Review: Homeschool Planet

I am a planner junkie. I have at any given moment at least two paper planners and a couple of apps that I use sporadically. However, I can never seem to get into the system of actually using my planners for long term, and after a couple of weeks, my planners are a ghost town of un-updated appointments and to-do lists.

Now since we started homeschooling, I have been desperately trying to get my planning act together because I need to, well, plan for four people (because The Hubby is also involved in school). I’ve tried gorgeous paper planners made for homeschoolers; I’ve tried free online homeschool planners; I’ve tried just a pen and notebook; I’ve tried using my boxed curriculum Instructor’s Guide schedule; I’ve tried making my own planner on Excel; I’ve tried just going on the fly (of all methods, trust me—the last one sucks the most). But I wasn’t happy—I wanted more. I wanted a planner that could help me keep track of both kids’ individual school work schedules and work they did together, plus I wanted to track the resources we used, the grades, and tasks. I wanted rescheduling to be easy. And I want it to look pretty, especially when printed. I wanted it all (cue dramatic music and a panning shot of me gazing out the window, a rapidly cooling cup of coffee in my hand).

No, really. I did. And so that long-winded back story is the intro to my review of Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-op, which as you may guess, I am love, love, loving.

Homechool Planet
What it is (and who used it)

Homeschool Planet is an online homeschool planner that is available only to members of Homeschool Buyers Co‑op (membership to the Co‑op is free, and you get lots of fantastic deals on all sorts of educational products). It’s pretty much an all-in-one planner, meaning that other than our homeschool stuff, I can also plan the rest of my life in it.

 

Simon, our goofball Siamese, is very involved in lesson planning. He takes it very seriously, deeply pondering each detail

 

And I’m not the only one enjoying Homeschool Planet. Since they can log in separately, Raine and Breeze are also loving it. The Hubby gets a weekly digest of all scheduled homeschool activities, so he’s also in the loop.

One week in the life of Raine, calendar view. A color-coded schedule is such a thing of beauty

 

We find it much easier to track our tasks in planner view, which also includes the notes, resources and other assignment details

Our experience: a not-so-quick rundown

Homeschool Planet says that you just “launch Homeschool Planet, click on the calendar, and start adding classes, assignments, and appointments.” Sounds simple, but on my first try, was sort of intimidating. And overwhelming. There’s just so much you can do!

I started with the most basic—setting up us HPs using the Manage Family feature. I added Raine and Breeze, with their corresponding grade levels. I also set up their email addresses so that they could receive a daily digest—all their scheduled activities and work each day. I selected a Weekly Digest for The Hubby because I figured he wouldn’t want to be inundated by the minutiae of our days. I also uploaded photos of all of us, because we had a pretty good batch of ID pictures for once, and I am using them as much as I can. You can also control whether each student gets to log in on her own, and if so, the access levels of each student. The girls, for example, can see all members’ schedules, and see their grades, but they can’t change or enter grades. The Hubby (had to add him as a student—there doesn’t seem to be any other way to add another parent or teacher) has full access to everything. You can also track attendance, but I didn’t toggle it on because I don’t really need to track attendance.

You can easily set up all members of your homeschool through this function

And because Procrastinator Extraordinaire is my official title, instead of going straight to the schedules, I decided to add our resources first (because thinking ahead for even a week is such hard work—exactly why The Hubby has taken on most of the menu planning in the HP Household). Resources are great, because you don’t have to scramble to figure out which book you're using for which lesson. You can even add magazine articles, websites, a file from your computer, or a manipulative as a resource. It’s also easy to fill in the Resources fields. Plus if you have the ISBN of your books, you can easily enter that and it fills in the rest of the details for you.

It would be great if you could import existing resource databases into the Resource database of Homeschool Planet. I have most of our school books already scanned into Libib, for example

I finally had no excuse to not start with the actual planning. Fortunately, setting up classes is easy enough. You can do it two ways, which I like to think of short term and long term. For the short term method, start in the Calendar mode (select Calendar from the list on the upper left-hand side of your main screen). Then click on a specific date or time slot, and a window will pop up asking what you want to add—a class, an occasion (birthday, holidays, etc), or anything else (appointments, chores, etc). Then you can go on and fill in all the details, including the days and time, the start and end dates, resources, and specific assignments. Once you save your entry, your calendar and planner will be populated by the class you just created. You’ll need to fiddle around with the myriad of options to fine tune the details of each class.

 

Creating a class is simple. The system pretty much walks you through it

 

Before creating your lesson plans, it helps to know exactly what you want to achieve

Another way to add classes—and this is the method I recommend, especially if you’re planning for long term, and would like to recreate your brilliant lesson plan with a future kid—is to create a lesson plan in the Lesson Plans module. What you create here can be applied to any or all of you students, now and in the future. There are several options to create lesson plans; it would be best if you took the time to explore the different ways to make them. I discovered that I could save a lot of repetitive entries if I used the Assignment Generator function.

 

For example, I made a Language Arts lesson plan for Raine based on our current Bookshark LA Instructor’s Guide. We work only on the Creative Expression thrice a week, and we have the same activities each week, all worksheets labelled A to D. I want her to do two on the first day, and one worksheet each on the next two days. And I will only grade the last day’s worksheet. So I chose the “I want to repeat the same assignment…” option, and then added the details, and the generator generated my weekly assignments. Then if I am so inclined, I can go through the weeks and just add more details, like the keywords of each week (e.g. noun phrases/verb phrases; mind mapping; write about an invention).

The Assignment Generator is a big help, cutting down on tedious repetition

Then once I’ve made the lesson plans, I can assign it to an existing class, or create a new class. In this case, I created a new class, since these lessons are not on Raine’s schedule yet. If the lesson plan extends beyond your set class dates, it asks you if you want to double or triple up the assignments, change your class end date, or drop the assignments that don’t fit.

If you aren't up to creating your own full lesson plans, Homeschool Buyers Co-op also sells ready-made lesson plans for popular curriculums like Life Pac, Wordly Wise, BJU, IEW, Always Ice Cream, Meet the Masters, among others. In fact they have a promo for the month of June--when you sign up for a free Homeschool Planet trial, you get a free lesson plan. I got Mystery of History Volume I, because my girls and I are going through it now. It really does help, because even with the Assignment Generator, that's a lot of lessons to plug in (I know because I attempted to create a Mystery of History lesson plan before I got my free one).

The lesson plans that you buy from the Lesson Plan Marketplace contain publisher-recommended schedules. You can still tweak this to suit your own schedules though.

So that’s the most basic to get you started. As I mentioned earlier, there is so much more that you can do:

  • Make to-do lists. You and each of your students can have one each (or more!) I made a to-do list for our portfolio presentation preparation (say that 10 times fast), and I have another for work projects.
  • Make shopping lists. Pretty much like to-do lists, but in the context of certain stores. I made one for my favorite I-could-live-there store: National Bookstore (I will forever need something from National Bookstore. They should get me as an endorser already!).
  • Get a daily Bible verse or daily quote—it appears in your sidebar or footer.
  • Message others in your family (if you have email set up).
  • Do some research (the Lookup widget is nifty).
  • Share your homeschool calendar with your usual calendars on iCloud, Google or Outlook.
  • Change the background and color scheme of the planner. This is actually one of my girls' favorite features. They change their background daily, I think.
  • You can print the calendar or the planner--and it still looks pretty! But since the kids get such a kick from clicking on their accomplished tasks, and since they get their schedules emailed to them daily, and they can log in on their own, I haven't had to print at all. So we're on track, fulfilled, and saving the planet and all those trees.

I could go on and on; there’s so much that I haven’t said yet! Bottom line, I love Homeschool Planet. I wish I had used this earlier.

Now I’m off to plan my next school year.

Want to hear about how other homeschooling families used Homeschool Planet? Click below!

Homeschool Planet {Homeschool Buyers Co-op Reviews}
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