Thursday, May 23, 2013

Product Review: My Home School Grades

Product at a glance:

  • Product received for review: 
  • Price: Lifetime membership for all the kids in your family only $49.99. Try it free for 14 days to make sure it's a good fit for your family here (no credit card required). The Lifetime membership includes any improvements and upgrades. This is for ANY number of kids. It can be very economical, especially for a big family!
  • Web-site:
  • Facebook page: My Home School Grades
  • Ages/grades suggested for: This is a tool for mom or dad. A competent upper class man could handle the responsibility if they were a motivated student. 
  • Who can use it? Mainly a tool for homeschoolers. I could possibly see other parents using it to keep track of a busy public/private school students activities and awards outside of school.

What problem does this product solve?: 

  • What problem does this product solve?
  • There is a need for a simple to use, multi-platform grade tracking system for homeschoolers. It should include the ability to track grades, extra-curricular activities, and awards as well as which subjects and classes each student has completed. At the end of it all, hopefully it will generate a transcript that can help your student apply to colleges and universities.

  • "Founded in 2012, My Home School Grades was born out of the need to gather in one place all the information about your family’s home school experience and to help manage and then export that content in a relevant, user friendly way." ~Publisher's website
  • How will this product help solve that problem? 
  • John Echols and Jordan Shute have developed a system of tracking grades and creating transcripts. John homeschools his kids and Jordan is a homeschool graduate who taught himself how to create web-pages. With their backgrounds, they have an innate knowledge of what homeschoolers need in a grade recording/transcript creating application.
  • With a clean and simple interface and clear, understandable directions, it cuts through the complicated side of things and just lets you get started with your grade tracking.

    I consider myself a novice in homeschooling. I've only been doing this for two years and I quite honestly have no idea what I'm doing some days. Worse still, I have no idea what my kids are doing some days and that is where the stress begins. I have a third grader (ok, no problem, she's got 9 more years to learn it all, 6 more years before stuff "gets real" if you know what I mean). Then I have this sixth grader...ugh, he'll be in seventh grade before long! And all of a sudden stuff is real! Within 4-5 years, I'm going to be helping him send high school transcripts to colleges to apply! I'm going to need to keep up with what his grades were, which subjects he's completed and when and what subjects he still needs to cover. Planning, grading, transcript crafting! Ugh! I don't have my teaching certification, I'm not a guidance counselor, HOW am I going to make this work? 

    Over my two years of homeschooling, I have tried out and bought probably 5 different lesson planning/grade tracking/transcript making programs. In these programs and apps, I don't believe I have ever gotten past the create a subject section before. I can usually (not always) create a student and enter our school name information. Then it comes to the 14 pages of creating a subject and entering the materials and the lesson names and...whew! I'm out. I can't get any farther! Something crashes or there is some indecipherable jargon that only makes sense if you have your Masters in education and I'm done. I ask my husband to look at it and he promises he will, but not tonight and it's over. I never get past that point. 

    My Home School Grades is different. No really! It is. I watched a couple short videos here and I figured it out. Honestly, I didn't watch the videos until I started working on the review post, just to make sure I didn't miss anything. It's simple to use, easy to figure out (NO SERIOUSLY, I figured it out) and it works very well. 

    Step 1: Add Students. Input their names, grade levels and even upload photos.

    Step 2: Open one of the students and click the "Add Class" button. Enter the information you'd like to identify the class. Note the "Choose Publisher" menu. Some publishers' share their lesson plans with My Home School Grades so that the lessons are pre-entered for your subject. 

    Here's a picture showing some of the publishers:

    For instance, we use Math U See for math this year. Here's an example of choosing them as the company and Gamma as the level. I've also entered some grades for show:

    All of the lesson information was pre-loaded and ready to fill in. All I needed to enter were the grades. Those I can enter in nearly any format: 15/16 or 96 or A-. In my account preferences I can choose how I'd like the information to be shown whether it's numerical values, letter grade or 4.0 or 5.0 scale. 

    My Home School Grades also let's you keep track of extracurricular activities and awards. Here is a sample of those screens:

    The Creation Screen

    The Finished Product
    As you can see, there is a section for awards. So in the case of Taekwondo, I can note each time she earns her belt or wins a tournament. By the time she is in high school, it will be an impressive list of accomplishments. 

    While I am homeschooling two, my third child is 23 and in college. I can remember in her junior and senior year, we scrambled to remember what awards she had won and which years she had won them in for various college and scholarship applications. It added more stress to an already stressful time. I don't know about you guys, but when I look at a blank college app, I panic and my mind goes blank. All that goes through my head is my voice screaming how inadequate I am for this school. When #2 starts to fill those out, we'll have this covered! No memory lapse, no panic attack, you queue up My Home School Grades, click generate transcript and BOOM! There it is!

    The web-site has a great example with more detail than my third grader's example here. Check it out by clicking this link to page. This is a direct link to just the sample. The page has some great information, so definitely look at it as well as the sample.

    The creators of My Home School Grades have been fantastic. They answer their phones. They answer their email. They have a curriculum suggestion box. If you use something they don't already have lesson plans detailed in the system, they will contact the publisher and try to arrange adding it to the system. I don't want to mislead you, many publishers consider that information as proprietary, but there are many that do not. We were lucky on a few of the pieces of our curriculum (Math and LA) less lucky on our history program and science. While I was a little sad, I was more excited because that meant I only had to enter half as much stuff as I would have had to enter on the other programs. You know, those programs that I couldn't make work. When the publisher does cooperate, it takes just a day or two for it to pop up in the system!

    They are responsive to requests for new functionality and have literally added dozens of little things that we (the reviewers) have suggested to them. 

    What did mom think about My Homeschool Grades?

    In the two years that we have been traveling this path, we have learned a lot through trial and error. I am really thankful that Mosaic Reviews gave me the chance to learn about this product. After the last failed attempt at using lesson planning and transcript producing software, I had kind of given up the search for something that would work for us. While I haven't undertaken entering the entire school year, the information I have started with has been amazingly easy to enter and manipulate within the system. I really think that this is a solution that will continue to work for our family. Through elementary, middle, and high school, I can see that this will be an indispensable tool for getting our kids to the future they dream of, whether that is college, apprenticeship, or trade school. It might even keep my life from being even more Filled With Crazy!

    I almost forgot, it works great on mobile devices, phones, ipads, tablets, you name it, if it can browse the web on it, you can run this software on it! It's so easy. Any platform too: Mac, PC, Linux, whatever can run a web-browser, can run this software. So when you're waiting for music lessons to be over, you can enter math grades for the week or add in field trips for the month.

    What do the kids think about My Homeschool Grades?

    Admittedly, the kids didn't have much access or opinion on this one. The little one likes not having "grades" yet and the sixth grader thought I might let him make up his own grades. 

    Emma:  "I don't like it. Grades are gross!"
    Matthew: "Huh? What's it do? Can I put my own grades in? I'M REALLY SMART MOM!"

    Check out what my fellow reviewers thought about this product here. They will post on Friday, May 24th. See dozens of different opinions of the product to help you create a clear picture of how this product may work in your family.

    I received a life-time subscription to My Home School Grades for review purposes. I received no other compensation and a positive review was not guaranteed. 

    #My Home School Grades

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Product Review: Waterproof Bible from Bardin & Marsee Publishing

    Product at a glance:
    • Product received for review: 
    • Publisher: Bardin & Marsee Publishing
    • Price: $24.95 for the New Testament with Psalms & Proverbs and the full Bible is $44.95
    • Web-site:
    • Other Products: Full Bibles and Extended New Testament Bibles all in their great waterproof versions, accessories for highlighting your Bible, and even index page markers, all weather journals, dry highlighters. 
    • Ages/grades suggested for: All ages.
    • Who can use it? Anyone who wants a more durable Bible; one that can take a camping trip or pool-side afternoon. Great for kids who are active and tough on their Bibles.
    • What problem does this product solve?: 
    • You're on the go and outside being active and you need a Bible that will hold up to your busy, messy, outdoor life.
    • How will this product help solve that problem (quoted from the publisher's site): 
    • "The Waterproof Bible and THE OUTDOOR BIBLE originate from our desire to take God's word into all of His creation, regardless of the weather or circumstances. That is why they are completely waterproof, dry quickly, are much stronger than paper, are usable with writing utensils (ball point pen, pencil, or dry highlighter), and adapt well to all extremes or reading environments (on a rainy campout, in a coffee shop, even in a hot tub!). Just as a frog lives on land and in water, the Waterproof Bible and THE OUTDOOR BIBLE thrive in any situation or climate."

    Bardin & Marsee Publishing's Waterproof Bible is a great, durable tough little bible. Although we are not the camping, outdoorsy types that this Bible was intended for, I still love it. I have always felt like regular Bibles are delicate and fragile. I worry that I will tear pages and spill coffee on my Bible and I have torn pages in my Bible just by turning pages or the bible slipping out of my hand and trying to catch it.

    I often don't take it with us when we travel because of worrying about it getting damaged. I would never throw my regular Bible in my purse and carry it around Disney World for fear that it would get destroyed by the stuff in my purse or the inevitable water rides that the kids drag me on. However, that's just what I did this week. It has survived 16 hour days at the bottom of a purse stuffed with water bottles, sunscreen, leaking Coke bottles and several kids' pin collections! It's done great! Not one ding, tear or scratched up pages AND the Coke rinsed right off! 

    I often feel like my kids lose part of what we're reading when we read the Bible together because I'm trying to teach them to be gentle and careful with the pages and the book. I spend 1/3 of our time saying things like "Don't be so rough when you're flipping the pages!" "Don't lick your finger to flip the page!" "Watch out! Don't let that spilled juice get on the Bible!" The Waterproof Bible removes much of that worry and stress from our Bible lessons. If you look at the picture below, my husband is holding the weight of the bible with a single page. Now, this is the small version (just New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs) not the full Bible. I haven't ordered the full size version yet, but I plan on it soon. 


    Here are some great features of this Bible:
    • It floats.
    • The pages are plastic, so they are very durable.
    • Stain resistant
    • Mud resistant
    • Wipes off easily
    • Holds up to being shoved in a messenger bag with suntan lotion, leaking Cokes and sweaty water bottles.
    • Impervious to water based dyes and food coloring.

    The Waterproof Bible is available in 5 different translations with 3 different cover choices in each. You can also choose between the full Bible or an extended New Testament version (includes Psalms and Proverbs).

    Translations available include: 

    There are three available cover: blue, pink, or (tree bark) camo:

    Show Picture 3 Show Picture 3 Show Picture 3

    Bibles always seem pricey to me, but this one is much less expensive than many of the versions I've been debating on. Some of them were over $100. I would love to see them eventually add a Women's Study Bible or something similar but for now, I'll settle for the regular version.

    Since I'm blogging from Disney World right now (yes, it is a rough life). I will post some pictures of our Bible's trip to the resort pool at Kidani Village in Animal Kingdom as soon as I get my little pin obsessed traders away from the "King Pin" trader in the lobby. 

    What did mom think about the Waterproof Bible?

    I love it. It's a great durable Bible that I can let my kids be kids with. I don't have to outlaw taking our Bible on our nature hikes and I don't have to worry about someone falling in a puddle or creek when we do go. This Bible can stand up to it all! I probably won't take it to the pool as a regular habit, but I love being able to carry it in my purse or bag.

    What do the kids think about the Waterproof Bible?

    Emma: "I think this is the greatest thing that was ever made!" 
    Matthew: "It's pretty good. I don't have to listen to Mom growl at me to be gentle. I like that!"

    I received a free copy of an ESV Waterproof Bible New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any other form of compensation. Your opinion of the product may differ from mine.