Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia ~ A Crew Review

Most homeschooling Moms will admit that they know they need to plan for their children’s education. The problem is: you’re not always endowed with great planning abilities the moment you decide to homeschool! Whether you’re an expert planner or a novice, there are several things to love about The Ultimate Homeschool Planner (Yellow Cover) from Apologia Educational Ministries. The planner is also available with an Orange cover or a Blue cover. I received the planner with the yellow cover for this review. 

Apologia has updated The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by adding extra weekly pages so that those who school year-round won’t run out. One of the things that has always been my favorite about this planner (I’ve used it before,) is that it is undated. Being undated allows the freedom to start using it whenever you want without wasted pages like often happens in a traditional school year or calendar year style planner. Fear not, you’ll get your pages dated correctly - there are annual calendars in the front of the planner that go through the 2022-2023 school year. This spiral-bound planner has a sturdy plastic cover with pockets in the front and the back.

At 280 pages, this is not just a planner, it also contains several tutorials on how to plan ~ an awesome addition for those of us born without innate planning abilities! I’ll start at the beginning of the planner and we’ll work our way through it together. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner with the yellow cover is printed in muted tones of yellow, purple, green, and sunset orange. If you prefer brighter colors, you might want to look at the planner with the blue cover. Liberally sprinkled throughout are Scriptures and inspiring quotes. There are loads of tutorial pages in the front of the planner to show you how to use the planner, and give you encouragement to prayerfully prioritize your family’s plans for the year.

As a long-term home educator, I can use all the encouragement I can get, especially when it points me to prayer. It is all too easy to set a goal that is either too easy or too hard because you’re in a hurry to fill the boxes in your planner and get started. Start here in the intro pages and realize that time spent planning is time well spent. You will notice the subtitle on page 6, it says Enjoy a God-ordered Life. You’ll only find that enjoyment while homeschooling if you take time to pray, and then to plan. If you’re new to homeschooling, get your kids something fun to do for a couple of days while you work on reading through the tutorial pages and doing some beginning planning. This planner suggests dividing your planning time into yearly, monthly, and weekly planning breaks. Even if you’re not a huge plan-ahead Mama you can get a lot of benefit from using this planner. More about that later.

The first planning you’ll want to do is the two-page year-long grid. This is an opportunity to block out times you know you’ll be busy (like your husband’s vacation, or summer camp,) giving yourself a realistic look at how much time you might have available to you for homeschooling. The next set of planning pages covers the character and academic goals for each of your children for the upcoming year. This planner has space for up to six students. Then stop and work on the Family Priorities page with your husband. Remember that we’re looking for a God-ordered life, not just a busy one! Finally, utilize the resource list pages for each of your students.

Next up are the monthly calendar pages. The large size of this planner gives you plenty of room for writing in appointments and meetings. The calendar pages actually come with six weekly lines, so if you want to include the first few days from the next month at the bottom of the current month you can - a preview of things to come! The bulk of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is the weekly planning grids. Before each 2-page weekly grid is a 2-page overview section where you can record your Bible plan, battle plan, prayers, hospitality/ outreach plans on the left page, and on the right - the week’s memorable moments, achievements, and evidences of grace.

On the weekly planning pages is a seven by six grid, along with a column for notes, needed supplies, and appointment reminders. You can customize these pages multiple ways. There are examples of the two most-used methods in the tutorial pages in the front. Because our girls are both in High School and use a block-style schedule, I customized the weekly layout with Emily on the left page and Arlene on the right page. I typically plan their schoolwork by the month or at least for two weeks at a  time, and then they are responsible for getting it completed and recorded. Because that means I will have extra weekly pages, I’m using them to plan out my upcoming blog posts!

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ($29,) is designed to integrate with The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students ($19,) and The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens ($19.) The last time I used the Ultimate Homeschool Planner I purchased these two planners for Arlene and Emily to use. These two smaller planners help you teach your students how to track their progress and record the time they spend on their schoolwork.

In the back of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner there are pages (for up to six students,) where you can record scores, keep a reading list for each student and record field trips and outside activities - like volunteer work. The last few pages of the planner include tips for raising an independent learner, as well as motivating a reluctant learner. Then two pages are dedicated to learning styles and study skills. Finally there is a grid showing you a sample High School plan, as well as a blank grid where you and your teen can chart their High School plan.

What if you’re not a big plan-ahead type of Mama? Do some broad overview planning (yearly and monthly,) and then use this planner as a record keeper of all your family does. It is always a good idea to keep track of your children’s accomplishments. I wish I had kept a reading list for each of the girls when they were younger. With this planner I have plenty of room to record what they’re reading now. By the end of the year I may need to use one of those extra planning pages . . . our girls read a lot!

Do you need help to prayerfully prioritize you home and homeschool? Use The Ultimate Homeschool Planner to see the big picture first, and then divide the work into manageable pieces. Remember, your child’s character is just as important if not more so than their education. Don't forget character training in the midst of the everyday lessons.

Visit Apologia’s website to see the various color schemes available for The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. Click the banner below to find out how other Crew members used their planners!

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