The Ultimate Homeschool Planner – A Review

I was a pen and paper gal. After several failed attempts at using various computer/online planning resource, I was confident in my pen and paper method. Until it wasn’t working. Then I threw aside my Luddite ways and embraced the world of online planning. For a while, it was great. It appeared that I had successfully transitioned and could save a tree or two. However, I began to notice a strange thing. I was planning with paper and pen and then transferring it to my online planner. Not exactly saving time, was I?

I decided that I needed to stop fighting my love of pen and paper. So the search for the perfect planner began.  As I was searching for the paper planner that I wanted to use, Apologia Educational Ministries made The Ultimate Homeschool Planner (orange) available for review.  Was the Ultimate Homeschool Planner the answer to my planning problems?

What the Ultimate Homeschool Planner Offers Homeschool Moms

A quick Google search will present you with an overwhelming selection of paper planners. So, what does The Ultimate Homeschool Planner offer that makes it the right choice for you? (Make sure you download the Ultimate Homeschool Planner Sample and TOC!)

*Helpful Tips & Examples– While this planner is very user friendly and not complicated to implement, it is often helpful to see how the pages were intended to work to help get us started. Also helpful for those who may beginning homeschool planning for the first time.

*Variety of Planning Pages – For recording reading list, field trips, academic goals, resource lists, etc, there are enough pages for up to six students.

*Monthly Calendar – Twelve blank monthly calendars are provided. These pages allow adequate space for keeping track of monthly engagements and important dates. Having the pages undated makes this planner work no matter when your school year begins or even if you begin using it mid-year.

*Weekly Planning Pages – There are 48 weekly planning pages. Again flexibility is key in these planning pages. It is all left blank and up to the homeschool mom (or dad) to decide how to make it work. Six rows across and six columns down can be worked in a variety of ways.  Six students? Six subjects? Six school days? Six time blocks? It is all up to you!

There are additional resources for the weekly planning that help you with focus for the week. You can see these in the sample pages. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is clearly intended for the Christian Homeschooler. These weekly pages are to aid in focusing on scripture, prayer, etc.

How The Ultimate Homeschool Planner Worked for Me

When The Ultimate Homeschool Planner arrived, I did a quick flip through to get a feel for the planner and what it had to offer me. I looked over the beginning pages that shared about planning and how to use the planner. Then I went straight to to the weekly planning pages to transfer information over. There was no way that I was going to fit in the seven children who are “officially” homeschooling. I also wanted to use the planner to hold me accountable for doing early learning activities with my little ones. Since my two oldest are independent and planning out their own weeks, it seemed counter-productive to put them in my planner.

 

After a bit of writing, erasing, and re-evaluating, I opted not to put my two middle schoolers in the homeschool planner. We are working on encouraging more independence in learning and studying for them this year. So I am just jotting down reminders to check their work or meet with them certain days of the week. They have separate planners for their weekly assignments.

This left me with three official students and two little ones for my planner. I opted to use the six rows for: Hannah, Sarah, “Together”, Sam, The Littles, and The Gathering. “Together” is for subjects/projects that Hannah and Sarah are doing together such as science and history. The Littles is a spot for me to jot down activities/goals for my three year old and sixteen month old. It is easy to get busy and not take time to read a book or take a walk outside with my little ones!  The Gathering is our circle time as a whole family. Here I can plan out each day what we are going to try to cover/read/discuss.

One aspect of the planner that I don’t like is that the calendar and weekly pages are separate. Meaning that you have all 12 calendar months and then you have the 48 weekly planning pages. I would prefer to have a calendar month followed by four or five weekly planning pages. To work around this,  I simply paperclip the current month and the current week so I can easily find what I need.

While all resource pages are helpful, I am flexing them to make them suit our needs better. My children track their own reading lists and we don’t do many field trips. Those pages would be wasted if I didn’t tweak a bit. With a sticker or two, I have turned these pages into: Books to Buy, The Gathering Plans, Books to Read, Books to Review, etc. I would love to see these list style pages left blank to better serve the wide range of homeschoolers.

I am a random note taker/list maker/doodler. There was only one “free” Notes page in the whole planner. All other pages were pre-labeled. I need more pages for writing/notes so I have to keep an extra notebook with my planner or paperclip in sheets of paper. It would be great for a few note pages to be added for each month.

To streamline the planner, I also removed pages that were not necessary or relevant. After the initial reading I didn’t need the examples of how to use the planner or planning tips. Removing clutter helps me focus!

Overall, with a bit of tweaking, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is working for me. Will I buy this next year? Not likely. There was a bit too much tweaking with all the pre-labled pages. With our family size and learning method, I need more flexibility. However, I will continue to tweak and use it.

Other Crew Members have been using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. Every family is different so take a moment to see how others have been using this planner. I know I’m going to go read a few and be inspired.

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Homeschool Planet – Online Planner – A Review

Confession: I love paper and pencil. There is nothing better than a freshly sharpened pencil and a crisp white sheet of paper. For years, this has been my choice in planning methods. While not perfect, it worked. However, with seven of my nine children actively engaged in the pursuit of education, I was struggling to plan effectively and not misplace it or have a child use it for a doodle pad. When Homeschool Buyers Co-op presented their online planner, Homeschool Planet, for review I decided that it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. I had to admit that my current method was failing me.

Second Confession: I signed up for the free trial while I waited for the official review period to begin. And that quickly, I realized that Homeschool Planet was going to succeed where so many other online planners has failed me.

Homeschool Planet – An Overview

Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op provides the opportunity for homeschoolers to purchase resources as  a group and enjoy great savings. I love that they are family owned and operated. But they offer more than just purchasing power. Their newest resource is Homeschool Planet. This is an online planner for homeschoolers designed to help you organize school and life.  Full of helpful features and user friendly, Homeschool Planet is my new best friend.

Homeschool Planet can be purchased yearly ($65) or month-to-month ($6.95/month). A 30 Day Free Trial is available.

Why Homeschool Planet Works For Me

Easy to Use – Over the years I have attempted to use various online planners. Most have quickly sent me in search of a brick wall to beat my head against. Homeschool Planet was like a breath of fresh planning air. I was amazed at how simple it was to set up and begin using. Yes, it took a bit of time. I have seven children to plan for so any method is going to be bit time consuming. There is a How To and Tutorial section to help you out but honestly, I did not need them! This planner is really intuitive and simple to implement.

All in One – Homeschool Planet acknowledges that you are not just educating your children but living life. So not only do you have a planner but also a calendar. This allows you to plan your children’s studies, add events, appointments, and activities to the calendar, and even create “other” lists such as a chore list and have it easily accessible to everyone. So when a child has as orthodontist appointment on the calendar, I know to shift his studies around. We don’t forget to finish up our library books because the return date pops up on the calendar. Trust me, I need all the brain power I can get!

Online Accessibility – With older students that have their own computers and work independently for much of the day, this is a great feature. I can create a password for each of my children and they can log in to Homeschool Planet and view their assignments and activities. I can also give them the ability to edit as well. I generally give my oldest students their assignments for 12 weeks at a time and they decide how to get the tasks completed. They can simply enter in what they completed that week as well.

Printing Feature – This made my younger students quite happy. With Homeschool Planet I make a few clicks with the mouse and can create a customized assignment list to print out for my students. The assignment list includes the chores and assignments for the day with check boxes. My 9 and 7 year old were thrilled to have a printed checklist. My 7 year old asks for her checklist every single morning and loves to get her boxes checked as quickly as possible. I love being able to customize to print just what I want for each student.

Flexibility – This is a key feature for me: the ability of Homeschool Planet to flex with how I educate my children. We use a Charlotte Mason approach in our homeschool so that means many living books are in use and few textbooks. I can schedule Shakespeare, read alouds, and nature study to more than one child for “group studies”. There is a scheduling feature that allows me to enter the number of pages in a book, ending date for completing the book, and the frequency of scheduled readings. Then it gives me a breakdown of the page numbers to be read on the scheduled dates. I love this!

Widgets – The widgets provide the ability to create shopping lists or to do lists for yourself or for those you have allowed access. At first, I didn’t use them that often. Then I realized that I needed to think outside the Widget Box. Using the To Do List Widget, I created specialized To Do Lists. I have a list of book reviews that I need to post on the blog. Books I want to read? Yes. Books that need to be requested? I got it. It is my personal widget post it note tool. And my three year old can’t turn it into her doodle pad.

Rescheduling – Life happens. Instead of cuddling up with the nine year old to read a bit of Marco Polo and discussing the beauty of long division, my morning was spent settling World War III and dealing with a roof leak. Rescheduling a few things was definitely needed. No problem. I can quickly shift uncompleted assignments to the next scheduled days for those subjects and Homeschool Planet will bump everything ahead. Or I can simple double up the assignment or put it on a new day. Simple, easy, and quick!

Customer Service – There is nothing like good customer service. I love dealing with businesses/companies that provide it. Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op provides amazing customer service and tech support for Homeschool Planet. I emailed about an issue I was having with Homeschool Planet. Homeschool Planet provided two options on the assignment page: save or close. There was no auto-save feature. So guess what happened? My browser crashed while I was working on assignments.  I lost all the assignments I had entered. I emailed and asked if there were any plans for an auto-save feature. I emailed late in the evening. Before I went to bed I had an email from tech support saying that they would discuss the issue and apologized for my lost work. When I checked my email the next morning, it was to find a new email from tech support. They now had a “save” and a “save and close” button on the assignment page. I now could save while I was working and no longer worry about my browser crashing. Folks, that is amazing customer service.

Final Thoughts

This is the time of year when many homeschool parents are deep in planning mode. It is the perfect time to give Homeschool Planet’s Free Trial a test run. It truly is a great resource that is easy to use and has flexibility no matter what learning method you use or the number of students you have. I have no doubt that their amazing customer service will be happy to answer any questions you have. Now I’m off to do a bit of planning for the coming term!

As always other Crew Members have been using Homeschool Planet. Take a moment and see how others have made Homeschool Planet work for them!

Homeschool Planet Review
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Planning and High School

Before we were ever expecting our first child, Eddie and I had made the decision to homeschool our children. Oh the fun I had researching curriculum and making plans!  Those days when I sat on the floor reading to Bekah and Mary with Caleb snuggled in my lap, high school seemed so far away. In my mind those years were in the distant future.

Quite honestly, I didn’t think too much about high school. Life was busy. I was savoring and enjoying my kiddos where they were and not worrying about the future. Long range planning and organization would not be high on my skills list.

Then, one day, bam! that little curly headed preschooler was in high school. Not only was Bekah in high school, but Mary was right behind her. This momma did not have a plan.

One day Mary asked me what she had to complete to graduate. Um, good question,darling. She left a note on my desk stating that she had “passed first grade so she had now graduated”. Mary would be a big goofball but it certainly has this momma buckling down on the planning.

My first step was to make sure that current studies were flowing well. I am a pencil and paper girl but am trying to embrace technology and make it work for me. I sat down with Bekah and we discussed her studies, the time she needed to accomplish her assignments, and what method works best for her learning.

We then went to her Google calendar and scheduled her studies. Working in bigger blocks is helpful because she has time to dig deep without being interrupted at a crucial point. We can both access her calendar and make adjustments as needed. Is her schedule set in stone? No. However, it has been a great tool to help her manage her time and responsibilities. We even scheduled Friday as a No Math Day and I think we both enjoy the mental break.

Since this has worked so well for Bekah, a similar system will be set up for my other children who access Google. I haven’t completed ditched the pencil and paper method. Bekah has a printed out assignment sheet and the others will as well. Slowly embracing the technology; slowly.

The next major step is to discuss Bekah’s goals for the future. Decide what our basic “requirements” are for our homeschool and then adjust for Bekah’s personal interests as well. While I hate that I had my head in the sand in regards to how soon the high school years would hit, it is nice to know that I will have it all settled before Martha reaches this point.

Do you have your own requirements for graduating or do you use your state’s guidelines? I’d love to hear about your high school planning!