Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Apologia's Ultimate Homeschool Planner {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Apologia Educational Ministries is one of the homeschool companies that I rely on most for our homeschool. All of my children have used multiple years of their science programs, Addison is currently using their Constitutional Literacy program, and there's an entire section of my bookshelf devoted to books from their parent resources.

The newest addition to my Apologia collection is a copy of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner designed by Debra Bell.

At the beginning of the planner, there are several pages of information and encouragement directed at homeschool parents. Debra Bell recommends that parents have a yearly planning retreat, monthly planning sessions, and weekly planning breaks. The calendar pages in the remainder of the book follow along with those designations.

The One-Year Planning Grid allows you to see an overview of an entire school year (from July to June) on a single double-page spread. The idea is that you can mark down any commitments that will keep you from having regular school days -- vacations, holidays, church trips, etc. I'm using these pages to plan ahead for some things, but I haven't necessarily set our school days in stone. With my husband starting a new job with some rotating night/weekend shifts, we may not always keep to the strict Monday through Friday school day routine. Instead of committing to school days ahead of time, I'm marking down school days as they happen. (You can see the kids initials on the school days that we've had.) I now have an easy way to count up how close we are to meeting the number of school days required for our state. Following the yearly calendar, there are pages to set goals for each student, write down family priorities, and list resources that may be used in the upcoming year.

The next section includes twelve monthly calendars designed so that I can see all my time commitments in a single glance. I like the quotes included on pages and I'm thankful for the generous amount of room allowed for making notes in the margins. My biggest problem with actually using this monthly calendar is that it's rarely with me when I'm making appointments. I started using a digital calendar years ago so that I could check my calendar while I'm standing at a doctor's office trying to find time to squeeze in a follow-up appointment. I've been wanting a paper calendar so that I can refer to it while talking on my iPhone, but this one is too big to carry with me everywhere I go.

The heart of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner are the weekly planning pages, and I found this section most useful. Each week has a set of four pages (two double-paged spreads). The first two pages have room to record a Bible verse for the week, prayer requests, memorable moments, and evidences of God's grace. The second spread of pages is a flexible grid to record school assignments. It took me a little while to figure out how I wanted to arrange my records (and I may still opt for a different arrangement before the school year is out). As I have the pages arranged now, I can track Lauren and Brennan's daily assignments. Instead of writing out a week's worth of assignments ahead of time, I tend to write down a day or two at a time. For instance, I had a general outline written for Lauren to do Math, Spanish, and History, but I added the individual page or lesson number when she completed it. Similarly, I record what we actually read instead of formulating a plan ahead of time. I can also record our family Read-Aloud, make notes of the appointments and activities I don't want to forget, and track my assignments on these pages.  Unfortunately, I'm using almost all of the available space on these pages. I don't think I could squeeze much else in on these pages or track another student.

I'm not sure that I can call this the perfect solution for all my homeschool planning needs. I haven't put my November appointments in the monthly calendar yet, and I may not ever get around to it. I'm also not sure I'll ever keep up with journaling our memorable moments each week. However, I do find the weekly pages and yearly overview very helpful for keeping track of Lauren's and Brennan's school assignments and progress. At the end of the year, this book will be an excellent way to show just how we spent our homeschool days this year. For me, it might be better named The Ultimate Homeschool Tracker.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia costs $29. The pretty yellow version that I received is currently out-of-stock, but it appears as if they still have copies of the one with a blue cover and the one with an orange and purple cover. All three of them have same information and planning pages inside. Apologia also sells The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens that I may find helpful in turning over some of the record keeping responsibility to Brennan next year.

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