I love tools that make my homeschooling day more efficient.  One of those tools that I simply have to rave about is called Homeschool Tracker.  They have a free online version, but it was worth it to me to upgrade to the Homeschool Tracker Plus version (currently about $40 for the software).  I can do just about anything with it.  Right now, I’m not even close to exploiting all the software’s capabilities.  We have completed one full school year with it, but I cannot wait to explore all the options in years to come.

Some of my favorite tools include the ability to create a library of books.  We go through hundreds of books in a given year, and we have not purchased all of those books but have borrowed many.  With Tracker, I can enter the ISBN number for any library item, enter the branch location, when I borrowed it from the library, notes, key words, reading level, etc. as well as my own categories for sorting the materials.  I love that I can go back over the books I’ve purchased or borrowed for previous years and know at a glance when I will need it for the following year (during which unit study, during which semester, etc.).

I use the Lesson Plans as well.  Here, I can create and enter limitless options for lesson plans throughout the school year.  I have lesson plans for math, science, and language arts, but also plans for chores and art projects.  Since homeschoolers are required to have a certain number of hours (in our state), I can attach times to each activity, and they will then be added automatically for me.  We have to average 4 hours per day, but learning how to bake bread and plant tomatoes are obviously educational even though they do not count towards “sitting at the desk” hours.  With Tracker, I can simply add those activities under categories of my choosing (Home Economics, for instance) and voila – our 30 minutes spent planting seeds and watering them just counted towards my educational goals for the year. We’ll obviously have to be wise in how we count our “fresh air” towards time requirements, but there are plenty of ways to make a lifestyle of learning one that dovetails nicely with what the State requires.

We use Sonlight as our core curriculum, and their Instructor’s Guides are in paper format.  Though I’ve found it to be tedious to enter all that information into Homeschool Tracker, it has been worth the effort.  Perhaps in future years, the Sonlight IGs will be provided in electronic format. For now, I like that I can go through the IG and pick and choose what I will use, as well as organize it according to our own schedule. Sonlight tends to jump around quite a bit, and there are certain books that I like to work through over a few weeks’ time instead of bits and pieces over a whole year. We use a variety of different curriculum, and Tracker keeps me on task. It also forces me to do some work ahead of time, as I can pull Lessons from the Lesson Plans and turn them into Assignments each week while looking at the books and materials I’ll need. This would potentially take hours if I didn’t have this kind of electronic record.  If we have sickness or an unplanned day out with Dad, there is no work lost.  All I have to do is reschedule the assignments for the next available date.  Did I mention how simple this program is?  Busy moms who don’t have the time for beautiful little handwritten notebook records should seriously consider this time-saving software.  I cannot imagine doing without it now.