Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review of Apologia Educational Ministries

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Is there anything that Apologia Educational Ministries doesn't do? Great science curriculum, Constitutional literacy, the really neat iWitness books...and planners? Yes! Apologia's The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is the most complete paper and pencil planning system I have ever seen. Available in three colors (I received and reviewed the blue), this planner has *everything* you as a homeschooling parent could possibly need.

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

If you're a longtime reader of my blog, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with planners. I sure do love to buy them. I am in love with the thought of them. I just never seem to be organized enough to stick with them. As a perfectionist, I very much feel like I have to "do" them right or not do them at all. Unfortunately, the more complicated, intricate, or complete a planner is, the more there is to "do" right. The more opportunity there is for failure. The more I am afraid and/or intimidated. The longer I sit there stroking the beautiful cover and flipping through the lovely...blank pages. Am I the only one? Please say I'm not the only one. 

The good thing about a review, though, is you are compelled to use the product, fear of failure or not! So, on to The Ultimate Homeschool Planner! The planner begins with mini-calendars that project through 2023. While it is true that you can always look up this information on your phone, it is very handy to have it all in one place and laid out, especially if you like to plan ahead for things. The next thing you encounter in the planner is an extensive User's Guide. Debra Bell, the planner's author believes that not only should some thought go into creating a planner, but she also believes that some thought should go into the planning process itself. Mrs. Bell advocates both a yearly planning retreat and monthly and weekly planning sessions. Additionally, she suggests Monday morning "tutorials" and Friday afternoon "reviews." To aid with these, the planner includes a one-year planning grid, a student goal setter, and pre-planning guides (where you can list family priorities and resources you want to use with each child).

The planner also includes monthly and weekly planning pages. The weekly planning pages have ample space for you to write down your Bible plan, your Battle Plan, your Prayers, and your Hospitality/Outreach. You can also track the week's Memorable Moments and Achievements and Evidences of Grace. In this way, the planner also doubles as a journal, which I really like. Best of all, these pages are all undated. I have seen some fabulous planners, but given that the pages are dated, I have not bought them because the dates rarely coincide with my discovery of the planners, and I loathe losing out on those weeks or months missed. There are also many record keeping pages in the planner - for grades, reading lists, and activities. A few pages of teaching tips are included. Finally what Mrs. Bell calls a High School Planning Guide can be found at the end. I'm not sure that this is actually a high school planner, as much as it is a sample four-year schedule. Still, since this is a homeschool planner, and doesn't purport to be anything else, I am certainly not going to quibble over that! At the very end of the planner are a few pages to make some end-of-year notes. The planner comes in at a very hefty 284 pages and is comb bound and vinyl covered. This planner can stand up to a year of heavy use.

What I Thought and How I Used It

I won't prevaricate. When I got this planner, I wasn't intimidated. I was flat-out scared. I don't like things that require instructions. Instructions scare me. I don't consider myself a dumb person, but if something has directions with it, I hand it to my husband or one of my children. Now, you can tell me to research something - anything - and I'll do it - happily! Tell me to write a paper and I'm thrilled! Tell me to edit a paper and I'm all over it. Tell me to speak in public on almost any subject with no preparation and I'm fine. Just please don't make me deal with directions. We all have our things, right? Well, I'll make a confession: I didn't read the directions that accompany this planner. I am taking very seriously the homeschooling maxim that you take something and make it your own. I did try, but quickly realized that I just didn't want to devote that amount of time to planning. Instead, I dove right in and decided to use this creation as a hybrid planner/record book/journal. I didn't use the Bible Plan section, since I read the Catholic Church readings of the day found on the USCCB's website (which, I would hope it goes without saying, are all straight from the Bible). For prayers and outreach, I wrote about the things I wanted to focus on during the week, but again, used this section more as journaling than planning.

The weekly section offers six sections down the side and six across the top. Each block is divided into five lines. I used the blocks down the side for the three youngest kids (Therese is not doing school right now because of her illness), so each kid got two blocks. Subjects went across the top. I realize that this manner of utilizing the planner is a little unorthodox (and, actually, right now I have extra space using it this way), but within the next few weeks, the kids will be doing more diverse work within each subject than they are now and that extra space will come in really handy. If you have more kids than I do, you'll appreciate all this space. Even when Therese starts doing school again (very soon I hope), I won't be using this planner with her. Her curriculum has its own planning and scheduling system. 

Also, I realize that for many people, planning means actually writing down lesson numbers, etc., like "Easy Grammar p. 43-46," but this is one area of planning that has *always* tripped me up. Inevitably stuff happens and we get off track. Someone who shall remain nameless will have a meltdown, someone will get sick, I will get a headache, or whatever. Then, the planner has gone astray and my OCD goes nuts. I have learned the hard way just to write down the resource. You can see, though, that you do have plenty of room to write down as much as you want to!

Overall, this is an excellent planner. You can use as much or as little of it as you want to. You are sure to find a way to use it. I love that it easily doubles as a journal, since journaling is something that I have done less and less as I have gotten older and busier. It used to be something I reveled in. Because everyone uses planners in different ways, I really encourage you to read the other reviews written by the Crew. Just click the banner below.

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