Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Homeschool Planet (Schoolhouse Review)

Homeschool Planet Review
Product: Homeschool Planet, available only through Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
 
Over the years, I’ve tried out a lot of different homeschool planners, both printed and computer-based. I used one computer based planner (downloaded) for a couple of years. It was pretty good, but took a LOT of time and effort to implement. Once I had the schedule planned, I printed out the pages and kept them in a notebook for my daughter to check off. I did like the neat look of the printed pages, but eventually just went back to paper planners because they were easier.
 
Pre-printed planners look pretty, but they are never formatted to include exactly the pages I need (or to exclude those I don’t). Up until now, my best option has been to use printable planner pages that I 3-hole punch and keep in a binder, typing out the assignments and printing out a few week’s assignments at a time. This seemed to be the best way to meet our needs, although I frequently had to change assignments by hand on the printed pages as life got in the way of my plans. My biggest issue with this was that a few weeks or months into the school year, Emily would get behind in a subject or two and would be working on several different weeks at a time in the planner. This could get very confusing.
 
When I had the opportunity to try out Homeschool Planet, I was curious? Could this online planner meet my needs better?
 
P1050350
Homeschool Planet is an online product. So if you are in a location without internet access, you can’t access it. However, because it is online, it can be accessed from any device—computer, tablet, or phone. Anytime, anywhere. You do have to use a computer for full functionality, such as scheduling assignments, but assignments can be viewed and checked off from any device. There is a feature that emails schedules out each day. Emily loved this! She quickly got in the habit of checking her Kindle Fire each morning for her schedule. (And she could see the schedule from the downloaded email even if she did not have internet access.)  No app download is necessary to use Homeschool Planet; it’s all accessible from the browser. This is good news for us, since we are Kindle Fire users and some android apps don’t work on the Kindle Fire or Fire phone.
 
Setting Up Homeschool Planet
I found setting up Homeschool Planet to be very easy. The best way to get started is to watch a few of the videos under the “Help” section. Although the process was simple, the videos helped me figure out where to start and demonstrated just what to do.
image
First, I worked through the Settings tabs, where I was able to input:
  • School name and address
  • Preferences for email notifications and various display options
  • School year calendar
  • Classes (with color coding that shows up on the schedule)
    image
  • Grading scale and grade weighting, if desired
  • Setting theme (page background)
  • Syncing the Homeschool Planet Calendar with Google Calendar

Scheduling Appointments and Classes

From the calendar view, scheduling is as easy as clicking on a calendar date. The option will pop up to choose appointments, classes, or everything else. Appointments show up in colored boxes. (The user determines the color coding system.) To schedule school assignments, simply select the class and student  from the drop down menus, then type in the assignments. Assignments may be entered one at a time, one assignment may be repeated for repeated days, or various numbering options may be assigned and scheduled automatically. You have the option to schedule Lesson 1, 2, 3,…, or Chapter 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, …., or nearly any numbering system you need. Classes can be scheduled for every day or for only certain days of the week.

 image

For example, I recently scheduled Emily’s chemistry class for next fall. She’ll have textbook assignments on Tuesday and Thursday, numbered sequentially, and Labs on Friday, also numbered sequentially. I set up a T/Th Chemistry schedule for the textbook and Homeschool Planet automatically scheduled the lessons sequentially. Then I scheduled the Lab as a second Chemistry class. It only took seconds vs. the much longer time it would have taken me to type everything out. I had to go back and do a little tweaking because of holidays making the classes and lab out of sync, but this was easy to do by hand.

image

When you need to adjust the schedule, a pop up menu allows you to eliminate gaps in the schedule, remove assignments, move individual assignments back or forward, or to slide an entire set of assignments forward or back.  Resources, web links, or PDF files can be attached to assignments. Almost anything you might want to do is accessible!

Assignments are visible in list form from the Planner View, a day, week, or month at a time. You can also edit or check off assignment from the planner view.

image
I didn’t assign a specific time to assignments, but if you prefer to do so, it’s super easy. You can even assign a time to some subjects, but not to others.
 
Grading
Recording grades is easy with Homeschool Planet. For each class, you set up grading by assigning a percentage value to each type of activity. For example daily work 30%, Tests 40%, Labs 30%. Each assignment is sorted into an activity and you can enter each grade as you check the assignment off as complete. Multiple classes can also be grouped into one for grading purposes. For example, you might have a writing class and a literature class that would be grouped together as “English.”  All the computation and weighting of assignments will be done for you.
 
If you need to track hours for classes, that is also an option.
 
image
Rescheduling
This is my favorite feature of Homeschool Planet. For each unfinished assignment, the
“Rescheduling Helper” allows you to:
  • Do nothing.
  • Mark as complete.
  • Carry forward and add to the next day’s assignment.
  • Carry forward to the next day and slide the entire schedule for that subject back.

I love being able to reschedule assignments so easily! Now, if assignments aren’t completed on time, I can have Emily do double work the next day or can slide the whole schedule back a day. No more flipping back between different pages on a printed schedule! My only wish was that assignments could be pushed forward to a day that was not scheduled for that subject. For example, if science is scheduled for M-W-F,  move an unfinished assignment for Wednesday to Thursday. However, Homeschool Planet will soon be revised to allow this!

Homeschool Planet is an amazing program already, but I’ve been very impressed at the number of improvements that have been made just in the two months that I’ve used it. The programmers are very responsive to user needs and are continually adding new features.

Widgets

The sidebar and bottom of page of Homeschool Planner has room for customizable widgets that provide more usefulness. You can add a daily quote and/or daily Bible verse, add a weather widget, and a to-do list or shopping lists. Lists can be texted to your phone (or your spouse’s phone). You can even retrieve them remotely from your phone if you’re out shopping and forgot that list!

Versatility

Although this is definitely designed as a homeschool planner, it has much more potential. I’ve set it as my home page, so I can see all of our planned activities at a glance. My To Do list is on the sidebar, my grocery list at the bottom of the page. I’ve entered due dates for blog posts and reviews on the calendar along with meetings and activities.

Reports

We haven’t felt the need to print daily assignment sheets—Homeschool Planet is sooo easy to use online, especially since Emily can pull up the schedule on her tablet. However, if I had a younger child, I would probably prefer to print out daily schedule sheets with just a click. Grade reports and transcripts can also be printed from the program.

Conclusion

Homeschool Planet is an amazing planning tool and I am thrilled to have found it. It is loaded with features, but still easy to use. I’ve been wanting to go more digital for my planning, but have never quite succeeded. With the ability to keep up with a calendar, homeschool planner, and to-do lists all on one place, I’ll never go back to a paper planner again.

Free Trial 

Homeschool Planet offers a 30 day free trial (that doesn’t require any credit card info.) This is a great way to try out the program. Once I’d been using it for a week, I was already convinced that this was the best homeschool planning tool I’d ever seen. It is loaded with features, but is amazingly easy and efficient to use. The yearly cost is $65—a bargain, considering the help it will be for homeschool (and life) scheduling.

Connect with Homeschool Planet:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/homeschoolbuyers
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hsbuyerscoop
Google+: https://plus.google.com/112069021534542740249/about

 

Homeschool Planet ReviewI received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

 

No comments:

Post a Comment