Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Homeschool Planet, an Online Planner

Homeschool Planet ReviewFriends, I can be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. Google that, and you'll find:

noun informal
  1. a person who is dull and unadventurous and who resists change.

Maybe the "dull" part is not quite accurate, but I'll readily admit that I am rather unadventurous. Most of the time I see this as a good thing. I figure out what works for me and I stick with it. This is also true when it comes to planning in my homeschool. My one-page weekly checklist worked well for me last year, and I anticipated using the same thing (with some tweaking) for years to come. I tried one online planner for review in the past year, found it too complex for my needs, and quickly returned to my pen and paper ways. However, the Schoolhouse Review Crew is continually challenging my unadventurous nature (this also is a good thing). This time it offered me a chance to review another online planner: Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. This planner is such a premium product, so well designed and so intuitive to work with that I will actually be giving this a try in our new school year to see if it is something that will work long-term for us.

What is Homeschool Planet?

Homeschool Planet is a planner for your homeschool and your life. It offers a way to integrate all your plans into one planner: school, chores, menu plans, appointments, to do lists, shopping lists, and anything else you might have to manage as you live life as a homeschool mom.

On the main screen of the online planner you can switch between a calendar view or a more list-like planner view (my preference). You can also choose to manage your resources: books, CDs and DVDs, websites, even files from your computer that you can upload, link to specific lessons, and access directly from the planner when you need them.

(This is the "Resources" view.)

After you add the people in your family and your basic school year dates, you can begin to work with the program, adding “classes,” chores, meals, appointments, birthdays, or anything else you want. It is so easy to use, allowing you to add multiple tasks at once, or add them to multiple days of your choice. And don’t worry about making mistakes or missing days. Everything is editable and moveable. There is even a rescheduling helper that pops up every morning to help you deal with items that didn’t get checked off the day before. Do you want to check them as done? Add them to today and shift your entire schedule by a day? Add them and not move anything else? You can choose with this planner.

Then there are the fully customizable and printable assignment lists and other reports. Do you want to print a list of lessons for one particular child on one particular day so he can check them off as he completes them? You can do that. Or do you want to print a list of your own household chores for the entire week? You can do that, too.

Widgets on the side allow you to easily create multiple to-do lists and shopping lists. These lists are able to be printed, emailed, or even text-messaged to your smart phone. Other widgets allow you to send messages, check the weather, be inspired by a daily quote or Bible verse, or look things up online, whether recipes by ingredient, Wikipedia, the Bible, or anything at all on the internet.

How I Used Homeschool Planet

I received a year's subscription to Homeschool Planet in June as I was finishing up my school year. Since I didn't have my books yet for the new school year, I decided to begin by putting my homemaking "Control Journal" into the planner. I had my plan in a binder, and it was and is a good plan, but I haven't been using it for a while. (I've barely been keeping myself afloat with dishes and laundry and baby and homeschooling...)

And so I went from this:

to this:
(This is the "Planner" view.)

It looks nice, and it works well. The printable list helps me by allowing me to do my daily routines before turning on the computer and accessing the planner online. My only problem now is dealing with the feelings of failure that come from not checking every little checkbox every day. This was less of an issue with my old binder, since I just tucked it away and ignored it. Sadly, housework cannot be ignored forever...

Next, I added in our basic homeschool schedule. I changed things from last year since it will still be summer when we start our new school year. I wanted to make sure to keep plenty of outdoor time as a priority, and in our school time I wanted to become more strict with myself about doing lessons in a particular order. For this reason, I purposefully scheduled two solid hours of outdoor time in the morning, and listed our lessons at a particular time on the calendar (there is also an option to do things at "no particular time" or as all day events). We are still very routine-oriented, not strictly scheduled, but planning it this way allowed me to see how much time we had to work with a little better.
(This is the "Calendar" view. Cluttered, but allows you to see at a glance how your time is being used.)

I plan to take a little bit of planning time each week to fill in some specifics of each lesson for the week, and then print it all off for SA(7) to check things off as they are completed. I still have to find a corner of time somewhere to do a daily short reading lesson with JJ(5).

What I Thought of Homeschool Planet

I have to be honest. I still love my pen and paper. Still, the huge advantage Homeschool Planet has for me is that it integrates everything so that I am no longer considering housework, homeschooling, and other commitments separately. And it is not requiring that I give up my pen and paper altogether. The printable checklists are actually very similar to the daily checklists I was handwriting for SA(7) last year. My weekly planning/record-keeping process will change a little, perhaps even for the better. This is an excellent online planner. I truly can't imagine a better one for ease of use and flexibility. I plan to continue to use Homeschool Planet, and that is the highest endorsement I can give!

Please note that you can get a three month free trial through Homeschool Giveaways right now. This offer is a very quick one. It expires on Friday, July 17 at 11:59PM ET.
Don't panic if you missed it! Homeschool Buyers Co-op normally offers a 30-day free trial as well.

Check out what other Schoolhouse Crew members have to say about Homeschool Planet:
Homeschool Planet Review

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