Even though I don’t really plan ahead, I’m always on the hunt out for a good planner for us to write down the things that we did after the fact. Often, the planners are rigid and difficult to implement, so after a while I just give up. So, when I received the opportunity to review The Ultimate Homeschool Planner–Orange Cover from Apologia Educational Ministries, I was hopeful to have a space that would be flexible enough to call my own, but structured enough to make my homeschool look organized and efficient. (I know it sounds like wishful thinking, but a girl can dream, right??)
About the Planner
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is a system designed by Debra Bell to allow homeschool parents to make their lives easier. By taking some time to set our priorities and to plan a sketch out for the week, you’re going to ensure that you have some peace of mind.
There’s a particular way that the author would have you to work through the planner, and that is to begin by committing to an annual planning section with monthly follow-up planning. Then, you would also spend a little time planning each week with handing off of student responsibilities for independent tasks at he beginning of the week and providing some end of the week feedback to your children for their independent work at the end of your school week.
The actual planning pages (after the instructions for how to use the system) begins with a one year planning grid. This is where you can block out vacations, holidays, co-op days, known field trips and other things so that you’ll know when throughout the year will be most efficient for working on your goals, and so you’ll know how much time you truly have on your schedule for school and other family projects.
The next pages are a place for long-range, one year planning as well. Here there is space for up to six children to set their character goals and academic goals for the year. There’s a page just after that for family priorities. These are your most important goals and priorities as a family for the coming year, and your prayer list for what happens.
After I set up the annual calendar to mark off blocks of time and began to think about some priorities for each of my children, there were a couple of priorities that leapt off the page for me:
- This is the year that I want Rose to learn how to read. There is no other academic priority that has more importance to me for this school year.
- We’ve lost a great bit of the fun that our home had in it and play over the past couple of years, and I’m seeing some strong streaks of sibling rivalry and discord in our house. It’s time for us to do more things as a family, to spend more time in playful and fun projects and to bring the fun back into our family so that I have less sibling tension and jealousy. This is the most important priority that I have for our home right now, and it is the driver in many of my decisions that I’m making for our family.
Once you’ve established priorities, then you can begin to add in resources, this planner has half a page per student (up to six students) to write in resources that you’re planning to use with them in the coming year.
Once you get past that, there is a monthly planner where you can set up the framework of your month each month and do a little planning around co-ops, classes, field trips and other special events to create an overview of what your month will look like. I learned pretty quickly, using this form that October really wasn’t going to be a month given to big bookwork accomplishments.
Then, comes the main part of the planner. There are forty-eight weeks of weekly planning pages. Each week has a four page spread of materials for your week.
The first two pages are a great overview of your week. You have a place to put your Bible plan for the week, your battle plan (including verses to remember), prayers, hospitality/outreach, the memorable moments of the week, achievements, and evidences of God’s grace throughout the week.
I think these pages are my favorite pages for each week. The prayers and the hospitality/outreach hold me responsible for praying for the people that I way I will, sending cards to people who need encouragement, condolences, etc., making meals for those who need feeding and even some fun things to help reach out and make a positive difference in our community. The memorable moments and the evidences of grace are really the best parts of our week where I can write about the fun field trip, the devouring of Pokemon manga, the little prayers that God answers and the little accomplishments that happen each and every week if I only look around for them.
The other two pages for each week are standard planning pages that you have the flexibility to organize however you would like. There are six divisions both horizontally and vertically, and I use those divisions for days of the week across the top and the subject areas I want to emphasize down the left hand side. I don’t fill this part in until after it is done so that I can have a continual record of what we’ve been doing this week.
Towards the end of the planner there are places to record grades, create a reading list for each child, record field trips and activities for each child, a place to map out high school credits and a place to write a year end review.
This is a big planner with many moving pieces and it works out very well when you put the time in pre-planning. Because of the time I’ve spent pre-planning on those sheets, I’ve been more able to really assess what a successful week looks like in our house. I know that if I’m going a week without Rose working on English that I’m not getting her any further towards my goals for her as a student this year.
I’ve also learned from pre-planning that lately I’ve been so busy trying to get my kids from point A to point B that I’ve been guilty of putting my relationship with them secondary to the things that we accomplish. I’ve also got children who are feeling left out and that I’m not doing the fun things with them that I do with the other children, which has me realizing that I need to return to the unit study format that our house had two years ago and has completely left behind, but not for the better. No wonder I dealt so much with burnout earlier this year.
I also found that if I had a general idea those things and of the actual time we had for school in the week, that I wasn’t spending so much time frustrated with the things that we didn’t accomplish. Instead, I was looking at the things that we accomplished and enjoying them.
However, even with the planning pages, the weekly pages were flexible enough that I was able to fill in the school pages after the fact and our homeschool looked a lot more accomplished that it feels in midst of the week, providing me with a continual record of accomplishment that I’m able to reference as I’m looking at progress for each of my children. That makes this planner a winner in our house.