review: My Home School Grades
Newly updated with powerful lesson planning features – I’m finally excited and ready to share my review on ‘My Home School Grades’ with you.
I am writing this review on my own accord – they have NOT asked me to write a review at all so everything that I say is from the heart, and my honest opinion after using it for a few months.
At the last homeschool convention I visited their booth. I was attracted by their bold and design conscious interface which was user friendly – and free of clutter. They were offering a convention discount but I wasn’t interested because at the time, it was primarily a grade tracking, activity tracking and transcript generating program only. I decided to wait and watch.
A couple months later I noticed that their buy early discount was about to end. It was still a program for tracking grades, activities and transcript creation. What I really wanted, was a daily lesson plan, course management, schedule export program. I have been using a FREE program online since I started homeschooling years ago called Homeschool Skedtrack. It did everything I needed…. for free. However, the free program isn’t visually easy on the eyes, full of clutter, many MANY clicks to achieve the edits that you want, so many screens to click on…. isn’t totally user friendly. Powerful…. yet tedious to use. But it was free…. so have been fine with making it work. I have recommended it to friends as well because it does work once you figure it out. Be that as it may…. MHSG‘s interface was SO nice that I ‘wished’ that they would incorporate all the capabilities that Homeschool Skedtrack offered …. and if they did ….. I would be THEN willing to pay for it.
So I wrote a very long email to the company through their website with my honest thoughts, wishlists, how things could change to include these features ….. and why I could not possibly be able to buy the program as it stood.
Well, I was shocked when the owner of the program wrote me back… and told me to call him !!! So I did.
What resulted was an awesome phone conversation of about an hour or so more. The owner of MHSG is a homeschool dad himself who also lives in our state. He told me that he had created a program for his wife to help her with her grade tracking etc. It just grew from there. They are a small company who is VERY eager to implement everything that we homeschool parents truly want to help alleviate our tracking and grade keeping woes. We are spoiled in AZ with VERY lenient homeschooling laws – and yet there are other states that are radically stringent on reporting that needs to be submitted to the authorities regularly. He explained to me that over the next few months that they are coding into MHSG the ability to meet the reporting and tracking needs of the hardest state in the country. Now that is a great goal indeed. Additionally, that they were planning on coding into MHSG all of the ideas that I had wished for. We talked at length how course set up, lesson planning, calendars, and daily lesson plan print-off exports could be look like on a functional user level. We also talked about how there are so many different ways that families homeschool from unschooling to Classical Conversations to eclectic to whole programs like Sonlight…. depending on how you like to go, grades may or may not be important / daily lesson plans may or not be important (ie. already provided to you with your curriculum purchase etc.). For us… we’re totally eclectic, mix of curriculum that we hand pick – so I do our own lesson planning daily schedules. At our kids ages, I’m not as concerned about grades or transcripts – but am thankful that the capacity is there to use when we REALLY need it in the next couple of years.
Then he offered me an olive branch… and a leap of faith. Buy a lifetime subscription at the super low discounted rate NOW, trust that these features would come to fruition….. and lock in before the NEW subscription tiers come into play after the upgrade. I took a deep breath and did that and accepted that I would have to wait and see. We started school in August and continued to use Homeschool Skedtrack until I heard any news. I hadn’t lost hope. 😉
In September I think it was…. I received the email I’d been waiting for. The FALL UPGRADE was ready !!!!
I logged in with excitement and anticipation and played with setting up my kids courses, classes, activities etc. Being a massive upgrade, bugs are expected. I found some, as I’m sure other users did, and reported them as welcomed by MHSG. Before 24 hours were up, and I think much sooner, not only did I get a personal email response…. but the bugs were FIXED. After a week of using it, all the wrinkles were smoothed out. I 100% switched over to MHSG and have been using it GLEEFULLY ever since. While ‘free’ was nice – there usually is a price to pay for that….. in my case…. extra time to use and maneuver through to get the job done.
Here are the major features of My Home School Grades that I appreciate:
FORMAT: It’s an online service that you can use on your computer, ipad or smart phone. If there are upgrades, they are just done and ready to go. No software upgrades to deal with yourself.
STUDENTS: I like that you can put your own student’s photos in there. The chalk figures were cute…. but I love seeing my kids’ smiling faces there as I log into to update their school day. I love that by clicking their photo you’re instantly taken to their whole line up of courses that they are doing – their credit, and current grade for the course as a whole. You can choose to do PASS/FAIL (P/F), letter grade alpha (B+) or letter grade number (78) , or to not grade at all. (N/A) You can also see their total attendance hours to date. You can also hit ‘TRANSCRIPT’ to get your transcript to date or add a new CLASS.
CLASSES: You can click on any class and enter the entire lesson line up for that class. ie. SCIENCE > every daily lesson for that course. Unit 1 onwards. These are your daily lessons/activities. You can say what days of the week you want to do that course. (M/W or say Monday through Friday etc). You can set up the grading breakdown and edit that courses details. This is where you can pop in the grade result of their quiz or whatever. The other fantastic feature is that you can input your grade either by percentage like 90% or as 19/20 – and it will calculate it for you according to your preferences set. You can ‘EDIT LESSONS’ to move lessons up or down in order or add new lessons, delete lessons etc. I love that you can just drag and drop them. In the Homeschool Skedtrack. I had to put in an order number sequence, then re-sequence… and had many error messages which drove me batty. I don’t miss that.
ACTIVITIES: This screen shows ALL extra curricular activities that your child is involved with. From CHURCH, SCOUTS, ATHLETICS, MUSIC, OTHER etc…. these will all print on the transcript as well. There is a lot of room to put descriptions, references, mentors etc. with each of these.
CALENDAR: You can track field trips, special events in here per child. You can also update your children’s attendance hours per day. This is the one function I’m not in love with … YET. I have suggested that we be able to when inputting an event put in ‘recurring’ data in here… like ‘every second Friday’ etc. for auto-fill. They said they’re working on it. So I’m waiting on that. 😉 On the same screen you can see that day’s line up of CLASSES/COURSES per child right there. If you want you can also plug in their grade for that lesson per class too. You can also hit ‘PRINT’ to quickly print off that day’s lesson plan.
DOCUMENTS: On this screen you can see your state requirements by law, print academic transcripts, attendance reports, immunization records and my favorite – the daily lesson plan.
More on the Daily Lesson Plan. I’m a born list lover….. and my kids have inherited that. Somehow, without a print out sheet of what classes, activities, page numbers etc. are at hand each day – we’re disorganized and not as accountable for what we get done. I’m sure it’s psychological, but it works for us. The best part…. is checking it OFF !! Feels sooooo good. In fact, I have to hold myself back because my kids get such satisfaction at checking off each lesson when finished. The column says ‘grade’ but we just put a check mark there most of the time.
This service is SO EASY and very streamlined. I love that I don’t have many different screens to click on to get the job done. I love the design and layout of it – it’s modern, clean, colorful, the fonts are easy to read …. the whole package is very nice. I enjoy using it and am happy to pay for the improved experience over staying with a free alternative.