Monday, August 30

Acing the Test with ACT Mom!

Disclaimer: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew

Do you have high school students who are considering college?  One of the steps they'll need to take is standardized testing.  This is especially important for homeschooled students as it helps to provide outside validation to the grades on their transcript.  Whether you're looking at taking the SAT or the ACT, the ACT Mom Online Class from ACT Mom is an amazing resource you'll want to consider!

The online class is self-paced so that students can go through each section as much or as little as needed.  They can watch videos more than once as they cover each of the topics and concepts.  There are approximately thirteen hours of streaming video spread over four different modules - reading, math, science, and English.  One thing I would have liked to be included is writing instruction, but since it is an optional part of the test, that's probably why it is not addressed.
Within each of the modules, there is video instruction, practice questions, and answers with explanation to each of the practice questions.  Although we often hear about 'teaching to the test' in the educational community (and in a negative context), that's exactly what is happening in this course....ACT Mom is teaching students the test, and more importantly, how to take it.  In this case, it's a very good thing...especially for homeschooled students who haven't been exposed to nearly the amount of testing that students in government-run schools have.  In this case, teaching to the test is exactly what we want.

If you spend only an hour or two per week, it should take about twenty weeks to complete the entire course - all four modules.  However, for the student who is intensely preparing for an upcoming test, spending an hour or more per day, all of the material could be covered in four to five weeks.  During the review period, our son covered the entire reading module.  As he has already taken the ACT test in the past, but was planning to take it one more time, it will be interesting to see how much his score changes once he has completed all of the modules!

As an example of one of the lessons, she talks about how students should not infer...even when the problem says to infer.  Then she walks the students through how to figure out the answer to problems that indicate they require inference.  As a high school counselor, I think this course is really well done, broken down perfectly, and presented well for teens.  Take a peek inside with this short video!

The biggest problem we had with this program was the actual streaming, and this is really just a rual thing.  We try NOT to do streaming curricula because it's really hit or miss.  One week we have good internet; and then the next three we don't.  And sometimes we just don't have internet at all...bad or not.  For us to use the course, he had to pull up the video that morning and let it buffer most of the day, then play it in the afternoon.  (If you're younger than about 20, you may not understand 'buffering.')

My absolute favorite thing about this program is also one of the smallest components, but it's the little things that count, right?  When you register for the course, you also provide your mailing address, and this is because your student is going to receive a package.  This box includes a three-ring binder with a pencil case inside, along with sticky tabs, a dry-erase marker, and a cloth.  Why the box?  Also included is a complete, printed-out ACT test, with each page in an individual page protector.  This allows the student to practice taking the actual test, with the dry erase marker, and then go through the course and see why the marked answers are right or wrong.

Could I print out an ACT test for my son (which she has available in her freebies section)?  Sure.  But I probably wouldn't get around to it for a while, and I'm almost certainly not going to spend the time to put it into page protectors.  It's this extra touch that makes it usable by the student in a way that provides instant application, and she's taken the stress out of me having to gather materials by including it in the course.  It's also so great for teens because everything stays together, all in one place.

During the course sessions, the student works through a complete practice test.  The sessions are pre-recorded into bite-sized lessons followed by questions to test a student's understanding of the specific concept just taught.  It has the same laid back, practical feel of the in-person class as well as a teaching style that allows students to slowly build knowledge and confidence.  The student keeps a record of which problems are marked incorrectly so s/he can see WHY the answer is wrong and also to categorize which concepts need more attention and mastery.  Even as my son worked through the program, we were surprised to see that the majority of problems he missed fell under only one or two concepts that needed to be mastered.

It's also worth noting that there is an option to do this as an online group course, with a homeschool co-op or group, as well as an in-person option for attending a class with the ACT Mom.  See what others are saying about ACT Mom at the Homeschool Review Crew.

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