I've tried several record-keeping methods and found the clean and simple design of My School Year to be a breath of fresh air. Though this program is flexible and provides plenty of options, it is not overwhelming. Parents simply enter Students, Subjects, and then individual Classes that fall under these subjects for each student. Classes can be assigned to specific grade levels if you like. Classes can also be listed under different school names, if your students take any classes outside of the home. Entering assignments is sweetly simple.
With other programs I've tried in the past, I've spent hours scouring through help forums and emailing back and forth with technicians. The only assistance I ever needed with this program was in changing my password. If questions do arise, help is readily available through email or telephone.
Once assignments are entered, reports and lesson plans are easy to generate. These can be done as PDF's or as spreadsheets. You can sort your data and arrange it to suit your needs. You can easily search for old assignments or group lesson plans together. The scope is impressive, especially considering the simplicity of the design.
Once students complete assignments, you can score them in whatever method you prefer and even log the time spent on each assignment. This is very handy for families that need to track study hours. MySchoolYear.com also makes it easy to keep track of organizations in which students participate, and any volunteering done by students, awards, projects, testing, and reading logs. Building portfolios and transcripts becomes a clean click of a button.
As great as the program is, there are some downsides:
1. It isn't possible to enter a series or pattern of lessons. Each lesson has to be entered in by hand. It is a simple and easy process, but it would be much faster to be able to enter lessons as part of a series. So if your student does Lesson 1 on Monday, Lesson 2 on Tuesday, and so forth, you need to manually enter each assignment, save it, and then enter the next. There is a feature that allows you to "Save and Add More", which makes this reasonably quick, but you also need to manually enter the date for each assignment.
3/20/2012 UPDATE: They now have a lesson plan generator called Create-A-Plan using Quick Split and Rapid Repeat. This addresses the concerns listed above.
2. When entering assignments, you cannot see the list of assignments you have already entered on the same page as the one you are entering. So if you are entering a week of assignments and can't remember if the last lesson you entered was for Thursday or Friday, you have to cancel the assignment you were trying to enter and close the screen to go back to the page of already entered assignments. Once assignments are entered, they are easy to see as a grid. It would be helpful to have this grid visible while entering new assignments.
3. Once items are entered and completed, I love being able to check them as finished, grade them, and log their time spent, but this must all be done within each lesson's own page, not in any spreadsheet format. It's a minor thing, truly. But when you are entering a dozen lessons for multiple children on a daily basis, those seconds count.
4. My only other complaint is that I cannot stay logged in indefinitely. My School Year is set up to automatically log users out after 20 minutes. It does not matter if you are currently entering lessons; your twenty minutes are up. You can log back in immediately, but it is a strange setup. I would like to be able to keep it open with me beside our school table throughout the day, but the logging in is too frustrating. I did email to ask about this feature and a quick response said they would look into a design change. Hopefully, this will soon change.
3/20/2012 UPDATE: They expanded the 20 minute time out to 8 hours. You can stay on a page for up to 8 hours before the system will log you out.
All in all, it is a great program. It is reasonably priced. This includes toll free phone support and security that your portfolios are backed up and safe. There are no downloads, so everything is handled online and stored for you automatically. In comparison to some programs, this does cost more. I have spent $50 for a lifetime membership to another Homeschool record keeper, but after trying this program and seeing what a breath of fresh air it is, I know I will never use the other program again. Also, when compared to the cost of planners for each child and peace of mind that I'm keeping track of everything, the cost is well worth it.