Friday, March 25, 2011

TOS Review: BigIQkids

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Recently Brennan and I have been exploring a website that could be beneficial to any elementary or middle school student -- homeschooled or not homeschooled. BigIQkids is an online program packed full of activities to help your child with spelling, vocabulary, math, and geography. As the student completes lesson activities, he earns coins that can then be spent on reward games.

My favorite part of the math program is that you can assign problems for more than one operation at a time. Most of the drill programs we've used in the past only allow you to drill one set of facts at a time. I like to challenge Brennan by having the problems change throughout. The program does warn the student that they are switching to a new operation. I also like the way that the problems are not limited to just single digit facts. Lately, may of Brennan's problems have included two or three digit numbers. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Brennan shares my enthusiasm for math practice that's more difficult than what he's used before.

Both the vocabulary and the spelling programs allow a parent to customize the program and use it to reinforce the child's regular schoolwork. I chose to let the program pick grade-appropriate words for Brennan. He enjoyed the various spelling activities to help him learn the new words, especially playing Hangman, but he was a bit annoyed that he had to score a 100% on the spelling test before he was allowed to move on to another set of words. I was pleased to see that he was challenged with words that are significantly longer (but not necessarily more difficult) than the ones he's working on in our regular spelling curriculum.

I was excited to see the geography program offered on BigIQkids. A few months ago, I discovered that Brennan couldn't identify many states on a US map. He's not yet at a point where he can accurately identify all of them, but he's well on his way. Before long, he'll move on to sections of this program that teach the spelling of all the states and then the capitols. As a side note, I found the US map to be quite irritating -- the map is sort of cartoonish, and I was annoyed at the way some of the states were distorted. Brennan, however, seems to do okay switching between the BigIQkids version and the more accurately drawn maps that we also use.

What did Brennan think? I was surprised that Brennan found the reward games to be exciting. He's rather picky when it comes to computer games. When he first started using BigIQkids, he would do extra lessons just so that he'd have more game coins. Over time, though, the promise of game coins wasn't necessarily motivating enough for him to do more work than I required. I suspect that he'd feel the same way about any program.

What did I think? I am impressed with all that BigIQkids offers. I'm particularly pleased to see the programs that will continue to challenge students over time and won't be outgrown as soon as the basic facts are memorized. I appreciate the way that I received update emails when Brennan moved on to a new level in math or geography. I also received the scores and a list of misspelled words every time he took a spelling test. 

I think every parent should check out BigIQkids; they have so many free games that would be helpful for elementary and middle school students. They offer premium programs that provide more record keeping, advancement based on performance,  email reports to parents, and more. The cost to upgrade to the premium versions varies, and you can find a full list of the prices here. It costs $99 per year to upgrade one student to the premium versions of all four programs.

If you'd like to read what other homeschool families thought about their time spent using BigIQkids, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received a one year premium membership to BigIQkids for free as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

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