Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why I'm excited about the new TOS Student Planners

Why am I excited about the new Student Planners that The Old Schoolhouse has just released?  Well, I have spent a fair amount of time in the past year trying to get something to work Connor, who has started doing high school work.  That has convinced me that I want to find a system for my younger children too.

When I've looked for a planner for him, I have encountered a number of problems.  Most planners definitely target a traditional school student.  While that helps with some of his online courses, it is nearly impossible to stuff most of our learning lifestyle into that type of a format.  Or, if the planner is meant for homeschoolers, it still makes a number of assumptions, such as a traditional school year, or a 36-week schedule with clear semester and quarter breaks.  Our life is not so neatly compartmentalized.

The other big thing lacking for my family is a place to track some of those idiosyncratic courses that my children want to create.  They need a place to jot down ideas about someone who might talk with them about what genetic research is really like, or the forensics book that has a great chapter on entomology. 

Essentially, the perfect planner for my family would:
  • Be flexible, allowing us to date the pages ourselves and to choose what pages we want.  And especially for my boys, to not have a whole bunch of unused printed forms, so when they take their planner to Scouts, there aren't extra pages getting in their way.  Pages that can be used to track things for Scouts, and not just for school, would be an added bonus.
  • Encourage initiative and responsibility, allowing my students to plan out their own courses, track their own reading logs, along with the normal things like creating to-do lists and scheduling their time.
  • Be interactive, as my children would rather do it on the computer than have to use a pencil.  Being able to save their changes as they go, and print when they want to would be even better.
The Old Schoolhouse Student Planners do all of that.  And more.  Like articles written to the student, targeted to their age range.  There are pages of information about Newberry Award Winners or the periodic table.  There is a separate pdf file for the parents to help them learn to schedule their time and to use this new tool.

What I love is that the High School Planner is going to be equally usable for my ambitious and definitely college-bound son and for the one who is more entrepreneurial and does not think higher education is something he wants to pursue.  One will have the college admissions checklists printed out.  One is going to have a lot more "create your own course" pages with notes about internships and possible mentors.

Of course, for this year, each of us will have a completely different planner.
  • I get the regular Schoolhouse Planner.   One thing I really love is that I can save multiple copies of it.  So I am using the calendar pages to plan out my blog posts in one file, and that doesn't get cluttered with all the other things I have going on in my life.  I have my regular one as well, and that one includes all kinds of great information on what we are doing in school.
  • Connor will have the High School Planner and will be busy plotting out his 4 year schedule and noting prerequisites for various career choices.  He will have pages and pages of Science Lab Sheets.  And he now has a start on some important "stuff" with a sheet filled with phone numbers and addresses for important people.  This page alone is worth it to me.  I know they all have the phone number for the doctor now. 
  • William will have the Middle School Planner, complete with Unit Study Planning Sheets and various Goal Sheets.  He will particularly love being able to type information into his forms.
  • Thomas will have the Secondary Planner, and will use far fewer forms than his big brothers.  But that will include things like Book Reports, and Memorization Records.
  • Richard will have the Primary Planner.  As a first grader, I'm not totally convinced he truly needs one.  He will want to be like his brothers, and there are some fantastic Journal Pages and Chore Charts, and I really think this will help him to build some great habits so that he will have an easier time with the older planners as he grows.
  • Trina is only four, and will undoubtedly get some pages for her own planner from the Primary Planner.  Aside from the Alphabet Practice Sheets and maybe the Chore Charts, I don't think she'll use much of it as intended, but the calendar pages will help her with days of the week (and give her plenty of practice coloring rectangles!)  She won't be using the computer at all -- hers will simply be printed.  (Do I think it is worth it to buy a planner for a 4 year old?  Umm, no.  But since I have it, well, she'll insist on having her own too.)
Disclaimer:  I did work on the student planners, but I have no financial stake in their sales, aside from the ability to do some more independent contractor work on future years' planners (I'm already committed to work on them for 2011-12.)

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