Ok, I’ve written about the iPad apps my kids like to use so now its time for the apps that I use. The one I use the most for tracking homeschool work is Circus Ponies Notebook. I have it on my Mac and my iPad – they sync through dropbox, so if I add a lesson on my iPad, it shows up the next time I open the notebook on my mac. Circus Ponies is not a grade book or a planning app, its just a digital 3-ring binder that you can make into anything you want. They have templates for writing books, organizing a project, college planner, recipes, even a homeschool planner, but I’v gotten set in my ways and use it my own way. To be honest, there just isn’t much in their templates.
We homeschool through a charter and meet with a teacher once a month to let her know what we’ve been doing, so I have dividers in my notebook for each month and start a new one after each time we meet. Inside each month I have a page for each subject, Math, Science, English, History, Foreign Language, PE, and Art & Music. At the end of each day, or each week, I type in whatever the boys accomplished, lessons in math, videos watched, etc. This makes it easy to scan through the pages and see what subjects we’v been slacking on… usually the Science page is full and the English page will be a bit a thin.
At the ‘back’ of the notebook I have a page for each kid with a list of curriculum I plan on using for the year and they each have a page to keep track of books they read, and books we read together. I still read a loud to my kids every night, even though they are teenagers. I try to choose classics and historical fiction so its counts as English and/or History most of the time. There’s also a page for 4H stuff and I have a divider for things I order. This brings me to one of the nicer features of Circus Ponies Notebook – you can cut and past, or drag, web addresses, pdf’s, images, documents, whatever you want, right onto the page in your notebook. So when I place an order I put the email confirmation in the notebook and when I receive the order I type in the date I received it. Or if there is something I want to order, I put a link to it so I don’t forget.
You can export sections of your notebook to pdfs, or document files, or print it out. I usually export to a text file and then clean it up so I can print on fewer pages. I can also generate a pdf of the month’s work and email it the charter school teacher – most of them love getting these ‘reports’.
I’ve tried lots of homeschool planners, online, apps, etc and I always end up back with Circus Ponies. I just find the online planners too restrictive and they take too much time to enter in all the lessons, and then you end up sick and all the dates need to be shifted…. ugh! So I make paper lists of lessons to be done, or just copy the table of contents and we check them off as we go and record it in the Circus Ponies Notebook when the lesson is finished.
I have separate Notebooks for each year and I make a new Notebook for each of our family trips. Its very useful when planning a big trip – a divider for Travel Arrangements, a page for each hotel, airline tickets, train tickets/passes. Confirmation emails can be dragged on to the page, along with maps and pictures. A divider for each city we visit and pages for each site or museum we want to see. I put links to the relevant web addresses, hours, ticket costs, etc. All this is on my iPad so when we get in a cab in Tokyo and need to tell the driver where to go, I can tap on my Notebook and show him the address/map in Japanese that I got off the web – very useful to have all that information on your iPad.
Its not necessary to have both the desktop and iPad version. They each work independently. I had the desktop version before the iPad app came out, so now I have both. The desktop version of Circus Ponies Notebook has a free trial so you can try it out and see if it will work for you.