Great Solution for Planning Unit Studies
For example, I want to do a Science curriculum that is based on unit studies for my 2nd grader this year, but I had no idea whether I want to do it over the course of one year or of two years. How do I decide? Well, I chose to break down the units into individual assignments and then go from there. Units vary in length so I couldn't just estimate the time per unit and go from there, I had to go through each unit individually and decide how long we'd spend on it. I found out we had enough assignments to do Science 3x a week for 2 years. Sounds good, since doing it every day may have been overloading us for this year. Halfway through entering the assignments on the site, I created next year's school year & so I was able to enter in all of 3rd grade science assignments as well.
Offers Most of the Same Features as Paid-For Online Planners!
A friend had recommended the SimplyCharlotteMason.com online planner when we had a homeschool support group meeting on the topic of planning and scheduling. She said she'd tried several ones and loved this one because it allowed you to keep track of the fact that a child worked on an assignment, even if they didn't complete it. She raved about it, so I thought I'd check it out. It sounded good, and looked good, but since it was my first time using an online planner, I didn't really want to commit to something that cost $10/month or $100/year. I did some researching and was intrigued when someone had mentioned Homeschoolskedtrack.com in a forum. I do see that the SimplyCharlotteMason Online Planner already includes some Living Books pre-programmed of sorts, so that could be a bonus to use them, but I found it's pretty quick to type in the Title/Author and/or ISBN of the books I use on the "Resource" page.
Learning Curve to Using the Site?
I highly recommend watching the introductory "How To" help videos they put up, because, like any new site that can be personalized, there are a couple things to learn. For instance, before you can start entering assignments, you'll need to make a school year, add your students, and then add the courses. This can be done in a matter of minutes, but if you bump around trying to figure out how to "jump in" without reading any instructions (like I did), you're probably just wasting time. If you don't like, or can't stand, How-To videos, the FAQ page is extensive, and I love that in many cases it not only tells you how to do the activity you are aiming to do, but WHY it is done that way. It eases my frustration because on some sites I find myself asking, "Why can't I just _________?!?!"
Keep Track of Hobbies, Sports, Field Trips and other Extra Curricular Activities
Once you get going, you'll find it to be incredibly flexible. Like I said, you can schedule out all your assignments, or just add the subject and leave the assignment details to be filled in as they are completed, or as you plan them. There is a place to keep track of outside activities/extra curriculars under "Hobbies", and that's a great place to keep track of those little things like that Saturday class they took through Community Education or the extra books or projects they completed. Personally, I add in sports as "Courses" because they count toward Phy Ed. You can keep track of the resources you use for each class if you want, also, so if you are using a lot of library books or educational DVDs, or you just want to have a put-together list of materials used/needed, that's no problem. You can assign a class to be daily, only on set days (like Mondays & Thursdays, or however), or repeating once a week, every 2, 3 or 4 weeks. So helpful.
There is also a place to keep track of field trips, assigning them to the specific course (if applicable), and choosing which of your student(s) attended. Make sure you give your students credit for the fun things we do in homeschool as well!
Custom School Calendar & Automatically Recording Hours Completed
Also, you set your own custom dates for the school year, including adding your own holidays/non-school days. If you have a course that starts a month into your school year and only goes for 3 months, you can add it in with custom dates, even if you have terms/semesters set up. Because I am fortunate enough to live in a state that doesn't require me to keep a record of the number of hours we spend homeschooling each year, I don't pay much attention to that feature but it deserves a mention for those who do! You can set the duration of assignments for each assignment. So if Spelling usually takes 20 minutes, you can set the first assignment duration to 20 minutes & then copy that as a template (with one click) for following assignments. If math takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, you can change the duration with each assignment so you are keeping accurate account of the work your student completes. If you have a required number of hours for your homeschool year, enter that when you set up the school year & it will give you a polite warning if your hours entered for courses/assignments don't look like they'll add up to the minimum.
Grading Scale Options
There are several different grading scales options to choose from, including:
- Not Graded
- A+, A, A- ..... F
- A, B, C, D, F
- E, S, NI, U, F
You decide how many credits a course is worth & whether it is a "Core" or "Elective" (or Miscellaneous) credit. You can choose to weight your grades, so if you want tests to be worth 10% or 60% of the total grade, that's fine. If you want all work completed in the subject to have the same weight, that's fine too. You can leave individual assignments as "regular" work or select other options to designate "Tests", "Quizzes", "Field Work", "Reports" or other categories so that you can choose to weight (or not to weight) each of them accordingly. Each of these grading factors can be customized for every subject, so if you want to grade Math, but don't want to grade basketball (but want to enter it as a course to give Phy Ed credit), that's okay. Also, if you don't even want to mess with weighing grades because you have an elementary student, don't freak out, you won't even have to glace twice at this section, you can still set up your courses & jump into using the site without stressing out over the details like this that aren't (yet) applicable.
Printing Reports, Records and Report Cards
I also LOVE that I can print off records/reports. I can print reports based on subject (either showing ALL activities, or only showing what's been completed so far), or I can print a report card which covers all subjects.
Students can Access & Use the Site as Well
I haven't used it yet, but I think we may try this year..... HomeschoolSkedTrack does offer a student login so that your student can access the planner (minus all your teacher/admin. options to change major settings like deleting courses!) and check off their work as they complete it. Also, there is an option to allow them to fill in the work they completed for those subjects that aren't as rigidly structured.
Last, but Not Least...
I trust that this site is secure, and your personal information such as your mailing address isn't required to use the site. Absolutely no need to enter your credit card info at any point! If you are concerned about the security, check out their FAQ page. One small thing that I won't fail to mention is that the Login Page of HomeschoolSkedTrack has a daily Bible verse on it. It's a beautiful gesture, and an encouragement when there are so many things posted online which lack virtue.