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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Essential Skills Advantage (TOS Review)

Essential Skills Advantage Review
Essential Skills Advantage Review
We really enjoyed the opportunity to review Essential Skills Advantage.  My 5yo (K) and 8yo (3rd grade) both used this program 3 to 4 times a week as part of our daily homeschool routine.   They both really enjoyed it!  (Even my 5yo, surprise! surprise!). 
Essential Skills Advantage is an all encompassing Language Arts online program.  It works on building reading comprehension, spelling and grammar skills.  Activity choices are divided by grade, and also by subject.  You are also able to click on Individual Units and get to specific units which are in each Grade program.  This allows you to customize the program for your child more easily.
Screenshot 2014-08-26 20.28.19
My 5yo worked primarily in the program titled Complete Reading for Kindergarten, while my 8yo bounced around with the Complete Reading for Grade 3, Grammar Grades 3-5, Fun With Spelling 2 and Reading Comprehension 4.  The activities in each program are enjoyable, my 5yo (whom can become easily frustrated) rarely had any problems with this program. 
After completing each lesson they are given a rating with stars, and also are given the time it took to complete the lesson.  My 8yo enjoyed racing the clock and seeing how quick he could get the problems done, while still scoring 100%. 
When each unit of lessons is completed, you (the parent) are provided a link to download a completion certificate to print.  This is nice for portfolio requirements, if your state has them.  The parent account also allows you to access your child’s records and see what had been completed, how well they did, how fast the did it, and when they completed it.  The parent account, however, does not allow you to make assignments.  I wish this was a feature.  I would like to be able to specify to my children which lessons I want them to complete and in what order.  I did write down what I wanted my 8yo to do, but most of the time I would find he chose something else to complete.
This program is not just for homeschoolers, it would also be great for keeping the mind sharp over summer breaks or to build on learning during the school year.
The customer service was great with this company, a few small issues arose and I was always contacted back quickly to help resolve them.  These issues were simple issues, like unclear instructions for one lesson and a program freezing in another lesson (most likely their was a break in our internet service that caused this).  We always contacted them via email through the program and heard back within 24hrs.
To log in to your account, you will receive a URL to bookmark from which your child will click on lesson they want to do.  They then are prompted to enter their unique username and password.  This is how the program keeps track of multiple students. 
Below are screenshots from the Kindergarten program that my 5yo used.  You can see the star ratings that they receive when they master the lesson.  If they do not get 100% not all 3 starts are yellow.  
Being an Early Childhood Education Major, I paid close attention to the Kindergarten lessons, I loved that they started with simple lessons such as visual discrimination and patterns.  Important skills to build on that help with reading!
Screenshot 2014-08-26 20.35.53Screenshot 2014-08-26 20.36.04
The only other ‘negative’ I have on this program is that they use cartoon clip arts for pictures.  I would have liked to seen real pictures to represent the objects. The cartoon pictures occasionally caused some confusion with my 5yo during lessons, and I think it would be more educational to show pictures of actual things instead of fictionalized objects. 
Here are some screenshots from the Grammar 3-5 that my 8yo did.  You are able to see the topics covered under Grammar.
Screenshot 2014-08-26 21.13.46Screenshot 2014-08-26 21.13.57
I really loved this program as a supplement, and also used it occasionally as a…we didn’t get anything done today, go do some ESA lessons. This program definitely was great for our Language Arts/Reading lesson for the day!
Essential Skills Advantage has recently started to offer a sponsored version of their program that is completely FREE. You can sign-up completely free at www.ESAlearning.com. Members can enjoy access to every course ESA has to offer, but there will be sponsored advertising and some of the available features will be missing.

I reviewed the Premium Plan. I cannot attest to the FREE version.  The Premium Plan is available for $9.99/month per student and offers all features. However, Essential Skills Advantage has offered an amazing deal for my readers!!  You can get the subscription for 50% off each month for as long as you remain a member, if you sign up by October 1st!  That’s $4.99 a month per student for life (with no break in membership) or 2 students for the price of ONE!  This program is geared primarily for K-6th graders.
Use coupon code TOS50 by October 1st to receive this very generous discount! 
Find Essential Skills Advantage on Social Media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/skillsadvantage
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SkillsAdvantage
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/SkillsAdvantage/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/103081493030185524648/about
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