Debra Bell’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner Review

It’s almost September – are you feeling the pressure? You know, that little voice in your head that is asking, “How are we going to get it all done?” or reminding you that you haven’t even begun to start planning for next year.

Well, my friends, I have found a tool that has the potential to make this process a million times easier! Not only did it make planning this year easier for me, but I can already see some results in training my children how to schedule their own time!

Debra Bell’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner, combined with the Student and Teen Planner, has all the features you need to get ready for the year – complete with detailed guidance to help you through the process.

But first, I have a confession to make – it took me a few weeks to actually bring myself to write in these beautiful books. {They are all made with good quality paper and a plasticized cover that feels like it will last all year.}

Debra Bell Planner

I would look at them and read the information, but I couldn’t bring myself to write in them. And, once I worked up to it, I still had to write in pencil for several weeks so that I had the opportunity to erase if need be. Now, I am happy to report that I have broken through and realized that this is a tool like any other to help me – I can’t be held back by my own perfectionism. {Something that helped me was using a favorite pen.}

Full Year Scheduling

Probably one of my favorite things about this planner is that there are 12 month and 50 week schedule pages. {I know it’s not quite a complete year, but who really needs 52 weeks for school, right?} Not only that, but you also have an entire One Year Planning Grid to help you get an overall sense of your year and to help you visually see any long-term projects/events so that you don’t over-schedule.

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Pre-Plan for Success

Once I did get started, I actually found it rather painless to step through Debra’s Yearly Retreat steps to decide on our Family Priorities as well as set some academic and character goals on the Student Goal Setter for both Monkey and Rex. The students are also asked to set goals in their personal planners. I prayed about it and talked to Monkey and Rex, as well as to Dad, before setting these goals.

As I compiled their Resource Lists, I was surprised at how setting our priorities and goals helped me focus on exactly where we should concentrate our studies. Priorities and goals made it so much easier to narrow down all of the options to what made sense for these kids. This year. Keeping the character and academic goals in mind, I was able to {with less stress} formulate a plan with their curriculum. For example, Monkey needs to work on her writing skills and fully developing her ideas so writing is being incorporated into all of her studies.

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The cool thing about the resource lists is that I can see at a glance the books and other resources I plan on using for each of them. So, half way through the year, I can be reminded that I had a reading book I wanted to pull out, or we had intended on watching a certain video. This takes a lot of the stress away for me because this way I don’t have to plan out the entire year at one time. I can refer back to this list as we go along.

Planning to Get it All Done

At the beginning of the month, I work through the Monthly Planing Session while referring to our family priority list and blocking out time for our priorities as well as any commitments for the month.

At the beginning of each week, during the Weekly Planning Break, I have the opportunity  to focus on our successes {no matter how small} and God’s provisions while filling out the Memorable Moments/Achievements and Evidences of Grace. These pages help to keep me focused each week on why we homeschool and who is ultimately in control regardless of how much planning I do.

The Weekly Planner pages are set up with 6 columns and 6 rows to give you maximum flexibility on whether you want to go by subject or day or child,etc… {It should be noted that the Teen Planner only has room for 5 subjects.} For us, we decided to list the subjects at the top and put names down the side. Because we only have 2 children, we were able to also put some of those other spaces to use. This is also the time when I make all the copies that we need for the week. They each have a folder with all of the papers for the week.

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Put it All in Motion

Each Sunday night, I meet with Monkey and Rex individually to go over their schedule for the next week for our Monday Morning Tutorial. {The actual recommendation is to do this part on Monday mornings, but we need to have our plan in place when we get up on Monday to keep us motivated.} And, this next part is why this planner is unique and different from anything I’ve ever seen out there. The kids write in their own planners to make their own plan. For Rex, I direct him as to what to put down for each day. Since handwriting is difficult for him, we use a lot of abbreviations.

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But for Monkey, I tell her what she needs to complete for the week, and then she is responsible for breaking it down into daily plans. {I am still guiding her in this process.} Debra is very focused on helping the children work towards being independent learners, and I can see how these sessions will help them get there.

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To wrap up the week, I meet with each of them for a Friday Review to go over their work and put the papers into their notebook. This only takes a short amount of time, but it gives them the feedback they need, and it makes sure that I am staying on top of their progress.

Record-keeping for Sanity

As if all that wasn’t awesome enough to help keep me on target, the back section of the book is for record keeping. I’ll probably only use the Grades portion for Monkey, and the only reason is because she is now in high school. {I’m not a big proponent of grades in homeschool.} But, I LOVE the Reading and Field Trips/Outside Activities Lists! These will help me remember all that we accomplished over the year. {Yes, I know the pages of weekly planners should do that as well, but nothing is quite so awesome as a list of all the books they read for the year or all the places that we went.}

Since we only have 2 children {the planner has enough spots to accommodate 6}, we are using 2 of the extra columns to record our read alouds as well as our audiobooks.

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There is also a High School Planning Guide which I used to work out Monkey’s next four years. Can you believe that? I have actually not only planned a year out, I have planned out four years?!? Well, actually that’s not that surprising, but what is surprising is that it is all written down. Neatly. In a place that I will be able to find it again.

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Both the Student Planner and the Teen Planner have multiple pages where they can record their favorite stuff. This way you have something for the scrapbook to represent this oh-so-brief year. {Yes, I know his is not filled out – he’s waiting on me to do his writing for him.}

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This year, I was blessed to win 2 of these planners, so I started thinking about the cost and whether or not this was something we could continue with each year – having to buy 3 planners. And, ultimately, I decided YES! The cost is not much more than what I used to do, and the convenience {not to mention the guidance and expertise!} is well worth the little bit extra. I really can’t say enough good things about this system.

And, now, the good people at Apologia have given me the opportunity to bless one of my readers with TWO planners of your own. The winner will receive the Ultimate Homeschool Planner as well as either the Student or Teen Planner {winner’s choice}.

To Enter: Simply use the Rafflecopter below! Ends at midnight on Thursday, August 23rd ET. See Full Terms and Conditions in the widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Full Disclosure: I won two planners during twitter parties, and Apologia provided me with a complimentary copy of the Teen Planner in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. There was no other compensation.

80 Thoughts on “Debra Bell’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner Review

  1. Cheryl Baranski on August 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm said:

    My favorite thing is seeing the excitment in my kids faces
    when we study something that they love.

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