It’s so hard for me to believe, but in just a few short weeks, this first year of homeschooling will be over. Kindergarten will be in the books. I don’t want to contemplate that too long, no matter how much I’m looking forward to a break over the summer! 🙂 With that said, I am already thinking about next year and what school will look like for us. I feel like I still have been pretty disorganized over the year, despite my best intentions. I started late in the game in terms of planning, so I am hoping with more of a headstart, things will run more smoothly and I will feel like I have a better overall plan and goals. Plus, our state homeschool convention is next month, and we definitely want to have a better grasp on what we’re looking for when we hit up that massive vendor hall.
With all of that running through my mind the past couple weeks, I was pleased to have the chance to review Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner as I look ahead to the 2013-2014 school year. Created by Debra Bell, this planner (as well as the student planners also available) doesn’t just help you plan out your homeschool courses. Its goal is to help make you aware of God’s faithfulness and activity in your homeschool journey, and help your children become independent learners.
For a newbie like me, I appreciated the user guide in the first 10 or so pages of the planner that detailed how to effectively put it to work for you and your family. After that comes the one-year planning grid to help you get all the holidays, birthdays and already set vacations and activities written in. Once you can see all of those at a glance, you can fill out each month’s calendar with the pertinent priorities for those weeks. The heart of the book, the weekly planner section, devotes two double-page spreads to each week. There’s a page for Sundays, where you can keep track of your personal Bible study and spiritual growth; a page to record the week’s memorable moments to enable you to reflect on the successes in your students and fun times with your family; and two pages for the week’s schedule. The non-detailed six by six grid enables great customization in terms of number of students, days of the week and subjects. Additional features include sections for recording grades, field trips, reading lists and a year-end review.
I filled in as many dates as I could think of for the year-at-a-glance calendar, and then used the resources pages to make notes of curriculum I need to purchase or want to look more into for next year. I also utilized the character and academic goals pages to help me determine what we need to focus on during our next school year. I have to admit I didn’t really do much overarching goal planning this year. With a year’s experience under my belt, I know more in how to approach this facet of homeschooling and I think this planner section in particular will be quite helpful in keeping the next school year on a better track. Also, I appreciate having a place each week to write out spiritual struggles and growth.
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ($28 retail) is part of Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planning System that also includes two student planners ($19 retail each). I was also sent a copy of the Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, which is geared for older elementary and middle school age children. There’s also a teen version for junior/senior high schoolers. The student planner also has monthly at-a-glance calendars and a weekly schedule broken out by day where kids can write in their assignments. There are also sections to record activites, books, grades and other notes, plus several pages filled with helpful hints and information for math, science, English and history. With my only student a kindergartener, I was not able to fully review the use of the student planner, but I plan to bring it out again in a couple years when she’s old enough. It’s definitely geared toward older children, as the younger elementary ages don’t have the necessary skills to use it effectively. I can definitely see how the design of the planner promotes more independence in kids and aids them to take responsibility of their own work.
What I love:
- The year-at-a-glance grid really helps to put the whole year into perspective, in terms of when to take breaks and what else is going on in your family life besides school.
- The planner is made of flexible and sturdy (and cute!) material, with two pockets to help you keep track of loose papers that might otherwise end up lost or trashed.
- The amount of space for weekly memorable moments, as I can be kind of wordy :-), and the large weekly scheduling grid allows me to be detailed with lessons. (For those with larger families, however, space might be more of a problem.)
- The student planner’s helpful hints (pages with things like measurements and math charts, maps, history timeline and grammar rules) is a great tool for students–and moms, too, who have been out of practice for awhile!
- I understand why the planner is undated, as it allows much more flexibility, but I am finding that I prefer all of that to be taken care of beforehand. I might be in the minority, however, as I have seen many people talk about this feature as one of their favorites. I also would prefer the weekly schedule sections to be placed after each month, rather than having to flip back and forth from where all the monthly calendars are to the current week’s pages.
- The lack of an attendance record is not a dealbreaker for me, but given the thoroughness of the rest of the planner, it’s a curious omission. I would find it a very useful feature to have.
If you’re looking for a planner to help guide you in your homeschool journey, check out the Ultimate ones on Apologia’s web site. They’ve even got some pdf samples to help you out. Or discover more about Apologia and these planners at the MR/Apologia Facebook party on Friday, April 12!
Edited 4/12/13: Read more reviews about these planners on the Mosaic Reviews blog!