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I have found homeschool planning utopia… well, as close to utopia as anything else on the market.  I am one of those people that prefer a digital planner.  I hate erasing or crossing things out on paper, so messy!  I’ve found things before that worked for a season but nothing that was ever just perfect. I came to believe that I’d never find a perfect system.  However, when the opportunity to review a one year’s subscription to Homeschool Planet by Homeschool Buyers Co-op came along a few years ago, I figured I’d give it ago.  I’m a digital planner junky! I’ve got to try them ALL! I’ve been using this system ever since.  THEN, another opportunity to review it came along, and since I love it so much I pretty much jumped up and down and hollered PICK ME! PICK ME! 

A look at our daily planner!

Trying to keep life together while homeschooling four children, running a home, a co-op, a business, blogging, and serving in ministry is just about impossible.  There is just too much to keep track of.  I don’t need to tell my blog readers that.  You all are trying to do the same thing.  Personally, I manage to do an okay job of keeping most of all of these juggling balls in the air.  Maybe not all at once but in general most everything gets done… at least eventually.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op is a fantastic source for low-cost curriculum and homeschool related materials. They are the largest buyer’s co-op for homeschool curriculum.  To use Homeschool Planet, you’ll need to create a free account with the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  You can sign up for a free 30-day trial, no credit card required.  This is an online cloud-based planner.  You’ll need a computer with an internet connection to operate this program.

The calendar view, which I prefer.

This planner is feature rich. So feature rich that this program deserves a whole series of blog posts diving into the details of all it can do.  It does nearly everything I’ve ever wished a digital planner would do.  To get the most out of it, I recommend you spend some time in the library of tutorials located in the help section.  I would say this program is pretty clean and straightforward. However, there are just so many possibilities for use that I can see someone feeling overwhelmed as they begin learning.

I like the little touches offered in this program.  I was able to select a beautiful background and upload little photos of my entire family. (Note to Homeschool Buyers Co-op: I’d love some NEW backgrounds! Please?) Every family member has his/her profile where I can create settings just for them.  I can select little widgets (or side windows) where I can keep things like a grocery list, a weather report, and a scripture verse front and center.

Record Keeping!

There are multiple views.  We can see our plans in a calendar format or a planner format, by the day, the week or the month.  We can view a child at a time, multiple children at once, or absolutely everyone all together. We can import our appointment calendars from Cozi (my favorite) or Google Calendars.

When creating lesson plans, we can create subjects, classes within subjects (multiple classes if we’d like) and you can color code everything! You can create multiple lessons within one class within one day!  You can create multiple classes within a subject in one day.  You can create a custom schedule and determine exactly how often you’ll have any of your classes.  (Just to make it clear… we have the Subject of Math, my son uses Math U See every day (that is one math “class”), and he uses Life of Fred 3 times a week (that would be another “class.”).  They’ve recently added a Lesson Planning feature that will save your lessons for use at a later time.  My Joyanna is moving through Math-U-See behind her brothers.  I’ve kept her lesson plans for her baby sister to use “some day” and I’m saving my the lessons plans I’ve made for my boys, so I’ll be able to apply them to the girl’s planners eventually.  More on this below.

HSPlanet_LessonPlans

Lesson Planning Page… my lessons are relatively short but you can include several paragraphs, and you can link resources including webpages.

You can assign one class (or assignment) to multiple children.  There are even features within the program to help you shorten your keystrokes.  For example, you can tell it to auto fill Lesson 1.. Lesson 2… Lesson 3 etc. and then you can add more text to each lesson.

If you would like you can setup each of your children with student accounts so they can log in all on their own and see the assignments for the day.  Then they can even check them off as they go! THIS is beauty in motion.  I’m not kidding.  My children get up every morning and start tackling their list, sometimes before I even stumble in with my coffee in hand.  PLUS I can add extras like music practice or a reminder right within their checklists for anything I want (CHORES).

If you enter your cell phone or email information you children can even send you messages about their work.  You cannot reply, but it can still be a help!  I’ve had my son text me to remind me to adjust his assignments.  I can even text my husband (or myself) to-do or shopping lists straight from the program!  My kids have great fun with this little feature.  Sometimes they just send me little I love you’s. Be still this momma’s heart!

The rescheduling features are AMAZING!  I’ve never found a program that so easily allows you to reschedule or insert assignments.  If you are in the calendar mode, you can just click and drag classes and assignments around.  If you are in the planning pages, you can do the same OR click a drop down box to help you choose rescheduling options.  Each day when you log in a box appears letting you which assignments haven’t been marked done.  You can reschedule them, mark them complete, or do nothing.  It’ll even prompt you to enter grades.

I’ve used other digital planners before that fell short in this rescheduling area.  Either they lacked the feature entirely, or it wasn’t intelligent enough for my purposes.  I used one program that left me in tears as a tremendous amount of hard work was destroyed.  I had used the bump feature wrong, and my plans were so jumbled it was a loss!  I had to start again.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rescheduled with Homeschool Planet.  Not even once was an assignment lost nor was anything ever jumbled.  It all works PERFECTLY!  Cue the Angels again!

Rescheduling Helper

Rescheduling Helper

The one area that I regularly fall down on is homeschool record keeping.  It might be because we live in a state that doesn’t require me to turn any sort of records into anyone.  However I know the responsible thing to do, just in case, is to document what we are doing every day.  It can be difficult though as our schooling is fluid.  We will linger on topics that interest us or need more of our attention.  We love love LOVE to make the time to take rabbit trails and veer off our planned course to study some concept in more depth than I had originally planned.  It can be difficult to keep up recording or even planning what we’ve done when the unexpected but worthwhile comes along.

REPORTS and RECORD KEEPING! Homeschool Planet helps me keep perfect records.  I can create a custom grade setup for each child and each subject.  I can also choose not to grade at all.  Each thing we do gets checked off and recorded.  It is easy for me to make space for our rabbit trails without messing up my plans.  Attendance records are done for me.  If we needed to, I could even keep track of our hours of homeschooling.  Homeschool Planet is the PERFECT record keeper!  It has made life so much easier.

For Your Business and Ministry! There are a number of ways to get creative as well.  If you are a blogger or have any sort of ministry or business, you can create a profile just for that and keep track of deadlines and assignments under that profile.  You can also create a recurring house cleaning schedule or family menu.  The longer I use it, the more possibilities I keep dreaming up!

It also works well on your mobile device.  It is not available as a separate app.  You go to your web browser and log-in from there.  You aren’t going to do the robust planning as you do on your desktop.  But you can indeed interact with your plans and lists and check things off as needed.  I keep a shortcut icon right on my phone and iPad’s home screen so I can access it very easily as if it were an app.

Homeschool Planet by Homeschool Buyers Co-op does it all!  In fact, I’ve probably just scratched the surface.  As I was clicking around making sure I covered as much as I could for this review, I found a feature I had never seen before.  CLASS NOTES!  I can keep notes on how my children do on each assignment?  Who knew?  Of course, those attendance, grades, and transcripts are all available in the reports section as well.  I could do a whole post on reports.  They very feature rich.

Connect To Other Calendars!  Did you know you can tie in your Google Calendar, Cozi App Calendar, and even your Mac— err I’m not a Mac person what is this one called? iCal?— Calendars.  You can indeed make this the one stop, center hub of life for EVERYTHING you are juggling.  And I mean EVERYTHING!

The NEW LESSON PLANNING FEATURE! 

Homeschool Buyers Co-op has created something fantastic.  Now, when you have a piece of curriculum that is somewhat repetitive (like Math-U-See, Lesson 1A, then 1B, then 1C, etc.  or a workbook with a set number of pages, etc.). You can use a tool to help you pace the lessons or activities and schedule them out for the entire year.  And then…. DRUM ROLL… YOU can SAVE THEM for another child!  It isn’t limited to these kinds of lessons.  If you are the the sort of homeschooler who does more elaborate unit type study plans, or ANY plans you can still use this feature.  It’ll just require more manual input on your part.  But do it once, and you are DONE for every child coming up.  In another year when your younger child moves up you just click a few buttons and POOF.  Homeschool Buyers Co-op has taken it a step further.  They offer lesson plans from top-rated curriculum companies for sale!!!  YESSS!!! For just a few bucks I can buy the lesson plans and have them forever.  And the for purchase ones are better than mine.  Whoever makes them takes greater care to provide links and extra information

Homeschool Buyers Co-op has taken it a step further.  They offer lesson plans from very popular curriculum companies for sale!!!  YESSS!!! For just a few bucks I can buy the lesson plans and have them forever.  And the purchased ones are better than mine.  Whoever makes these plans takes greater care to provide links and extra information for you.  First, you have to make sure you OWN the curriculum for the lesson plans you are purchasing.  For example, Mark Kistler’s Draw 3D program is a web-based subscription program for his art lesson videos.  I now have the Homeschool Planet Lessons for this program saved in Homeschool Planet.  I can apply them to whichever child or multiple children I would like.  Every day when they click on the lesson, there is a direct link to the video for the day AND a link to print out the handout they need for it as well.  I can’t express how beautiful this is.

Please note… at the time I am publishing this article Homeschool Buyers CO-OP is offering you the chance to download a Purchased Lesson Plan FOR FREE!!! Don’t miss it!

My ONE Criticism

I’ve written to Homeschool Buyers Co-op  a few times about this issue.  They always respond politely.  I’m not asking in this public space for a feature that I would very much appreciate.  Right now if we want to reserve a day for things like Co-op or field trips (both legitimate school days) we have to mark them as a day off in the calendar.  When I ask them for a better way they tell me I should manually “bump” every assignment from that day to another day and then the program will count it towards our number of school days completed.  I’ve tried that but honestly it is a PAIN!  I have three children currently homeschooling and will soon be adding in little things for my soon to be 3-year-old.  Sometimes between all of the kids, I have 20+ “assignments” in a day I’d have to bump by hand, one at a time, in order to get the program to recognize the day as a school day.  We meet with our co-op twice a month and we can take 4 or more field trips a month in the warmer season.  There simply has to be a better way than choosing to either mark it as a day off (which take two seconds of my time) or bumping everything, which can take SOOOO much longer.

Does this one Criticism crush my love for this program?  NOT.AT.ALL!  Nothing is life is 100% perfect.  But please Homeschool Buyers Coop… can’t you fix this?

Conclusion

My life would be in utter chaos without this program.  Maybe it is just the think you are looking for?

 

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