I’m definitely a minimalist, and this rings especially true when it comes to homeschool planning, scheduling and record keeping. My province requires no plans, approval, or records to be kept, and I like it that way 🙂 When my oldest was in first grade, I used to keep a checklist of subjects covered and I dutifully checked off math, reading, and other subjects we completed each day. It was a handy way of tracking our progress, making me feel productive, and helping me make sure that we didn’t completely leave out one subject while going overboard in another.
I completely abandoned my checklist within a year or so however, and I feel I’ve got a pretty good handle of keeping track of things in my head now. Still, I keep hearing homeschoolers talk about lesson planning, record keeping, and their favourite homeschool planners — and I’m curious. Am I missing out? Could I be doing this better? What’s the big deal? So using MySchoolYear.com ‘s My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping), I decided to explore some of those nagging questions.
If you haven’t heard of My School Year, it is an online homeschool record keeping system. You can use it to track attendance, grades, lessons, field trips and more. You can also use it to create lesson plans and transcripts. You can log in via your desktop or mobile device.
Since people are always asking how much time we spend daily in lessons, I thought I would first try out My School Year for attendance tracking. I began by entering all of my children’s “classes” into their individual profiles. It would have been much easier if I could have entered their common classes once instead of twice, but I couldn’t figure out how to do so. Actually, there were many things that I couldn’t figure out how to do, but more on that later.
Each day, I clicked on each “class” and added the lesson/chapter number we completed or worked on and for how long. The daily upkeep would likely be a lot less if I had pre-entered all of my lessons at the beginning which I didn’t do because we don’t always do the same subjects on the same days or with the same frequency from week to week (I think what we do is more of what is called a loop schedule, but I’m seeing as I’m not much of a scheduler, I’m not really sure). My School Year wants you to assign days and times to your classes, which I just cannot do. To get around this, I scheduled all of my subjects for daily, Monday – Friday.
Next, I had to daily enter each lesson we completed, for example: “All About Spelling 3: Step 25 – Day 1”. As a paper and kinda gal, I did not enjoy all the extra time spent each day entering what we had completed. I would have to leave out our stack of books so that I could later reference the lesson number we completed, or else write them out by hand as we went along which totally defeats the purpose of going digital. If I didn’t “check off” our classes for the morning by noon, chances are I would forget what we did that day. For my purposes, going digital was much more time consuming and complicated that paper would have been. I could have simply created at spread sheet with all our classes and printed it out, and used old fashioned check boxes to keep track.
I also think that their website would be greatly improved by some video tutorials (I’m a big visual learner, and respond best when I am shown how to do something). There are “need help” and “i” information buttons throughout the site, but I didn’t find them helpful very often — and the terms used were confusing to me, it would be helpful if they were better defined so that I could adjust my terms of reference to how they define things.
An interesting and useful feature offered is the ability to share lesson plans with other users. For example, you can search lesson plans by book/curriculum. I’m planning on using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry & Physics next year, so I decided to take a peak and see if anyone had contributed their plans — I found it, and was able to copy over those lesson plans to my own student. There could be a lot of time saved using this feature!
For those of you who have more need or desire for records and organization, I encourage you to check out the free, one month trial of My School Year. They have great customer service, and responded personally to emailed requests for support and information. They also send regular emails containing “tips” for using the product. I think that they should incorporate their tips into their website so that you can search for and use them as the need arises.
Overall, I didn’t find that My School Year contributed to our homeschool at this stage. I couldn’t figure out what I could use it for, or how to work any of the other features that might have been applicable to me at this time. I will definitely revisit the option of record keeping and homeschool tracking in the future, and explore using this digital resource in the creation of transcripts when my oldest reaches high school age.
Do you use digital planning in your homeschool? How has it improved your homeschool management?