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Edu-Track Home School Record Keeping and Planning Software Review by Heidi Shaw

ConTECH Solutions Inc.
http://www.edu-track.net/

Is total organization possible for the home school family? This has always seemed to be the ultimate question for me. Now, the folks at Edu-Track have made it a very real possibility. This is an amazing product and I don't say that often; especially about software.

I have been home schooling for 15 years. In the early days, record keeping wasn't much of an issue. We pretty much just did as we pleased and tried to fly under the radar of any "official" circles. As the children grew, however, and government regulations became more rigorous, I had to try to organize my plans and procedures into a coherent package. I could tell you story upon story of my search for the perfect organizer, binder, plan etc. And then I had to store it all. I prefer NOT to look back! With technology, the paper mass diminished, but I still had to figure out what to keep, what to toss, and what to plan for.

Now, with Edu-Track, I can coordinate five children, grades, and curriculum, from pre-Kindergarten to twelfth grade. As well as all of their chores, field trips, things borrowed, loaned, or dreamed of. There are even places to keep track of immunization and health records. This program also allows for differences in teaching methods and styles. Unit studies can be organized and tracked as easily as text-based studies. I could go on and on with all the neat little things they have built into this software - books read, videos watched, tests taken. It will track all your entries and produce wonderful report cards, transcripts, and allow all sorts of changes as you go. Nothing is locked in unless you choose to lock it. One of the neatest things is that you can make changes and enter data on the go as well as at home. With the additional software for the Palm, you can even go to the library and take your lists and lesson plans with you. I would have loved to have technology like this when my big kids were small. Waiting lines, dentists' offices, and traffic jams all become places where lesson planning is now possible. No more wasted moments or frustrations because you forgot your lists or notebooks at home.

Every time I open Edu-Track on my PC or read the amazing User's Guide, I discover another jewel. For example, while entering data on unit studies, Edu-Track will summarize activities many different ways. You can enter activities by the child's actual grade level, but if you have an accelerated student in, say, math, you can also enter the actual grade they are working on. Edu-Track will keep track of different grades, levels, subjects, and topics, all for the same child.

There is also a very cool journaling feature for both mom and student. (Did I mention you could program this for kids to access their own lesson plans and check them off?) The journal is like a virtual diary. You can add thoughts, details, hopes, dreams, and lock it so only you have access. The fonts and colors can be changed and you can add clip art, photos, and even video clips! Each entry is saved in a "filing cabinet" for future reference. Children can each have their own journal.

The User's Guide is a fantastic book. It comes internal on the CD, but you can also purchase it separately so you can have a hard copy. It is over 200 pages and I found it very useful. It is so absolutely bullet proof! The setup wizard and guide walk you through every single step of the initial set-up. Actual screen shots are on every page so you can instantly tell if you are in the right place. You are walked through every entry and any questions I could dream up were answered for me. There is also instant online help and available one-year upgrade package that allows you to keep current with any changes. I am not very computer literate, but I am able to start preparations for my son's eleventh grade transcripts with ease. I will be entering all his courses and, as we go through the year, I will periodically enter test scores, trips taken, work experience, certificates earned, and whatever else comes his way. At the end of the year, or whenever I want to do it, I can print out an amazing set of transcripts. Professional, thorough, and as accurate as any given by the public school system; I enter the data and Edu-Track stores it and categorizes it against my chosen list of outcomes for this particular child.

Privacy is guaranteed with this system because you choose and enter your own password. Data is easy to enter, easy to retrieve, and changes can be made quickly. You can print out reports for how many hours of study a course took, attendance information, and time sheets. Everything you need is right at your fingertips. The system also has a neat one-click backup that makes it SO easy to save your data every night.

I will be using Edu-Track with my younger children's records right from the beginning. I want it to be second nature to me by the time they get to high school.

Edu-Track is designed for the Microsoft Windows platform. Here are the minimum requirements as given in the User's Guide: 800x600 minimum resolution with 16-bit 256 colors or greater, MS Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP OR NT 4.0 Service Pack 3 or higher, 64 MB RAM minimum, 35MB Hard Disk free, CD-ROM Drive, and (optional) Palm Compatible Hand-held device - if using the available Edu-Tack for Palm, approximately $20.

Other resources for using Edu-Track with a network are available on the website, www.Edu-Track.net.

The customer service is excellent and the folks really know their product. If for some reason patches are necessary, they will be provided free of charge at the website.

There is a 14-day unconditional money-back guarantee. Plus, you can buy a demo CD for $5. Try it out and if you like it, hook up to the website and pay the rest of the reasonable purchase price. They will e-mail you a code to unlock the full capabilities of the program and you are ready to begin. No need to wait for another CD to arrive in the mail. The price of the whole package with the hard copy User's Guide, and the yearlong upgrades is so reasonable I was surprised. Considering the value placed on my children's education and the help I received with this program, it is money well spent. I highly recommend Edu-Track. I am glad to have discovered it now and also glad I have three more kids still schooling at home and no more piles of papers to worry about losing!



-- Product review by: Heidi Shaw, Staff Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

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