- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

An exciting new resource is available for parents who are educating their children, full or part time. Mindsprinting, which went online in December, is the brainchild of Steven and Douglas Golden, brothers using their combined career experience in business and law.

“We found out that there was no Internet-based system of worksheets to build skills,” says Steven Golden. “We took a proven system of teaching math and reading-comprehension skills through directed worksheets and have made it available to families through the Internet.”

The Mindsprinting program is based on a 20-year-old program developed by a Toronto-based educational consultancy firm.

This is a boon to parents and children. An assessment test, taken online, gives an immediate snapshot of which skills the student has mastered and which should be worked on next. The family simply prints out the next worksheet lesson in the queue, and the child can work on it at his or her own speed.

When the worksheet is completed, the parent (or, if desired, the child) can correct it according to the answer key, which also is provided. If an area is not clear, the Problem Solver function gives a step-by-step explanation of that skill.

When the lesson is corrected, the parent enters the number of errors into the system, which responds with either supplemental assignments to reinforce the skills or the next skill lesson in the sequence. There’s an incentive system, too: Students can earn “stars” for their work, which are redeemable for gifts from a catalog.

“Each family can build this the way they want,” Steven Golden explains. “They can choose whether only the parent can access the answer key, or the student also. If they don’t want the student to receive stars, they can opt out of that. The parent can log in and see … the latest assignments the student has done and what is next.”

Using this system, parents can manage the lessons of each of their children using the pull-down “dashboard” menu, see the youngsters’ progress and get supplementary assignments for additional practice. They even can keep tabs on their children’s progress from a distance.

For families that want to have more control over the pace or choice of the lessons, there is a “fast-tracking” feature that allows them to create their own educational plan. The program also offers two features that are attractive for many home-schooling families: printable achievement certificates and detailed transcripts, which can be printed out or e-mailed for reporting purposes.

Mindsprinting covers math and reading-comprehension skills for kindergarten through 12th grade. Because these are the two pillars of all other subjects, this alone is a valuable tool. However (and most exciting, in my opinion) Mindsprinting is working on adding more subjects and by this spring will add Spanish and French versions of the material.

Those familiar with the costs of home-schooling curricula will be astounded at the price tag. It’s $180 per child per subject per year, with no limits on the amount of content the child can master during that period. If the child wants to complete four years of math in one year, there is nothing to stop him or her.

The price is made even more reasonable by the guarantee: If it doesn’t work for your child, it can be canceled, and the company will refund the unused portion of your tuition, figured as a $15 charge per month.

As someone who has wrestled with nonrefundable correspondence courses that cost several thousand dollars per year, provided no online lessons or tutoring and were not flexible to the student’s strengths or weaknesses, this is an amazing value.

My 15-year-old son and I tested the service, choosing the options we wanted. Then he took the assessment test and got his list of mastered skills and new skills to develop. We printed the next lesson, and he completed the lesson, graded himself (our choice on the option menu) and entered his results into the system.

This product solves several home-schooling challenges: getting quick feedback, assuring the student that he is progressing, filling in gaps in the parents’ academic skills, having worksheets and transcripts, and providing a way for parents to monitor children’s efforts.

This is an excellent tool for both home-schoolers and parents whose children are not thriving in a traditional classroom. It delivers the information and services of private tutoring to families that could never afford the expense.

This is a win-win-win learning partnership of families, private entrepreneurs and experienced educators. As Steven Golden puts it, “It levels the playing field and makes excellence available to every family.”

For more information on Mindsprinting, call 800/871-3320 or visit www.mindsprinting.com.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a free-lance writer who lives in Maryland.

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