Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A New Tool for our Homeschool

It seems that I am always trying to get things running a bit more smoothly here in our homeschool.  A Number of years ago we started using the Simply Charlotte Mason Organizer (SCMO).  I have to say this is the best organizer for a Charlotte Mason type of education - as long as your main concern is to do the next thing and not keep too carefully to a schedule, and you use each resource or book at least once a week.  I also LOVE the reports.

But - there are a couple of things that haven't worked as well for us with SCMO.  When we first used it, I printed the Daily Plan (to-do list) each day.  But I didn't like the amount of paper and ink we were using - and as we get more kids, it is a bigger problem.  If we were doing a simple plan, I could let the kids mark things off on their own - but with us doing AO, not all books and resources are used each week.  And as the kids wanted to pick their own readings from a weekly list... well that meant I had pretty much everything scheduled every day of the week - which would mean a long list.  It wouldn't be clear on its own how much needed to be done each day.  And for the kids to mark things off online on their own, they would be logged into my account - so in theory they could mess things up.

Over the last couple of years we have used a few different paper planners, generally with 2 parts - basically a weekly list of AO readings (either as a list or in a chart), and the other part a daily to-do list - generally just listing "AO reading".   This has worked ok - except the kids generally don't write down what they did.  (I've entered things off as done in the SCMO to get my great reports.)

This year, we just have seemed to get further and further behind on our AO, and sometimes other things getting missed out too.  I decided that I'd had enough - and decided to use a free homeschooling scheduling tool....  Skedtrak.

I grouped the various AO items into courses.  So, for instance, there is a "AO2 World History" course with readings from Our Island Story, the Little Duke [and Joan of Arc] and Child's History of the World.   I went through and added all the readings from these books, with the week number in []'s at the start of the description.   Note that I could have done this in SCMO, but I like my reports to list the BOOKS we read, not a line just saying AO2 World History.  I determined which days of the week each course should be done to get things done.  With the "course" system - it doesn't guarantee that a particular book will be on a specific day - it can rotate around a bit.  But that can be handy with holidays!

SkedTrak allows each child to have a login, where they can see their to-do list and mark things off.  I do wish there was an extra comment field they could fill in if needed.  (I can set it so they can edit the description, but for most things I wouldn't them to change it.)   One thing that is nice is it will show me a week at a time, using the assumption that we complete all activities each day.  It won't be completely accurate, but does give me an idea of how things will look.   Another nice thing is I can set the order in which the items are supposed to be done.

The last 3 days have been our first trial with the new system.  The kids aren't entirely happy with less choice. But these last 3 days, we have completed everything on the lists!

They are to (at the moment) do things basically in order.... if it is something for which they need me (or another resource like the Kindle), they are to go on to the next item - then go back  This has allowed me to try to set the schedule up to alternate types of activities.

Now, there will be days that have items on their list that they aren't to do yet.  I have on the white-board which week each child is currently working on.  They are to do anything that has that week number or less.  They can optionally do an item that has the next higher week number as long as they have done all the lower numbered items first.  At the moment, I have Friday set as a catch up day - so it looks very long.  They will do 1 or 2 AO readings - the ones with the lowest week numbers.  After we are caught up, Friday will be lighter.

So, for instance here is a sample day...  The student is working on Week 5 (but a few week 4 things aren't complete)  For now I'm only expecting up to 2 AO readings a day for AO Year 2.

Discover the New Testament (1-3)    - Page 10
Scripture Mastery
Math Practice Sheet                           - 38-1
AO2 World History                           - [4] CHOW Chapter 49
RS Level C                                        - Lesson 117
MH2 Church History                         - [5] YFH Chapter 2
All About Spelling L1                         - Step 19 (several days)
AO2 Literature 2                                - [6] Parables of Nature - Light of Truth
AO2 Natural Science                          - [4] Burgess Animal Book Chapter 4

So - this student would do....

Discover the New Testament
Scripture Mastery
Math Practice Sheet
Read chapter 49 from CHOW  (as the week number was 4)
RS lesson 117
work on All About Spelling step 19
Read chapter 4 from Burgess Animal Book.
and that is it!

They know not to do the Parables of Nature reading as it isn't the current week - if the student wanted to do extra they could do the Parables of Nature reading as it is 1 week past the current week - but they would have to do the Church History reading first!

They know not to do the Church History reading because I only require 2 AO readings from this level right now.....  but they could choose to after the other items are done if they wish.

It really is simpler than it may look... lol!

Now - the problems with SkedTrak

  • well, first off I don't like the reports!  I much prefer the SCMO reports!  (so I am taking a minute to mark things off in SCMO - I do it when I "approve" the items in SkedTrak as properly completed.   
  • It also has a few things based on time - you need to enter the number of "required" days, and the number of "required" hours per day.  It then figures out the total number of "required" hours total.  It gives warnings if it figures you don't have enough time to finish the hours - or conversely cuts off the calendars etc if it figures you would finish the hours earlier than your year-end date.  I'd prefer it to calculate our projected year end based on the activities I've entered for the course - and show the calendar for the school year I defined.  It isn't a big deal - you can just adjust the number of hours required per day, or the number of required days etc. - but it is annoying if you could care less about the hours!
  • You have to remember to hit the save button before changing the screen, or you lose your changes!
Over-all though, I am happy with how it is going.  Hopefully it will make things smoother!

UPDATE: - You will want to have ad-blocker software on your browser!  Otherwise Ads will pop up on the side, and occasionally they are not something you want your kids to see.  (The creator has no control over the ad content.)


  1. Ooo, I will have to check it out sometime. I have looked at the SCMO but just couldn't afford it on top of everything else. Free is always worth looking in to. Being able to get things done is a great start for a new tracker!

    1. Hi Tristan! As mentioned, there are things I much prefer about the SCMO - but SkedTracker has things I wish the SCMO had... If I could only combine them into one program that works exactly how I'd like... LOL.

      Free is definitely good! It does take a little time to create the courses (And I wish it had a feature to auto-number chapters like most homeschooling schedulers have...) But it isn't too bad.

      Let me know if you have any questions about how to use it!