Monday, October 26, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Review Crew
When I saw the first advertisement that Apologia Educational Ministries had published The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, I knew I wanted it! Imagine my reaction when I found out Apologia was letting the Schoolhouse Review Crew review it! Then add to that imagining my reaction when I learned I had been selected to be part of the review!

We did not get to indicate what color we wanted (I would have said "Blue"), but I am very happy with the The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Yellow Cover that arrived on my doorstep late in September. 

The planner is beautiful! I love its colored spine! It makes it easy to spot among my spiral-bound books when it is put away on the shelf. Can you see it?
The planner is approximately 9" X 12 " and has 280 sturdy pages enclosed between two soft plastic covers. (Can you say "coffee proof"? Well, the cover wipes clean and leaves no coffee cup ring, anyway. We'll call it "coffee resistant".)

When your package arrives you will take out your new planner, "Oooo" and "Ahhhh" all over the place, and then you will open the cover. First you will notice a pocket inside the front cover to stash your daily loose papers. You think, "What a great idea!" and immediately you look to see if there is a pocket in back, too. There is! That means, among other things, that with two students, if you want to you can stick one student's papers in front and the other student's papers in back!

So you turn to the first page; you find a calendar for the current school year and next school year.
Then you find the pages that follow have calendars for school years out to 2023! That's huge! I can look to see when my son will graduate high school! Or, if you buy this and don't use it, leave it on a shelf for five years, pick it up then to use it -- it still will have current calendar information for you to use!
So, flipping past the calendars, you then come to a page for you to enter personal information. (I would have preferred this to be the first page inside the cover -- just sayin'.)
Then comes the copyright page, followed by information about the entire planner set, and a letter from the authors (Debra Bell and Zan Tyler), all of which I would have put before the above-mentioned calendars.
The information about the student planners available made me immediately want the teen planner. I "need" the teen planner! I convinced myself. ::sigh:: The truth is that with only one student, even though it might be short-changing my student's growth in independence as well as short-changing The Ultimate Homeschool Planner system, I will get along without the teen planner.

After the letter from the authors comes the Table of Contents, here for you to see.

Next come several pages sharing the idea behind this Planner and how to use it to your best advantage.

 The directions pages have great illustrations.
The weekly Planner pages are blank, so you can put the student names down the side and the days of the week across the top, with all assignments in one square, thus one big planner for all students. Or you can put subjects across the top and days down the left column, or days across the top and subjects down the left. 

The User's Guide tells of the many features of this Planner and how to use them. This Planner is amazing! The User's Guide is followed by a full calendar year, from July to June, that you fill in with dates and activities, so you can get a full year at one view. I blocked off our September vacation and two of our break weeks, inserted holidays and some of our birthdays. I love it!
This is followed by pages for character goals and academic goals for your various students. (I'm not good at that; haven't done it yet. Visualize my son finding I wrote: "Character Goals: Grow Up! Academic Goals: Graduate!")

There are  pages to record the curriculum materials you plan to use, one column for each student (or six columns to divide among your students). This is followed by calendars for you to create month-at-a-glance. I started these with September.
I like the way these calendars have six rows with space below and a column to the right. You never scrunch dates like "23/30" like some calendars do.

What is your worst fear with this type of planner book? "I might make a mistake!" Well, I worked with correction fluid nearby, but I messed up royally. I skipped pages and completed October with unused months between September and October. My calendar pages now go in this order: September, August 2016, November 2015, December, October, January, etc. Why is August after September? Because when I found I had missed pages, I thought I had missed two months. It wasn't until I did July that I thought it odd that the calendar went from September to July. When I investigated I found another blank page right after September. So, it is what it is. You only use one month at a time, right? Anyway, it is for reference for me, not my main calendar. Maybe I will transition, but I'd be scared to take it with me everywhere I go; what if I lost my Planner! Horrors!

After the monthly calendar pages, the weekly Planner pages begin. Each week is a four-page spread. The first two pages have a place to note Bible plan; Battle Plan/Fighter Verse; Prayers; Hospitality/Outreach; The week's memorable moments/achievements; and evidences of grace. I'm not great at using these two pages yet. (I keep my Bible plan on my Academic pages, already.)
The next two-page spread is the academic plan. This is my most-used section.
I like my days of the week, Monday to Saturday, across the top and my subjects down the left column. One student means I have lots of space! I like redundancy. Even though I write "Week of..." I like to write each day's date with the day. I like my subjects to always, always be on the same row. I have used my correction fluid. I am not good at pre-planning; I am not good at checking off what is done. If I write it down, it has been done. I often write it down when we finish it instead of in advance. I already know my basic plan. I plotted it out in advance elsewhere. We are already behind. I don't need to rub that fact in by writing stuff down and whiting it out. I tend to set the bar higher than what we can do, and then we do more than we (he) thought we could.

Best feature (IMHO) of the whole Planner: it has 52 weeks of sets of pages for the weekly planner section! This is what I have always needed/wanted in a planner! I like to have that vacation week written in there so that I can comment that we drove the wildlife loop on Assateague; I like that holiday week written in so that I can comment that the student spent ten hours editing videos on his "time off". 

After the weekly Planner pages, there is a place to record grades. I haven't used it yet. The instructions will probably be helpful, but at first glance it looks confusing. There is one section each for six students, with eight columns (grading period averages?) and one row to list each of six subjects. I would have loved some sort of full-page calendar type page for each subject with a place for a grade each day for each subject for each student. I know; I ask a lot. I'm probably not describing it adequately, either, but I've had such a grade-keeping page in the past. I have to figure out the best way to keep track of my grades with this planner.

There are pages for recording reading lists. This is followed by room to record activities/field trips (Student Service Learning hours?). At the end there are pages of Teaching Tips followed by a very overwhelming high school planning guide ("My Spanish 1 student should already be doing Spanish 3?"). The "suggested" or example has a very aggressive schedule. I am no where near that far along. ("Breathe deeply!") It is only an idea, a glimpse. You create your own plan the page before it. 

The Planner concludes with a place to record "The Year in Review" followed by a "Notes" page (a great place to put your account log-in and password information for all those on-line accounts!) followed by a Bibliography, "About Debra Bell", and information about more Apologia products.

In conclusion: I love this Planner. I've been using a digital planner that sent a daily schedule to the student, but he was ignoring the emails. We were behind and I didn't have time to get on and adjust the schedule. I'm a paper kind of gal. It is helpful to have paper documentation when I go to my state-required home school review.

I love my Apologia Planner.

When I first received my Planner I did not need to immediately take a planning retreat -- I had already done it. My materials were already selected; my plans were already plotted out for completion of each course (best-case scenario being finish each textbook/follow schedule perfectly). We were already behind.
It was fun to work, the first few weeks, to get the Planner set up (using every spare minute I could find). I fell in love with a certain brand's "G-2" pens. They dry quickly on these planner pages (but not on the dried correction fluid). They are dark! They show up nicely in my photos. I can see my notes quickly and easily.

I certainly read through all the directions pages straight-off, but my mind quickly sorted through what I really cared about in the Planner and what I just wasn't ready to be concerned about just yet. My school year began September 8th, although if I think of anything done after school ended in June I'll find a way to note it somewhere (like I noted Boy Scout Camp in July on the full-year calendar spread).

My son is still not independent. I am still not having a Sunday afternoon session to plan out my week, nor am I having a Monday morning session to tell my student what his assignments for the week are. Many days/weeks I feel I am just barely surviving home schooling (and wish he was willing to attend outside classes, college dual enrollment, or even {gasp!} public school!). If I get through the entire year with a daily or weekly record of what we have accomplished, it will be an improvement over last year.

This is an excellent Planner. My "failure" with it shows you that no matter how good the product, if the user doesn't adequately use the product, the best product still can't deliver the hoped result. Personally, I don't see my variances with the product as failure. I have adjusted the method of intended use to meet me where I currently am in my home school. My records are now better than they were thanks to this Planner. Later, if I am able to implement even more changes, maybe I'll order the Teen Planner. My week might include a Sunday planning session and a Monday student session, and my son will/might grow in independence.

No matter which way you look at it, I love my Planner and have benefited from having my new Planner. I wish I had used this Planner for my student last year (9th Grade), and I want to use one next year and for 12th Grade. I love it that much. (I still love blue. Next year I'll buy the blue one.)

Thank you for reading. Take a look at these sample Planner pages. Tell me what you think.

Other members of the Review Crew also reviewed The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. To see other Planner reviews, please click the button below.
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