October 27, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner {Product Review}

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I had the PERFECT homeschool planner last year. It was basic with pretty much just blank calendars and blank planning pages with a spiral binding. Perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn't available in printed form for this year, just digital/downloadable. I am a paper and pencil kind of person and prefer to NOT print off all my pages. I am also so picky about my planners, that though I have tried many of the new and popular free/inexpensive designs, I haven't been able to find the one I am happy with. Did I mention I'm also sort of a Type B organizational sort of person which means bare minimum work or I give up and run?? After scanning the information about the Ultimate Homeschool Planner--Orange Cover from Apologia Educational Ministries, I was hopeful that maybe this one just might be what I was looking for and was eager to review it.

Product Information

Apologia Educational Ministries is one of the THE top companies for all things homeschooling with a Christian perspective, in fact they are the #1 publisher of creation-based science curriculum and have won countless awards for their high quality products. With a full range of curriculum, resources, and online classes, they are a company ready to help make homeschooling easier. Included in their product, is a full line of planners for the homeschooling family. Of these, one of the most popular is the Ultimate Homeschool Planner.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ($29) is a beautiful day-planner by best selling author Debra Bell, designed to help you prioritize your day from your personal prayer and Bible Study, to your homeschool goals, lessons, assignments and appointments. The 48 week planner includes inspirational quotes on the calendar, customized daily, weekly, monthly and yearly planning forms for up to six children, reading lists, year end reviews, and more! The planner has a spiral binding with a sturdy cover also containing two pockets. The planner is available in a yellow, orange, or blue cover. 

I was given The Ultimate Homeschool Planner--Orange Cover to review for my own use. 

How Did I Use The Product?

I admit. I was initially very skeptical about this planner. I have tried so many other planners, that I just didn't really think this one would be any better--even though it looked good on the website. When it arrived, however, I immediately admired the quality and design. I loved the big spiral binding and the pockets in the cover right off the bat! As I continued to flip through it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually just the style of planner I liked: there wasn't a lot of extras in it. It was almost entirely made up of exactly what I desired--blank calendars and weekly lesson planning forms. 

But, before I dove into the parts I especially wanted, I explored it from the beginning to see the recommendations for how it should be used. There are several pages at the beginning to do just that--including a table of contents to quickly find the section you are looking for.

In the introduction--or User's Guide--the author advises and encourages the user to make it their own, but gives plenty of ideas on how I can do that. One of the first things she (Debra Bell), talks about is that God designed us to live a "God-ordered life." Okay. I see right away that this planner is geared for the Christian homeschool mom (like me!) and I settled in to read more. One of the things that the author suggests in the introduction pages of the planner, is that every Friday afternoon, there should be a weekly review section with each student--just 15 minutes or so--to reflect back on the week and talk about the highlights, successes, and challenges. I had never considered doing this, and found it interesting that the author included a portion of the lesson planning pages FOR this. I knew I wanted to explore this more.

For the rest of the introduction (User's Guide), she gives you ideas on how to use each section of the planner including ways to promote independence in your student. Including ways to correspond your planner with her Ultimate Daily Planner for Students or Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens for your children.

Here are some photos of these pages:

Once I worked through the user's guide, I dove right in. I actually went ahead and did the student goal setter to set some character and academic goals for each child. Again, each planning section allows for up to six children, so I had plenty of room with just my two.

The next section was the blank monthly planner. I love that it's blank AND that there is TONS of room for writing notes on the side, and on the bottom--not just in the days themselves. The monthly planner is also big enough to overlap into the next month by about a week--this is very handy if you need a week's glance ahead (me me!). Each two-page spread also includes a scripture (at the bottom) and an inspirational quote (top right). 
Look at all that beautiful space!

Love the extra room for notes!!
After the monthly planner comes the weekly planner. A special aspect of the weekly planner is the two page pre-week planner. I call it this because you sort of fill it out before your week begins, as well as take notes during your week. It includes an inspirational quote or passage, Bible Plan (for your to jot notes about focus for the week from your Bible), Battle Plan (things you want to address this week--with a fighter verse to get you going), Prayers (self-explanatory), and Hospitality/Outreach (what are you going to do for others?). The second page is where you note down memorable moments, achievements and evidences of grace throughout the week. This is the page that gets shared with your children during the Friday weekly review. 
Love this Page for Pre-Planning!
The actual weekly planner itself is very basic and exactly what I was looking for. I had plenty of room for BOTH boys for all their subjects and assignments, with extra room for notes, supplies lists and appointments. I found there was yet ANOTHER inspirational quote on each week's page. There are enough of these for 48 weeks. More than enough for a single school year!
You can either go 6 categories across the top, or 6 down the side. I chose to do subjects down the side and then a 5 day school week--this gives me even ANOTHER column for notes! Yay!
The rest of the planner contains: 

*Record pages for grades, reading lists, and activities/field trips. Remember--always enough for up to six children! 
I am recording the few test stores that I actual get for Little Britches for my own reference.
*Teaching Tips (6 pages worth)
*High School Planning Guide
*Year-End Review (for summarizing progress made)
*Notes (Just a blank page for notes)
As of this week, I have gone through a monthly planning page and have October thru December laid out with major appointments, due dates and trips. I have used the weekly planning pages for three full weeks worth of lessons for two children.

What Are My Thoughts On This Product?

As you could read interspersed through my description of the product, I pretty much adore it!! It really is EXACTLY what I need! And I have to admit--I think I love it even MORE than the planner I used last year because this one has even less extras, AND it has a bigger binding and...two pockets! Woot! I take my planner pretty much everywhere...even using it while we were on our trip to Jekyll Island to plan out our school routine while we were there.
This was me confiscating a table in our beach house for planning!
I especially love that the monthly calendars are BIGGER than just 4 weeks. I like being able to write down what's going on the first few days or the first week of the following month! Helps me stay on top of due dates and appointments! 

I have found the weekly planning guide to be very very helpful. I have enough room for all my subjects and assignments and I CAN do a fourth grade student and a Kindergartner all on one two page spread which is fabulous. And the extra margin for notes, supplies and appointments? Love it!
I'm a big quote/scripture person, so having these peppered on every single page just warms my heart. I love that this planner helps me be God focused in my planning.

Is there anything I don't like?--well, okay. The $29 price tag. I love my planner very very much. But the jury is still out on whether I love it enough to put down $29 of my homeschool budget for one. But when I think of all the ink and paper it's saving me, because I'm not printing everything out...well, I think I will probably just budget it in! 

ETA: Yes! I love it enough to buy it for $29!!!! I am still using it as of today (MARCH 2016). Having it spiral and just what I like--worth the money!

Oh--and attendance. It would be nice to have a few pages of basic attendance forms. That's the one form I wouldn't mind adding. Now if only they could get a pink covered one....(hint hint!)

Would I Recommend This Product?

Oh yes. If you are like me--more of a Type B basics only planning/organizing sort of person, then this is the planner for you. If you want a planner to help you stay more God-focused in your planning, this is the one for you. If you want something that allows you for the basic LIFE planning as well as homeschool planning-yep, this one is for you too. Paper and Pencil person for lesson planning? Yep. Got you covered. Inspirational quote/scripture lover? Boom. This is for you. Need to plan for up to 6 kids? No problem!

If you are wanting a lot of forms to help you plan LIFE, not just homeschool...nope. If you aren't wanting anything religious minded--nope. If you want something to keep track of attendance--you will have to add a page on your own or something. That's one thing this one doesn't do. There are no menu planning, no budgeting, no big goal setting pages. So if you want more of a DAILY planner, this one probably isn't the best one for you. And if you want a CHEAP planner--well you get what you pay for...this one isn't cheap, but it's rather incredible.

I encourage you to go to the website and check it out! They also have some sample pages and the TOC that you can download for a closer look!

It's my new homeschooling best friend. I pink puffy heart love it. :0)

Want To Know More?

I reviewed The Ultimate Homeschool Planner--Orange Cover ($29) from Apologia Educational Ministries. You know that I am in love with this planner for all the basic aspects it offers...but I encourage you to visit some of the other crew members to see how they used it with multiple children, or with some of the extras I didn't choose to use.
Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
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So there you have it. My search is over. I HAVE found the planner of my dreams! I am so thankful and grateful AGAIN for the review crew products that come my way. I am confident that this planner will help me stay on top of our school year for a better chance at organizational success--in my own little scattered type B way!

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