Monday, October 26, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia {review}

If there's one thing homeschoolers like to do, it's plan.  Well, except maybe relaxed homeschoolers like myself, or unschoolers, but I think the The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia Educational Ministries can be used by any type of homeschooling family, even those that don't like to plan at all!

What Is It?
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Yellow Cover (also available in orange and blue) is a planning system for homeschoolers, written by Debra Bell.  It is a year-long, undated planner with yearly, monthly and weekly calendars.  The User's Guide basically tells you how to use the system along with a yearly planning retreat, monthly planning sessions and weekly planning breaks to eliminate chaos and bring more order to your life.  There is a pre-planning guide, which includes a resource list for up to six students.  There's also a place to record field trips, book lists, and there's a whole section of Teaching Tips to help you with independent learners, learning styles, or reluctant learners.  As part of a planning system, there's also a student planner and a teen planner that compliment this ultimate planner to help students become independent and take responsibility for their work.

Now, I said I think even unschoolers and non-planners like myself can get just as much use out of this as a a marathon planner.  The reason why is because of the layout.

The bulk of the "planner" is the calendars.  First the yearly grid lets you put in important dates, holidays, vacations and other events that are likely to disrupt your routine.  Then there are the 12 monthly calendars.  Each month is a two page spread, so you see everything at once and you can write in appointments, field trips or other activities that are likely to override your typical daily schedule.

Then comes the weekly planner.  This is actually comprised of four pages (two full two-page spreads) for each week.  Page One allows you to write in a variety of plans:  Bible, Battle Plan, Prayers and Hospitality/Outreach goals.  Page Two is more of a journal area to remind yourself of memorable moments, achievements and both the big and small victories for the week.  This is a fantastic resource for any homeschooler. as it allows time for reflection.

Pages Three and Four of each week are the calendar area.  It is blank, so you can organize it by days, by child, by subject...whatever works best for you.  Since we typically don't do school on co-op days and many subjects are covered through unit studies together as a family, I opted to write our main subjects across:  Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts and Extras.  Then I can go down the rows with each child, include unit studies like the "How to Use" section recommends, and still have room for me to put in items for myself to complete through the week.

The good thing about it being a blank template is that you can trial and error, or rearrange your headings until you find just the right method.  The weekly calendar still has room for notes and supplies, so I can see at a glance that I'll need certain materials and can get them out the day we're doing the experiment or project.  The appointments box allows me to write in golf lessons, co-op times, field trips and appointments, which works well for me since I don't use a Mon-Fri format.  I've found that I still prefer to write in what we do after-the-fact, but the planner works well for that.

I Love . . .
There are many features that really stick out to me in this planner.  First of all, it is undated which makes it ideal for families who do not follow traditional schedules.  Families that start at different times of the year, school on the weekends, or take weekly breaks throughout the year don't "lose" anything since they can format it as needed.  The blank template is helpful for someone who want to design the layout of their planner to meet their specific and unique homeschooling needs.  As someone who doesn't always plan ahead, I can still record what we've accomplished and use it in a way that works for me.  The pocket folders on the front and back covers are a nice touch, to temporarily store my unit study planning page or all those random papers that inevitably get shoved into my planner.  The planner is filled with verses and quotes on every page, which can be a true inspiration at just the right moment.  Also, I love the lists.  The ability to list resources, field trips and reading lists is fabulous!  I love being able to jot things down in my planner, because I use my planner as a reference when creating our annual portfolio.

I Wish . . . 
There is only one little thing that could make me love this planner more, and that would be tabs of some sort.  The planner I was previously using had monthly tabs.  Each one took you to the monthly layout, which was followed by the weekly pages.  However, I realize why that wouldn't work with an undated calendar and I think an undated calendar wins out.  I can use bookmarks, but even if there were tabs for the different sections, such as for the Monthly Planner, Weekly Planner, Records, Tips, etc, that would be helpful.

Final Thoughts
I've always heard good things about Apologia.  So far I've only used their Field Trip Journal and the Ultimate Homeschool Planner, but I can see why they are a popular company.  The products are beautiful and made of quality material, they are thorough and detailed, and they speak to your heart.  This planner is full of pearls of wisdom, inspirational quotes, and tips from someone who has "been there, done that" and wants to help us all get through it in the best way we can.  The planner is packed full of useful information and planning pages, and I highly recommend it.

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner


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