Thursday, October 29, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: Apologia's Ultimate Homeschool Planner #hsreviews

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner
The hardest part of using a cool new planner is . . . writing in it for the first time.  It's almost like defiling it, you know?  I  want a handwriting that just looks cool and quirky and clever so that I feel cool and quirky and clever.  Instead, I spend days trying to decide which pen would be the best to use (because I'm weird about pens -- just ask my Bunko girls) and looking for an inconspicuous place to begin writing.  That's probably way too much of confession to start a review, but I just needed to get it out there so that you would understand when I tell you that I LOVE The Ultimate Homeschool Planner -- Orange Cover published by Apologia Educational Ministries.  I love it SO MUCH that I've moved right on past my "weird ideas" and I'm marking it up.  The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is a planner designed for life's happenings.  Its pages are meant to be written on and marked through and prayed over and loved.  It is meant to accompany you to the soccer field and Girl Scouts, to church and on errands around town.  That's exactly how I'm using mine.

I LOVE to plan stuff.    I like the "thinking it through and getting it down on paper" process.  I plan vacations and designate what we are going to do when; I even add restaurant suggestions to my travel planner.  I recently helped my daughter plan her wedding -- and we pulled it off without a hitch.  She still liked me when it was all over and thought the entire thing was "magical."   I plan a ministry calendar at church to decide on big events and activities throughout the year for children from birth - 8th grade.  My biggest challenge of all, though, is planning our homeschool year.  I have to plan a school year of curriculum and activities and field trips -- and leave room for extracurricular and unexpected changes.  Because they come.  Boy, do they come.

We've been homeschooling for 16 years and I've tried lots of different ways to put the yearly plans onto paper (I'm still a pen and paper girl), but nothing has come as close to actually being a workable idea until The Ultimate Homeschool Planner came my way.  Finally, I've found the planner that my heart loves.    

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner
So, I found a pen that I like and I got started writing on the pages of my Planner.  That perfect pen combined with the perfect weight of paper makes for an Oh, so perfect Planner!  I especially like that the pages are such that what I write on one doesn't show through on the next when I turn the page.  And really what helped me get past my "fear" of writing on the page the most was actually reading the How-To portion of the User's Guide.

I'll be honest and admit that I often skip or just skim over User Guides in general, but this is one you are going to WANT to read.  The welcome letter puts it so eloquently-- this is the most important documentation you can keep about your homeschooling years.  It's what your kids will want to remember; it's what your grandchildren will want to hear about.  GOD is faithful from generation to generation.  That will preach.  And convict.  It makes me look at this whole "planning thing" in an entirely different light.  (And makes me more than a little sad that I haven't been doing this for the last 16 years.)  YES!  I want to document GOD's faithfulness to my family from generation to generation.  Teach me how, please.

Written by homeschool veteran, Debra Bell, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner walks you step-by-step through how to plan for your entire school year beginning with PRAYER.  Debra highly recommends that you set time aside at the beginning of your school year to retreat and pray and hear from GOD.  She helps you set goals for your family unit and for your individual children as you determine priorities and prayer concerns.

I know I've already mentioned this, but I just cannot emphasize strongly enough just how much this section has meant to me.  Although I haven't been able to retreat away from everyone due to the timing of this review, I am looking very closely at who we are and where we need to be and I am remembering that the key word is TRUST.  I'm looking forward to a mini-retreat over the holidays when I can re-evaluate and organize even more.

Larger than your typical 8 1/2 by 11 spiral-bound notebook,  The Ultimate Homeschool Planner comes in three different colored covers (heavy-duty laminated cardstock for super durability) and each color has a slightly different arrangement of the practical-use pages.   I was sent the orange Planner, and some of my friends received the blue and the yellow planners.  We've all been chatting away about how much we love this Planner no matter which color we received, so feel free to choose whichever color makes you happy and know that you'll have all the same wonderful "stuff" inside.  There are pages and pages designed to help you and guide you and teach you how to experience GOD's full GRACE.

As a matter of fact, there are 264 pages:

  • pages for yearly, monthly, and weekly planning
  • pages for listing character and academic goals (You can see that I have chosen to work on one character quality at a time with my children and included the Bible verses that I am basing those on.)
  • pages to list the resources you are using with each child
  • pages for prayer concerns and Scripture you'll use in your Battle Plan for the week with special spaces to make note of the hospitality you show to others
  • pages for keeping track of what's being read in your home
  • pages for grades and records
  • pages for field trips and outside activities
  • pages for memorable moments and evidences of GOD's love and grace

Character and Academic Goals

Wow Just WOW!  There are even pages of teaching tips and motivational tools, learning styles and thinking skills, strategies for planning high school, and space for your year-end review.  I love each and every page -- and I am using them all.

The very best way for me to explain to you how this works for us is to SHOW you.  I hope you don't mind.  

Pictured below is my 2-page spread for the month of November.  I have written in the major things that I need to be aware of (doctor's appointments, field trips, time I will be away, standing activities, and, of course, THANKSGIVING!) that will have a direct impact on our school schedule.  Both my husband and my oldest daughter will be on holiday during the week of Thanksgiving, so I've simply marked it as FAMILY.  I want to make sure that we save ample time to hang out with one another and minister to each other that week.  You might notice that the 11th - 14th dates are circled.  That signifies that I will be out of town and I want to make sure that my children are aware that things will be different during that time.  I've noted on the calendar some specifics for us all.  In the right-hand margin, I've written a key to my abbreviations so that everyone knows what's going on and what is expected.  We'll be doing a Countdown to Thanksgiving series for the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and each lesson is noted.  

November at a glance
I use the monthly calendar as a simple overview.  I do keep a color-coded calendar on my phone that lists work schedules for both the Eagle Scout and the Princess, as well as tons of other stuff, but the calendars in this Planner helps us to prioritize all things SCHOOL-related and keeps us focused and on-task.

The weekly planner pages offer plenty of space for me to list individual assignments for each child and gives them a place to check what they need to complete and offers a spot for accountability that they have actually done those things assigned.  We use these pages as our measure of success and they help us to truthfully acknowledge in our weekly review sessions whether or not we have been good stewards of our time.  This is the spot where the Eagle Scout and the Princess can look to see what is required of them daily.

It is obvious that The Ultimate Homeschool Planner  was designed BY a homeschooler FOR a homeschooler.  The included Resource List pages helps me keep everything in one place for easy access (instead of in the four different notebooks that I can never find when I need them).  There are even pockets in the front and back covers which are perfect for holding test papers printed from online courses and ticket stubs or flyers from field trips and plays.  

Resource Lists and Pockets for tests make this PERFECT for homeschool moms.

Encouraging quotes and uplifting Scripture adorn the pages and keep me grounded in the day-to-day battle.  The Ultimate Homeschool Planner  is not only beautiful, but it is also usable in the trenches.   As I write in it, I am learning how to better organize all of our days and help us to focus on the ONE who is in charge of all of our hours.  I am excited to know that at the end of this school year, I will have a written testimony of LOVE as walked by our family.  That is exactly what I needed a planner to do for me -- remind me that ultimately it is about so much more than academics.  I am thankful to have found this one from Apologia Educational Ministries.

Do your family a favor and check out The Ultimate Homeschool Planner .  Apologia has long been one of our family favorites -- from science curriculum to personal encouragement for momApologia has you covered.  You can connect with them and find out how they can best serve your family through the following Social Media links:

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review The Ultimate Homeschool Planner -- Orange Cover as a member of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew thought of this and other products as well (or just click on the banner below.)

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