Diclosure: A Plan a Place offered me a free planner for posting an honest review of their planner. All opinions are mine.
As a person who thrives on planning and organizing, I have a natural attraction to planners. The lists, the boxes, the calendars – all waiting to be filled – draw me in to the pages begging to be filled with well-thought-out plans. However, I find that after the newness wears off, most of my planners fall by the wayside. Perhaps because they require time. Perhaps because I think I can remember everything. Perhaps because using a planner isn’t a habit. Whatever the reason, despite my attraction to them, planners never worked for me until I discovered planners from A Plan in Place. I first read about them online and became intrigued. After perusing their custom options on their website, I decided to give their planner a try. That was 3 planners ago.
If you are new to A Plan in Place, it is a company started by 2 homeschool moms that specializes in creating custom planners. I ordered my first customized planner 2 years ago for the 2018-2019 school year. It was a delight designing a planner just for my homeschool needs. In this post, I’m going to review my Teacher Planner from A Plan a Place. I’m going to explain what my planner looks like, how I use my planner, and why I order year after year.
What My Planner Looks Like
The planner I use from A Plan in Place is their Teacher Edition. It is a slim, spiral bound book that is a mainstay in our homeschool classroom. The planner comes with 3 sections and an optional 4th block calendar section. Two of the sections are standard – “Goals & Planning” and “Record Keeping & Notes.” The third section is the “Weekly Schedule,” which is the heart of the planner and the customizable part.
The “Goals & Planning” pages are in the front and provide space to plan for the upcoming year with a mission statement, brainstorming boards (pictured below and one of my favorite pages), curriculum lists, long and short-range planning, and more!
The “Record Keeping & Notes” is in the back of the planner. It has pages for important dates, spending records, resource lists, and lined note-taking pages (super handy for homeschool conferences to jot down notes!).
The middle section is the “weekly schedule,” and here’s where you can customize. You can choose a one or two page spread for your weekly schedule. I started with one-page my first year and have been ordering the two-page since for more room for my growing number of homeschool children. You can see all their options for a weekly schedule here and see mine below. (You will not see my option on the website as they fulfilled a special request from me when designing mine. That's how stellar their customer service is!)
How I Use My Planner
My planner gets daily use during the school year. In addition to being close at hand while I'm teaching, it accompanies me to all homeschool conferences, the library, and vacations. It is the hub of my homeschooling planning. When I sit down to plan for the upcoming week, I lay out my planner and all my teacher’s manuals. As I look at each subject, I jot notes for each day in my planner what we will do for that subject. Many manuals have detailed plans and maybe even a weekly grid like the planner, but the planner brings everything in one place. Sometimes, it may just be writing down the lesson number or page for the day. In addition to writing down plans for each subject, I have boxes for each child everyday. I write down lesson numbers and any special instructions or plans I have for them for that day. As I’m looking at the upcoming week, the “notes” box on my weekly schedule gives me a place to record any supplies I’ll need or things I need to remember. I keep track of library books I need to check out or reserve in the back section of the planner.
On a typical school day, I begin with my planner in hand flipped open to the weekly schedule. At a glance, I can see what the day will hold. Each time we transition to a new subject, all I have to do is check the planner to see what we are doing that day. My children each have independent work and I use my block for them as a checklist to make sure they completed their work. (I'm thinking that perhaps some Student planners from A Plan in Place might be in our future, too!)
Why I Order Year after Year
I’m on my third planner from A Plan in Place, and I plan (hehe) to keep ordering a yearly planner because I use it and it aids without creating extra work. It brings together all my yearly, weekly, and daily planning. Because it can be customized to fit your weekly schedule, it becomes a useful tool rather than predetermined general format. As an added bonus, the company offers exceptional customer support and tips as you create the planner for your needs. They also offer some handy add-ons like pocket (or 2) in the back and a pen-loop.
If you are looking for a planner to fit your needs, check out A Plan in Place today!
I read recently on a homeschool blog that some veteran homeschool moms cringe at the question, “What curriculum do you use?” Since I’m still the one asking that question, I suppose that shows my homeschool age (2 years and counting). The blog writer went on to say she cringes because, over the years, homeschool moms tend to be so eclectic and independent in what they use that it is complicated to answer that question, as well as difficult not to overwhelm the newbie homeschool mom asking the question.
Since I enjoy hearing what curricula other families are using, here are my 2017-2018 curriculum picks. We started our school year in July 2017, and we are approximately half way through the year. So, these choices are not only my picks, but my actually-stuck-with-it ones!
Bible/Science/History – Our core curriculum is My Father’s World (MFW). I did Kindergarten last year with AJ and CJ. This year, we are doing Learning God’s Story, which is MFW’s complete first grade program (see my last year's picks here). I continue to be drawn to MFW for their focus on Bible, goal to have the whole family learning together, inclusion of Charlotte Mason style lessons, list of living books, and engaging hands-on activities.
In Learning God’s Story, the Bible and history are taught together using a time line and chronological Bible stories from Genesis to Revelation. A typical lesson involves me reading the Bible story followed by AJ and CJ notebooking about the story and reading a simplified version in the MFW Bible reader. There are other fun activities planned along the way, such as making a Bible times costume and creating a salt dough map of Israel.
Science is a collection of three Usbourne books – Science with Water, Science with Plants, and Things Outdoors. Every week, we read the pages in the book about a topic, enjoy books from the book list in the back of the teacher’s manual, and do 1-2 activities with the lessons. Some of the activities are in the Usborune books and some are in the teacher’s manual. For example, our weekly topic last week (scheduled along with Noah in the Bible/history) was rainbows. We read about rainbows in the Usbourne book, checked out several suggested library books on rainbows, and made a liquid rainbow in a quart jar from various colored liquids with different densities and properties.
Just a technical note for those who may be interested in using MFW – AJ is in 2nd grade and CJ is in 1st grade, which means I should be doing Adventures in US History with AJ and Learning God’s Story with CJ. However, because they are only 14 months apart in age, I decided to keep them together for all subjects (except reading and math) using the first grade program as my base. We will use Adventures in US History next year.
Oh, may I just gush for a moment about my language “curriculum”? I mean, honestly, who gets excited about punctuation, noun usage, and grammar? Though I am the one silently (and sometimes not so silently) correcting people’s grammar, I do not get all that thrilled about explaining the difference between an adverb and verb to a 7-year-old. However, MFW recommends this nice, skinny little book called Primary Language Lessons for Today. (This book was originally published by Emma Serl in 1911; MFW updated it and published their version in 2014.) The book includes picture study (paintings included in book), copywork, poem memorization, oral narration & composition, and dictation. The lessons are delightfully bite-sized and easily adaptable if you have one that isn’t writing well. The approach feels very gentle, but it works!
Learning God’s Story does include phonics and reading, but I did not prefer their approach. It is a very fast-paced phonics approach. While I like the phonetic approach, the MFW first grade did not work for us. We are using Christian Light Education’s (CLE) Learning to Read program. Both AJ and CJ are using this, but at different levels. (CJ actually began with CLE Kindergarten II program, which only takes 30 days.) I like the way Learning to Read balances phonics and sight words. The readers that go with the books are excellent.
Learning God’s Story also includes math, but again, I did not choose to do their math program. We are also doing CLE math. I like their short lessons with a focus on completing the bulk of it independently.
Since I chose to buy the deluxe package of Learning God’s Story, I use the art and music they suggest. We did lessons from Drawing with Children. We learned an “art alphabet” and few simple drawing techniques. We are now working through a pack of paintings discussing the artists, history, and techniques through the guides from MFW.
For music, we listened to Peter and the Wolf and learned the instruments that portray the characters. We are now learning the 4 families of the orchestra through the same CD. We will end the year with a study of the Carnival of the Animals.
One of my goals this year was to add in some Spanish. I purchased Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids at our state homeschool convention last spring. I only purchased the DVDs, which use an immersion approach. My kids enjoy the DVDs; they do need to be watched over and over to learn the vocabulary. I aim to add a few more structured activities this spring to nail down some basic vocabulary. I’ve heard my 2-year-old, MJ, walking around the house saying “Uno, dos, tres….” so I know learning is taking place!
(Note: The above link has only volume 1. There are 8 volumes total.)
We are using the free version of Spelling City. I download the lists they provide and use their free games, which the boys love. I have them copy the words and alphabetize them sometime during the week and do a weekly spelling test. It’s simple, but effective (and free!)
This semester that one was easy because a PE class was offered at my homeschool co-op. That class ended this month, and now I need to think about PE activities for the spring.
I am not a fan of structured preschool with young children, but my “littles” (ages 1, 2, and 4) enjoy some mommy-time. I do not use a curriculum for them, but I use the Five in a Row (FIAR) idea. (If you aren’t familiar with FIAR the premise is that you choose a book and read it every day for 5 days. The FIAR manuals include suggested enrichment activities.) I simply choose one of our books from science topic for the week and read it once a day during that week. For example, in the above photo, JJ is illustrating the moon phases with Do-A-Dot markers while we read a fabulous old book called Look at the Moon by May Garelick. We read that book for a week and did this activity as well another simple art project. On days I do not have any activities planned to go with the story, we do a few pages in their "school books" - simple preschool books from Christian Light Education.
That gives you a little peek into what we are doing here during our homeschool hours. I would love to hear your favorite curriculum whether you are a newbie or a veteran at this crazy journey called homeschooling!
Thanks for stopping by my little blog!
Perhaps you are wondering if we’re still homeschooling here at Russell Homestead. It has been awhile since I’ve rambled about what’s going on with the homeschool books. Yes, we’ve been diligently working our way through My Father’s World kindergarten (with only a few days off when the goat kids arrived!) We are hoping to wrap things up before Jolly’s puppies arrive in late April/early May.
So, what have we been up to? Here’s a brief overview.
We learned about frogs while learning about the letter f. Our highlights from that unit were learning the life cycle of a frog, playing leap frog, and making a play dough model of a frog’s life. The lesson for the frog, quite fitting and applicable, was “I use my tongue wisely.” A few photos from our frog unit….
Next, we learned about foxes while learning about the letter x. We learned many, many facts about foxes while reading all about the four kinds of foxes. We compared foxes with dogs since foxes are members of the dog family. We discussed animal habitats and classifying animals. (We used a great free classification resource from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Find it here.)
We just wrapped up a unit on vegetables and the letter v. We read many books all about vegetables and learned the main parts of a plant. We discussed the term “vegetable” and what it really is. I remember learning in one of my college science classes that vegetable is a grocery store term. All vegetables are some part of the plant – the fruit, the stem, the leaves, or the roots. We did do a vegetable & fruit sort using cards from Homeschool Creations because the classification (even if it is just a grocery store term) is important to understand.
The highlight of the vegetable unit for sure was potato stamping. I took sweet potatoes and shaped the ends into a triangle, square, & a flower-like shape. I also left several in circles. Then I turned AJ & CJ loose with the potatoes and plates of paint. Their creations turned out lovely, and they thought it was just the most fun thing ever!
We did lots of other lessons with homeschooling, but between getting back into our goat milking routine & bottle feeding Abe, I didn’t take time to document them all! We are hoping to wrap up school in about 3 weeks.
I’ll close the post with a picture of EJ from yesterday – hard to believe our baby is half a year old already! He was all smiles for me, but wouldn't look at the camera.
Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
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