I have always loved a gentle approach to learning with my children and, although I am not a “purist” by any stretch, I certainly enjoy incorporating many Charlotte Mason principles and methods into our homeschooling. The challenge for me has been how to choose, organize, schedule and record all the wonderful resources and experiences that are available. When invited to participate in a Beta testing of an online tool that would help address many of these issues, I jumped at the chance.
CM Organizer is truly unlike anything else I have seen. With this program I am able to select resources from a fantastic library of pre-qualified living books. It is possible to search for books based on subject, historic period, grade-level and more. Because this is an online tool, this already robust library continues to grow as new books are added by the developer. As an online tool, I also don’t have to worry about installing software, updates or backing up my files.
All this is wonderful in and of itself, but the real power comes in being able to take these resources and schedule them for my children (individually or as a family). Most resources have detailed descriptions and even the chapter titles noted. So as I go to schedule these books, the chapters are automatically scheduled into my custom plan. If I want to add personal resources not found in the CM Organizer database to my plan, this is not a problem. Adding new resources to my personal library is very easy to do.
One feature of this program I enjoy is way the schedule automatically rolls. If plans change (which is a frequent occurrence in our homeschool), this is not a problem with CM Organizer; the next assigned chapter or lesson is automatically waiting for me when I log into the system. I can even go back—up to two weeks—to fill in completed work that I may have fallen behind in recording. Not having pre-planned “completion dates” was something I had to adjust my thinking around, but once I realized the power and flexibility of open-ended scheduling, I never want to go back to artificial deadlines. Many times we will complete lessons or books ahead of schedule, especially if we are really enjoying a good read. Other times, we need to slow down and work through a skill or concept longer than I may have planned. Either of these scenarios is not a problem with CM Organizer. Resources can even be scheduled back-to-back to allow a new resource to automatically appear in the Daily Plan once the prior resource is completed. Freedom and flexibility are definite strengths of this product.
But perhaps my favorite feature of this product is the Reporting capabilities. Once I schedule a resource, all I have to do is check the completion boxes in the Daily Plan. CM Organizer does all the rest when it comes to tracking and creating wonderful reports. I can report our progress based on student, date range, and subject. I can even add notes to any of the lessons which can optionally be displayed on the reports. The reports can be printed or saved electronically to a PDF file. I cannot wait for this year’s end of the year reporting because all of our work will already be recorded.
CM Organizer has been created to especially help those homeschoolers who follow a non-traditional approach to learning. However, those who use some traditional resources are certainly able to schedule these in the CM Organizer just like any other resource. I have even found the program helpful in recording field trips, music lessons, and educational DVDs we watch. What I was really hoping for was a “one-stop-shop” for all my homeschool planning. CM Organizer has been a dream come true!
—by Jenny Clifford
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