It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Sing it with me! With new paper planners, your pens and your markers and stickers galore! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Okay so I might be being a little silly, but honestly it IS one of my favorite things to do each year! I know some of you who hate planning are either shocked by that statement or are saying bah humbug, but really planning hits so many buttons for me. It is empowering, relaxing, creative, inspiring, motivating….well I could go on and on, but it doesn’t have to be that dreaded thing you do each year. Really!
So first let me start with what planner I chose and my history of homeschool planners. Early on I didn’t need a planner because I was teaching preschool and was using Erica Arndt of Confessions of a Homeschooler’s pre-k and then k4 curriculum. She had it all mapped out and there was no need to plan anything. I didn’t always do every item on her weekly spread depending on how my son was doing and I would occasionally add in different educational games, but for the most part her plan worked for me for the preschool years.
When full Kindergarten came around I knew we would not be using a boxed curriculum because my son is very eclectic when it comes to the levels of subjects he was in and what I thought was best for his learning style at the time required a lot of differentiation. My understanding of his learning style has evolved, but that’s a topic for anther blog post. In true Mindi fashion, I wanted to come up with what I thought was the perfect planner. *Stands up* Hi, my name is Mindi and I’m a self-oriented perfectionist. *Hi, Mindi* I wanted to find different resources online that I liked the best, combine them, make my own planner and pretty it up with lots of encouraging words, inspirational quotes and more ways to plan than you could shake a stick at…seriously.
I researched and bought a disc punch system to make my own books and planners. I bought a bunch of different sized discs for all sorts of planners and booklets I wanted to make and set out downloading (some free things, some paid) and then printing out all of the things I wanted to put in my planner. I printed a lot of it on cardstock because I wanted it to be durable. Guys, I ended up not having discs big enough! I had to go find discs on amazon that were for 3 inch books!
My planner was HUGE and in the end it was so huge that I didn’t use it! Trying to turn the pages was a bit of a nightmare and carrying it around was just out of the question..it was ginormous! This was also while we were trying to sell our house and pack up so it really stayed in the cabinet most of the time and I just developed a system of doing one lesson after the next using a workbox system without much pre-planning. For some people that works, but for us it meant I often skipped the fun parts of our curricula because we didn’t have different supplies on hand to make this or that.
The following year I happened to get a free teacher’s planner from Lakeshore Learning for a minimum purchase that I was already doing so I thought, why not. It was so simple compared to what I had done the year before but seeing as how we were preparing to move again into our new build and then unpacking and getting settled, I didn’t start using it effectively right away. Eventually though I was able to plan about a month in advance at a time and it worked out much better, but it still didn’t have everything I would have liked for planning. Where my first planner was way too much, this one was just a bit too basic, but at least it was functional.
This year, we’re finally settled in the new house and I knew it would really be the first year I could plan properly for the whole year and I set out to find a new planner. I did searches and looked at samples and read reviews. Finding a planner for an eclectic homeschool of one was actually harder than I thought it would be because most homeschool planners assume you have multiple children and therefore there are lots and lots of wasted pages or the space you have for each child is very small.
We use a LOT of curricula. There are a lot of homeschoolers who only focus on a few subjects in these younger years and if that’s you and that works for you, then that’s great! BUT, my child needs a lot of diversity, he gets bored easily and if we focused on just a few basic subjects he would be so far ahead in those subjects it wouldn’t be funny. Adding in more curricula and more formal subjects at this age is making his learning more well rounded than it would be otherwise. This year we’re teaching about 10 subjects in some way or fashion as well as several unit studies. If we get overwhelmed or something just isn’t working we will reduce or change what we’re doing. For planner purposes, I was looking for something that would have a yearly plan and weekly plan but that the planning pages could accommodate a lot of subjects.
Enter stage right: A Simple Plan by Mardel! Why did I choose this planner, lets take a look! One of the first things I noticed about it online is that they had example pages on how to use the planner. This may seem silly, but sometimes a new planner can feel overwhelming and you want to see how other people use it and it’s great seeing how the manufacturer intended it to be used. Now that’s not to say I didn’t make modifications for my needs, but a good base of ideas on how to use a planner is such a great idea and I wish more companies would add these pages at the beginning. Once i am done taking these pictures, I plan to just rip them out to make the planner smaller, but I am glad they put these pages in the front.
Next, I loved the yearly overview. It gave you several pages for each student where you could break down your curricula via subject and plan a birdseye overview of your year for each student for each subject. Remember where I said we’re doing like 10 subjects plus unit studies? Well that was way more than what they had, but the student pages are back to back, so I just tore out each page that started the section for a new student and presto change-o I had a yearly planning section for 1 student with a million subject pages. Okay, more like 30+ instead of the intended 6, but you get the idea. I ended up using 15 subject pages because I broke down language arts into separate categories of grammar, reading, spelling, and handwriting.
Moving past the yearly overview and into the monthly section and I loved that each month not only had a monthly overview, but it also had various sections in that area that I really need in a homeschool planner. The two-page monthly overview spread has the following categories: Things to Accomplish, Special Activities, Websites, Reading List and Supplies Needed. I seriously need all these things and those were pages that I had made for my mega planner the first year except they probably each had one separate page per month which added to the thickness of that planner.
Next is a basic two-day monthly calendar spread. The free planner I got from Lakeshore Learning had this but it wasn’t incorporated in with the weekly planning pages so you had to do a lot of flipping pack and forth and I ended up using a separate calendar because it was easier to leave my weekly plan open on my desk and pull out a monthly plan when needed. This monthly plan spread in A Simple Plan has a notes section and prayer requests section on the side as well as mini calendars for the month past and the month ahead.
Weekly assignments start the page after the monthly spread and are similar to the previous planner I used. However, this is made for up to 6 children with each child having 6 subject rows for subject assignments. This would not work for me that way with my abundance of curricula, plus I like to put additional detail into my planning with noting library books or other resources we will be using with a lesson that day. So, why did I pick this planner and how did I solve this problem? Simple, I used each child area as a main subject and grouped smaller subjects together and used different colored pens to denote different subjects.
This worked perfectly. I made subject headers for Bible/Handwriting, History/Geography, Language Arts, Spanish/Fine Arts, Health/Unit Studies and Math. I did the subjects in the order I plan to teach them in, but we’ll see if that holds out. Each assignment has a little circle check box beside it and as long as they get checked off each day we’ll go with whatever order works. Each week has a notes section down the side of the page and each month has a note page before the divider for the next month.
At the end of the 12 months, you have a Student Records section. This section starts out with a simple attendance keeper for the year. If you live in a state where you have to keep track of school days this is a must for you. I live in a state where I just have to assure to giving my child a set number of hours of home education per year and it is not something I must document. The legal terms used are very important and do not mean you have to do that many hours of book work per year. I can easily guarantee that we meet the definition of our laws and it is not necessary to keep records. I may or may not use this area for my own curiosity, but especially seeing as we homeschool year round, I am not concerned about fulfilling my assurance in my Notice of Intent to the state of Ohio. A curriculum tracker is included in the student records section and this I probably will use more for planning for next year as I have purchased everything I need for this year already.
The last section of the planner is called Extras. This includes a simple grading chart, suggested reading list, extra curricular activity contact info pages, some Christian pages on salvation and some scriptures and finally several pages to take notes. In addition both the back cover and the front cover contain inside pockets which I am already using for a reading assessment test I will give at the beginning, middle and end of the year as well as some other little helpful things for the year.
Now to the non function reasons I bought this planner…it’s beautiful! The background color on the cover is literally my favorite color and each of the water color style dividers are beautiful. The fonts are pretty and varied without looking too busy or being unreadable. It is spiral bound! Which I guess does go into the functionality. I learned after my forage into the disc system that I bought that I’m not so fond of the discs. They get caught, sometimes the pages come out and I have to put them back in. Sorry all the Happy Planner people and other folks who love the disc systems…they just aren’t as functional for me. Yes, they are creative, but for me they just become frustrating. The spiral this year is a tan/golden color that matches the lettering on the front of the planner.
So here are a few pictures of my actual planning pages. I have a lovely assortment of Frixion eraseable pens, markers and highlighters and they simply are THE BEST for planning. I make mistakes, we all do, and I was going through a bunch of correction tape before I found Frixion pens. I dismissed them at first (I heard about them through a video Erica’s made) because I could only find them in basic colors, but they have a beautiful assortment of colors these days in a variety of pen/marker styles. Buy some for your planning, you won’t regret it!
I filled in my yearly overview, then went on to plan each subject’s weekly assignments through the full year until all my subjects were done. Finally I am working on my monthly spreads to add in things like birthdays, holidays, vacations, and appointments. Once that is fully complete I am going back and adding in some additional fun touches with stickers and washi tape. I have a huge collection of washi tape and stickers and have used very little of it the last could of years because I could never start out well with planning as we were either selling a house, building a house or moving and setting up a new house it seems for the last couple of school years. I was planning for at most a month at a time and fitting it in whenever I could.
This has turned into a bit of a review on A Simple Plan planner by Mardel so I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you the things I DIDN’T like about this planner as well. The top outside corners of the covers are trying to separate. The bottom corners are more sturdy since they are folded over for the inside pockets, but I will probably be adding some packing tape to the top corners so they are a little more sturdy and don’t separate more since we haven’t even started our homeschool year yet!
Another thing to keep in mind if you are a year round homeschooler who starts their year in the fall, this planner starts in July and goes through June. We don’t start until September and go through July taking only August off. So July and August of this year are basically a waste for me and at the end of our school year I will either have to get the next one from them to finish out my year, switch to another planner that starts in July or alter their monthly and weekly spreads for July and August of 2019 to reflect the correct dates for July and August of 2020. I also wish it would have come with a bookmark for the week you are on so it’s easier to find. I still have one that snapped into the rings on my free planner from last year. It doesn’t quite line up with the rings on this planner as well, but I’m going to try to use it anyway.
So, do you love to plan? I’m trying out an Erin Condren Life Planner for a new family endeavor. I just got it last week and I will be sure to do a little review on that in the future. Happy planning everyone!Thanks for reading!