Monarch Online Curriculum
Homeschooling has certainly come a long way, and Alpha Omega Publications seems to have stayed at the forefront of designing curriculum that keeps up with technology. Once offering only the workbook-based Lifepac curriculum, they produced the Switched-On Schoolhouse program on CD-ROM years ago. In 2010, AOP released their new internet-based Monarch program.
What is Monarch?
Monarch is an online Christian curriculum available for all basic courses (Bible, math, history/geography, science, and language arts), as well as many electives, for grades three to twelve. Courses can be purchased as a complete package or as single courses. It is similar in format to Switched-On Schoolhouse, but does not require installation of software on your computer. The curriculum is compatible with most web browsers, on both Windows and Mac operating systems. Each course is subscription-based for one student’s use, with eighteen months given to complete a course from the time of purchase. Monarch maintains records for seven years after a course is completed.
A Typical Lesson in Monarch
To illustrate how Monarch works, let me take you through a typical lesson. Students sign in with their own username and password to the Monarch website and check for their daily assignments. A weekly calendar can also be viewed, so students can see at a glance their workload and assignments completed or due. Lessons begin with the vocabulary needed to master concepts, and the text-to-speech option allows the student to have any part of the lesson read aloud by the computer. Within the lesson itself, there is a section to be read and usually some sort of multi-media, including video and audio clips, games, animations, and related links. The variety and presentation do a good job of instruction, while keeping the interest level high. Concluding each lesson is a set of questions (true/false, short answer, essay, sorting, matching, and multiple choice).
Within each unit are quizzes and unit tests. Parents are able to control the parameters for grading, including allowing for open- or closed-book problems, setting how many attempts may be made on a problem, deciding whether the student can receive immediate feedback, and more. As well, parents can determine a certain percentage that must be mastered before moving on to the next lesson. Most of the grading is automatic, with about 85-90% of all work being graded by the computer.
After the initial set up, parents only need monitor progress, grade written assignments, and customize lesson plans if they desire. Parents log in to the Monarch website with their own “teacher” username and password. For both student and parent, the website features a customizable dashboard that lets them easily navigate through the curriculum. Parents have total control over their school calendar dates. Days can be changed to “non-school” days, lessons skipped or reassigned, or courses completely rescheduled at any point in the school year. The parent’s calendar displays all enrolled students and their courses, and lessons are clearly marked as completed or past due, which makes tracking simple. Assignments requiring grading are shown, and students and parents can send messages to each other. (One I received from one of my children read, “Help! I don’t understand this question!”) A parent has the choice to print grade reports, give alternate tests, and assign special projects. There is a help page for both students and teacher to aid in setup.
I heard there were some glitches when the curriculum first went live, but we encountered few problems. AOP seems to respond quickly to any known issues, and the curriculum constantly undergoes real-time content and feature updates. A feedback link on each page allows you to immediately send any comments or suggestions. Parents can reset questions or change grades, if needed. This is helpful for the more subjective questions.
Practical Pros and Cons of Monarch
We used Monarch for several courses last year, and are doing so again this year. Having true independence in several subjects was a good experience for us. My children did not like the computer voices that are used with the text-to-speech option, so they rarely used it. However, the vocabulary pronunciation provided in each lesson uses a different voice, which is much easier to listen to and therefore more helpful. I do think that auditory learners will find both of these features to be useful. We all felt that math was the weakest subject, at least at the upper levels, as far as coverage and presentation. In all subjects, some of the review games can get repetitious, but overall, Monarch did a thorough job of covering the material, and is easily tweaked.
There is a fair amount of screen time involved, particularly if you use Monarch for all subjects. I encouraged my children take notes as they read through the lesson, writing out their vocabulary and other important facts. This allowed them to study for quizzes and tests away from the computer, and reinforced the habits of active listening and note-taking. There is also an option to print any part of the lessons. Flexibility is the key here, and the ability to tailor the curriculum to each student’s learning style is helpful.
Monarch’s website has a free webinar to help you understand the curriculum. Their website has a sample video clip for each course, so you can get a feel for how the curriculum works. Once enrolled, technical support is available and responds quickly. The website is quite extensive, and answers most questions you would have. A complete scope and sequence for each grade and course is also available.
Many families need a realistic choice for independent homeschooling, and Monarch fits the bill. For us, it was a true godsend last year, as we lived several months out of our suitcases during an overseas move. We had access to our laptops, though, and found that a quality education through Monarch is truly accessible anytime, anywhere!
Last Updated: October 29, 2011
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subject access for: Bible, History & Geography, Language Arts, Math, and Science
many electives are also available
5-subject kit: $439.99
available anytime, anywhere!
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