Monday, September 29, 2008

The Old Schoolhouse Planner

For those of you who love to get organized do I have a planner for you! For those of you who love the idea of being organized, but find it a bit overwhelming (cough, me) do I have a planner for you! I just had the opportunity to view the new 247 page Schoolhouse Planner offered by “The Old Schoolhouse Magazine”, It is one of their numerous e-commerce products being offered on their website which provide instant gratification after purchase as you don’t have to wait for the items to be shipped. The planner can be instantly downloaded to your computer, is easy to navigate, and so if you are inspired and in the mood to organize you can get started right away. Nifty huh?!

I had heard great things, but my initial skeptical reaction was “how different can this planner really be from all the others? And $39?!!” After viewing just a few of the pages I soon realized that this was definitely the “superman” of all planners/organizers and that $39.00 was an incredible bargain. With this one tool you can record keep for your homeschool, organize your personal life, keep track of the history of all sorts of appliances, your garden, books/videos read, keep an inventory of your pantry and homeschool library, and on and on. The best part for an organizationally challenged person like me is that the forms are all “fill in the blank” formats so as long as you can fill out a form you can get your life organized. An added bonus of the planner being in e-book format is that all of the links mentioned throughout are live taking you immediately to schoolhouse store products, blogs and websites of authors or curriculum, home-making sites, etc. This planner is not only an organizational tool, but a huge resource list of everything you ever needed to know about homeschooling.

The table of contents provides you with instant access to any page by simply clicking on the title of the page. I found this extremely helpful as I navigated through the planner for the first few times. I did not need to waste precious time scrolling through pages of irrelevant information just to find that recipe I saw in the month of August for Cheeseburger Pie. Everything included in the planner, no matter how insignificant is included in the Table of Contents.

The calendar section of the planner is presented in a two page spread format. The pages are easily customized on your computer allowing you to add important events before printing out the 81/2 x 11 sheets. I loved typing in our family’s important dates, but did find the scrolling up and down as I searched for the correct side of the calendar to be a bit tedious. The larger calendar size was perfect for posting onto our school room wall serving as a beautiful solution to the family calendar. Being a visual person I especially liked the bold dark red gridlines and the bright black type of the days and memos I had added. Everything looked clean, crisp and official when I printed it out and hung it up. An added touch is a watermark of an old one room schoolhouse which runs across the middle of both pages; great for those who prefer a bit of style for their posted calendars.

Scattered between each month of the school year are articles from home education experts. This feature wove the inspiration of a mini homeschool conference throughout the months of the school year. The articles were short, relevant and inspiring. Topics included unit study education, writing instruction, foreign language study, math, science, geography, communication, history, chore training, art and homeschooling through high school. The beauty of these articles are the point and click live links which allow you to finish your research or shopping recommended by the article without having to get up and run to your computer. This simple feature helps the homeschool parent streamline their efforts and save time, a precious commodity for any family.

Mixed throughout the calendar pages and articles each month is a plethora of reference lists. These lists include such things as Famous Composers, Countries and Capitals, Kitchen Conversion charts, Measurement conversions chart, the Periodic Table of Elements, U.S. States and Capitals, U.S. Presidents, U.S. Presidents and their wives, a History Time-line, the 7 wonders of the Ancient and Modern World, and Famous Artists. Although a bit quirky to have in a planner, I loved the idea of including it for the knowledge thirsty homeschooling family. I don’t know how many times I have been eating lunch or dinner with my family and a random question has surfaced in our conversation paralyzing the knowledge quest because I have to answer, “I don’t know. That’s a good question, let’s look that up later”. In addition the author has included a copy of “The Declaration of Independence”, “The Constitution”, “The Transcript of the Louisiana Purchase”, “The Transcript of the Emancipation Proclamation” and “The Gettysburg Address”. With all of this information neatly arranged in my handy planner I am now armed and ready for any trivia or historical question.

Finally, I would be remiss without mentioning the tremendous “Forms” section offered within this planner. I have always been a fan of forms, because they help me organize my often scattered thoughts. All of the forms within The Schoolhouse Planner are able to be filled out on your computer and then printed if you so desire. The forms are designed to take even the most organizationally challenged of us and walk us through the planning process step by step for a successful home education year.

Beginning with an Annual Plans Chart followed by a yearly goals form the homeschool teacher can get the big picture established customizing each form for each child. There are curriculum planning sheets, course of study sheets, a 12 year planning page, curriculum record sheets designed to help you review your purchases, and best of all a “Beginning/Ending Page” which is designed to act as scrapbook inspiration to record each students vital statistics and likes and dislikes the first and last days of the school year.

Many of the other record keeping forms like lesson planners come in several formats in an effort to please us all. There is definitely more than anyone could need in the 120 pages of different forms. Once again the beauty of an e-book format planner is that you simply click through anything that doesn’t apply. I found forms that could support all philosophies of education from textbook families to unschoolers; quite refreshing for the families who are a mixture of styles.

A household forms section rounded out the planner. This section provided the perfect system for creating a household reference notebook to maintain records of all kinds including important contact information, chores, menus, house cleaning/maintenance schedules, personal and spiritual growth and goal setting forms. I especially thought the “Directions to Favorite Places” form was a clever idea. No more wasting time map questing directions. They will be right within your planner.

You can look at samples of this wonderful planner at If you are skeptical like I was at first you will soon realize that the $39.00 investment is worth every penny. Whether you are teaching a pre-schooler or high schooler this planner will help you have a great, organized school year!!

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