Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner: A Review

I’m sure you’ve seen those photos of the dad’s standing, hopelessly lost, in the diaper or baby food aisle. They look at all the choices for hours. There’s so many to choose from and they don’t know what would be best for their baby! It enevitably lasts until either the mom is reached on the cell or some kind stranger takes pity on them and points them in the right direction.

That was me about a month ago. Only I wasn’t standing hopelessly lost in the baby section, (I mean, I do have six kids! I can find my way around there in my sleep!)

I was hopelessly lost in my local Parent Teacher Store with my sister-in-law impatiently waiting on me to figure out what planner I wanted to buy. She pointed out all the cool features on each of them as I turned them down for one reason or another. I couldn’t find what I wanted. She eventually gave up on me and wondered off to explore the other goodies in the store while I stood there… staring blankly.

I came out of the store empty handed (as far as planners are concerned… who can really walk out of the Parent Teacher store empty handed?!?) and came home disappointed.

I scoured the internet determined to find the perfect homeschool planner, but a little sceptical about buying such an important tool online where I couldn’t touch it and flip through the pages before I bought it.

I had no luck. For days. I was about to give up!

Finally, I was placing an order through Christianbook.com for some other school related things and decided to check out their planners. That’s when I stumbled upon this:

It sounded too good to be true, so I bought it. For $22, it wasn’t a huge investment if I didn’t love it. I eagerly awaited the mail and dragged my sister-in-law to the post office to pick it up with me when I missed the mail truck!

I wanted to share a little bit about what’s in it, how it’s laid out, and how I’m using it to help anyone who’s sitting at the computer lost like I was! You may click on any of the pictures to see them full size! 

So let me just start off by saying, “love this planner!” It is too good to be true… but it’s right here on my desk! It has enough structure to make it easy for us un-creative minds, and enough flexibility to accommodate even our crazy homeschool schedule!

The first thing I did was to apply tabs to certain sections of it. It is SO flexible that had they added their own tabs, it probably would not have worked for the way I set it up, so I didn’t mind it at all. It starts out with a four year calendar divided from July to June. I divide our school year from January to December, but the calendar is still very useful.

The next 10 pages are devoted to teaching you how to make the most out of the planner. The sections are “How to Use the Ultimate Homeschool Planning System“, “Yearly Planning Retreat“, “Monthly Planning Sessions“, “Weekly Planning Sections“, and “Monday Tutorials and Friday Afternoon Reviews“. These sections not only include written instructions, but illustrations of different ways to make the planner most effective for you and your homeschooling style.

You must read these pages! I’m sure that anyone could make a good go at using this planner without reading the instructions, but you won’t love it and it won’t fit perfectly for your homeschool unless you do!

The next few pages are ones you should at least begin filling in during your yearly planning retreat. Ms. Bell said she takes hers at the library, but I just waiting until Saturday and shut myself in the school room for a few hours while Dad occupied the children. Use a pencil when filling it out. I don’t like using a pencil at all, but trust me! Suck it up and pull out the lead- you’ll thank me for it later!

You come to the One Year Planning Grid.  These pages have the entire year laid out in front of you (minus dates- you have to add those). This is so that at your Yearly Planning Retreat, you can add any significant events or time you’re taking off of school. You get an entire school year outlined so you can see the ‘big picture’.

After that comes the Student Goal Setter . It has room for six children (Woot!) and is divided for each into Character Goals and Academic Goals. Of course, you’re children don’t have to be school aged to be included in the planner. In fact, it’s recommended that you DO plan for the major events in their lives because they will take your attention, however slight, from homeschooling and should be accommodated.

The last pages in this section are the Family Priorities and Resource Lists. Family Priorities is just that- the goals for your children and your family that come first. Resource Lists are also pretty self explanatory.

From pages 26 to 49 are your Montly Planners. These are each a two page spread of the month. The dates and months are left blank so you must fill them in, but this leaves it open to start any month of the year you’d like to.

One thing I love here is how much room you have outside of the actual calendar space to write. I’m using that space to jot down notes, special reminders, or gift lists. 🙂 One of the things I wish would have been a little different is the daily spaces have 3-4 lines to write in them, I would would love to be able to use these pages as a menu planner as well which would require a little more space.

After we’ve gone through all of that, you get to the meat and bones of the planner: The Weekly Planner.  Each week actually has a four page spread! The first two pages include the sections Week of (which also has a little verse or quote for encouragement), Bible Plan, Battle Plan, Fighter Verse, Prayers, and Hospitality/ Outreach. The opposite page has sections for This Week’s Memorable Moments, Achievements, and Evidences of Grace. 

 

Flip the page and you’ve come to a blank six by six grid for filling in your lesson plans. It also has space on the sides for notes, supplies, and appointments, as well as another little encouraging quote or verse. I started  filling my planner out ‘traditionally’: the students on one side and the days of the week at the top. It wasn’t a great fit for me. The children felt overwhelmed and I was exhausted trying to keep everyone on days. So, I switched! Now, my planner is laid out with children on the side and subjects along the top. The children and I can see what they have to do in each area instead of having a long list for each day. We all feel better about it and actually get the work done!

Starting on page 242 are your records. There are pages for Grades, Reading List for up to six children, and Field Trips-Outside Activites for six children. (I don’t have pictures for these, because I’ve not used them very much as of yet.)

From pages 250-257 are Teaching Tips. These include Checklist for Raising an Independent Learner, Motivating the Reluctant Learner, Learning Styles and Thinking Skills, and a High School Planning Guide. The planner closes with 2 full sized, lined pages for Year End Review and Notes. 

This planner is spiral bound so it will lay flat or fold up (LOVE!), and the cover is soft and kind of plastic-y. It would, in my opinion, be much better as a hard-back, but it’s not detrimental to the overall awesome-ness of it!

There are pockets on the front and back cover. The first is holding my way-ward menu-plan and shopping list, because I plan that when I’m planning our days. The back one is holding my children’s papers that are waiting to be included in their portfolios. The pockets are fairly sturdy, so I’m pleased with them.

One more benefit I’d like to mention is that this planner is part of a system! Coming in March (I think), is a student planner designed for younger students and a High School Planner for the older ones. It is designed so that you plan in the Ultimate Homeschool Planner (yours), have your students copy and arrange in theirs, and then you review with them on Friday. Apparently, this is to teach the kiddos to be more responsible for their schoolwork and learn better time management skills. I, personally, can’t wait until the student planner comes out… we’ll be buying three copies! All of these are compatible with The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling also by Debra Bell.

 

Overall: Buy this planner. It’s chock full of awesome-ness and is worth more than what you’ll pay for it!

 

Shalom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.s. This review is all me. I wasn’t compensated for my time, energy, or opinion- I just wanted to share an awesome product I found with you! Any persons seeking a review of their product can contact me through the email button to the upper left.

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