Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homeschool Record Keeping...

Aaaah, record-keeping. Isn't that your favorite part of homeschooling? Mine either, but oh so necessary. Here in Missouri, we are required to keep a log of hours. 1,000 required per homeschool year, 600 in core subjects, 400 in non-core.

In a family our size, 10 of our dozen children still at home, and nine of those "officially" in school this year, I must keep careful track of what we have done and plan carefully in order to accomplish all that the Lord calls us to do.

When we first began homeschooling, way back in '93, I simply wrote down on graph paper a list of hours and kept a running total for each month. It was free, simple and it worked. As we added children to our family though and as computer applications became more common, I began to take advantage of those to save me time.

Initially I used a program called Homeschool Easy Records. For reasons that I now can't remember I then switched to a free program specifically made for Missouri homeschoolers called "Missouri Loggerrhythms." It was free and did everything that I needed. Unfortunately the developer of that program moved on to other things and once it wasn't supported any more I decided that I needed to switch on purpose rather than being forced to switch when I had a problem and couldn't get support.

My next acquisition after quite a bit on research online was Edu-Track. I have been using this record keeping program since 2008. Edu-Track does everything that I need it to do, and has many features that I don't even take full advantage of. I primarially use it to plan our school year, entering specific assignments for each child and then logging their grades and time spent on assignments so I can keep track of cumulative hours for each school year. In addition, it can be used to create a transcript.

During the past year I have had problems in increasing frequency with my aging Dell laptop computer. Not wanting to spend any money on a new computer (there are *always* other, more pressing things to spend money on in a family our size), I kept reformatting my laptop each time it would crash. This would require me to to spend the next few days reloading programs and finding and restoring data that I had backed up, etc. This was supremely frustrating for me.

During the past school year I had to reformat about 4 times, but this summer it has been every few weeks, the last time being only 5 days since reinstalling Windows. My very sweet husband took pity on me and gave the ok to purchase a new iMac! Yay! If you are familiar with Macs, you know that they tend to be a much more stable operating system and are significantly less prone to virus attack. (Plus you've gotta' figure in the "cool" factor!)

Anyway, the only "down" side to Mac usage is that not every program has a Mac equivalent. Homeschool Record keeping programs are a case in point. I did find a shareware type program here that looks interesting. Anyone know of a Mac homeschool record keeping program? I'd *love* to hear about it!

My other option is to run a program like Parallels on my new Mac which would allow me to install Windows and run it alongside Mac OS X. Do any of my readers do that? I'm curious if I would be giving up speed on my Mac to install and run Windows too. I think the only programs that I would run on Parallels are:
  • Edu-Track
  • Advantage Cooking (fabulous batch-cooking program)
  • Electric Quilt (digital quilt design software~ really want to learn to use this!)
  • e-Sword and
  • Sport Tracks (super-cool program to track workouts. I can upload info from my Garmin and it plots the route I run or bike~ once I can *finally* do those things again, keeps track of my heart rate, calories burned, etc. Did I mention Free? It is!)
If anyone has any experience with running Parallels, VMware Fusion or Virtual Box I'd love to hear about it. I am torn since I do have those programs that I love and don't want to give up, but I also don't want to ruin the "Mac experience" by potentially slowing it down by installing and using Windows. Any thoughts?

As an aside, if you are considering using a computerized homeschool record keeping program, you might also want to check out Homeschool Tracker. It gets rave reviews from its users and, from what I have read, has fabulous (and fast) tech support! That, for a busy homeschooling mom, is *huge*. I recently had a problem restoring the data in Edu-Track after my last laptop crash. Edu-Track was helpful and did help me resolve my problem (it turned out that my backup was corrupted. Thankfully they were able to repair my backup and email it back to me!). However, this process took 5 days of emailing back and forth. There is no phone # to call and talk with a "real" person, so I had to wait until they returned each of my emails. Frustrating for me. They did help though and went out of their way to repair my backup, so I am super-grateful for that.

Anyway, if I were choosing a new program now (for Windows) I think I would go with Homeschool Tracker. That software is their only specialty and they are reputed to be very, very helpful with any problems.

Hope my experiences are helpful for you. Any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments section and I'll try to answer.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, friends! It's cooler and I'm lovin' this weather here!

11 comments:

  1. Susan,
    I am VERY new to the homeschool scene (our first day is tomorrow!). In our state, we're required to be part of a "private school" in which, the parents are the teachers. Our school has opted to use a program called Homeschool Reporting. The address is:

    http://www.homeschoolreporting.com/

    I am on a mac and have, so far, not had any trouble with this. Like I said, I'm very new to all of this, but thought I'd share.

    PS Hooray on the imac! I am SO HAPPY for you! I bet you'll go crazy over iphoto!!!

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  2. I found this site today - http://www.home-school-inc.com/. I've liked what I've been able to do so far. I too had Homeschool Tracker and have lost a hard drive in the last few weeks. The idea of having everything online has a certain appeal.

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  3. I too am a homeschool mom in Missouri. Homeschool Tracker has made my job much easier, and I only have one official homeschooler!

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  4. I have three in school so we've been using basic windows spreadsheets, but that takes days to set up and format and enter all the information and then there's no room for changes in the school year without reformating it all over again. I love the information you shared. I'm going to check into that. Thanks so much :) enjoy the mac :D

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  5. ~Wanting What I Have, thanks for the link... I haven't seen that site yet. Looking forward to checking that one out.

    ~Laura, interesting idea, to keep all records online. I'm going to look in to that site as well. Thanks for taking time to share!

    ~Laurie, I agree... if I end up running Windows programs on my Mac, I think I'm going to consider switching to Homeschool Tracker. I hear such good things about them.

    Noel, hope some of those links help. It seems like each year needs a little "tweaking" from the past year as little guys grow up and responsibilities change. But that is good!

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  6. Oh my goodness...how frustrating that you have to log hours! Here in PA we have to do 180 days *or* 990 hours. So, I just keep track of our days and what we did during them. I would feel very frustrated having to show hours of work! Do you find that difficult to do? My children are in 1st and third grade and each do a couple hours of work per day, usually. I can't imagine them sitting for 5 or so, hours a day to do their schooling! How do you fill up all those hours?

    And...I grew up using Macs because my mom was a graphic designer. :) They *are* the best. I don't use a Mac now...but you defintely are going to love it! :)

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  7. ~Katy, it is some extra work, but I don't actually time all of our work... I keep track like schools would. If we work on a subject it counts for "one hour" that day, regardless of whether we worked for 1 1/2 hours or 45 minutes on that subject. *Much* easier to keep track of things that way! I do agree though, 180 days would be *much* easier to track!

    And you are right, I officially "heart" my iMac! There is a little learning curve, but overall it is pretty intuitive~ *sweetness*! Have a fabulous day, friend!

    ~susan

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  8. Okay, I'm impressed. Keeping track of so much is wonderful. We have 12 kids too and that has always been my downfall. Scheduling, keeping track of hours, etc. But luckily for me our state is so very easy and undemanding when it comes to homeschooling so most of that paperwork I can let slide.

    blessings,
    tricia

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  9. I appreciate this post! I am a homeschool mom in MO. We moved here from IL two years ago. I somehow missed that I was supposed to be keeping an actual log! I read that on Saturday and panicked big time! A google search brought me to your blog. If you can do if for all your official homeschoolers, surely I can! I only have two "officially" in school.
    The programs look neat, but they are more money than I can afford - think *free*. I am really struggling to get this figured out.
    I also read that the school year, in MO, in officially July first to the last day of June the following year. So, I am trying to go back and log hours from the sheets I have our plans written on. I am simply overwhelmed! I asked the ladies in my homeschool association (in Boonville, MO) about it. But, that was not too much help. I really want to use a spread sheet or some program that tallies up the core subject for me.
    These options you list look great, and I could probably come up with the money... if I only knew which one suited me best! Does that make sense?
    Thanks for the info! I will be stopping by more often, to get to know you all better.
    Bethany

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  10. ~Hi Tricia! Yes, the state law here can be challenging in some ways, but we have it *way* better here in Missouri than some other states!

    ~Bethany, Don't get too overwhelmed... just work on it a little at a time. It'll be ok, I promise. Have you checked out Homeschool Tracker's free program? It really does a lot. You could use it and then if you want some of the more advanced options that it offers, you could upgrade in the future. Also... I don't actually time the childrens' schoolwork each day. I simply give them a credit (one hour) for each subject studied/day. That makes it much easier, I think. Hope that helps!

    ~susan

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  11. Just remember when you use Windows on your Mac you then open yourself to all of the viruses that a Windows machines has. Or at least I'm pretty sure of this.

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