Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Most Well-Planned Paper-Based Planner I've Seen in Ages! {An Ultimate Homeschool Planner Review}

{Note:  This post contains affiliate links to a favorite educational products provider of ours: Apologia Educational Ministries, from whom we received The Ultimate Homeschool Planner for review. Read full disclosure here.}

"Organization" and "Martianne" are simply not synonymous, no matter how much I wish they were.  Thus, I am always looking for tools to motivate me towards better order in my family's home, homeschool, and more.  So, when a favorite homeschool resource provider
Apologia Educational Ministries offered the chance for me to review The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, I took it!

More than Your Average Planner

When Debra Bell designed The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, she was most certainly thorough!  Using the mission "count your blessings, encourage independence, record your progress" she not only included all the typical things you'd find in a homeschool planner, but she also included some mental food and inspiration!  

Indeed, if you had asked me before I received
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner if I'd ever underline and jot down margin notes as I read text in a planner, I would have laughed at you.  Noteworthy text in a planner?  Ha!

Or, ah ha! As they case may be with the
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner.  For, as I read the welcome note from Debra Bell and Zan Tyler in my copy of he 264-page planner, I already found myself bracketing things and writing little notes to myself.  


Then, as I read through the 12 pages of the User Guide, which are replete with helpful true-to-life examples of how to best put the pages of the planner into use, I continued to underline and make margin notes.  The same thing happened again as I went through the six pages of Teaching Tips towards the end of the planner. 

Wow!  I did not know I would be finding inspiration, encouragement and tips within the pages of the planner, but I did!

Flexible Planning Sheets

Before, after and between its succinct, but noteworthy welcome note, User's Guide and Tips, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner contains planner contains pages and pages of helpful, flexible planning sheet.  These include:

  • two page-at-a-glance two-year dated calendars
  • a page to write you personal information including school year, name, address, phone number, and students
  • a two-page undated one-year planning grid
  • two pages of student goal setting forms, with room for academic and character goals for six students (or three students, two parents, and a family-as-a-whole as the case was here)
  • a four-page pre-planning guide in which to list family priorities and resources
  • 12 blank monthly planning pages
  • a full year's worth of weekly planner pages with spaces for you "Bible Plan", "Battle Plan", "Prayers", "Hosptiality/Outreach", "Acheivements" "Momeorable Moments", "Evidences of Grace", "Notes", "Supplies", "Appointments", and, of course, lessons activities
  • two pages for grade keeping
  • three pages for reading lists
  • three pages for recording field trips and outside activities
  • a high school planning guide page
  • two year-end review pages
  • a page for notes

There is also a two-page bibliography for those who seek more inspiration after reading all the fabulous inspirational quotes that are interwoven in the pages of each section of the planner.  And - handy-handy-handy - on the insides of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner's soft, spiral-bound cover are file pocket flaps so you can slip papers in.

Talk about a well-planned planner!  This one sure is.

Finding My Groove with the Planner's Inspiration

Anyone looking at the cover of my copy of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner can quickly recognize that this is not a resource that stays tucked away on a shelf untouched by me more than once or twice a day.  The nicks and scratches in the surprisingly durable soft-cover are testimony to the fact that the planner makes rounds with us to different rooms in the house as well as out-and-about.

The first trip the planner took with me was to a hotel where we went on a one-night family getaway this fall in honor of our youngest's entry into his kindergarten year.  (Upon entering his or her kindergarten year in our home, each child gets to choose something to ride or somewhere to go instead of riding the big yellow bus and going to a school building.  My youngest requested a hotel stay and, since we found a super deal on one, we went for it!)

I thought there was not more fitting place to begin using the planner to plan the year than at our kindergarten-celebration location.  So, as the kids' enjoyed some special screentime in the room and splashtime in the pool, I sat on the deck of our room overlooking a river and perused the planner.  That was when I began underlining things and writing notes prior to filling in the one-year planning grid and some other planning pages.

Later, as I used the planner, I found the first double-page spread for each week absolutely fabulous!  I love the quotes on the pages and the way the pages remind me to focus on faith, hospitality, memorable moments, achievements, and evidences of grace.  The constant reminder to pray, serve, give thanks, note good, etc. is much appreciated by me.

The next two pages of each weekly planner page took me a bit to decide how best to use.  They offer 6 x 6 grids to use any way one wishes.  Most, I assume, would use these to plan activities for up to six children, six days a week, or for six subjects for six children.  However, since I plan activities seven days a week (including choir at Mass, family walks, museum trips, etc. as "school" activities), I wanted another row of boxes if I was going to use the grids as a straight-up weekly planner.  And, since I break our time down into seven segments for planning purposes each day (wake up and early morning time, breakfast time and readings, morning experiences, lunch and readings, afternoon experiences, dinner and intentional time, and wind down/bedtime/reading/listening, I wanted another row of boxes for planning that way, too.  And subjects?  Well, we explore more than six subjects with some regularity.  So, again, the traditional grid did work perfectly for me. 

Further, since I like to plan, reflect, and list forward all in one place, I missed having a wide notes space on the weekly pages of the organizer.  That is, until I figured out an adaptation that works for me.

Under the "Week Of", I listed some of my key tasks for the different roles I aim to balance each week - being a woman of prayer, who is a loving partner, a loving parent, a partial provider of finances, and a planner and prepared of eats.  Then, over under "supplies", I listed the areas of our home that needed the most attention, as that is another role I attempt balance in - provider of homekeeping.

Five of the middle six columns then got used to plan my children's S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + activities.  I used the top three rows for each of my children's language arts categories:

  • Spell and Write Words
  • Keep Reading to Yourself
    Illustrate and Write
  • Listen to Reading
  • Learn and Play with Language Arts Together

Then, I used the bottom three rows to plan their Math and Other activities:

  • Think, Read, and Write About Math, Investigate and Explore Math Concepts,
  • Master Math Together
  • Exercise Math Skills on My Own, 
  • Other Activities

The sixth column of the middle grid I used for planning forward notes and tasks.  In the Notes box, I wrote some overarching "true north" goals and priority tasks.  And, in the Appointments, I wrote appointment notes not mentioned elsewhere or continued planning forward notes.

This adaptation seemed to work for me and proves how uniquely one can tailor the pages!  Of course, those with more traditional subjects, schedules, approaches, or what have you, won't necessarily need to tailor anything.  Just fill in names, days, subjects, and go.

Would I Recommend the Planner?

You bet I would recommend
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner
It is such a well-planned planner which offers food-for-thought, tips, encouragement, quotes, and plenty of useful and flexible planning pages.  For those that like pen-and-paper planner, it is the best homeschool planner I have seen.  For those who need a how-to or inspiration about how to plan, it's in there.  For those who wish to take a nugget or two from the how-to's and inspiration, but proceed in their own way, there's room for that, too.  Truly, Apologia Educational Ministries offers an excellent tool for "counting blessings, encouraging independence, and recording progress" with The Ultimate Homeschool Planner!

Learn More

Read reviews of the other Apologia Educational Ministries products I have reviewed:




Get social with Apologia Educational Ministries at:


Read how 100 other homeschoolers are using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner.

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