Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: Vantage Learning--My Access Home Edition

As you may have already guessed, I really enjoy writing. This is just something I picked up on back when I was a kid and didn't really think too much of it until I became an adult. (Interestingly enough, it roughly coincides with the time various family members began asking me to write their letters to doctors, lawyers and supervisors, or my personal favorite--writing short blips for PTA newsletters. Hey, at least I'm good for somethin'!)

Writing for both enjoyment and "work" purposes makes me feel complete. If I've had a rough day, it serves as my release.

If I've had a great day, it serves as an outlet of thankful expression.

I've kept a journal since I was 10 years old, own a blog, write reviews, and conduct most of my communication in the form of email. So you can imagine how this carries over into our family's homeschool situation.

My children have all enjoyed writing for pleasure at one point or another. They've all written poems or short "books"--some much shorter than others. Abby's story, "Puppy's Birthday" is a prime example: "Today is puppy's birthday. Yum! Thanks for the cake Mom! You're welcome puppy! Woof-woof! The End."

However, when it came to actually teaching the mechanics of writing, I must admit (rather sheepishly) that I was a bit lost. All those years of creative writing and advanced English courses completely flew out of my head. (Whooosh!) Needless to say when I learned that we'd received a free membership to Vantage Learning's My Access! Home Edition online writing course, I did a Snoopy dance for joy. :)

*For the purpose of this review, I received a free membership to My Access! Home Edition. My review is based on my opinion of the product only. No additional compensation was received.*

My Access! Home Edition is a completely web-based writing course that teaches students the mechanics of great writing, directly from their computer. According to their website, My Access teaches students to:

"...begin by focusing on on the process of writing itself: planning, organizing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. They learn how to generate ideas, link them together in meaningful ways, and express them creatively, all while obeying the "rules" or conventions of writing and grammar." From there, the writing process builds as students "learn to organize, clarify, and communicate their thoughts."

Under the My Topics heading, parents choose which topics they want their children's essays to be about (science, history, etc). You can also choose to have your students write from a pre-selected batch of essays or create your own. It's all up to you.
Essays range from informative, persuasive, narrative, etc.

Parents also determine how many points each assignment is worth and can also create a reward for reaching a specific point amount. For example, my kids had to earn 250 points each before they got to pick out a movie of their choice. (Yeah, I'm cheap and only took them to the Redbox machine, but hey---it worked!)

Students are walked step-by-step through the writing process from pre-writing to drafting, revising/editing, to finally--the finished product. The "Tutor" function teaches students how to make their writing better and offers helpful suggestions.

The "Editor" tool works much like your word processing program (such as Microsoft Word) does, which is really helpful.... unless you happen to be writing a bit "outside the box".

In that case, the grammar correction tool goes bonkers. Ditto with spell check. If your student happens to write the name of a person or city that's not your typical-sounding name, it'll knock their point total down due to the supposed "misspelling". Kinda frustrating.

But if you're like me and can look past that, then you're good. :) However, overachievers (like my oldest--ahem!) might find this aspect a bit aggravating as they seek to obtain a "perfect" score.

One last thing; progress reports! Students receive scores such as Below Proficient, Proficient, and Advanced Proficient, and the reports are emailed to parents.

Oops...one "more" last thing: I recommend that parents actually sit with their children--at least in the beginning--while they use My Access. This is to ensure that their children aren't tempted to "beat" the system by doing the bare minimum in order to earn their points. (Ahem...not that ANYONE did that here, right kids?!)

My Access! Home Edition is a great writing tool that I've been most impressed with. I love the fact that the essays can be incorporated into any curricula you happen to be using, and provide immediate feedback to the students.

A one year subscription costs $99.95 for up to 3 students or $129.95 for 6 students. To learn more about the program, please check out their website by clicking here.

I'm pleased to award My Access! by Vantage Learning 2 thumbs up! :)

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