Sunday, June 21, 2009

2009 Schoolhouse Planner

My first review for the TOS Homeschool Crew! This is for The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner. This is an eBook, available at The Old Schoolhouse Store, for $39. If you order before July 12, you also will receive the 2008 Planner Excerpts for free. The calendar starts with July 2009, and goes through June 2010.

So the first and most obvious thing I noticed when I downloaded the planner is its size: 375 pages! Yikes!

What I would have liked to have known is how that is broken down, so that is the first thing I'm going to talk about.

The first 1/3 of this eBook are the actual planner pages. Each month includes two pages of a calendar, with wonderful big blocks for writing (or typing!) Following that are at least three pages of information for the theme for that month (an article, a "must-know" list, and loads of links to additional resources at the TOS store), and two recipes.

The following sections, briefly:
  • Misc. Educational forms - 20 some pages, with things like the Periodic Table, a list of countries and their capitals, or a chart for converting measurements.
  • Homeschool forms - about 120 pages, including all kinds of long- and short-term planning and goal forms, report cards, grade reports, progress reports, daily and weekly schedules, records for memory work, crafts or field trips, journal pages, lab sheets, forms for co-op planning, and much, much more.
  • Household forms - about 75 pages, including information sheets (medical, appliance inventory, personal financial information), grocery lists, menu planning sheets, housekeeping lists, chore charts, prayer journals, garden planning, car maintenance forms, and lots more.

So, it is taking me awhile to get my brain around whether or not I can make use of this in our schooling. Or how, maybe, might be the better question. I know I can use parts of it. I know I never would have purchased this myself though. Part of that is probably just that I have been at this homeschooling thing for quite awhile now (this is my 8th year, if you don't count when I only had preschoolers... my first homeschool conference was over ten years ago).

Here is what I am thinking. First, I love the idea of being able to type up some basics into the calendar, and print it out for my own little mini-planner. So, I am definitely going to be doing that. And my oldest is starting to want to do things to plan out his trail to Eagle Scout, and I'm quite sure that helping him learn how to schedule things out is going to be a lot easier with the calendar pages, and some of the planning forms below.

Second, I am very impressed with the little mini-unit studies. The monthly articles are really good, and I will be putting a note in my calendar to pull the file up and read those each month. I like the idea of having a monthly pep-talk of sorts. I really only skimmed them at this point, because I want to have them available throughout the year. That being said, what I'm really looking forward to is the one for October, on emergency preparedness. That one falls completely in line with things my scouts need to be doing. I also really, really want to truly do the one for January, on letter writing to connect the generations. And March, which is on dead languages. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a sucker for anything relating to Latin and Greek (no, honey, I did *not* buy a new Latin program... I promise....)

Let me tell you about the January unit. There is an article, covering a bit over a page, talking about all the benefits of letter writing between grandparents and the grandchildren. Then there is a page talking about the format and conventions in a friendly letter, and a page about business letters. It includes terminology I always forget to use (inside address, complimentary close) and it is just straight-forward and easy. And seeing that this coming year is a testing year (we have to test in odd grades, and my oldest three are now 7th, 5th and 3rd graders) and seeing as letter writing "stuff" is always such a big part of the grammar sections... well, we need to practice. And maybe this will do it.

Then I look at the planning forms. And I can see where, even with all the scheduling and such that I do with Homeschool Tracker, having something like this could come in handy. Check out the pages I did up for an overview of this week, and for Connor's 7th grade year:

I really like how I can see where I have holes... you know, like Art and Music. On the other hand, I wish I could customize the sections a bit. I'd like Art & Music to be one block, and I could have another called something boring like, "other." You know, where I can put the Logic program, or the cooking class, or the Morse code DVDs.

The last section is the household forms, and I have to say I love one of the grocery list forms. I fully intend to make use of it. The weekly meal planner is going to be perfect for Connor with his Cooking Merit Badge -- being able to type it in is a bonus! I can see making use of this one in my regular life too.

What I like: I love that I only have to print out the forms that I need. I love that I can type data into the forms, instead of only printing and writing things in by hand. I truly love that some of the planning forms are done up so you can do planning for one, two, three, four, or even five children on a single page.

What I don't like: This eBook is HUGE, and I think many of the forms would be much more usable if they weren't part of a nearly 400 page document. Like a book report form -- I immediately thought that I could have Connor use this as part of his Reading Merit Badge, but I either have to print it for him to write on it, or give him a copy of the entire file. If I could save an itty-bitty one-page pdf for the book report, I know it would get used. Same for some of the other forms. I know I am more likely to do things like weekly menu planning on a computer form, as opposed to writing it out (and keeping track of the piece of paper). I might make use of it this way, but even having it in a file of just the household forms would make it easier. The big thing is that if I want to have things like that annual planning form for each of my 5 kids, I need to save 5 separate copies of the 375 page document. I don't like that idea at all.

I also wish that it included things like Canadian Provinces and their capitals, or information on other countries. I have lists of US States everywhere, it seems, and I already know them. I'd love to see lists for places I ought to know (and my kids ought to know) but I don't (I can name the provinces, at least almost all of them... but I do not know the capitals!) I would imagine if I were a non-US homeschooler, I'd be even more disappointed with this.

One thing I have heard about planners in general is that you can google pretty much any of this, and find plenty of free forms online. That is true, and honestly, it would keep me from buying this planner.

There are some reasons to purchase it though. For one, it doesn't require the time to search... the table of contents is pretty straightforward! And the other thing that it does for me is to make me think about whether or not a particular form would benefit my family. I would not have gone looking for a shopping list form, for instance, but it is going to be very useful to me.

I do think I will get some use out of this planner. Just looking through the forms reminds me that there are things that would run far more smoothly if I'd take some time to actually write out my goals and plans and make some choices. And I really do like the idea of reading about Clouds in September, or Getting into College in May.

There are more page views at The Old Schoolhouse, and of course, you can purchase it there too. There is also a subscription deal, where you get the planner and all 12 of the 2009-10 Planner Modules for $99.99. You can read about that here.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.
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Heidi said...

Good review - listing things you like and don't like. I appreciate the honesty. If you could send me an e-mail with a list of the improvements you'd like to see, we'll try to incorporate them for next year. I really like having it available as seperate downloads so you have the files separate (homeschooling, housekeeping, etc.)
TOS Heidi

Debra said...

I emailed you!! Thanks for the comments, I appreciate it :)