Staying organized is always a struggle for me.
I’m not one of those naturally organized people, and with four kids at four different grade levels, plus all their extracurricular activities, there’s a lot to keep up with! I love the idea of going paperless and doing everything on the computer, iPad, and my phone (and I do use software to keep track of the older kids’ assignments), but the reality is that when it comes right down to it, I think I’m more of a pen and paper gal. This year, with Kaitlyn graduating and Kyle entering high school, there’s even more to keep up with, so I’ve got to stay on top of it!
I’ve heard wonderful things about Apologia Educational Ministries’ The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, so I was excited when I received one to try out! It was designed by Debra Bell, author of two of the most influential books in my homeschool journey, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling and The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens – both must reads in my opinion!!
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is designed to work with The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students and The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens, but they’re not required – it works just fine by itself too! It has space to keep track of up to six students, and is offered in three different color options: yellow, orange, and blue. I received blue, which happens to be one of my favorite colors! 🙂
It includes daily, weekly, and monthly planning pages for 48 weeks, along with a host of other planning forms. There are pages for yearly goal setting, recording memorable moments, tracking activities and reading lists, recording grades, planning for high school, the “year in review”, and more.
I really like the spiral binding and plastic cover (similar to what some three ring binders are made from), and the handy pocket for keeping track of loose papers. I also love the quotes and Scripture verses scattered through the pages. But I think maybe my favorite part of the whole planner are the encouraging articles included in the User’s Guide and Teaching Tips sections. There are so many great tips on planning, making memorable moments, learning styles, studying, and more included in these sections that I think they’re worth the price of the planner themselves!
One invaluable practice that I’ve implemented since using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is what author Debra Bell calls “Monday Morning Tutorials” and “Friday Afternoon Reviews”. At the beginning of the week, I meet one on one with each student to go over the upcoming assignments and give direction. At the end of the week, we meet briefly to check completed assignments, and discuss and answer any questions. This is something I’ve tried to implement rather haphazardly in the past, and it’s been such a huge help in keeping my high schoolers on track and making sure I hold them accountable.
I think my favorite of the actual planner pages is the weekly planner section, where I can not only plan out my week at a glance, but then record “memorable moments” and “evidences of grace” at the end of each week. I love that feature!
So far this year, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is helping me stay focused and laying out clearly what I know I need to do, but don’t always go about in the most organized fashion (monthly and yearly planning, goal setting, etc.). Not only that, it’s beautiful and functional, and the supporting materials are super helpful and encouraging. I think it’s the best homeschool planning system I’ve come across in well over a decade of homeschooling!