ABCmouse Review: Is it worth the money? (updated)

ABCmouse Review: Is it worth the money? (updated)
In this ABCmouse review, I’ll try to answer all your questions about the product. I’ll also show you some screenshots and give you my honest opinion, but if I forget something, please let me know. I’ve searched the entire internet to find the best tools to use with my daughter. She is only 2 years old now, but I feel like it’s important that she learns as much as possible at home before she starts school. So, I landed on ABCmouse.com. Let’s see how they stack up. ABCmouse Assessment

What Is ABCmouse.com?

ABCmouse.com offers a comprehensive educational program for young children. It was developed by the Age of Learning, Inc. Just to be clear, ABCmouse is not an accredited school. However, it is an extremely useful supplementary tool used by librarians, teachers, parents who home-school, and parents who just want an additional learning resource for their kids! The vast material on this site includes 9,000+ individual learning activities and over 850 lessons. It’s designed for toddlers up to those in second-grade, this site distinguishes between individual ages and abilities with 10 separate learning levels. These levels are selected by the parent and can be changed depending on if the material is too challenging not quite challenging enough for the individual user. The curriculum on this site has received awards like the Mom’s Choice GOLD Award and the Teachers’ Choice Award. The educational program was designed in collaboration with a versatile curriculum board of experts in early childhood education as well as field-specific experts. Examples of these experts include a Ph.D. of Curriculum Development holder, a geologist and science education specialist, and an experienced lexicographer (someone who complies dictionaries). The curriculum on this site is divided into four subjects: reading and language arts, math, “the world around us” (which includes lessons on the body and health, plants, world maps, the solar system, etc.) and arts and colours. The site also uses a wide variety of lessons types, including 450+ books, songs, puzzles, and games. Diversity amongst lesson styles helps children with different learning methods succeed in all subjects.

How much does it cost?

This platform is a paid, subscription-based site. So the big question is, is it worth the money? There are lots of free websites that offer educational content for young children. For example, pbskids.org offers many games and lessons through a variety of mediums for free. However, a subscription on ABCmouse.com costs $9.95/month ($79.99/year). This fee can be paid monthly, yearly, or in 4 installments with a credit card, PayPal or Apply Pay. Despite having a lot of competing free options, the benefits a user gets from a platform that requires subscription are quite clear. Most importantly, ABCmouse.com is an advertising free, external-link free site that is safe and secure for young children to use with minimal supervision. Although the sites creators recommend parental supervision, especially when first navigating through the various features, the site is safe for children to use independently. This is really what sets this site apart. Child safe Parents can be comfortable concentrating on other tasks while their children learn and have fun in this interactive online platform. Additionally, the fee contributes to the high quality of the curriculum mentioned previously. The fee also allows for developers to work on creating a child-friendly, stimulating platform. An example of just how child-friendly this site is can be demonstrated with the audio features. When you hover over various items in the site, an audio message explains what the item is to help users understand what the feature is and allows students to  

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How does ABCmouse work?

Firstly, don’t forget they are currently offering a 30-day free trial, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial here, although you will have to enter payment information. So, if you and choose not to continue using them, don’t forget to cancel. When you create an account, you’ll register one parent profile and up to three child profiles, which you can use simultaneously on different devices. Next, parents will have to decide what level to place their children in. There are 10 levels, that becoming increasingly difficult. The first sets of levels are geared towards toddlers, preschoolers, pre-kindergarteners, and kindergarteners. The higher sets are geared towards first and second graders. The lessons are briefly described during registration, but don’t fret if you are unsure. There is a detailed description in the Parent section, and the parent can change the child’s level at any time during the subscription. After parents choose a level, children choose an avatar from a pre-made list or they can create their own at no extra charge. After registration you will be brought to the Student Home Page. The first feature on this page is called the “Learning Path”. After selecting the child’s level during registration, this creates a specified learning path geared towards that age group and ability level. The Learning Path is structured like a trail. ABCmouse Homepage   Along each step of the trail, the child is presented with a lesson, and once completed they get to advance to the next lesson. Each time a lesson is completed, the user earns tickets. These tickets, and the reward system they create will be discussed a little latter on. Along the trail students will also get surprise rewards for every set of lessons they complete. They can track their progress from a bar along the bottom of the page. Additionally, the trail goes through a variety of environments, each of which include key facts about the climate and vegetation of the area. As children move along the trail, the lessons get more complex, and the rewards can become greater. This phased pre-set lesson plan is one of the best features on the site. It continues to challenge children every step of the way, whilst rewarding them for their progress. ABCmouse.com also includes more freely structured lessons about basics of letters and numbers, music, books, calendars, the solar system, and more, which are accessible from the Classroom. The activities housed in this feature do not count towards the Learning Path progress but are still tracked for parents to see. All the work users do in their classroom will still yield tickets to use in the rewards system. By now you’re probably wondering, what is this reward system anyway? When you first sign up, each user gets a ‘Room’, ‘Aquarium’ and ‘Pet Place’ in addition to all the lessons. These features are interactive and allow students to learn but are more importantly the place where a student can use their rewards. As users’ complete activities, they are rewarded with tickets. Different amounts of tickets are rewarded depending on the difficulty of the lesson, and extra tickets are rewarded along the Learning Path as incentive for kids to complete more lessons. Tickets are essentially virtual cash that the child can use in the sites shopping center. Here, users’ can use their tickets to purchase items to customize their avatar or they can purchase items for their room, aquarium, and pet place. They can also purchase pets and take breaks from lessons to care for or play with the pets. Once they have purchased something new, they can interact with it in the specific space it was designed for. The more valuable, exciting items for sale are obviously more expensive, and therefore encourage saving on behalf of the users. Giving students rewards for their work, encourages students to continue to work harder, as long as the rewards remain important to the recipient. ABCmouse grade1 classroom    

What are the benefits of ABCmouse?

Some of the most important benefits offered by ABCmouse.com have already been mentioned. This site has an extensive curriculum built in collaboration with teachers and education experts that offers wide-ranging lesson options targeted to young children. The fee required by this site ensures that it remains ad-free and safe for kids to use with minimal adult supervision. The fee is also quite reasonable considering that one account can be shared between three children of different ages and abilities. Parents can also opt in to an option called the “Assessment Center”, which offers a variety of tests to assess the areas in which a specific child can improve in. There are a lot of free sites with educational games and lessons for young children, but they do not offer the structure and safety that are inherent in ABCmouse.com.

Additional Bonus features

One of the other major benefits of this website, over it’s alternatives, is that it offers parents a lot of control. The password-protected Parent section is easily accessible from any options menu on the site. This page includes sub-sections to purchase the assessment center, view details about the account, change settings, take an in-depth look at the curriculum, access customer support, and provide feedback. This page also allows you to access the Progress Tracker, which allows parents to follow their child’s/children’s accomplishments on the site. This visually appealing tracker has easy to read graphs and charts that demonstrate the number of lessons completed, and of what type or subject they are in, as well as how many tickets are being collected and spent. The best part about this Parent feature is that parents can customize the settings for their children’s accounts. For example, parents can restrict ticket spending to require their password, they can change the Learning Path level if the profile is too easy to difficulty, and they can set restrictions for how long the child can use the website a day. Additionally, the site offers an “Assessment Center”, which contains tests to determine where your child stands on certain skills. This feature often requires parental supervision when completing the tasks and has additional costs. Although many other sites have educational tools, few offer the control and administrative capabilities that ABCmouse.com offers its customers.

ABCmouse Review Conclusion: Is it worth it?

In my opinion, it’s definitely worth the money. Firstly, you can’t put a price on your child’s education. According to Johns Hopkins University, “Early education can play a critical role during this important developmental period. Research linking early intervention to both cognitive and socio-emotional gains has fueled the proliferation of early childhood programs since the early part of the twentieth century.” So, the importance of early education is undeniable. But I’ve contemplated just using free stuff online, rather than paying for a premium service like this. However, i’m getting more and more fed up of the Ads and I also find the quality of the education is not as good. So, I am a customer of ABCmouse and I am very pleased with their product so far. Whenever I think about if I should keep the product or cancel it, I ask myself; “is $9.99/month worth it if my daughter learns ONLY 1 new thing that month?” The answer is always yes… I also tell myself, I pay $11.99/month for Netflix, which has no educational value for my daughter. So, of course I can justify paying $9.99/month for ABCmouse.com! p.s. Don’t forget to give it try with their 30-day free trial. Use this link.

Two ways to make money with stocks

stocks-make-more-moneyHave you ever stopped to think about why a unit of stock is called a share?  What exactly are you sharing, and who are you sharing it with? You may recall that stock represents ownership in a company. As an owner, you are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of a business owner. In a publicly traded company, your responsibilities are limited to financial commitment to the company; the amount you paid for your shares of stock. Your worst case scenario is that the company becomes insolvent and your stock becomes worthless. Your liability is said to be limited because no one can come after other assets you may have to cover an obligation of the company. You also enjoy certain rights. The first is the right to vote for the board of directors. The shareholders, as an entirety, elect a board of directors to hire and direct the executive management team. The company’s executives hire and supervise managers who carry out the plans and direction of the executive management team. The managers, in turn, hire the employees who perform the functional tasks of operations. The second right shared by the stockholders is a right to their proportionate share of profits. As the company makes money, the board of directors has a choice to make. Do they give the stock holders their share of the profits, or do they keep the profits in the business with the intent of growing and expanding the business with the expectation that greater profits can be generated in the future? If profits are kept in the business, the accounts call them retained earnings. Profits distributed to stock holders are called dividends. Some investors prefer dividends. You have heard the expression “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Dividends are usually paid in cash and the investor is free to do whatever they wish with their share of the company’s earnings. They can pay their bills, invest in another company, or simply save the cash. Some companies offer investors the opportunity to use their dividends to purchase more shares of stock without having to pay regular trading expenses. These programs are known as DRIPs or Dividend ReInvestment Programs. But regardless of which direction the stock holder takes the tax man commeth.  In 2013, the maximum income tax rate on dividends is 20%. Often it is the tax which motivates investors to shun dividends. Those investors prefer that the company retain its earnings and reinvest in itself. Their hope is that as the company grows in value, so will the price of the stock they own. As the stock value grows, so does the worth of the investor but taxes aren’t an issue until the investor actually sells their stock. If the investor sells the stock for more than they paid for it, the difference is a capital gain. As long as the stock was held for a year or more it is currently taxed at the same rate as dividends. If the stock was held for less than a year, ordinary income tax rates apply. So the two ways to make money with stocks are Dividends and Capital Gains. Investors should have a clear understanding of their strategy before purchasing stock so they know the best way to evaluate any potential stock purchase.

Key Terms

  • Retained Earningsprofits earned by a company which are kept by the company to fund future growth and development.
  • Dividends stock holders share of the company profits which are distributed in cash.
  • DRIP – dividend reinvestment program. A program which allows shareholders to use their dividends to purchase additional shares in the company without paying trading costs.
  • Capital Gains the profit made by selling a stock for more than an investor paid for it.
  • Capital Loss the loss incurred by an investor if they sell their stock for less than they paid for it.

How Interest Rates Affect Bond Prices

Flows Into Stock and Bond FundsSince the bottom fell out of the stock market in 2008, investors have been shifting money from stocks into bond funds. Since 2007, there have been $1.39 trillion invested in Bond Funds versus $193 billion in stock funds. The most logical explanation is an attempt to find income and safety, but are bonds truly safe? To explore that question we need to understand where interest rates are now, where they will be in the future, and how changes in the interest rates will affect bonds.

Interest Rates

In response the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) lowered the federal funds rate to a historic low of 0% – 0.25% and they have remained there ever since. In their recent guidance, the Fed announced their intention to keep the rate at that low level until the unemployment rate falls below 6.5% which they predict will happen in 2015. The accuracy of their estimation can be argued but it really isn’t they key issue. What is important is that interest rates are as low as they will go and the next change in interest rates will be up. When that happens, bond investors may find their portfolios in trouble.

Bond Prices

The rule is simple. When interest rates go up, bond prices go down. Suppose you buy a $1000 bond today which pays 5% interest. Every year the bond will pay $50 until the bond matures and then you receive the $1000 back. You pay $1000 for the $1000 bond. In investment terms, you just purchased the bond at Par Value. Tomorrow, the same bond issuer raises the interest rate on new bonds to 6%. Those bonds pay $60 every year until the face amount is returned to the investor. If someone else is looking to buy a bond, they would obviously chose the 6% bond for their $1000 over your 5% bond… unless you were willing to sell your $1000 bond for less than $1000. At some discounted price, the 5% bond is just as attractive as the 6% bond for $1000. Relationship between bond prices and interest rates: Why bond prices move inversely to changes in interest rate   Bond fund buyers need to be aware (or should they beware?). There is no argument that interest rates will be going up. The only unknown is when it will happen. When it does, the prices of the bonds in bond funds will fall and the fund values will go down.

Key Terms

  • Par Value – the face amount of a bond. It is what an investor paid for the bond when it was initially issued and what will be repaid to an investor when the bond matures.
  • Discount Bond – a bond which is currently trading for less than its par value.
  • Premium Bond – a bond which is currently trading for more than its par value.

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