As a list maker and box checker at heart I was thrilled when the opportunity came up to review something new Lord Heritage and their program/product HomeSchool Office (an online homeschool planner – with printable options). They have a neat Christian oriented motto for how they name everything and you can see it under their Product Features and Purpose. I just knew this was going to be something for us and couldn’t wait to get started.
Site Note: We are coming off a few weeks of family illness and thus the screen shots have been provided for me. But they are probably better than what I could have provided anyway.
What I found was that this program is extremely time consuming. It was very time consuming and unclear on how to set up in the first place, but also whenever something needed to be adjusted I could not find an easy way to do it. I want to start my review with complete honesty and tell you that this was not a program for us, it was not my cup of tea and I found it very complicated and expensive for what it is. HOWEVER, I’ve read quite a few of my crew members reviews and that is not necessarily the general consensus as many love the program and find it easy once you get the hang of it and plan to use it for the long haul of homeschooling.
Within the online app there are several tabs to choose from all named from their motto and POWER Strategy. HomeSchool Office is completely online. My main way of getting to the online application was through an iMac using Chrome and I never had any connectivity or loading issues. I was also able to load the page on my iPhone, iPad 1st gen., and Kindle Fire 1st gen., as well as the Kindle Fire HD 6 in an adult view. It was usable in these mobile formats, but was not as friendly as on the computer. I do not find it to be designed as a mobile program as the drag and drop or clicking to open and change was not very responsive on a touch screen. But for sitting at the computer it was very friendly to respond.
Now back to the tabs, and the screen shots… The Master Schedule is where you can plan the basis for your repeating week. There are options for coloring and for assigning to individual student (or productive lists like house cleaning and so on).
Order is the page where I find I spend most of my time. Letting me know what’s coming up and what’s been missed or completed. I do love the options for a variety of very attractive colors per student. I’m not a fan of how it will only be half of the page. I wish I could do away the To do List and make the calendar the full width of my screen so that I could see things more clearly.
Work is for the individual student view. We didn’t use ours from a student view point because my students are too young to appreciate the planner quite yet, but student logins are an option and that was easy to set up.
For my planning purposes, I want something that is simple to access and change. I want to record grades and a brief at-a-glance option for what we’re against for the day to start our learning adventure. We do not school-at-home per say so our calendar is not 8 o’clock this, 9 o’clock that so for us the time slots were just place holders for our daily tasks. For me, seeing the subject at a glance on the Work page was not enough and trying to go in and fully write up every Lesson Plan and Assignment was more than I could handle. I was spending more time in the program with things that I could not even seem to find later than I was making my life easier. I did spend quite some time in the Knowledge Base and Help files trying to find what I needed, but I just found things to be very complicated. With their own names to certain parts it seemed to make things with a high learning curve more difficult to understand and do what I needed to do.
For the purposes of this review, I was suppose to use this program pretty much as it was beneficial to me during the review period. I have been given a full year access to HomeSchool Office and at this time anyone who wants to try out the program can jump in with a 30-day free trial to find their way around and get their feet grounded. But as I saw another mention, don’t jump in yet until you have some time to truly understand what’s-what. I think that if I truly had some undistracted time to figure it out and type forever that it might be a great thing, but in my life with three littles underfoot that is not a reality. It didn’t work for me, but I think that is for a hand-full of reasons related to me and my methods of homeschooling. If I were schooling-at-home with a set schedule and set unchanged lessons plans I think it might be different, but I do not find it to be very friend for sporadic learning by field trip and experience days or if we decide to do Week 21’s Literature & Enrichment activities versus doing the assigned Week 18.
My verse, my special Bible verse that is always more precious to me than any other is what greets you whenever you open the website application to the dashboard page. This is refreshing and a joy to meet daily. I think the motto and strategy behind the program is inspiring and support that idea. Perhaps if I was coming in from before a new school year and thus the daily count was on cue with us, or if I did a August-May school year it would work better. Something that drove me crazy was that it would automatically check mark something as accomplished on the calendar. For instance, we just had two weeks of minimal school due to sickness and I wasn’t checking the calendar everyday (as being in bed and taking care of my children was forefront) and coming back in it shows everything as checked and completed. I’d have to go back through and open every page and assignment to find which ones we did or did not actually accomplish rather than having a click as completed scenario.
During this review I did a lot of contemplating, wondering if perhaps I just was more of an in-hand physical planner and tracker and if possibly online just wasn’t for me, but I came to think that is not quite it. I want something that I can easily use on a mobile device without fighting with it. I want something that is fairly simple to set up and edit; I don’t have time or really the patience for a full learning curve. If I had a person to truly hold my hands through the set up experience (Knowledge Base and Support Tickets only get me so far) then maybe I’d enjoy it more. But then I think that is my point (rambling tangents, I apologize) for me I did not enjoy using this program to plan. I love planning, but I felt like this was a chore and that’s not what I want. But if I were not a Charlotte Mason/Classical Christian Education/Memoria Press Curriculum with some others thrown in, or as someone once said Classical Mason homeschooling mother and more of a school-at-home 8-3er it might have worked better for me.