It is time for another review for Mosaic Reviews! I received both planners for free so that I could scrutinize, um, I mean review them. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention that I have seen these planners floating around the homeschool and blogging communities for a while now. I even checked them out a couple times online, but could never get past the cost. I tend to fall in the cheap, um, I mean frugal side of life. Want to know if I still feel the same? Keep reading.
We shall start with The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, a planning system designed by Debra Bell. My first impression was that my mailman needs to learn to read, “do not bend” does not in fact mean “bend in half”. Once I smoothed out the wrinkle in my cover (and attitude), I dove on in. First impressions of the actual planner, it’s purple. Purple, people. Purple just so happens to be my very favorite color. The cover is nicely designed and I love that it is plastic (easy to wipe off…) and has a pocket on the inside of both the front and the back cover.
The first pages of the planner are four years of year at a glance calendars (one, card-stock page…nice), an information page for you to fill out, general info about the planner and the other planners (like the student one we will discuss below), a welcome letter, and table of contents. Table of contents? Why would a planner need this? To label all the information that follows, of course. Things like what pages the user’s guide starts on and where your one-year planning grid, student goal setter, and family priorities pages are.
The planner walks you through how to plan your homeschool year. Step. By. Step. Debra tells you how often you need to do this, which seems ridiculous. I mean, come on, do I need you to tell me that I need to have a yearly, monthly, and weekly planning time, and what I need to do on those days? Apparently, the answer is yes. You see, I am a planner. I love, love, love, love to plan things. Love. This is all fine and dandy, but sometimes I spend more time planning than doing. I always feel like I might miss something.
Basically it goes like this, first you sketch the big picture, then you divide up what parts of the big picture you want to work on, and then you set the tasks that will walk you towards your goals.
Then! Then you get to map out what you have going on in your life for the next year. You fill out the year-at-a-glance calendar (slightly tedious since it is not numbered, which is really a good thing since you can use it for any school year) with dates that are permanent or semi-permanent (holidays, off days, regular field trips or co-ops…you get the picture). After that, you set some goals for your students. What I love about this is that it does not just cover the academic, but character goals you may have as well. Next come family priorities, resource lists and then the monthly calendars.
Best of all? There are examples of how to use these pages in the user’s guide section. As a visual person, I loved this. I loved seeing examples to get my mind going. There is space for up to six students in all of these pages.
And then we come to the meat of the planner, the weekly pages. These are just awesome. You break your week down on four pages. First page, you set your weekly Bible plan, Battle plan (explained in the user’s guide), Prayers, and Hospitality/Outreach. The top of the page includes an inspirational quote as well. Second page, you record your week’s memorable moments (achievements) and evidences of grace, where God showed you His goodness, mercy, faithfulness, provision, etc. The third and fourth pages are your actual lesson plan pages, you have six rows of six columns (excluding your label boxes) to use as you need (examples in the user’s guide). There is also a column of smaller boxes for notes, supplies, and appointments. Also, another inspirational quote.
After the weekly section, comes a small section for recording grades, reading lists (six), field trips/outside activities record, some encouragement for homeschooling moms, a chart for plotting homeschool high school (with an example), and a year-end review.
I love that this planner is essentially a homeschool lesson planner, gratitude journal, record keeper, and goal-setting journal…all in one!
Now, there are a couple things that I would love to see added to make it just perfect (well, for me anyways).
1. All the great information kind of gets lost in the shuffle. I used some Post-It tabs to mark the sections in mine, but they don’t match. Visually, this is annoying. I would love to see coordinating tabs available.
2. I would love to see coordinating curriculum planning sheets available. They would not necessarily have to come in the spiral bound book itself, but maybe an add-on pack that I could tuck in the back pocket. I used plain paper to do this, but it would be nice to have a guide to break down what curriculum I need to consider looking for by subject. (By the way, I know this is really picky…don’t hate me for it).
That’s it really. I love this planner and as of now, I will be buying one each year to help me plan our homeschool.
Now, a little about the student planner. This post is already over 900 words, so I will keep this short and to the bullet-point. 😉
- Love the size, plastic cover, and colors (bummer about no pockets though)
- LOVE the little journal like entries at the front to record what your student’s favorites are each year. A little time capsule.
- Study-smart student toolkit = great information for students
- Includes month-at-a-glance calendars that my daughter thinks are great (I like them, too.)
- Weekly assignments pages? LOVE that they include a “quiet time” check box each day, also the columns to mark when an assignment was finished and approved are great (helps me keep track!)
- I like that the student can track their grades, reading list, and activity log themselves as well
- There is a section called Active Lifestyle Activity Log for the President’s Challenge that would be great for helping homeschoolers to remember physical education is needed, too!
- The handy reference section includes a timeline of U.S. and world history; U.S. map with capitals, time zones, and population chart, world map with current political boundaries; a chart of the scientific method; multiplication and division chart; conversion and measurement equivalency charts; general grammar and good writing guides; recommended reading list for middle schoolers; greek and latin roots chart; and finally a notes section
- A cardstock page with four years-at-a-glance (and pocket!) and stickers for marking events on the calendars round out this awesome planner!
I will also be using the student planners for my kids because I like how the end-goal is independent learners. I see how these will help train my students to take responsibility for their work over time (explained a little more in the homeschool planner).
Overall, I’m kind of in love with these planners. And it has nothing to do with getting them free, I actually need to get at least one more. I am debating whether I need one of the student planners for my soon-to-be second grader, but the almost fourth grader will definitely need one. They are worth every penny of the cost (if you use them, of course).