There are many options for homeschool planning, from traditional plan books to elaborate computer software to even a plain spiral notebook! The Ultimate Homeschool Planner , by Debra Bell, and published by Apologia Educational Ministries is a very nice option that includes not only weekly planning grids, but tools for weekly, monthly and yearly planning for education, family events, and spiritual growth.
Like many planners, the The Ultimate Homeschool Planner includes weekly lesson planning pages, pages for recording books read, field trips, grades, and resource lists.
So what makes this planner unique?
1. Twelve pages of “how to use this planner” give tips on how to set up and use a yearly planning retreat, monthly planning sessions, weekly planning breaks, and weekly student meetings ensure that your child is on track.
2. Of course, pages are provided each week for homeschool lesson planning, but there are two additional pages for recording Scripture verses, prayer lists, hospitality/outreach goals, and for recording memorable moments, achievements, evidences of God’s grace, and answers to prayer.
3. Articles at the end of the planner offer great information on raising an independent learner, motivating a reluctant learner, learning styles and thinking skills (a mini how-to-homeschool course).
4. An 8th through 12th grade grid for high school planning is also included. Including 8th grade on the grid is helpful, because many 8th graders take a high school level class or two.
5. A key component to The Ultimate Homeschool Planner system is the yearly and monthly pre-planning that includes setting character and academic goals for each student, reviewing the previous month both with and without the student, and documenting the student’s growth in both academic and non-academic areas.
6. Pockets! Inside the covers are sturdy pockets for holding those extra papers that always accumulate. I love this!
7. This planner is really pretty. That motivates me to use it. Every week includes a inspiring quote at the top of the page.
How did I use this planner?
I’ve been using an online lesson planner that works well for our family, so I tried out some different uses for The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. The first thing I did was to add some stick-on tabs to divide the sections.
I used the first two weekly planner pages as designed. On Sunday, I wrote down our Bible plan for the week (goals for scripture memory and/or my scripture reading plan for the week, a “fighter plan” verse to meditate on each day, prayer list, and hospitality/outreach goals. I read through and prayed over these items each morning during my quiet time. I found that actually recording a plan for these areas kept me more focused as well as helping me to consider areas (like outreach to others) that tend to be neglected. I tried to record memorable moments and evidences of grace on the following page, but wasn’t as successful keeping up with that. I still think it’s a great goal to write down these things and I am trying to be more aware of those little things that I should be thankful for.
I tried out the lesson plan pages by putting days of the week across the top and subjects down the side. This is very similar to what I used to use (although prettier) for lesson planning. For families with several children, each child could be assigned one of the squares along the left margin, with each day’s assignments all printed in one block. Or each row could be designated for a subject, with each student having one column. With this layout, assignments for one subject for the week could be put in a square. There are lots of possibilities!
I also experimented with using the planning grid to assign chores and for blog planning, and to keep track of points Emily earns with a system we’re experimenting with to help her with time management, attitude, and responsibility.
Part of the yearly planning process is to mark out commitments for the year on a 2-page yearly calendar. This enables you to see these events at a glance, making long-term lesson planning easier. I used this calendar in a different way. I listed Emily’s school subjects down the left side of the page. Then I did some very general long-term planning for each subject for the year. I started doing this type of planning several years ago and have found it very helpful for subjects for which I have multiple resources or units and for working in short-term review resources. For example, in English, I marked off 3-4 weeks for each book study we’ll be doing. Emily is doing one math book for some review right now before she starts her primary text for the year. Other studies are short term, but are part of a larger course, and this planning grid helps me to see how it all fits together. This is done in pencil, because changes will be made as the year progresses!
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is a very solid planner that includes almost anything that a homeschool family needs to record. It focus on so much more than just lesson plans and that should make anyone’s home run more smoothly.