Planning is a huge part of every homeschool mom's life. You need to plan lessons, meals, appointments, clubs, and coops. The lists are never ending. If you have multiple children, the workload increases and so does the need for organization. We recently had the opportunity from Apologia Educational Ministries to review The Ultimate Homeschool Planner designed by Debra Bell.
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ($29.00) offers families, not just 48 weeks worth of planning pages, but also insight on how to organize your homeschool and life the best way you can to meet your family's needs.
Debra Bell offers many suggestions on how to organize your homeschool, including suggestions on how to break up your planning sessions so that you do not feel so overwhelmed with this stage of your year. One of her suggestions is to look back at your previous year as you are starting the planning for your next year. Take a look at what worked and didn't, and make adjustments according to that. Setting priorities is also important, and making your family life a priority is very important. Debra covers this all in a brief planner user guide in the front of the book.
Included in The Ultimate Homeschool Planner are the fairly "typical" planner items that most homeschool families track. There are field trip pages to record trips you go on. A resource list is available for each student so that you can easily track which one of the kids will be using various curriculum. Other standard forms include book lists, grade charts, and transcript charts. There are also pages at the end of the book to fill out how your year went. You can write down setbacks, challenges and progress that you have made. This will make it easier for you to start planning the next year.
I have been using electronic word documents that I created to plan out the kid's weekly plans. So I was a little uneasy about switching back to a paper planner. But I dug in as soon as we received it.
After reading through all of Debra Bell's suggestions, I moved into planning out our week. Each week in the Weekly Planner is broken down into sections. There are your student planning pages, a weekly plan, as well as a spot to write down memorable moments/finished projects from the week. The Weekly Plan has an emphasis on your family's spiritual education.
The Weekly planning pages have room for 6 students and areas for 6 subjects. I unfortunately had to separate this into the whole page for 4 students, because quite frankly I could not write small enough to fit the information in the spaces. The areas are not small, but each lesson for the kids usually has some info to put with it. So after a little creativity, I was able to Set the 4 kids up on the pages. The space at the bottom that is left is where I write down group projects plans for the week.
On the right side of the page, areas are set up to make a project supply list, appointments and any notes you might need to remember for the week. I write my plans in pencil so that I can easily make adjustments as I need to each week, since like most people we have constant adjustments and changes. This is the main reason I was nervous about using paper instead of an electronic planner. I wasn't sure how I would handle the inevitable adjustments.
The first week went fairly smoothly. The adjustments were fairly minimal. And I was able to record our weekly accomplishments before I entered the next week's plans.
There are pockets built into the cover, which have come in handy to keep their readings logs in. The reading logs are not really "homeschool reading list" long enough. So I easily keep those extra pages in the pockets. You can also keep other items, like your Excusal letter from your district or possible curriculum choices for the next year.
I am working on Debra's suggestions of time allotments for planning and we have started using Student pages to help the kids with their organization skills. I have to say I do remember why I was hesitant to give up paper planners before.
I am able to see all the kids without flipping between screens. It is easier to include their group lessons and duplicate assignments for the boys (who do some of the same projects).
The cover of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner seems to be very durable. When we travel, this makes me nervous. Books have a tendency to get damaged being crammed in and out of the suitcases. So I definitely need something not only easy to use, but also durable. The spiral binding is made of a flexible, heavy duty plastic that seems crush resistant in my briefcase.
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner really does provide almost everything that a homeschool family needs for their school planning needs. The only forms that are missing might be specialty forms required by your state, such as hours tracking. Debra Bell has created a wonderful planner at a reasonable price for families. I know that I cannot print planner pages and have them bound in at an office store for at low as $29.00. I have found myself convinced to continue using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner for the remainder of our school year.
Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out the The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia Educational Ministries. Take a few moments to read about how they used this product in their homes and what worked or didn't work for them.