Are You Searching for the Perfect Homeschool Planner?

I used to 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 could never 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 just couldn't find one I just loved.  But, I am drawn to looking at the same planners over and over and over again.  I am even ashamed to admit that I paid for some of them more than once.  (I just know I'll love it this time!)

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 confess that some of these are really old, ya'll. After all, I've been homeschooling over fifteen years!. But I am hoping that this comprehensive guide will help keep some of you from the same discouraging path of trying every available planner. At the end of the post, I'm sharing what finally worked for me...along with a freebie for you!

Homeschool planning

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Paper/Hard Copy Homeschool Planners

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.  It's pretty difficult to find now. Occasionally you can find one on Amazon from a third party seller.

 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.

The Homeschool Daily Planner

I tried this planner one year.  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?)

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.

Online/Digital Homeschool Planners


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.


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.

The Schoolhouse Planner

This planner, from The Old Schoolhouse, is a digital planner that you can print. It's fully customizable, meaning that you can add the information you need before you print. It's got calendars, lists, schedules, lesson planning pages, record-keeping pages, and more. It also has inspiring thoughts and articles throughout to encourage you. And...if you have high school students, it has all you need to keep high school records and create a transcript. You can get the planner here or get it free with a Schoolhouse Teachers membership.

Here's what I liked:
* You can customize it before you print it.
* There's lots to choose from, but you can pick and choose what you want to print.
* It's free with the Schoolhouse Teachers membership.

Here's what I didn't like:
* It still has to be used as a paper planner. You can customize the forms before you print them out, but you're still using it as a physical planner.
* There was so much to choose from, but much of it I didn't really need or want to print. And, while I could have just printed what I wanted from my printer, I like to send my large printing jobs off to be printed, and I couldn't pick and chooser with this because it was all in one file.
* It does have dated information, so you have to get a new one each year- unless you're a Schoolhouse Teachers member and can just get the updated planner that way.

Homeschool Planet 

This is an online homeschool planning system from Homeschool Buyers Co-op. It's got all you need to organize your home as well as your homeschool. There are calendars, lesson planning resources, record keeping resources, and much more. You can plan meals, make shopping lists, and create homeschool lesson plans all from this one program.

Here's what I liked:
* It's a planner that is all in one place. You can organize your home as well as homeschool all in one.
* There's a handy system of email reminders that you can send to your kids and spouse to notify people of calendar events, chores, lesson plans, and shopping lists.
* There are many resources in one to choose from.
* It's pretty. You can customize your desktop as well as what view you're seeing items from.
* You can keep high school records and create a transcript.

Here's what I didn't like (To be honest there wasn't too much I didn't like with this one!):
* It all seemed a little overwhelming for me. It's nice that there is so much here, but it's also a little too much. There were too many things I just didn't need and wasn't going to use.

Searching for the perfect homeschool planner

The Homeschool Planner That Works for Me


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. So, now that you've seen the huge list of what I've tried and discarded, you may be asking yourself what I do use successfully as a planning system.  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.

You can find my Google Drive planner here for free. Just copy the file, and then you'll be able to edit it as needed.

If you need a little more help getting the system to work, you can check out my book- Creating Homeschool Lesson Plans That Work. This ebook lays out the step-by-step planning system that works for me. The Google Drive digital planner also comes free with the book. (You don't have to have the book to use the planner, however.)

You can find out more about the book and purchase it here.





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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