Essential Skills Advantage {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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Essential Skills Advantage Review

I shared on the Schoolhouse Review Crew page recently that teaching my children to read is my least favorite part of homeschooling.  When our oldest was 5-7 years old, I really thought about sending her on the big yellow bus so someone else could get her to read.  Of course, we have since learned that she needed more time and some other helps for her dyslexia.  I was so glad when the next two of our six children essentially taught themselves – really!  

Child #4 starts learning phonics and while I had the same fears and anxiety, it went better.  Fear and anxiety?  I strongly feel that once a child is reading on their own, the sky is the limit.  They can do and learn anything they want to.  Reading is that important.  The folks at Essential Skills Advantage feel the same way.  And they make it fun!

I have a range of ages working/playing on ESA.  My four year old is probably the most excited.  He is really loving not just working the computer, but that he is doing well – most of the time.  I sit with him and help him in moving about the program.  Working the trackpad is still a bit new for him.  The answers are all his.  He is loving the interaction and instant feedback.  He is my baby and I am having a hard time realizing he is ready for this, but he is.  He is doing so well!  We are also using this time to practice and work on the at-home speech therapy sounds.  

The child that is zipping through the quickest is our third-grade son.  I started him out a level below where I thought he was.  He has been convinced that he is not learning to read.  This has shown him that he really does know more than he thought.  His confidence has sky-rocketed.  He is nearly done with one grade level after nearly 6 weeks of fairly regular (but not scheduled) use.  He’ll be ready to start choosing the next grade level when he signs in.  I love that each child has their own sign-in.  This lets me see where each child is, how they are progressing.  The benefits aren’t just for the parent though.  My son is seeing where he has been and what he has to work on.  Things build on previous skills, so there is an order to the activities.  I don’t have to worry about setting assignments; he doesn’t need to check with me on what to work on next, he just signs on and gets to work.  He is an early riser and often has his work done before any of his sisters are even waiting for their computer time.  We are both loving this independence!

Our other main user has been our sixth-grade daughter.  I wasn’t really thinking she would get much from this.  After all, she is one of the children that mostly taught herself how to read.  She does have some lousy spelling habits though.  And her comprehension can be a bit lacking.  These are exactly the skills she has been working on with ESA.  As the learner progresses through the levels, they are moving towards other skills.  At the sixth grade level, my daughter has been working on Spelling Stumpers and Reading Comprehension the most.  I appreciate that she can get help for the pronunciation of tougher words.  She can hear how the word is said.  Often at the upper levels, there is no audio component to the learning modes.  This is important still.  Think of how often we read and don’t know how to pronounce a word.  We might make up our own and move on.  We know the meaning, or can figure it out, but does it really matter what the word sounds like?  As a homeschool family, we don’t read aloud from pages that all are looking at like is commonly done in the classroom.  This is something that benefits all – the reader and those following along.  I am really happy – especially for this learner – that this particular skill is covered.  

There is sound throughout all the activities at all levels.  For some things, this is the necessary interaction and instructions.  Nothing bothersome with the voices or sound effects for my learners.  There is a near constant background of bug-type sounds.  Nothing that has distracted my learners (or even been noticed by one of them).  My middle daughter that is *not* working on the program has remarked on it – on numerous occasions.  I have not figured out if this is something that is controlled separately.  She just tries to stay out of the room.  She might be more bothered because she is not immersed in the program like the learners are.  Headphones would be great to use.

We have been blessed by using the premium version of ESA ($9.99/month for each student).  There is a free version available as well.  This is a sponsored version (includes ads) and lacks many of the features we have had access to – and reviewed above.  How about saving 50% on the premium version?  Awesomeness! right?  Just use code TOS50 by October 1.  Each month you continue, you will enjoy this savings!  

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Thank you Essential Skills Advantage!

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