I don’t usually post mid-week, but I have recently started using some new software that has made my job as a home educator (and mom) a lot easier and I wanted to share them with you.
Note: I did not receive these products for free and I was not asked to write reviews of them.
I have a love/hate relationship with computers and the internet, especially when it comes to my children. As a former Waldorf parent, I cringe when I tell you that we allow our nine-year old to use the computer two hours a day. I know that’s sacrilege in some educational/parenting communities, but here’s the thing: I honestly believe that she benefits from it. She has taught herself Photoshop and uses it to make cards for her friends and drawings with her dad’s Wacom tablet. She’s writing a story using Microsoft Word. And, yes, she does have internet access, but we closely monitor what she does, and where she goes, online.
That having been said, it can sometimes be a huge struggle to limit the amount of time she spends on the computer. We tried the honor system (big failure), using a timer (the timer mysteriously broke), and using Microsoft’s parental controls (too restricting). The truth is that nagging does work, but I do enough nagging and I don’t have the time or the energy to be the internet police. Enter: ComputerTime.
ComputerTime does everything I want it to do. I can set both the times of day she can log on (ex: from 9am-7pm), and the total hours for the day, week, or even month that she has access to the computer and/or the internet. This allows me to give her computer time to work on her story, without giving her access to the internet. ComputerTime also has a feature that allows you to print out tokens to give your child bonus computer or internet time for doing things like helping around the house or doing extra chores.
We are still using the trial version, but we will definitely be buying this software. It has saved my sanity, and I feel good about setting limits that I know we can meet fairly and consistently.
When I started planning my curriculum for this school year (way back in June 2012!), I was using Microsoft Word to create lesson plans and book lists, and pretty much every kind of document that I wanted to have available going forward. By nature I’m fairly scatterbrained. Okay very scatterbrained. I have awesome, big, super cool ideas and the energy to make them happen! But, I’m really bad at figuring out how to make them happen. I just can’t seem to visualize the steps needed to see a project from big idea through to completion.
I’ve recently learned that I can outsource this skill to a piece of software called Homeschool Tracker. Seriously, I think I heard the heavens open up and the angels singing when I realized just how much this software was going to help me. Because this year is already 2/3 of the way over, I am using the rest of the time to experiment with Homeschool Tracker, so that I can be a proficient user by the time I am planning for next year (I can’t wait!).
The thing I love most about this software is its library feature. For example, I can find a book I want to use on Amazon, or anywhere else, and enter the ISBN into my online library. This will give me a file for the book (including a thumbnail of the cover), which then makes it a “resource.”
Once a resource is created, it can be used to create lesson plans. A resource can then be divided up into lessons using the lesson plan feature, and assigned to specific days. I prefer to use the scheduler feature to do this, but you also have the flexibility to click and drag items in the agenda if you need to reschedule.
From here you can create agendas and reports, like Daily Task Lists (which are really handy for helping us stay on track with our readings).
So, there you have it: technology working for the good of humanity. I will be sure to post updates about new features I discover, or let you know if these tools stop being helpful.
Do you use any software to help you as an educator/parent/human being? Please share!