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"Help! I'm so unorganized! What's the best homeschool planner to use?"
I get that question more often than you'd think, and my answer is always the same:
"Well, what method of planning will you use?"
Because, dear friend, it really doesn't matter what product you buy if you don't make good use of it!
Today I'm going to give you an overview of some of your options. But there's one important reminder I'm going to make at the end, so you will want to read on...
The importance of planning
There is not much point arguing against the cliché "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail." At the very least, don't you find yourself jotting down a "to do" list when you have a big event coming up? Or the holidays are upon you? My mantra these days is "If it doesn't get written down...it ain't gonna happen!"
Actually, reviewing your plans for the following day is one of my "10 Things To Do Tonight To Have A Great Tomorrow." That being said, however, one of the biggest challenges we have these days is deciding how best to do just that: we have so. many. options! Assuming we can agree that it is important, tho, our next step is to find what best format fits our personality and lifestyle.
Doing a quick Google search for "best homeschool planners" opens up a Pandora's box of results! Are you looking for an app? An online planner? A paper-and-pen planner? Downloadable software? Do you need reminders about upcoming events? Do you want something easily updated? Easy to carry? Something that includes family events/activities and/or something the family can also use?
Options for Your Best Homeschool Planner
Honestly, the results are dizzying, and because productivity is "an issue" with me (and also because I may or may not have tried out quite a few of these planners here m'self) here's the skinny on some of the more-popular planners today, in no particular order... How many of them have you tried?!
Planners come in a variety of formats. Generally speaking, you can get your act together using an online tool, or go old-school paper-and-pen. Many paper-and-pen formats these days are sold as downloadable and printable PDF files, tho, so even in that case, it helps to be at least familiar managing computer files.
Here are some mini-reviews of a few planning products I'm familiar with. I've either used them over the years or have been asked to review them. If you get through them and have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments, as well as any experiences you've had with any of them!
The Living Well Planner - from Ruth Soukup - paper-and-pen
This is part of my system today which has both boosted my productivity and soothed out the increasing stress I'd had about getting things done (and y'all, I'm talking about just getting bills paid!). This was unquestionably the most I've ever spent on a planner ($55), and I was a bit anxious about that. But not even halfway through the year, I don't regret it a bit, and I'll be getting ready to purchase next year's book in a few months. (I discovered Ruth during my self-study about blogging productivity. Her book "How to Blog for Profit without Selling Your Soul" is a must-read for any blogger!) Self-described, this planner is "designed to help you organize your whole life, not just your schedule." And I don't know about you, folks, but I am absolutely inspired by that big-picture image, and that's what I most appreciate about this planner. With an idea of what I want to accomplish by year's end, I can more easily and efficiently break those goals down into actionable steps month-by-month and week-to-week. As an aside, the colorful stickers included are just enough to help this frustrated scrapbooker have a little fun without going overboard.
The Weekly Homeschool Planner - from Homeschool Creations - paper-and-pen/computer
This planner has been around for years and is an example of a product that comes as a file that you download and save on your computer, and then personalize and print out for yourself. The file itself comes with 138 pages, but you only print out what you use. Some of the pages included are not necessary to print more than once (for example, your State homeschool requirements and standardized testing results summary), while others you'll want/need to update each year. Many of these pages work well for record-keeping on your computer. If you're using this as a planner, however, you're going to need to figure out how to manage the paper (most likely a binder or folder or make it a little more permanent by doing a simple comb-binding.
My Grace Filled Planner - from Cornerstone Confessions - paper-and-pen/computer
In a similar format as above, this particular planner was created with the input from blogger Kathy Gossen's readers. It is customizable in some pretty unique ways: in addition to the necessary calendar, and homeschool/homelife scheduling pages, it also includes planning guides for 4 different Bible studies, 3 different options of shopping lists and even 5 different formats of weekly planning pages: 180+ pages in all! There are also financial and holiday planning pages, health trackers, and contacts/emergency info/password storage pages. Mom bloggers will find the section on content, stats, and social media tracking especially helpful. An added bonus is that your one-time purchase allows you to download updated calendar pages each year at no extra cost!
Planners - from SallieBorrink.com - paper-and-pen/computer
Sallie Borrink probably offers the most customizable planners with which I'm familiar. She has a general printable planner available (with 162 pages), as well as a homeschool planner (270+ pages) (which includes everything in the general planner plus homeschool-specific pages) and an editable planner (160+ pages) which allows you to update your pages. You can then print them out vertically or horizontally, and even vary the designs on your day-to-day pages. Are you a visual person? Then you need to look at her designs - so very pretty! Plus, the descriptions of each format are super-clear, so you know what you're getting and how to use it.
The Relaxed Mom Homeschool Planner - from The Proverbial Homemaker - paper-and-pen/computer
There is a feature of this system that really intrigued me. An e-course created by Tauna helps you get the most out of the planner. Rarely, if ever, is something like this offered. When people develop planners, they certainly have an idea of how all the pieces/pages fit together, right? It's nice to be able to glean their vision and direction. AND she updated it this year with new calendar pages and a new "looping" tool. (If you already purchased this, go grab your free updates!) For more info, you can read my review about this planner here.
Homeschool Planet OnLine Planner - Homeschool Buyer's Co-op - online
This is also part of the planning system I used when I had my teens in high school. This is a general household planner that also allows you to add holidays/vacations/special days, assignments, classes, activities, lesson plans, etc. Include notices to your kids about appointments and lessons, so everyone is on the same page. Push notifications to your phone are available for your schedule, a real bonus for moms on the go. There's nothing you have to print out here for your day-to-day planning needs, although that ability is available. A heads up to parents of high schoolers: you can print out a professional-looking transcript for your student here, too. Easy-peasy if you add your child's classes to the schedule. For more info, you can read my review about this online planner here.
Update: as of 9/19, this planner is not an available group-buy on the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. Their current planning system can be found here. It's worth bookmarking their site, however, to see when Homeschool Planet will be available again in the future. I'll also update this post when it is 🙂
Plan Your Year kit - from Pam Barnhill - DIY planning solution
I haven't tried this out yet, but I'm a huge fan of Pam Barnhill, so I feel confident including her product here. What especially intrigues me about this is that it is NOT a cookie-cutter, pre-formulated planner! As a fellow homeschooler, Pam helps us all devise a plan that is as unique as our homeschools are unique. No more trying to use your neighbor's schedule. Work through your own strengths, weaknesses, and family situation so you can craft your own personalized plan of action. Create goals, inspire vision, and say "good-bye" to impulse purchases and wasted time.
One important reminder about homeschool planning
At the end of the day, here's why it's so important to make efficient and effective planning such a priority. Good planning is the basis for a successful homeschool experience. By showing our kiddos how to manage the limited resource of time, we provide them with a solid, life-preparing, God-honoring education. They will "catch" much-needed habits that will make their life easier and more productive in the future.
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