Tag Archives: lesson planning

HST+ Unzipped

Homeschool Tracker Plus

I downloaded this promptly to my machine in August (2011). I must say that my arm was virtually twisted by the rave reviews across many websites and various forums. I will, at this point, affirm that it is a wonderful lesson planning program.

I double clicked the HST icon, and I was met with puzzlement. Clearly, this was not going to be one of my stumble-through-and-figure-it-out moments.

What do you do first?

Download the instruction manual.  The file is around 19MB, and it is worth the download for the instructions and pictures.  I will reference the manual as explain my steps to setting up our Homeschool Tracker.  On this page as well, you will have the option to view training videos, sample lessons, and screen shots of the Plus Edition.

Take a look at the screen.  The main tabs are Main Menu, Student, Teacher, Maintenance, and Reports.  I began by adding our personal education information.

1. School Information

Choose Maintenance -> School Info and enter your school name, address, motto, etc.  Choose your school days as well. (user manual page 7, Personalizing Homeschool Tracker Plus)  This makes your application personal to you.

2. School Year and Term

Choose Maintenance -> Years/Terms and create your school year, semesters, and quarters.  (user manual page 8, Adding a School year using the School Year Calculator) Prepare your holidays ahead of time.  You will follow the steps to create your year, and when prompted, you will designate your holidays.  Creating a school year is required in order to use other features.  Editing your year or any information on this tab can be completed manually.  (user manual page 12)   Selecting an item, right clicking, and choosing an “edit” option will allow for changes on most items within the application. Watch the video here.

You can add future years and terms for the purposes of planning.  I do.  I have entered the school year for the sixth grade already.  There are two methods that you can use to choose the current school year.  I use Tools -> Switch School Year to select my current year. (user manual pages 12-13)

3. Adding Students

Of course, you need a student!  You have a school and a school year, but you need to add your student(s).  Choose Maintenance -> Students to add all of your students. (user manual pages 13-19)  Note the cautions about using a nickname.  I entered all information except for the Social Security Number.  I err on the side of caution.  At any point in time, you can add information or change information to this tab by choosing the student name, right click, and select edit.

Optional entries of information include previous schools attended, activities and achievements, and standardized test scores.  Watch the video here.  You can edit the default student, or delete the default student once you have added a student.

4. Program Features

Press F3 or Tools -> Options to change options or enable those features that have been disabled. Watch the video here.

This is exactly how I began.  There was not a suggested order for setup.  I hope this helps you to progress naturally through preparing HST for your planning and record keeping.

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Lesson Plans Suck

I have homeschooled for years. I’ve used various books, printables, documents, and spreadsheets. Microsoft Excel was the most successful for me over the years.   I inevitably ended with a number of useful resources, but a lot of wasted time.

 

Point of Failure #1:

I tended to schedule too exactly in my earlier homeschooling years.  I used several different types of lesson planning books.

I would find myself erasing many weeks or attempting to squeeze items into a more condensed time period with little success and much frustration.  Therefore, the lesson books did not work.  I even attempted to schedule a few weeks at a time, but I would certainly end up without a schedule at all. I have a life that is not totally enveloped in lesson planning.  When the plan takes longer than the day, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Point of Failure #2:

I tried to keep a daily journal and a weekly journal.  The daily entries would be forgotten in favor of playing outside or working on projects, both personal and professional in nature.  I switched to weekly entries to only find that by Friday that I couldn’t remember Monday.  Does this sound familiar?  If you add in multiple children, how much time would you spend writing/typing each day to record progress?

This failed because of time and my inability to commit to sitting down and actually recording the events of the day.  I could not even remember to do an entry after the assignment was complete.  I found it tedious, and I wanted to whine!

Point of Failure #3:

I printed various sorts of printables that were not fixed to a day or a date.  I had, at this point, learned that dating a plan was a sure path to failure.

I painstakingly scheduled each and every day by hand.  I filled in the blocks for 180 days for each subject and book. This seemed futile, especially because I could type ten times more text than I could physically write, but nonetheless I continued and finished.  Unexpectedly, I found that things were completed too quickly or not enough time was allowed for others.  I was a terrible time manager, and I did not have an easy way to correct or to reschedule.  Of course, I attempted to adjust this plan by trying to fulfill a weekly need based on a physical division of page numbers, lessons, or content.  This method was, by far, the most successful hands-on system of planning, and it could have worked better except that you needed to factor in my habits and peronality.  Nobody is perfect.

Point of not-total-Failure-but-wanted-more #4:

Finally, I modified my hand-written method by using an Excel worksheet and workbook.  This is by far the best method that I have encountered.  I could move items around.  I could insert.  I could delete.  I had flexibility.  The idea of flexibility was not something that occurred to me until I had begun using Excel for scheduling.  I think that tables in Word could have provided a very similar experience too.

For a number of years, this was very adequate.  I was very satisfied.  However, I did not like the number of worksheets in my workbook.  I had a worksheet for each subject, for attendance, for grades, et cetera.  I began using a mix of printables and Excel.

I believe what finally irritated me was that I did have a terrible time producing daily or weekly lists for my child.  I knew what was scheduled, but my dear child did not.

I cannot say much for the physical appearance on the screen either.  It did not matter how much color, bold lettering, or italic lettering that I added.  The text appeared to blend together.  I even tried coloring the cells themselves by subject and by book.  I must say once I went to the extreme with formatting details that reading was much easier.  Yet, it did nothing for printing.  I needed to be able to print daily or weekly assignments much faster.  I needed a printed version to archive in our portfolio, a state requirement for us.

What I had were a compilation of Excel worksheets, Word documents, and printables.  I was always printing, adjusting, and marking a sheet somewhere.  I am a Nerd.  I just wanted a techie solution that I did not have to invent.  I suppose that my final planning approach was not a failure, but rather it was not what I wanted.

The Solution!

I spent a great deal of time reading on forums about lesson plans.  I spend a great deal of time there anyway.  I should make sure that I walk away with something.  Well, I did.  I came away with the overwhelming need to purchase Homeschool Tracker Plus!

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Filed under General, Lessons