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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Online Math and Reading Reinforcement, a review of K5 Learning

K5 Learning is a subscription-based online program for grades K-5 designed to supplement your child’s regular reading, math, and spelling lessons.  This is a “set up and go” type of program where parents can set up an assessment at the beginning, allowing the program to determine the optimal placement for their child in each subject area. Parents can also “tinker” with that placement by assigning lessons from any of the available levels, can keep tabs on their child’s progress, and can even view lessons in their entirety from the parent dashboard. K5 has the potential to be a great tool for summer review, whether you homeschool or have a child in a brick-and-mortar school.

K5 Learning Review at Homeschooling Hearts and MindsHow much is it?

K5 Learning is available as a monthly or annual subscription. At the time this review was posted, the rates were:

$14.95/month for the first child or $119/year

$9.95/month for each additional child or $79/year

A single parent account can support up to 4 students.

How does K5 work?

This is a supplemental program for extra practice. You can just set a grade level or assign assessments and allow the program to automatically give your child activities to complete based upon their level, or you can go through the lesson bank and choose exactly what to assign to your child.

When your child logs in, their screen will look similar to this:

 k5 home screen

Near the bottom you can see correlated worksheets you can download and print. These correspond with recent lessons your child has completed:

k5 worksheet

The progress tab at the top allows your child to see how they are doing:

k5 progress tab

The parent can also view a progress report in the parent dashboard.

They can choose the spelling icon to practice spelling. You can either set the grade level for spelling or add a custom spelling list.

When they choose the reading & math icon, they’ll be taken to another screen where they can choose either K5 assigned reading or math lessons or mom assigned work:

k5 reading and math screen

Once they click on one of those icons, the program automatically gives them the next lesson in that subject (there are no choices on the part of the child) and they will not see a new lesson in that subject until they complete all of that one. Each lesson has multiple parts, typically a tutorial(s), practice, and an assessment. Each segment is typically under 10 minutes long with some only taking a few minutes. So, a complicated tutorial may be divided into multiple short segments.

To get an estimate of how long a lesson takes to complete, visit your parent dashboard, where you can view the  lesson library:

k5 math lesson listIf you click on any of those line items, it will open another window that shows you how many lessons are in that group. From there you can click again to see how many segments each lesson has and even watch them yourself. This is a look at the segment list for one of the reading comprehension lessons my daughter completed recently:

k5 reading comprehension lesson breakdown

Back to the child side of the site:

Your child can stop after each segment (there will be a stop light showing them they can stop or go on) and save their progress. Their progress will not show up in progress record, however, until they complete all parts of the lesson. Total lesson length varies a good bit depending upon the number of segments, their length, and their difficulty. My daughter has completed some lessons in 15 minutes and for others she has come back to them multiple times before they were completed.

Lesson formats vary a good bit and some lessons are more fun than others.

k5 grade 4 compare and orderk5 grade 4 compare and order assessmentk5 reading comprehension screenshot

See what it’s like with a free 14 day trial.

What did we think of K5?

I had the opportunity to try out K5 Learning with Emma, who has just finished 2nd grade.

After the easy registration, I set up the program to give Emma an assessment in both math and reading on her first visit. Students can choose to do both assessments at once (one after another) or one at a time. The assessments are fairly lengthy (about 1/2 hour each) and are broken up into parts with little game breaks in between so that (hopefully) the student won’t get overwhelmed. Emma got antsy due to the length, but found the assessment process to be pleasant enough. 

Here were her assessment results:

K5 reading assessment

K5 math assessment

Her overall reading assessment placed her in 4th grade reading, with some high 3rd grade phonics work, and 4th grade math. So, it essentially skipped her one grade. I felt that the reading score was probably fairly accurate, but the math score left me scratching my head. While she loves math, I would say that she is either right at grade level or even a tiny bit behind what is typical for her age (there are a few things that give her some difficulty---she can do them, but they take a lot of mental work for her).

We went ahead with the levels the program placed her at to see how things went. Here is what we found.

The vocabulary exercises were easy for her. The reading comprehension activities were often difficult, but she was able to do them correctly for the most part. For some activities there was an option to have the text read to you, but for others there was not. By way of example, here’s one reading Emma had some difficulty getting through due to length and difficult names:

k5 cause and effect nonfiction reading comprehension

K5 nonfiction comprehension 4th grade cause and effect screenshot

The blue words can be clicked on to get a definition. There are definitions for “scorched” and “erupted”, but not for Herculaneum or Pompeii and those were the words she needed help with. She could read it, but it was slow going and took her longer than the estimated time for this lesson. On a lark, I typed part of the text into a couple of different online “readability” calculators and got some interesting results:

k5 nonfiction comprehension reading level check 2K5 nonfiction comprehension reading level check 1

Apparently it’s a little higher than a 4th grade level, probably due to the words used and the sentence structure. I do think that 4th graders can certainly read the passage (my 3rd grader read it), but it does seem as though the level may be a little higher than necessary. Again, this was just a random assignment---we found that the reading level seemed to vary a bit.

In spite of that, Emma really likes the reading part of K5. She likes the varied assignments, the colorful characters, and maybe even the challenge.

Emma found the math that K5 assigned to her to be too difficult. After completing a few lessons, she hit a brick wall. Since the program does not move on to a different lesson until your complete the one you on, she was very frustrated. I chose to back her up and assign some 2nd grade math lessons as review and that restored her good humor.

I find this to be a flaw in the program---if a child gets stuck on a concept, they cannot move on until they complete that lesson. In real life, if we get stuck on a topic, we can try something different and work gently on the offending topic over time or even put it away for a while and come back to it. While I can see the benefit of having a charted path without choices for the child---we all know that some kids will spend all day avoiding certain types of assignments, after all---the lack of choice can also be an issue.

Once I gave her easier assignments, she started enjoying the math part of K5, too. I may bump up the difficulty level there and see how she does.

You can contact that company and have them change the overall level of your child’s placement, but I prefer to use the assignment feature for this---it gives me the opportunity to focus on areas where I know my daughter is weak without pushing her too far.

We’re not crazy about the spelling component of K5.

The program assigned 3rd grade list proved too difficult (Emma just started formal spelling instruction recently), so I input my own list.  My daughter had difficulty making out the words that the program was saying. “Than” sounded like “then” to her, for instance. The program automatically pulls up definitions, examples of words in context, images, etc., but it doesn’t work quite right for every word. I spent so much time standing over her, repeating words, etc., that we both decided that it was much simpler to just do spelling with Mom.


Overall, K5 Learning isn’t perfect, but it is a neat little online program, well suited for weekend or summer review.

Give it a try yourself with a free 14-day trial.

K5 Learning {Reviews}
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