As a homeschooling mama of 5 small people, my life needs to be well-planned. To be honest, I think any mama, whether she has 1 or 12 small people, needs her life to be well-planned. Apologia Educational Ministries offers a solution for planning and organizing in The Ultimate Homeschool Planner.
For this review, I received The Ultimate Homeschool Planner with an orange cover. (They also offer the planner with a yellow cover and a blue cover.) The 264-page planner is spiral-bound with a sturdy laminated cover that has a pocket inside both the front and the back covers.
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is a planning system designed by Debra Bell. As a mama who successfully homeschooled her own four children, she is definitely qualified to create a planning system that will help busy homeschooling mamas.
When I received the planner, the first thing I noticed were the pockets inside the front and back covers. How wonderful! I'm forever shoving appointment reminders and other notes inside my notebooks or leaving them to clutter up the table where my laptop lives. Finally, a place to put these and keep them organized.
Then I noticed what was written on the pockets. On the inside front: "count your blessings, encourage independence, record your progress" and "'Order brings peace.' St. Augustine (traditional)." On the inside back: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:5-7." If anything sums up what I want my homeschool to be, it is peaceful and encouraging independence, while teaching my small people how to love God.
Let me share with you the different components of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, and then I'll share with you the parts I liked the most and how we used some of them.
- At-a-glance school year calendars for 4 years: 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17.
- A 12-page detailed User's Guide that provides wonderful tips for how to use each section of the planner.
- One-year planning grid
- Student goal setter pages
- Pre-planning pages that include a place to list family priorities and resource lists
- Monthly planner pages
- Weekly planner pages
- Record pages - for grades, reading lists, field trips and outside activities,
- Teaching tips
- High School planning guide pages
- Year in review pages
As I mentioned above, the User's Guide is extremely detailed, which is great for someone like me who could easily become overwhelmed by all of the components in this planner. I love how she explains how The Ultimate Homeschool Planner can be used with The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students and The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens and how we can help foster independence through their use. I definitely want my children to become independent learners since I won't be following them to college to make sure they get their assignments done.
Once I filled in the One-Year Planning Grid pages, I could easily see at a glance when we had commitments like our homeschool co-op days and when we would be taking days off for holidays. I can also see when we have crazy, busy weeks like when our church choirs perform our Living Christmas Tree; we have 2 nights of rehearsals as well as 3 days of performances. It's a good reminder to plan a little lighter that week. Using these pages in conjunction with the Family Priorities page and the Student Goal Setter pages helped me see when there would be good opportunities to work on some long-term goals, like specific character development training.
The monthly planner pages are an absolute Godsend for me. Here's a brief rundown of what all we have going on each week:
- The Boy, Soccer Girl, and Sassy play travel soccer. Each of them have 2 nights a week of practice, but none of them on the same day or at the same place. Games are on Saturdays or Sundays, plus the occasional tournament which span an entire weekend at a time.
- Little Red, Soccer Girl, and Sassy run cross country. Practices are 3 nights a week, although Soccer Girl and Sassy can't go to cross country practice on nights when they have soccer practice. Meets are 2-3 Saturdays a month with an occasional weekday meet.
- Ballerina has dance classes. This year she is taking lyrical and jazz, which meet on one evening, and ballet technique which meets another evening.
- Hubby is coaching 2 travel soccer teams, and neither one of them have our own children on them, which makes it more interesting for trying to coordinate schedules.
The monthly planner pages have large blocks for writing in everything we have going on each day so that I can keep our lives somewhat organized. Another thing I love about the monthly planner pages is the inspirational Bible verses at the bottom of each month. What a sweet reminder it is to read Jeremiah 29:11 about how the Lord knows the plans he has for me as I'm trying to plan the time for our family.
The weekly planner pages cover 4 pages for a week. The first page is entitled The Lord's Day and contains an inspirational quote as well as places to write out a Bible plan for the week, a battle plan for the week (remember that character development training I was talking about earlier? LOL), prayers, and opportunities for hospitality and outreach. The 2nd page has space for writing in memorable moments, achievements, and evidences of grace from the week. Pages 3 and 4 have large blocks to be used as a lesson plan. Since the blocks are blank, you can organize your week by subject or by child. I've done a mix of both since we combine for some subjects.
To say that I love this planner would be an understatement. There are just so many useful components that have helped me become better organized, and I love the fact that it's all in one place.
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