Saturday, February 23, 2013

Curriculum review-Home School Tracker

Okay so technically Home School Tracker is not a curriculum, but it sure makes your life sooooo much easier.  I highly recommend this program.

I first bought Homeschool Tracker back in 2006.  I had used their free version (which they still have) and was looking for a little more beef to my lesson planning.  Homeschool Tracker Plus was it!! 

Unfortunately, with our many moves and craziness with being a military family, I never used it to its full potential or even finished out a complete year.  As I was looking over this last week, I realized that I was very much behind in grading, record keeping, and resourse lists (which lists all the books we use during the year).  I was not looking forward to sitting down and doing all of this manual record keeping when I remembered that I still had this program.

I put the disk in, but it wouldn't was from 2006 after all.  I emailed the company and in one minute had an email back with a link to download the software and assurance that my old download registration code would still work. 

I waited with eager anticipation while it downloaded and then started looking at the many videos online for instructions on how to use the program.  As I stated, I never really used it to its full potential and there are a ton of new features.

First, you set up your school year.  You can name your school and put in the contact information.  Then you enter your student's data.  After this you set up your school calendar.  You can enter vacation days and holidays onto your calendar.  It will allow you to see how many days will be in your school year.  If you need to have a certain number of days, this is fantastic.  You can record attendance manually or have the program track it for you.  When an assignment is completed on a day, the program will automatically record that day as "present".  I'm sure that you can do an hours feature in there.  I know I saw it on the list, but I don't need to record hours so I don't use this part of the program.

The core subjects are listed on the program and you can then set up additional subjects and courses under each subject.  For example, under Math I have set up Math 6/5, Math 5/4, and Algebra I.  The absolutely wonderful feature of this program is that it saves all of your lesson plans!  No more doing the work over and over or looking for those lesson plans from two years ago for the next child in line.  Its all done for you.

After you set this up, its time to set up your year.  You can use the program to its full potential or only do what you want.  It allows you to list goals, resources, and supply lists; and it links them to your lesson plans.  I set up a lesson plan for each child.  I use the core subjects and then courses to differeniate the plans.  It helps me stay organized and a fantastic feature is that you can copy lesson plans from one child to another.  For subjects like history or science that you may do together, this is a great feature.  I like each child to have the information that we did during the year and this keeps everything together for me. 

Lesson planning is easy.  There are three different ways to do your lesson plans.  I put in one plan per child as I stated earlier, and then make lessons for each core subject and course.  You can link the goals, resources, and supplies that you need for each lesson.  Under directions, you can write instructions for the student to have on their assignment sheet.  There is also a space for notes for yourself to remind you to gather supplies that you may need in a few days or to make copies.  This note list is not printed on the student assignments if you don't want it to.  You can print a seperate list for yourself.   Another option is to enter assignments after they are already completed, but I like this way better.  After I enter the assignments in to the lesson planner, I go week by week and move them over to the student assignments.  I generally do this at the end of the week for the next week.  This way, if we get off task one day, I don't have to change all the due dates. 

When the assignments are completed, I can check that they are finished and they move out of the current assignment grid into an archived grid.  I can record grades that they received at this time.  There is also a place on the tracker to make journal entries each day or week if you wish.

One of the best features is the reports.  I can print seperate lists for each child for goals, resources, supply lists, grades, attendance, and transcripts.  There is a place to record field trip information, student activities and achievements, standardized test scores, memorization, and reading logs.  They have truly thought of everything.

When I purchased this program years ago, I wanted more flexibility than the free version.  The new plus version is now $49.  Its a steep price, but well worth it, especially if you have several children.  It will take time to set up but once you get the information in there, your year will run much more smoothly and record keeping will be a dream.  I've already been eyeing the transcript feature for TL and daydreaming about how easy it will be to do when the time comes.

Since I just put this program on this week, I am backstepping a little.  Yesterday we finished our second term.  I am going to do in and record one assignment for each course for each term to put their grades in.  I am not going to manually input each assignment and grade.  The only thing I am going to focus on for the first part of the year is making sure the TL's books are all recorded in there so that they will show up on his transcript.

 I am really looking forward to using this with our Tapestry of Grace program.  Under history, I have set up Year 3 with both a Rhetoric and an Upper Class course.  So the next time we go through using these levels (which will not be for many more years) I will have access to my lesson plans and not have to redo them or find them somewhere!

I encourage you to check it out!!  I'm sure that you will love it as much as I do!

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