A Tool of My Trade
Homeschooling can be exciting and liberating: there are so many materials and tools from which to choose! And homeschooling can be frightening and paralyzing at the same time: there are . . . so many . . . materials and tools from which to choose . . .
In future posts I want to review specific programs that have helped our children, but today I wanted to share a gem of a tool that I have found that eases my homeschooling responsibilities: Gradekeeper. It is a wonderfully robust but simple tool that helps me calculate my grades. It is available for both Windows and Mac, and the individual license gives access to both a web app and a desktop app. The individual license includes all future upgrades and is only $20! And this is a one-time payment, not an annual subscription. I was absolutely thrilled when I realized that! Before I found Gradekeeper, I had been testing a one-month free trial of a beautifully designed, web-based grading system that had a monthly subscription fee. There was no option to download the grades, and once one stopped paying the monthly subscription fee, one lost access to the grades. When I calculated how much I would have to pay over my total homeschooling career (about two decades in all), access to the tool literally was going to cost over $7,000. The marketing behind giving a one-month free trial and getting parents hooked on that monthly-subscription grading tool was certainly a brilliant move!
So what do I love about Gradekeeper besides its affordability? First of all, as an Excel fan, I love the clean and simple interface. It is spreadsheet-based in columns and rows, which makes it very easy to see the assignments and grades. It is not fancy or colorful, but I am just looking to get my grades done.
There is also great flexibility in the tool. As the developer is a teacher himself, he thought of many features that he finds helpful. He is also very accessible for questions and program suggestions.
Some of these options include:
- School year divisions into one term, two semesters, three trimesters, four quarters, and even six terms. The teacher sets the dates for each division so that the program calculates the grades properly by term.
- Numerous assignment categories (homework, papers, quizzes, tests, etc.) can be set, with grades being computed by category weights or by total points earned. Based on these, a running grade is calculated and updated as the grades are entered into the spreadsheet. Having this always-current grade of where the student is as the term progresses is helpful. The teacher can even choose to drop up to 4 assignments in each category.
- Final exams can be set to be worth a certain percentage of the quarter grade, semester grade, or end-of-the-year grade. For you math-people out there like me, I love that the grades can also be rounded to the nearest whole percent or nearest tenth of a percent.
- The range of each letter grade can be set by the teacher. (I have my grade ranges match those of Kolbe Academy.) Classes can also be set as pass-fail.
- Student grades can be displayed by percent and/or by grade.
- Reports can be easily generated for official records.
I found the accompanying user guide to be quite detailed, complete with screenshots to guide you to easily set up the program to best meet your needs.
As busy homeschooling parents, we need all the affordable, truly useful tools to save time and help us get that homeschooling job done! I hope some fellow Kolbe parents enjoy this tool as much as I do.