Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell

The motto of our homeschool is: "Learning to Love to Learn."  One of my overarching goals as a homeschool mom is to teach my kids how to learn. I believe that if they know how to acquire and retain information, they will be able to do anything they set their hearts on, both as children and as adults.

Veteran homeschool mom Debra Bell believes this too and that is one of the reasons she created The Ultimate Homeschool Planning System. 

The Ultimate Homeschool Planning System is more than just a planner, it's a SYSTEM.  There's the mom's planner, the teen planner, and a younger student planner.  The system is designed to grow with your students, teaching them to take on more and more responsibility for their daily/weekly planning, scheduling, and time management.  As early as 3rd grade, students can keep a little checklist for each day detailing what they need to get done.  By the time they're in 5th grade they're able to be much more independent.  You can tell them what they need to get done that week and it's up to them to manage their time and schedule their days.

The Mom's Planner

The homeschooling journey can be a lonesome and discouraging one.  It's a road less-traveled.  Sometimes it can seem we're the only ones traveling it at all!  There is so much we desire for our kids, so much we hope for and worry about.  It can be easy to get bogged down in the day to day struggles and forget to keep the big picture in mind.  It can also be easy to miss the glorious, awe-inspiring moments that happen in the midst of it all.

This is where The Ultimate Homeschool Planner comes in!  A planner is a planner, right?  It has space to write down your schedule and list the things you need to accomplish.  Nothing spectacular there.  But what makes this planner completely different from any other planner I've seen is the way it brings the focus back around to God.  Who knew a day timer could be so blessedly encouraging?  

Each week starts with a one-of-a-kind Lord's Day planning page that encourages you to seek the Lord as you schedule out your week.  It has space to write down your week's Bible plan, prayers, and plans for reaching out to others.  Right across from this page is a place to write down memorable moments, achievements, and evidence of God's grace for that week so that you won't forget to see the good God is doing in the midst of all the busy-ness!  I haven't made as much use of this part as I'd like to…mostly that's because I haven't gotten into the habit of it yet!

Following the Lord's Day planning pages is a two-page planning grid for the rest of the week with room for up to six children/subjects as well as space to record notes, supplies, and appointments.  It is unlabeled allowing for the greatest amount of flexibility so you can use it in a way that suits your needs best!

Since I only have one school-aged child and I had already designed my own daily lesson planner for her, I have been using my grid to keep track of my meal plan, my daily chores list, any prep I need to do for Miss M's lessons, a brief blogging to-do list, errands/appointments, and my personal quiet time.

No planner would be complete without a monthly planning calendar.  Each month's grid is spread out over two full pages to give the greatest amount of space available for recording the events of the month.  We aren't involved in many activities, but I've enjoyed being able to see how each week relates to the other weeks: "this week we have an appointment, next week we don't, the following week we do," etc.  I also like having a visual representation of when our library books are due back!

In addition to the monthly and weekly planning pages, the front and back of the planner are chock full of instruction pages (including full-color illustrations!) by the author; a student goal setter and family priority guide; a place to record resource listsreading lists, grades, field trips and activities; and a checklist for raising an independent learner!  There's even a high school planning guide (which is still a ways off in the future for us, but inspirational nonetheless).

One last feature that simply can't be overlooked is simply how beautiful the planner is! Each page is rich with color and beautiful floral designs.  I've never picked up a planner that was so warm and welcoming!  The covers are sturdy plastic with pockets for keeping track of loose papers.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is available from Apologia for $28.00.

The Student's Planner

If the point of homeschooling is to teach our students to be independent learners, they'll need tools to learn to manage their time.  Younger students can manage their day, while older students can manage their week.


  • a glow-in-the-dark spiral binding (my kids *loved* this!)
  • sturdy plastic covers
  • pages for "All About Me" and "The Future 'Me' I Want to Be"
  • the Study Smart Student Toolkit -- I could write a whole review just about this and the study helps in the back!
  • monthly planner pages
  • daily assignment pages
  • scripture verses and trivia questions on each page
  • spaces to check "done" and "approved" for each assignment
  • a place to record grades
  • reading list pages
  • an active lifestyle activity log that meets the guidelines of the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award 
  • a timeline of U.S. and World History
  • U.S. and World Maps
  • science, math, and English helps

Miss M is only 6 years old. If she were in public school, she'd be in kindergarten.  I have to tell myself this all the time; just because she's academically advanced doesn't mean she's as mature as a 2nd or 3rd grader.  She may not be quite mature enough to manage her own time or keep her own planner, but sometimes I need her to be able to work independently while I tend to other things around the house.

Since I was given a copy of The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, I decided to put it to the test and started filling in things that she can do on her own. For example, she doesn't need my help to get out her cursive workbook and practice her handwriting. She can do it herself and then check off the task in her very own planner.  And guess what? She *loves* this! She has been so excited to have her very own planner. She spent over an hour filling out the About Me and The Me I Want to Be pages. She carries it around and looks at the maps in the back and writes book lists.  And she has been more successfully doing more of her work independently -- at least the things she doesn't need instruction on first!

The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students is available from Apologia for $19.00.

The Teen's Planner

The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens shifts even more of the responsibility for time management from the teacher to the student. It is full of study aids, tips, common SAT words, and a place to record high school credit hours required for graduation.

I would have loved this planner when I was in high school!  I especially like the time tracker circles that allow a student to see how long it takes them to complete an assignment. Knowing how long assignments take is great practice for when you take college courses!

The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens is available from Apologia for $19.00.

My Thoughts

  • The User's Guide gave me a lot to think about in how I approach homeschool planning. I especially appreciated the full-color examples of how one might fill out each page!
  • The planner is designed to cover 48 weeks and is undated. Since we homeschool year-round, this is perfect!
  • If this planner were made digital, I think I'd be in heaven!  It would cut down on costs too since there wouldn't be printing fees to recoup.
  • Frankly, $28 for a planner (plus $19 x 2 for the student planners), even ones as fantastic as these, probably won't be in my budget most years. And that makes me sad!
  • I would have loved the student planner even when I was in high school and college!

Don't forget to read my honesty policy.


  1. oh man, this looks more like what I need. my calendar does not have enough space

  2. Great review,and I love how you used the student planner to foster independence with you daughter!!

  3. Wonderful review. Love how you laid out a balanced pros and cons at the end. Great images too. Really helps to get a feel for how you utilized the planners. Thanks so much for sharing your opinions.

  4. Thank you! So glad you liked the pictures. I'm an aspiring photographer, but still very much an amateur! It does my hear good to hear they are effective! :-)

    1. Totally! Love the long shot angle down the pages. Might have to 'steal' that trick. I have a hard time photographing writing so that it looks clear. You do a great job.

  5. I never thought to add the library due date! Great idea!!

    1. Thanks! I'm paranoid about getting our library books back on time. The library automatically emails me three days before, but sometimes I still forget to get them back before they're due!