Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homeschool Tracker

This is one of the tools that has changed the way I school at home. Okay, maybe it didn't change the way I teach, but it has made an enormous difference in the way we stay on track!

One of the reasons I homeschool my kids is because of my independent nature, which means that I want to do things my own way. I also want to work with the needs and learning styles of my children. Perhaps as a result of all those things, with a little input from the Master of the World, I've never been completely happy with one curriculum. I've always used parts of different curricula.

We have used Kolbe Academy and Mother of Divine Grace the most. We have dabbled in Seton science, religion, and art, as well as Catholic Heritage Curricula. And we have used other resources that I discovered and loved. The past 2 years, we've been borrowing quite a bit from Elizabeth Foss's Serendipity.

As a result of all this dabbling, changing around their curriculum plans, and homeschooling for 14 years (wow, that's a big number!), I needed something to help me.

I started out, in the early years, spending hours on Sunday nights planning for the week ahead and writing down assignments, which is just way too much work for anyone I know! Yes, the different programs have their own planning guides and tools, but when you substitute as much as I have, you need something else---either in lieu of or in addition to theirs!

When I first got the Tracker, it was free, and wonderful. But then the Gentiles added features every year and it was soooo worth it to buy the Plus edition for the changes.

Some things are so easy to enter into the system, like math, that it's a no-brainer. Math planning for one student can be done for the whole year in less than 5 minutes! Some lessons are more time consuming if you put in a lot of detail (as I did with MODG history). Eventually, I learned a shorthand form that says something like "See MODG syllabus for detailed instructions".


The beauty part of this is that Tracker has several formats for weekly schedules that you can use. We use a calendar and print one out for each child on Monday a.m. This way we can all see what needs to be done and Mom can see if it gets done because they cross them off. I know it's simple, but this little bit has made a huge difference in their work performance.

I know it's shocking, but there used to be times when a child wouldn't do, say, science, for 3 weeks and Mom wouldn't know about it. Yes, I know it should be obvious, especially since that's a subject I normally do with them, but when there are 4 children being schooled and at least 2 toddlers or babies, it's easy to forget what you've covered with whom! So then we'd have to calculate how far behind we had gotten and how much work we would have to do daily to finish by the end of the year. All my summer planning would be for nothing! Sadly, this same scenario was repeated with every child in at least one subject per year. Now, if we get off track because of life happening, it's very easy to hit the "reschedule" button and we're back on track.


One of the features that I asked for (and got!) when I gave my input to the Gentiles was the ability to archive a subject and use it for the next child who needed it. Now, when I spend hours painstakingly entering one of the more challenging plans, I know that I only need to do it once. When the next child reaches that grade, the planning will already be done. Unless I shoot myself in the foot and change texts again! lol. But seriously, that feature alone has made the whole thing worth the $40 dollars I paid for it.

There are many wonderful features to this program. It is very customizable. It's a great resource if you're required to show lots of records to your county. It keeps attendance, grades, field trip reports. It does a very nice report card and transcript. You can decide how to weight grades for tests and quizzes. There are so many features, you just have to look.

We've been using Tracker for at least 8 years now and it has been such an enormous help that I thought I'd share it with all of you. And I'm not even getting compensated for all the referrals because I'm not taking the time to fill out their referral form! Seriously, the best thing that ever happened to my home school!

7 comments:

  1. I had no idea that this existed. Thank you so much for sharing it. I think it might revolutionize how I perceive our homeschooling efforts.

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  2. I'm glad you found it helpful, Marianne. It's been great for me and I think it would help record unschooling activities that you want to call school!

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  3. Is the plus really worth it? I've download the basic and I found it be confusing and NOT user friendly. I'm afraid that the plus would be the same.

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  4. The PLUS edition is soooo worth it! It is much easier to use than the free one.

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  5. What's different about it? The interface? The way you enter in things? I'm really curious about the differences.

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  6. I wish I could explain. It's been such long, long time since I used the free version! I found it useful and it helped us get our work done and it helped me with our planning. That's all I remember, basically. But when I paid for the deluxe I just remember how much easier everything was. It has so many more features that people can use, especially if their states require a ton of documentation. One of the features I especially liked is that I could archive a subject, or all of them, and use it for a subsequent student.

    For me, it was lifechanging. For my friend who got it, not so much. But her personality, homeschooling style, and family, are different from mine.

    I would just recommend looking at all the screenshots on the website and reading everything carefully to see if it's something you would like. But seriously, it's way better than the free version.

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  7. Thanks Sara for you input. :)

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