Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Free online tools that make homeschooling easier (for us)

For me, actually.
These are record-keeping, lesson-planning, sanity-saving free downloads that I use every school day. I've used them for several years now, and they've served me well. I thought I'd share them for anyone that might be interested.

For planning lessons, as well as keeping track of what we've done, grades, time spent, and making report cards, transcripts, reading logs, and several other details, as well as a daily school journal, I use Homeschool Tracker Basic. I use the basic version, although a paid upgrade is available is available that has more features and functions. The paid version has more bells and whistles, mostly things that are "convenient", but the basic version is fully functional and has everything I need. There is no "trial period" that expires, forcing you to pay to upgrade.
The second tool I use is so that I can print the Teacher's Planner/Assignment List that Homeschool Tracker generates for me straight to a PDF, rather that use up paper and ink. When I print a week's Planner for 6 students, it's usually between 10-15 pages, and I'm just too cheap to use that much ink and paper for something that I'm going to mark on and throw away in a few days. So I use PDF995. They have a whole suite of free downloads for creating, editing, and securing PDFs, but all I use is the printer driver. It is a two part download, and once you install both parts, you have a virtual printer on your computer. When you print something, use the ctrl+P way to start the print job, and you will have a choice of which printer to use. Choose PDF995, and click "print". Instead of paper and ink, you will get a PDF, with options to name and save it wherever you like. I usually name my planner "school" and the beginning and ending dates of the planner's reach, and save it on my desktop.
The third tool is so that I can "mark" on the planner to keep track of where we are and make changes or add post-its, all the things I would do with a sharpie, highlighter, and real post-its if I had printed a paper planner. There are a few free downloads for this type of program out there, and like a nerd, I tried out all I could get my hands on. My favorite, hands down, is PDF Xchange. If you follow that link, the "Try This Product for Free" download button is what I'm talking about. I use this to view the PDF planner generated by PDF995, and then I can mark to my heart's content so that when, next week I sit down to make another planner with Homeschool Tracker, I know what to repeat, what got done, and what notes I want to make about the assignments, etc.
Everyone has their own setup that makes sense for them, but this is what Works For Me. :0)

I am linking this post up for my first-time participation in Works-For-Me-Wednesday at WeAreTHATFamily

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this info--very helpful to me as a homeschooling mom of seven! I'll be looking into this further when I get a spare minute.