Switched-on Schoolhouse from Alpha Omega {review}

When I first began homeschooling officially in 2006, I quickly learned that there were a few legendary names when it comes to homeschool curriculum.  Tried and true, trusted, longstanding pioneers in the homeschool community.  Alpha Omega is one of those names.

Several years ago (when I was still in the mindset of more formal lessons as compared to our relaxed approach now), we used some Horizons and Lifepac curriculum from Alpha Omega.  I was happy with the material, but it just didn’t fit our eclectic style at the time.  Now that my oldest is in 7th grade and we’re headed toward high school sooner than I’d like, I’m looking at some more structure in our days.  Enter the opportunity to review Switched-on Schoolhouse computer-based curriculum and I was glad to give it a try.

sos pin

What We Received:

Alpha Omega Switched-on Schoolhouse (SOS) Bible, grade 7.

What It Covers
  • The life of Christ and God’s plan of salvation.
  • Available in King James or New American Standard versions.
  • Memory verses
  • Vocabulary words
  • Historical context
Installation and Set Up

The initial installation is involved and takes about 30 minutes.  You’ll want to check the system requirements to be sure it’s compatible with your computer.

We installed SOS on a laptop running Windows XP.  {There is a note that 2014 is the last edition to have updates and support for XP.}  The 2 cd-rom installation set comes with a step-by-step booklet, though the steps didn’t always match up with the screen we were seeing.  It is pretty self-explanatory as you move through the setup wizard.


Switched on Schoolhouse installation and set up #hsreview @hsbapost

Once the main SOS interface is installed, it prompts you for the subject cd-rom installation.  In our case, this was the Bible cd-rom.  SOS offers 5 main subjects that can be purchased as a set or individually: math, science, language arts, history & geography, and Bible.

Installation includes both student and teacher log in information.  These can be accessed separately through icons on the desktop.  This keeps the student log in separate from the answer key and assignments.

After the complete installation process, it’s time for customizing and setting up the course assignments.  Navigation is simple and I had no trouble quickly figuring out how to make assignments and due dates if I chose.  There are built in tutorials in the form of slideshows to demonstrate each feature and how to use them.

What I Thought

I like the ease of use once everything is installed.  It is really a time saver for busy homeschool moms.  I don’t have to plan or read ahead.  I can just follow the lesson plans and make assignments.  They are even graded for me.  When I need my daughter to do some independent work while I do lessons with her younger sisters, this is a good option.

However, for our personal homeschooling style, we enjoy more hands-on interaction and discussion.  I think SOS would be a good choice for us for some of the elective courses rather than our main subjects.  Some of the electives they offer include web design and information technology subjects, which I think would be excellent ways to get more specified training in future career choices.  Those are things that we wouldn’t necessarily have the time or the means to teach without a resource like SOS.

This course is what I might call a digital text and workbook style.  There aren’t really any fancy bells and whistles as far as graphics or animations.  The information is presented as black and white text followed by quizzes at the end of each section.  There is nothing to distract or detract from the lessons.

As far as the Bible course material itself, I think it is thorough and accurate.  My daughter definitely learned from the course and it was good experience for her to try a more traditional school approach just to see what it’s like.  She will continue this course past our review time because she wants to complete it and has been doing well with it.

My Daughter’s Thoughts

I like it overall.  I like that I can work on it at my own pace.  I can go back into the lessons and keep reading if I don’t finish it all at once.  I like the place where I can take notes or make a journal, too.  I write down memory verses there.  One of my favorite parts is customizing the colors and design.  Learning new vocabulary words was my favorite part of the lessons.

The Fine Print

The 7th Grade Bible course for Switched-on Schoolhouse is available for $99.95.



Disclaimer: I received Switched-on Schoolhouse 7th Grade Bible course free of charge in exchange for my review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.  I received no other compensation for this review.


Sara (30 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.

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Homeschool Products from Nest Learning
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My Favorite FREE Homeschool Resources




We have YouTube playing continually all day long at home. At the moment, John is obsessed with some 24 year old young man’s piano channel. Christine is always playing music in the background while she does her math or plays chess. Her latest favorite find is a “no voice” Frozen song, with which she’s most happy to fill in the blanks, of course (link).

Just off the top of my head they have watched: rollerblading lessons, yo-yo trick tutorials, elaborate Rube Goldberg machines, science videos (ViHart and Minute Physics), and history videos (Liberty Kids and Horrible Histories). They’ve learned magic tricks, new craft projects, etc.

This morning John found some LEGO pinball machine and then ran off into his room to build his own.

YouTube is just a bottomless font of inspiration. Seeing others do, particularly children, will really motivate your children to push onward and try new things for themselves.

TIPS – Make sure “safety mode” is enabled. Only let them watch YouTube in public places (i.e. not their closed bedrooms). Monitor their viewing “history” and make sure they know you do!

Homeschool Groups

Am I really a member of over 20 homeschool groups still? There’s a residual group from Boston I still follow even though I moved 4.5 years ago. There are a couple of national ones I joined. There are 9 in New York that I’m “in”. Oh and I’m in 8 now in London. Yeah most of them are on that execrable Yahoo Group platform. Some on Facebook…and a few on Google Groups.

Certainly they can be brutal at some things (e.g. like clearly communicating WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE GROUP) but nevertheless I have benefited tremendously from interacting directly with other brave families. (NOTE – homeschooling is a radical thing to do in the Northeast, still – not to mention in Europe!). I could not possibly quantify how many books, websites, resources, how much support, advice, inspiration,….how many new friends, even paying clients, I have been blessed with on account of the FREE interaction, both online and in the flesh, offered by these groups.

TIPS – Don’t expect joining a homeschooling group to automatically provide your family with a slew of great classes, activities, and friends. Groups are more like loose confederations and merely provide a framework for you to meet others. However, you can’t just lurk. You must invest some time and effort. You must reach out, welcome new people, introduce yourself to everyone, volunteer to help out at group activities, and organize events both small and large in order to get the most out of FREE homeschool groups. A great, surefire icebreaker is asking new people you meet, “So, what made you decide to homeschool?”.

Khan Academy Math

Khan is nothing short of an absolute boon for the homeschooling parent. Not only is it FREE, but it’s comprehensive, it’s more interactive than any textbook could ever be, AND it’s constantly being updated with money from Bill Gates and deep-pocketed corporations.

One thing no one talks about is the sheer power of online math with its instant negative feedback. When the kids get a question wrong on an app or website, they are informed immediately. In the past (1,000 years?) these kids might do a whole problem set incorrectly before becoming alerted to their errors.

Furthermore, someone has to sit there and preside over this inferior method. I can’t for the life of me understand why a harried homeschool parent – especially one with multiple kids – would want to manually check and correct math problems.

One of the other killer aspects of Khan Academy Math (besides the immediate feedback) is the “Hint” functionality. When a student is stuck on a question they have the option of unlocking a slow stream of tiny hints to nudge them forward. It’s just like having the ideal teacher at one’s beck and call!

When it comes to math, everyone likes to fuss over “curriculum”. While there are certainly differences among the texts, I submit that far more important than the specific curriculum chosen is “time” – the number of hours a child spends actually doing math. Ideally they need to be doing a lot of math, right at the very frontier of their learning curves. This is something only Khan can do. It optimizes time spent and also serves up the most appropriate material – the stuff that’s new and just a little bit harder.

TIPS – The “Khan Math” I am touting is the practice module – not the videos which are certainly okay but not nearly as important as Sal Khan would have you believe. Set goals for your kids in terms of number of skills mastered, skills practiced, and time spent. I’ve even had success by conducting contests between my students. Don’t be afraid to let them kids bounce out of sequence and between grade levels either. Feel completely free to skip some, if not many, of the skill modules at your discretion.


We are a big chess family. A few years ago I decided to make it a core part of our curriculum and it’s been going well – even to the point where I’ve become addicted to the game myself!

Chess.com allows us to play people all over the world, for free, any time of the day. There are more articles, puzzles, and training tools than one could ever use. There are online tournaments all day long, live events, and social networking opportunities within 10 million member Chess.com community.

Chess.com allows players to set the parameters of their games too. We play short (5 minute) games when pressed for time and I have my kids only play opponents rated moderately higher than themselves – so the games are neither too easy nor too hard.

Chess has recently been exploding in popularity thanks to websites like Chess.com more than anything else.

TIPS – Stop procrastinating. I know you have been meaning to push chess a little but feel unqualified. Learn with your kids. Just get started, the learning curve is very steep early on. Here’s an old, short post I wrote on how you can get moving.



Libraries are our sanctuaries – our genuine homes away from home. Of course my kids love them for the books but as a homeschool parent I love them for several other reasons. Most of all, there are fewer distractions at the library. Goodbye ringing phones and door bells, see you later yard-work-that-needs-to-be done, no dirty dishes or clothes staring you in the face, and clean tables to work on! Did I mention the relative silence?

As for books….well as a family of four we always have about 100 checked out at a time. We are fortunate on Long Island, NY to be able to tap about 40 county branches for inter-library loans. My kids have been actively going online and reserving books for themselves for a couple of years now. And my daughter, the former resistant reader who has become our reading champion, she all but tortures the librarians by oftentimes reserving her latest new favorite princess series books….20 at a time!

However, Living in London has been a hardship from a library standpoint. The largest library here is about as big as one of the smallest in Nassau County, NY – at least in terms of the children’s book selection.

Thankfully from across the Atlantic we are still able to tap the “digital loan library” (Kindle books) of our network back in New York!

If only there were more kids’ books available on Kindle…

Libraries are a terrific place for parents to get their work done too. Light-years ago, back when I was in college, it took me a painful entire first semester to learn that I could only productively study at the library, i.e. far away from my dorm. In the course of homeschooling my children, I certainly re-learned this same lesson.

TIPS – For maximum productivity/silence, go in the morning before schooled children arrive. Butter up all the librarians – no matter how prickly some may be. We give them all baked goods and cards around Christmas and I know this investment goes a long, long way.


Playgrounds, county parks, state parks, beaches, nature preserves…

They are also sanctuaries and seemingly all our own especially mid-week on those first warm spring days and those sublime fall days. We really do plan our week based on the weather forecast. And living mostly in the dour Northeastern United States, with its variable climate, it’s a total win to be able to do this.

TIPS – Bring their work too! Bring books, workbooks, journals, and art supplies to the park. A day out doesn’t have to be a dreaded lost day. Plus you can justify basking in the sunshine even longer.

Homeschooling Blogs

Of course I’m partial to blogs – but not just because I’ve been blogging for 10 years.

Blogs are what led me to the idea of homeschooling in the first place!

I’m constantly mining them for nuggets and I’m continually blown away at my new discoveries.

Read them. Bookmark them. Subscribe to them over email or through a reader like Feedly.

Invariably, whenever I see a family struggling with some element of their homeschool…it’s a situation where the parents AREN’T reading homeschooling blogs and homeschooling books. Essentially they aren’t doing enough research to gain the insights and confidence required for the task at hand.

TIPS – Don’t overlook the blog comment threads as they can often be more helpful than the original posts. Pay attention to a blog’s other followers (if possible) and the commenters; click on their avatars to see if they themselves have blogs. This is precisely how I’ve ended up spending hours upon hours surfing the web!

Okay, that’s my list.

If I boiled it down even further I’d say all a family needs is Google and a library card!

Did I miss anything? What are your favorite FREE homeschooling resources?


Dan (2 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at HomeschoolDad.com.

A Word From Our Sponsors

Homeschool Products from Nest Learning
***ART PROJECTS curriculum –ages 10+ -fulfills high school fine arts credit 10% off + FREE SHIPPING in U.S. Code: STL Offer expires September 30th http://www.seethelightshine.com***

My Favorite Things for Homeschooling with ADHD

We’re homeschooling several children with ADHD in our family, so we’ve had to make some major adjustments to our homeschooling approach over the years. One of the biggest adjustments has involved adapting my teaching style.

I tend to be a sit-down, book-learnin’ type of educator. I have ADD, so I’m not hyper and I’m capable of long periods of concentration. My hyper kids, though, are not, which means I had to adjust to them in order to help them learn. We’ve found a few items to be especially useful for helping our kids stay on task and pay attention. So today I’m sharing five of my favorite things for homeschooling with ADHD!

My Favorite Things for Homeschooling with ADHD - Look! We're Learning!

Tools for Homeschooling Children with ADHD

  1. Digital Timer – I don’t use a timer that often, but when I do, it’s usually to keep me on schedule. I can get interested in a subject and talk for a bit too long, especially for my kids’ short attention spans. In general, I try to keep each subject to 25 minutes so that we can get up for a “brain break” a couple of times per hour.
  2. Squeeze Balls – Squeeze balls, or stress balls, are great for fidgety kids. They’re quiet, they’re small, and they don’t distract the other kids during lessons. Plus, they’re handy for moms who need a little stress reliever. ;)
  3. Nickelodeon FIT for the Wii – We make physical education a regular part of our school lessons. Sometimes we have P.E. outside and sometimes we use the video game Nickelodeon FIT on our Nintendo Wii. It’s packed with simple fitness activities for young kids, featuring Dora the Explorer, Diego, and other Nickelodeon characters. It’s really fun. I’ve even been known to get in on the game on occasion. :)
  4. Individual White Boards – Most of our kids are visual/kinesthetic learners, so any time I can take a lesson and make it interactive, the kids learn their concepts better. When we cover math, I use a chalkboard but I try to let the kids copy my work on their own white boards. They get to draw, write, and “see” each concept – all of which helps them grasp it better.
  5. The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks – This affordable ebook features simple activities that kids can perform during short “brain breaks” each hour. We had the opportunity to try the program last year and it gave the kids a simple way to move around and get themselves refocused for the rest of the school day.

And those are some of my favorite things for homeschooling with ADHD! We’ve found them all to be useful, especially when we’re covering complex subjects or topics that require concentration.

Do you have any tips for homeschooling active learners? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Selena (2 Posts)

Selena is a homeschooling graduate, a former tax accountant, and a homeschooling mom to four super special kids. She and her husband, Jay, practice eclectic homeschooling to keep their ADHD learners engaged! You can keep up with Selena by following her blog Look! We're Learning! on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.

A Word From Our Sponsors

Homeschool Products from Nest Learning
***ART PROJECTS curriculum –ages 10+ -fulfills high school fine arts credit 10% off + FREE SHIPPING in U.S. Code: STL Offer expires September 30th http://www.seethelightshine.com***