March 25, 2015

HomeSchool Office: Manage Your Home and School Online! {Product Review}

Scheduling. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love it when it's done, but sometimes hate the process! I have found a routine that works for me with pencil/paper planners, but I'm always interested in trying new methods. When we were given the opportunity to review HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage, I was skeptical about it, but was willing to give it a try.
HomeSchool Office by Lord Heritage

Product Information

HomeSchool Office Review
Lord Heritage HomeSchool Office is an All-In-One Christian based program with all the things you need to plan, organize and manage your homeschool. The program can be used with any curriculum, in any state, in any home, with any number of students for one affordable all-inclusive cost ($79 for the year), with the availability of a free trial. With one program you can schedule your home AND school for your entire year.

With the ability to create reports, log projects, maintain a grading system as well as create high school transcripts, you will be able to have everything you run a long term successful homeschool. And, because it is online, you will always have access to it 24/7 on any computer!
You can view some product features and purpose as well as some sample pages.
We were given a full year access to HomeSchool Office in exchange for our review.

How Did We Use This Product?

We received our free subscription with log-in information via email and I was able to log right in and start looking through it. I started by learning more about the reasoning behind the method they used called POWER and I'm going to share how I used this product as I talk about each section.

POWER is an acronym standing for the following:

P is for Plan. Lord Heritage believes that God is all about planning as evidenced by scriptures in the Bible. He likes things to be planned out from beginning to end and Lord Heritage believes that parents should follow that same principle with their children's education. They cite Jeremiah 29:11 as part of their reasoning. Because of this, HomeSchool Office is heavy on the planning aspect of homeschool, and make it possible for me to:

*Plan subject goals and objectives
*Build a master schedule
*Setup lessons
*Create projects for home or groups
*Lay out my school budget

This is where I needed to start setting up this program to work for me, and all of this can be done when I click the Plan tab at the top of my dashboard.

From this screen I set up all the subjects we are doing for each student and once that is done, I am able to click the little icon at the far left of each line for the subject to schedule all the lessons.
You can see that you can easily change which student you are working with using the little drop down menu, AND you can
plug in how many lessons there are in your curriculum so it will keep track of your progress.
Once I have this portion set up, I can move on to scheduling the actual lessons...

You can see how specific I can be for each lesson. This shows what our history lessons look like. I have them detailed out, including how long it should take. I can change the order of any lessons easily. The first green check indicates that it's been completed, the second one that it's an active subject.
It is easy to plan my school days with the school year plan:
Once I clicked on this screen, I went through each month of our school year and clicked on the days I intend to have school. It will tell me my total number of days at the top. Once this is done, I can move on to my master schedule.

Here is an example of what it looks with one student's master schedule (Little Britches). I can pick the color I want for each student's schedule.
I click on a day and then I click on a time and I can pick the subject (from the list of subjects set up previously) or an event to add and note the time it is done.  If it's something that takes all day, I can click the top and add an all day event. This is the master weekly/daily schedule. I learned through trial and error that you have to set this up for everything to work and you need to have your subjects set up before you can work this properly. There is no copy and paste available so you have to set up everything individually. At the top you see "choose calendar". This lets you set up MULTIPLE children's calendars or add in a separate calender for the times outside of school. You can change the color to keep them visible.

Here is a master calendar with a second child's schedule added in for Monday
If you want to see each calender separately, simply click "choose calenders"--and the little window that opens allows you to click a calendar as visible or not. You can choose whatever color you want for each of your calendars (ie. children).

O is for Order. The next menu is Order. Lord Heritage cites 1 Corinthians 14:40 as God's admonition to do things orderly, and uses this to encourage parents to keep things orderly in their school and home. They provide these tools to help me do that:

*Schedule lessons
*Integrate home & school activities
*Setup important reminders
*Create customized lists

Because I only have one student, my calendar looks a bit I'm going to share a screenshot from Lord Heritage of what your calendar under the Order menu could look like with more than one child and extra events added in.
Here you can see that you have the ability to change this to view your calendar by month, week and day. It shows you everything you've imputed via your Master Schedule, but here you can also add in events like birthdays, ball games, lessons and appointments. You can also set up reminders for these things at the same time. To the right you see where you can set up things like a chores list. Simply click "list" and then name your list. Once done you can click "item" and add items to your list. This will in turn show up on your CHILD'S work schedule when they log in. 

W is for Work. Lord Heritage cites John 17:4 and says it is important for parents to impart a good work ethic in our children. Here are the things that the work menu offers:

*Provide student access
*View/print individual schedules
*Follow daily lessons
*Manage to do lists

This is the one menu that my child can access when he logs in. Everything else is only available under my own administrator log in. 
It is in this menu that he can print out his daily schedule and see his lesson plans. It will also have whatever list I created--usually a chore list--for him to see, and complete. I can have him add chores to his list too, or have him make a NEW list. As he completes them he can hit "clear" and it will cross it off for the day. The same chores will keep showing up unless you make changes on your own "work" menu.
By clicking "day list" (at the top of the calendar) he can see all his subjects for the day. He can do a week list as well. By clicking "print list" it will print him off a detailed list of each subject AND the lesson I set up for it. 
Here is what the printed day list looks like--a list like this can offer independence for the child in knowing what needs to be done each day. The chores do not print out on this list.
He uses this same page to note his completion of the things on his list, by clicking each item:
Doing this, pulls up the whole lesson and any notes that I have made. Here you can see that this is Grammar and it says what the lesson was and my instruction. He can make notes about it himself. Once it's completed (which this one is) he clicks "complete lesson" and it will show up as being complete on my end. There is also the option to push or pull a lesson--meaning, moving it forward to the next day (with the option to combine it with what is already there) or to move it back a day--something that can only be done in future events. This is a nice bonus, but you HAVE to do it before the day is over otherwise the program will simply mark this lesson as being completed.

E is for Evaluate. Matthew 28:20 is the scriptural reference for this menu, and Lord Heritage encourages the parent to do this as a way to maintain a personal relationship with their child and to encourage them as they meet goals. Here is what this menu has to offer:

*Manage requirement for state compliance
*Oversee daily attendance
*Track hours per subject
*Maintain grading per subject

It is easy to see that this menu is all about keeping records--especially grades. Because we don't do grades for our homeschool, I am going to share a screenshot from Lord Heritage about what entering grades looks like.
It is pretty self-explanatory, but if I would need any help, the support page for Lord Heritage offers step by step instruction on how to enter grades into their system. I think this would be a very helpful system, if grading was desired or required for a family's homeschool. 
The attendance is pretty simple to use. If you DON'T click anything, it will automatically assume that you had a full day of school following the school plan you set up. But if you didn't have that, you need to come and make revisions. (you can fix past days too!)
In this example, I have Little Britches set up as having a scheduled day off, but have Baby Britches as having a half day. What a nice way to take care of all my students in one screen. The options for the attendance are "full day, half day, absent, scheduled day off." If you click "subject hours", you can revise the time your student spent on each subject--otherwise it will just use the time you allotted when you originally set up the subjects. This would be more geared for the high school level when you need credit hours.
R is for Report. In quoting Romans 14:12, Lord Heritage reminds that Christ held himself accountable, thus as parent teachers, we should desire to prove the work we say we are doing. Thus the menu for Report helps me:
*Comply with state regulations
*Customize reports
*Generate transcripts

Because I do not need to do this in my state, I didn't use this menu, but did play with it a little bit to see how it works. Here is a screenshot of it from Lord Heritage

From this you can see that you are creating grade reports. You can determine how much you want on your grade reports by clicking a check box on the list. You are printing out information relating to each quarter. Once this is set up, you can view and print your report and have it to add to a portfolio or for any other need. The transcript tab is much more concise, simply asking for the student/year for the report, the graduation date and whether or not a diploma was received. This is where all the information entered in the subjects and attendance related to credit hours can come into play. Though I don't need it now, I can see where this would be very handy down the road for those needing to print out transcripts.
The final aspect I will mention is that the home page for the program allows you to write messages to each other. You can type a message to your child and they can type one to you. Your child will also see any reminders that they have set up.
Isn't that a lovely photo? I also adore that scripture!
So when did I input everything? Once I got the initial stuff set up--which I had to take a couple days to do that once I found how detailed it needed to be, I was able to get myself on a goal to spend Sunday evening, programming in all the lessons for a unit. I typically did a week's work at a time, even though I could have programmed it in MUCH further out. 
First thing each morning, I had Little Britches log in and view his daily list and print it off. At first he'd go in at the end of each school day to note what was completed, but once we figured out that it would mark things complete once the next day started, he only went in, if something needed to be pushed forward. Though I set it up, we didn't use the chore list.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

Little Britches: 
"I like being able to print out exactly what I need to do for the day. It's a little confusing to know what to do when I log-in to mark what I did or didn't do. But after a bit I figured it out. I sorta like it, but I sorta of don't. It's a LOT more to do, than what I used before, and I don't like having to go in to mark everything off or say that it got moved. I'd rather just check a box like we did on my other schedule paper."
My Thoughts:
The idea is a great idea. I love the POWER acronym and its biblical foundation. I think that this program is a great way to get all your daily activities corralled into one spot. To be able to get all your kids assignments together in one place as detailed as you possibly would want. I like that it's possible to set up a curriculum in detail from beginning to end based on the school year. I like that the program will even calculate how long everything will take you to finish and guides you through how much of it you have left. I think this is useful when you have pieced your curriculum together and aren't sure how long it will take you to finish. 
I like that you can cater it to match your own school year plan and set up your own daily schedule. I like that you can set up each child's schedule right down to their lessons in detail. There is the ability to enter grading for your child and to keep track of attendance for all students in one spot (if you need it). I also think it's cool that you can print progress reports and transcripts based on all your information, if you need them.
I think it's nice that my students can log in themselves and print off their schedule. I like that their schedule can include in depth information about the lessons they need to complete and that they can log in and note whether they completed it or not. 
I think that with the Lord Heritage Support page it is fairly easy to navigate through setting up the programs, especially for the ones they give information about in the support section.
I love the dashboard homepage photo banner and scripture--I just wish it changed daily or I could create my own. 
That being said...
I did NOT enjoy this program at all. I felt that it was labor intensive to set up, even WITH the instructions. I found it very complicated and it was difficult to figure out what was what in regards to the tabs and the scheduling, because nowhere does it tell you what order things needed to be done--although after the fact, I realized that if I had worked through it in the order of the acronym POWER, I could have done it pretty well.
I do not think the program is very user friendly. There are way too many steps needed to get everything set up. There was no way to "copy and paste" if you had the same assignment repeated, rather you had to you manually enter every single lesson for every single subject for every single day for every single child. Pain in the butt. And I only have TWO children. I can't imagine the workload to get everything entered if you had more--one of my friends has currently 8 children she is actively homeschooling. Oy! It would take her a week, just to get 1-2 days of lessons done for all of them!
It would be much easier if there was a way to "repeat previous lesson" in the schedule. The same would be true for when you have multiple students working on the same subject or lesson together. As it is now, you have to go enter every single student's assignments separately no matter what. 
I liked that I could program a day's worth of work for Little Britches, but it was a pain to have to go in and mark things completed--or if they weren't completed, to make sure to remember to "push" all the assignments forward. It was just a lot of extra work, especially when I don't really have to keep records or portfolios of my student's projects, lessons and assignments.  But then if you don't go in and state whether or not you completed it, it marks it as complete as soon as the day is past...which means if you DIDN'T complete something, you as the teacher have to go in and change it in the subject lessons menu in your own administrative log in. More work. 

I like the option to make chore lists...but with smaller kids, it's not THAT useful. Maybe it would be for older children though. The same was true for the project and budget tabs within the Plan menu. They just aren't relevant for me and there wasn't a way to see HOW to use them. It would have been trial and error and no homeschooling mom has the time to just sit and go through a trial and error process.
This product made me frustrated more than anything. Overall, I found it complicated and tedious and so not my style. It was and is a VERY GOOD program...but it's just NOT for me.

Would I Recommend this Product?

Yes...and No...
I would recommend this product to anyone who is seeking a scheduling program where they can set up all the subjects WAY in advance even down to assigning lessons, and even determine the amount of time it will take to finish any curriculum. I would recommend this product if you are looking a single program that will let you schedule multiple students onto one calendar. I would recommend this product if you want something that will schedule your DAY as well as your homeschooling. I would recommend this product if you are seeking a program that allows your student's independence in keeping track of their own work. I would recommend this program if you like to have all your ducks in a row and love scheduling in micro. I would recommend this program if you have a set routine for your day without much deviation. I would recommend this program, if you want what you've scheduled for your student to be easily turned into transcripts and if you are regularly needing to enter grades.
If you have a schedule that is not "set in stone" and fluctuates a lot, it's probably not for you. If you aren't concerned about setting up lessons,,,days, week, months in advance this might not be for you. If you are looking for something quick and simple to set up a scheduling for your students, this probably isn't going to work for you. If you are seeking a system where you can set up multiple students at once for ONE lesson, this isn't going to work for you. If you work on unit studies or with a Charlotte Mason style, you will probably want to pass on this one. If you are NOT wanting something religious based (think of the never changing cover photo with a scripture) you will want to pass.
In my opinion, unless you are a type A, everything in order and everything in its place, minute details, stick to the schedule kind of person...I really don't think this is going to work for you. I am NOT a type A person, I like freedom and I like to be able to change things on the fly whether the time we do something or what we are doing without having to worry about fixing a schedule on a computer. I like being able to just simply ERASE and rewrite--or just draw lines and arrows. 
So this program, frankly drove me nuts!
Will I continue to use this program?
No. I just can't handle the devotion to schedule and micro-management that this program requires. It required way too many steps to do what I've been doing successfully with pencil and paper in my regular homeschool planners. In fact after using it as it's designed for 4 weeks--I honestly just couldn't handle it any longer and had to give it up. Not a good fit at all.

Want to Learn More?

We reviewed HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage along with 79 other reviewers. You know my thoughts on this product, but why not see how it worked for the other families?!
HomeSchool Office Review
Crew Disclaimer
Well, this program did not work out for our family, though the concept was great. I will continue to use my method for scheduling that has been working for us this year, unless something else comes my way again!
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