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Is There Such a Thing as a Perfect Homeschool Planner?

I buy homeschool planners like drug addicts buy crack.  I'm not exaggerating.  I love planners.  It's an addiction.  My trying of any new homeschool planner I see is second only to the frequency of which I try out meal planners. (But we won't get into that here.) Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the perfect planner.  Perhaps I'm picky.  Perhaps I'm too much of a control freak.  Perhaps I just like the planning more than the actual doing of the plan. (Hmmm, wonder if that's the deal with meal planners too.)  Whatever the reason, I can't find one I just love.  But, I am drawn to looking at the same planners over and over and over again.  I am even ashamed to admit that I have paid for some of them more than once.  (I just know I'll love it this time!)

A look at homeschool planners

I have decided to list for you here every planner I've tried along with the pros and cons and links to where to get it.  I am hoping that this guide will help keep some of you from the same discouraging path of trying every available planner.

{this post contains affiliate links that will benefit the blog}

Paper/Hard Copy Planners

1.  The Homeschool Organizer
















This was the first planner I bought as a young, fresh homeschooling mom.  I paid a small fortune for it and was sure I would never need another one.  You can purchase mine now at that Amazon link above.

 Here's what I loved about it:
* It has places to organize EVERYTHING.  There are pages for chores, lesson plans, meal plans, emergency information, to-do lists,etc.  It is a true, one-stop household binder.
* The pages are masters that you photocopy.  I could copy as many of sheet as I needed.  So, as I added kids to the school list, I could copy more.  If I liked one style of calendar, I could copy only that style.  If there were sheets I wasn't going to use, I didn't need to copy them.
* As a young mom just getting started, I needed something this structured to help me get a grasp on how our house/school needed to run.  It was great for this- very structured, some choices, but not lots of room for user error.

Here's what I didn't like:
* All those sheets I had to copy.  On the one hand, it was nice to have the choices.  On the other hand, it was a pain to have to gather all those sheets I wanted and go photocopy them at Staples.  I now have a pretty decent copy function on my printer, so that would eliminate some frustration.
* The big, bulky size of it.  I didn't want to have to carry around this massive thing when I wanted to go somewhere quiet (read not my house) and work on lesson plans.  It just wasn't very portable.  And if I just pulled out the sheets I was working on, my OCD self had heart palpitations at the thought of things being out of order.

2.  The Homeschool Daily Planner









I tried this one this year actually.  I'm not sure why.  I knew I wouldn't like a hard copy planner.  But this one was cheap and small and cute and sucked me in.

Here's what I liked about it:
* It was cheap.  We're talking like $12.
* It was small.  I really could carry it around.
* It was cute.  I love the whole school book look.

Here's what I didn't like:
* Pretty much everything else.  Really.  The spaces weren't big enough for planning.  If I wrote it all out before hand, I had to cross out and erase to reschedule.  If I used it as a journal, it just wasn't big enough to have enough space.  There weren't any choices for what kind of plans I wanted to make- weekly, monthly, year at a glance.  I was just stuck with the blanks they gave me.  And they were small.  (Did I mention that?)

3.  Donna Young Printables











If you've never checkout out the Donna Young site, you must.  It is filled with all sorts of household and homeschool planning printables.  At various times I our homeschooling, I have tried some of the planners from the site. I also discovered this year that Donna Young has lesson plans for the Apologia high school science books.  Hooray!  I know I'll be coming back to use those!

Here's what I loved about it:
* Choices.  Again, with this site, you have the option of printing exactly the styles of planners you want.  There are all types and styles.  If you like to pick and choose this is the place for you.
*  The forms are all nice and neat and often coordinate in printed sets.  The "cutenes/neatness" factor is going strong here.

Here's what I didn't like:
* Again, I could spend a good bit on printing depending on how many of each page I wanted.
* I would have preferred being able to type in information and store it on my computer and not print it.  There were some forms that you could customize, but those had to be printed and couldn't be saved with the custom print.

4. The Old Schoolhouse Store's Schoolhouse Planner










These planners, sold by The Old Schoolhouse magazine, come in CD ROM form or can be an instant download.  There are versions for primary, elementary, and high school.

Here's what I liked:
* Basically these gave me the same choices that the Donna Young site offers.  I could pick and choose from all kinds of homeschool and household planning sheets.
* Back when I reviewed the planner (several years ago), there were all kinds of good articles and lesson plan supplements.  It seems from reading the site that this is still the case. Those were a nice plus.

Here's what I didn't like:
* Really, this was the same as the printables offered at Donna Young (and other places on the web), but here I was having to pay for them.  Yes, there was convenience of having them all in one place, but I didn't think it worth the cost.
* The whole grade-level thing always confuses me.  I do lots of multi-age stuff because I have four children of different ages.  I want a planner that works for everybody, not one I have to check out for each age group.

*There is an update to this planner. You can see my review below.

The perfect homeschool planner: does it exist and what is it?


Online/Software Planners

1. Homeschool Tracker





The basic form of Homeschool Tracker is one of the first computer based planners I tried.  The basic form is free.  It is a download that is saved on your personal computer.  There is a Plus version that works the same way but is a one time payment and has additional features.  There is also an online version that is accessed from any computer and costs a monthly or yearly fee.  I have paid for both the Plus download and one month of the online version.  (Yeah, Yeah, don't judge.)

Here's what I love:
* This program is very complete in record keeping.  Even the free version has grade books, reading records, weekly plans, overviews, and much more.
* It is easy to use with any number of kids.  I'm not sure there is any limit.  Having four listed didn't cause any problems.
* Everything is stored on my computer, and I only have to print hard copy records if I need them for legal reasons.
* I could use it as a planner or a journal of what we had done.

Here's what I didn't like:
* It is very time consuming to set up. Very.  Ostensibly, it is much quicker to use after the initial set up.  But, I  never could get to the point that it was really quick.
* I found it difficult to reschedule things that didn't get done.  It is supposed to be easy, so maybe it was just me.
* The downloadable version is only good on one computer.  This is, in fact, the reason I gave up my free version.  I got a new computer and didn't want the pain of trying to transfer data.  so, I just backed up all my files and gave up.


2. Homeschool Skedtrack

This is a totally online, totally free record keeper accessible from any computer.  It has some of the same features as Homeschool Tracker but was much more complicated to use, I thought.

Here's what I liked:
* I can't say much here, but it is free.

Here's what I don't like:
* It is a very plain, very dull looking site.  Maybe because it's free?
* It was very complicated to me.  There was so much I had to enter in before I could even try to plan a day.
* There may be a way, but I couldn't figure out how to use it AFTER a day of work as a journal instead of as a pre planner.

3.  Homeschool, Inc.

This worked almost exactly the same way as Skedtrack, so I have about the same to say.  I will add, though, that there is a forum associated with Homeschool, Inc that makes it a social community also.  I think Skedtrack might have a question forum but not really a social community.  They also send out a cool newsletter that has some good information.  I still get it even though I don't use the planner.

4.  Simpy Charlotte Mason's Online Organizer

This is a simple, online organizer that allows you to organize your school year in a Charlotte Mason way.  There is a totally free (no credit card needed) trial and then a monthly payment.  Anyone can use the bookfinder part of the organizer for free to find good living books in each subject.

Here's what I loved:
* It's Charlotte Mason of course!  I love using Charlotte Mason methods and philosophy in our schooling, and I loved a Charlotte Mason style planner.
* It is flexible.  I could use it as a journal or a planner.  Assignments were very easy to reschedule as needed.

Here's what I didn't like:
* It was pretty time consuming to set up initially.  If you happen to be using only resources listed in the book finder, it is easier.  But I wasn't.  So I had to "set up" each book.  It took some time.
* The monthly fee.  I just can't bring myself to pay monthly.  I can't.


Now that you've seen the huge list of what I've tried and discarded, you may be asking yourself what I do use.  Google Docs.  Yes, it is really that simple and cheap.  I make a new folder each year.  I save files to my personal computer and back them up.  I can share assignment sheets with the older kids through Google.  I have a "grade book" spreadsheet for attendance and grades.  I do a year overview, a quarter overview, weekly assignment sheets and a daily journal.  I also plan to record field trips and volunteer work in detail this year.  I keep an overview for each child that shows everything they've done in each grade level.  With Google Docs, I can access files from any computer and only print what I need.  It is very easy to use the given templates to make anything I need.

I won't pretend that I'm not tempted by new planners or that I don't occasionally go back and waste time examine the ones I've already used to see if I like them again.  I'll admit I've been especially tempted by The Well Planned Day's new software planner.  Isn't it pretty?









I've been reading and reading the reviews. But, I won't spend money on it.  Probably.

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This post was originally published in June 2012. Since then I've used and reviewed four more homeschool planners- including My Well Planned Day. I confess that I have a severe problem. Is there such a thing as Homeschool Planners Anonymous?

You can read those reviews here:




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What I have eventually realized in my search for the perfect planner is that there is no such thing. Instead I realized that what I really needed was a planning system...that actually worked.

After much thought and many attempts I've developed a system that works well with me. And I'm sharing it in my new ebook- Creating Homeschool Lesson Plans That Work. The ebook lays out the step-by-step plan that I've come up with. It also includes a bonus lesson planning system created in Google Docs. This system has been perfect for me.

You can find out more about the book and purchase it on Amazon or ejunkie here.

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Favorite Homeschool Product

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for the pros/cons of each of the planners. I am thinking this year I really need to buy the well planned day as we have 4 kids to keep up with. But as I tell people, when I plan God laughs! So I am stuck in the mud sometimes!!

    I keep up with a lot of folks on my homeschool blog if anyone would like to check it out. Occasionally I will post my "extras" books on there too! Stop by and hit "like" Trying to get to 100 by the end of the week!!
    https://www.facebook.com/OneHomeschoolMom

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  2. I think it is so great Leah that you figured out what you liked and didn't like and then went out and figured out exactly what WOULD work for you. Well done. :)

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    1. Thank you! My husband always used to say when I bought another planner- "Now why are you buying this? You know you're not going to like it. You should just do your own thing." :-)

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