HomeSchool Minder (HSM) is an easy to use affordable software program for managing and organizing your homeschool records. The minimum system requirements are Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows ME, Windows 2000 with Service Pack 2, or Windows XP; an internet connection and IE 5.01 or higher; 80MB available hard-disk space; and 32MB RAM. HSM is not available for Mac at this time. You can go to the HomeSchool Minder web site to order a free 30-day trial disk. When you are ready to purchase HomeSchool Minder all you do is click the Buy Now button when it launches; or click Help on your menu bar, choose Purchase HomeSchool Minder, and click Buy Now. One word of caution, don't load the 30 day trial version and then buy a prepaid copy and load it over your trial version.
Hunter Systems is a leading developer of administration software for private schools. Their School Minder product is installed at over 2000 schools around the world. They have been in business for 19 years; thus they have a lot of experience with school record keeping and classroom management. HSM is parent friendly. In less than an hour, I had my program loaded, student information entered, and courses laid out. I spent 10 hours planning course content and typing it into the program. In less than 10 minutes I copied course material to my additional students' records. I usually spend about 5 hours per student in the beginning of the year to map out their course of study, and then I have to recopy much of this material for my other students taking the same classes. HSM made it so convenient to copy course content from one student to another. It reduced my planning time by 1/3.
Hunter Systems found in their market research that homeschool parents across the nation told them that they would rather buy a small yearly subscription fee that is all inclusive (i.e. includes software, software updates, software upgrades, and support) than a larger up front fee with additional costs for support, updates, and upgrades. I like to think of it like my virus protection, I pay a yearly price for the most up to date material available. When you are finished home schooling, your records will still be available and you can print transcripts and reports from them without paying the yearly subscription.
I have been using HSM for three months and I can unquestionably say it has reduced the amount of time I spend on recording grades and school related information. I HIGHLY recommend everyone getting a demo copy and trying HSM. My favorite feature is the report section. I have one student who begs for a monthly report card and with a click of a button I can print one out for her. HSM has an online help forum where you can interact with other users to get tips on customizing the program in a way that best suits your needs. I will be adding to this review at the end of my school year, in June 2005.
Homeschool Minder addendum: September 2005
HSM has been upgraded to version 2.0 since my initial review. I think the addition of appointments/chores, reading lists, field trips, and a community service record are terrific. These are just a few of the new features now available. New features include enhanced reports, additional calendar features, and the ability to apply grade scales by subject. My favorite new feature is the field trip addition to the calendar. Under the previous version, I had to assign a class called Field Trip to each student. With the new feature, you add field trips in the calendar section. Currently you must add the field trip to each student you have; there is not a copy feature. I have suggested this change for future updates to Hunter Systems. I appreciate that they listen to users and make upgrades according to what we want. This is another reason that the subscription system is so great. I don't need to purchase a new program when upgrades become available. The other change to HSM I have suggested is that Hunter Systems make deleting mass information (in case you goof up) easier. Currently you can only delete one record at a time. I mistakenly entered 29 assignments for history into math. It was easy to copy them to the correct course, but I had to delete each of the 29 assignments individually, which was a bit time consuming.
I finished my 2004-05 year end reports recently and was dreading the creation of a new years' record keeping system. Imagine my surprise that in less than 10 minutes I had all the needed information entered for all of my four students on HSM! With a quick keystroke, I was able to create a new school year. All I had to do was type in the name of each student's classes and the number of credits it was worth. Later I spent about 2 hours entering in assignments for math, history, grammar, and geography. It is very easy to copy the information and paste in another students course. I was even able to copy information from a class I taught during the past school year into the current school year. Pretty handy if you ask me!
At our yearly homeschooling convention, I spent a lot of time in the vendor hall and I did not see any product that came close to being as all-inclusive or affordable as HSM. After using the program for one year, I still really like it. I wish everything I bought and used for a year were as enjoyable to use the next year! I look forward to seeing what upgrades Hunter Systems plans for the next year. I think that for any homeschool HSM will make record keeping easier. With a high school student and an 8th grader, HSM is very useful to me to keep up with attendance and grades, to keep accurate records, and to produce professional looking student reports. The only people I would not recommend HSM to are unschoolers. I plan on keeping up my subscription to HSM when my review copy expires.