in a way that would allow a child to simply "play" for awhile on the website. You do earn a coin for each lesson that you can spend on the games page, but you are really not encouraged to just plow through lesson after lesson in order to get the coins. They recommend spending only 20 to 40 minutes per day, and say that students who do that usually find improvement in their regular studies. I found this to be the case for us as well.

While I started telling you how glad I was that I now had something for spelling, I want to show you the math section first, because this too was a thrill for me to find! (It's the kid in the candy store effect, I get excited, what can I say?)

I had been looking for quite some time for an online math program or game that would be good for Gess. Unfortunately every one I found was either too complicated, too advanced or they timed the lesson. I was thrilled to see that BigIQkids Math was none of those things. Actually it can be any of those things, but that's the cool part about it! In the BigIQkids Math program, the parent or teacher gets to set up how many problems a child does each day, how difficult the problems are and whether or not they are timed. I set Gess to drilling 10 problems a day in basic single digit addition. Look how appealing and easy this screen is to read.

The child can then type or click on the appropriate answer. If you click the help button you are presented with an actual example on the screen to help you literally count it out. It also has a notepad and pencil so you can do your work on the side.

I actually discouraged Gess from using the helps though as I was having her use her count on skills to work any problems she did not already know (she has her 0, 1, and doubles facts memorized). Here she is working out a problem by placing her fingers on the desk to represent the second digit. She then said the first digit and "counted on" using her fingers to find the answer. She is getting really good at this.

I can't tell you how happy I am to finally have found a fun and easy way to drill math skills for Gess. This program is exactly what I was looking for! In fact, if you read my blog where I posted our schedule over the desk you will see that BigIQkids is now a part of our daily routine, in all the subjects that they offer.

So, back to the spelling that I was cheering about before. The BigIQkids Spelling + Vocabulary is a great program that you can use whether or not you have your own spelling curriculum. It allows you to add your own list or you may use ones they have already set up.

Whether you choose to use your own or theirs you may customize and change your list at any time. I was pleased to find that their 3rd grade spelling list was right on Gess' level, so we began using it right away.

The BigIQkids spelling program is great. It begins by introducing the words to you by saying the word and showing it on the screen, using it in a sentence, giving you the definition followed by the synonyms and antonyms. Then it has you type each word. It's not actually spelling yet, as the word is there for you to look at it. It basically has you copy it this first time. Later that afternoon I will have Gess copy each word on paper too.

It then takes you through various activities to help you practice the words. There is word scramble, a spelling bee, word search and Gess' favorite, hangbot. Here you get to spell your words with a robot instead of a hangman. He's a bit more encouraging too!

There are also several vocabulary activities. After all is said and done your child is ready for the test. The test is given orally by the animated instructor and used in a sentence. There is also the definition and a sentence with a blank where the word would go on the screen. Here is Gess taking the test and finding her results. Today she got a perfect score!

And let's not forget the States program that helps a child to learn the geography of the US. Gess really loved going to this one too. It also gives you the ability to set the skill level and how many problems are quizzed each day and that made it very friendly for us. Gess loves learning the facts about each state.

I will have to admit that the registration process was kind of frustrating. As I mentioned before, the animated instructors took some getting used to. Well, they guide you every step of the way through registration. Every time I clicked on a page it seemed someone was talking to me, even when I didn't want them to. Finding information was sometimes a struggle too and it seems like there is not an easy way to jump from one subject to another. The site could definitely be a bit more intuitive and easy to navigate. However, I assure you this program is worth any little irritation that you may find at the start and once you become familiar with the program it goes more smoothly. In fact, Gess can navigate it all on her own.

One of the greatest parts about BigIQkids is that some of it is available for FREE! In fact, their Spelling + Vocabulary Program is free for everyone! There are also free versions of their Math and States programs too. However, if you subscribe you get some great benefits like no ads, more flexibility, access to more reports and more games. You can see the comparison of Free Vs Premium on their website. So what does BigIQkids cost? Well, right now they are offering a back to school special which allows you to purchase the membership bundle package, which includes everything for just $89.99 for the entire year! That's less than $7.50 per month! You may also pay by the month or subscribe to each program individually. Their pricing page will give you more information about that. Remember there are free versions of everything! You really can not go wrong trying this product. As I mentioned before, I absolutely love it and have made it a regular part of each homeschool day. This is something we will continue to use for a very long time!

To learn more visit the BigIQkids website or read what others thought about it at the TOS Homeschool Crew blog site.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received an annual membership of the bundle package from BigIQkids for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.


danielle @ RLR said...

The animated instructors and the BUUUUUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ in the math drills! Oh my! But overall...I really liked it. And I think if they keep tweaking here and will be a GREAT program. :)

Your review melted me and made me smile!


Jennifer said...

Hi, I'm on the TOS Crew also and a new follower of your blog. Great review, I love the fact that you added pics of your daughter!

Jennifer said...

It is so wonderful when a review item fits our needs.


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