A Homeschool Planner is an important tool for the homeschool teacher. Since you will be using your homeschool planner all year long, it is important to choose a planner that suits your needs and personality. This one stop guide will help you compare homeschool planners, teacher planners, print your own planners, online planners, and creative planners.
Pre-Printed Homeschool or Teacher Planners
If it is your first year teaching, you may want a planner geared for homeschoolers that gives you a little guidance on how to fill in those big blank pages. You may want to check out three of the most popular planners that are made with homeschool families in mind.
The Well-Planned Day If you are looking for one planner to plan both your homeschool and home life, this planner has you covered. So much is done for you that you just need to fill in the blanks. This planner is dated, so make sure you buy the planner that corresponds to your school year.
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner If you want a homeschool planner that integrates journaling--especially faith based journaling--into your planning, you may want to check this planner out. This planner is also undated, so you can start using it the week it comes in the mail.
A Simple Plan Of the three homeschool planners I have mentioned, I have only used A Simple Plan, which is an excellent quality planner. The paper was nice and thick and it had a sturdy cover and dividers. It has a page for everything I could possible want to record and plenty of open ended note taking pages, too. As far as I know, it is only available on the Mardel site. This planner is dated, so make sure you buy the planner that corresponds to your school year.
As a side note, each of these planners comes with a coordinating student planners, too.
You can also adapt a teacher planner for your homeschool, which is what I am currently doing. I like planning in a book, but I find that I can save a little money and shelf space by using a thin teacher plan book. I am currently using a Blue Sky Teacher Planner which I got on sale last year at the beginning of the school year. I like the colorful pages and slim design. It also has a nice pocket to store the unique record pages that I need to homeschool in my district and the pages that are unique to my family's homeschool. The cover and dividers are nice and sturdy without being bulky. As another benefit, it also has zero pages that I have to tear out because they are specific to public school teachers. I will probably purchase it again next year.
Build Your Own Homeschool Planner
The internet abounds with free printable resources and you could search and find and print what you need for the cost of paper and ink. After printing your planner, you would just need to bind your pages in a binder or have it professionally bound at a print shop.
The idea of building my own teacher planner appeals to many because they like the idea of having unique, custom made planner.
However, if you don't like the bulk of a binder and don't like the idea going to an office store to have my planner bound, custom making a planner probably wouldn't work for you. I know that I would probably have all the pages printed up and ready to go at the beginning of the school year and by the end of September they would be a mess. So, while I am playing around with designing my own weekly planning pages that would work with my homeschool, unless I really love them, I know that I will probably buy another Blue Sky Teacher Planner or invest in a homeschool planner like A Simple Plan again.
Use a Bullet Journal and Customize as You Go
I have to admit that I am very tempted to buy a large dot journal and create a planner as we journey through the year. The idea of getting out my markers and washi and making a weekly layout appeals to my creative side. I love my bullet journal for my personal life. It is flexible and fun to use and really doesn't take that much time to set up.
One of the benefits of bullet journaling is that you can have everything in the same spot and plans, reflections, and lists flow together very organically. When I flip through my bullet journal, it is a very accurate reflection of my days.
However, I learned the value of having a pre-dated and formatted teacher planner ready to go this year when we had a major family emergency. I was so glad that I everything was ready for me to just fill out. My record keeping didn’t suffer because everything was laid out. I simply had to fill in the blanks and it only took minutes.
You can read more about using a bullet journal for homeschooling here, here, here, and here.
Read about more strategies that save me in difficult times in this post: Homeschooling on Autopilot
Digitize Your Planning With an Online Planner
Some homeschoolers keep their plans on their phone calendars so they always have their plans with them. This works great for homeschoolers who are always on the go and need to always have their lesson plans with them. There are also several online planners that you can subscribe to.
Planning online helps to keep your paper clutter to a minimum—and in the event of a fire or flood, your records would be safe. Online planners often let you print out assignment sheets for each student and keep records for you also. If you are interested in researching online planners, be sure to check out Homeschool Tracker, Homeschool Skedtrack, Planbook, and Planboard.
You can also use an notetaking program like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. Here's a nice overview of crafting lesson plans on Evernote and another way to use Evernote as a lesson planning tool. Here's an overview on using OneNote as a planner. One of the benefits of using Evernote and OneNote is that you can link to videos, images, website, and sound files directly in your lesson plans.
If you are in a state or district that requires that you turn in records annually, using an online planner will help you turn in records that look professional.
No Matter Which Planner Type You Choose...
Don't forget that the most important part of choosing a planner is choosing a planner that you want to to keep records in. It may take a few years to find the planner that works for you.
What kind of planner do you like to use?
As I mentioned in previous posts, we are using Mystery of History for our history spine this year. I thought that I'd share some of the supplementary resources that I will be using to round out our history studies and to adapt them to my younger kids.
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History Pockets: Ancient Rome
I bought a couple of History Pockets at a used currriculum sale and they were so easy to use that now I have almost all of the series. Here's a sample spread from the book that shows what the pockets look like and what goes in a typical pocket.
I don't actually make the pockets. I usually just glue the activity to colored paper to stick in their binders. This torch from last year's Ancient Greece unit from History Pockets: Ancient Greece. The bottom part of the torch is a booklet about the history and symbolism of the torch. These are not your usual fluffy cut and paste activities. History Pocket activities actually contribute to kid's knowledge base.
History Pockets:Ancient Civilizations
This book is geared for 1st through 3rd graders and it includes units on Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and the Aztecs.
Here's a sample project from the Aztec unit. There's another page, not pictured that has the pieces to finish the calendar.
Here's an example of a completed project from The Mesopotamia unit we did last year. The ship sails up and down the river. My kids love the interactivity of some of these projects.
I found this book through our library and it has tons of activities and cultural facts about the ancient Greeks and Romans. It has recipes, dress up ideas, games, and educational activities from each era. We did a handful of the Greek activities last year and we will start the year off with a few of the activities from the Romans section. Some of the activities take planning to do but others are quick and easy like this one that explains Roman measurements:
Days of Knights and Damsels
This is by the same author of Classical Kids and has the same variety of activities, but geared towards the Middle Ages.
History Through the Ages
My middle school aged son is using this for his current cycle of History and is very proud of what a nice looking timeline he has.
Geography Through Art
This book has art projects from around the world and helps fill in some of the gaps. For example, I can't find an activity book for ancient Australia, but this book has a lesson for Aboriginal art. It also has lessons for African, South American, and Japanese art from the time periods we are studying, too.
I just showed you a lot of supplemental activity books, so be sure to read how I organize all of these materials inHow I Plan Mystery of History for the Year.
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Mystery of History is a BIG program to sort through. I have found that it is easier on me if I do the majority of my planning and preparing before I read the first page to my kids.
This Post Contains Affiliate Links.
Step 1: Make a Lesson Planning Grid and Fill it Out
For me, the first step to planning is to print up a simple grid to use as a planner. I used Google Docs to make a four column grid and included enough rows for two weeks worth of lessons per page.
As I glanced over the lessons, I took notes for each lesson. In the first column, I wrote the title of each chapter, lesson number, and page numbers. The second column is for writing additional readings. I also used it to jot down map activities and quizzes I planned on doing. The third and fourth columns are to jot down notes on narrations and activities I want my kids to do. Most of the activities come straight from Mystery of History, but a few come from Story of the World Activity Book 2.
After going through the book and filling out the grid, I jotted down the titles of relevant library books at the top of each page so I can quickly go to our library's website and reserve the books I need. I found most of these books by browsing through the literature recommendations at the back of the book and in the Story of the World Activity Book 2. I also checked to see if our library had the books I wanted before writing the titles down.
I used the bottom margin to jot down notes on lessons that I want to include. I plan on doing a lesson on William Tell, because he is part of my heritage. I also plan on adding lessons on ancient Mexico, because that is a part of my husband's heritage.
I still have to write in my son's additional readings, which will be from books like Adam of the Road and the Adventures of Robin Hood, but I don't have all of those books in my hands yet.
Step 2: Make Copies and File Them Behind the Relevant Planning Page
I hate making copies. Since I hate making them as much on busy school days as on lazy summer days I decided to put on a podcast and make all the copies that I would need for history for the year.
It actually took a few podcasts to get the job done.
After making copies, I filed them behind the relevant lesson planning page.
Not all of my copies were from the Mystery of History book. Some I found online and some of the other supplement books I drew from were:
Amy Pak's History Through the Ages Timeline Figures
History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations
History Pockets: Ancient Rome
History Pockets: Native Americans
Story of the World Activity Book 2
Days of Knights and Damsels
I reviewed some of these supplemental activity books in this post and discussed how I used them.
Step 3: Pick a Storage System and Put Everything Away
I store my copies and plans in colorful folders and a file box. I include 12 lessons per folder. This is what my finished folders and file look like:
You could just as easily store everything in a binder and pull out pages as you need them.
Whenever I pull out a set of copies, I usually just put them in my Mystery of History book at the relevant chapter, so I have them ready to go the minute I open the book.
That's it! Since I'm already familiar with Mystery of History, once I got started, it only took a few hours to plan my year and a couple more hours to make copies and file them.
If this is your first year using Mystery of History, you will probably want to take a couple more hours to read the introductory chapters and familiarize yourself with the book.
Here's everything, shelved and ready to go! Here is a link to my exact small file box and large file box. Both are super sturdy and I've used them for years.
Be sure to read my next post in this series: Activity Books to Use With Mystery of History, Vol. 2
After a few weeks off from school and blogging it's time to start thinking about next school year. I just ordered the last of our curriculum and thought I'd share what my 7th grader will be doing next year.
This post contains affiliate links!
For math, we are departing from Singapore Math to do a year of Saxon Math before starting Algebra in 8th grade. I wrote about my options on what to do after Singapore 6 in this post if you want to read about other 7th grade math choices.
The core of my son's language arts program will be Writing and Rhetoric books 7 & 8. He will also be doing a formal spelling program this year just because I am noticing some spelling errors in longer, vowel heavy words. Read my review of Writing and Rhetoric.
For literature, he will be reading historical fiction, biographies, stories, and legends that go along with our history studies of the middle ages. So far he have King Arthur, Robin Hood, Beowulf, Arabian Nights, selected Viking legends, and Adam of the Road on his reading list. I am also looking for a couple of biographies to round out his reading list. I also plan of listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on audiobook in the car as a family.
This year, we are studying the Middle Ages as a family. My son will be going through Mystery of History 2 as his spine. Last year, we started with MOH 1 as a family, but it just didn't work for us and our age spread. The second book in the series seems to be a lot stronger, and I think my son will enjoy it.
I'm sad that this year I need to have my son do his own science curriculum, independent of the rest of the family. However, I am excited to start Apologia's General Science along with him. We will only be using the textbook and tests. Even though it looks like a fabulous supplement, I have opted out of ordering the Notebooking Journal because my son is dysgraphic and there seems to be a lot of unlined writing space. I will be using graph paper notebook pages like these in lieu of the notebooking journal.
He will continue to make entries in his nature journal.
This year, my son will continue working on Spanish via Duolingo. A lesson takes about 15 minutes a day, which is just right. Once a week, he will do a lesson in Artisitic Pursuits. He will also be taking golf lessons 1-2 times per week with a few boys from his school.
As a family, we will be reading the book of Acts and selections from Paul's letters together and memorizing the Apostle's Creed.
I have been Singapore Math with my oldest son starting with level 3B and we are currently on level 6B. Since level 6 is a little different than the previous levels, I thought that I'd write about what I've learned about Singapore 6 based on my experience with the program. If you scroll to the end of the article, I also show some of the math programs that I am considering for next year.
Both books of Singapore 6 can be completed in a single semester
The reason for the shortSingapore 6 program is that year 6 is a testing year in Singapore, so a lot of review and test prep happens. While Singapore 6 does contain many review topics, they are not "easy" reviews, rather they take the same topics to a more challenging level. (On a side note, I think it's important to note that Singapore kids are some of the top students in the world and they aren't subjected to test pressure every. single. year.)
If your student struggles in Singapore 4 or 5, like many students do, the short books of level 6 leave room to go sideways and take time to get those challenging concepts down before moving on. (I really like this series for working on difficult concepts.) Even if you and your student fall a half a year behind, you can catch up in sixth grade. And if you fall even further behind, that's OK too because:
Singapore 6 is well ahead of the US math sequence
If you look at this chart, especially in the latter grades, you will see that the course of study in Singapore Math is more advanced than what is expected of public school students in the the US under Common Core.
The word problems in Singapore 6 are challenging
Granted, all of Singapore Math's word problems are challenging, but the ones in level six seem to be even more challenging than the previous books. You will really have to think through them and do several steps to find the solution, which is a good thing. However, you may want to buy the teacher's manual if you aren't confident in your math skills.
The Teacher's Manual is different than the HIG you may be used to
While many of the same elements are present, the set up is a little different. While it has the same elements as the HIG, it is geared for classroom teaching. Except for the answers, I'm hardly using the Teacher's Manual at all. As a matter of fact, I didn't even order the teacher's manual for 6B.
Some homeschoolers skip Singapore 6 and go straight to prealgebra
This seems fat to me but they feel like level 6 is too short and they also believe their kids are ready for an early start on the advanced math sequence.
Other homeschoolers go straight to Algebra after Singapore 6
I learned this fact from the Well Trained Mind forums. Not all of them do, of course, but since Singapore 6 covers many of the concepts covered in a traditional American pre-algebra course, they feel comfortable diving into Algebra, especially with a textbook that has enough review at the beginning.
Of course, many homeschoolers do Singapore 6 and then go on to pre-algebra or 7th grade math
This is what we are doing. Even though my son has done the work that qualifies him to move on to advanced math, I feel that he needs another year before starting Algebra and then all of the other classes that follow.
There are a lot of other options on what math program to use after Singapore 6B
One thing that I am loving about the Singapore Math program is that it sets students up to succeed in a variety of math programs. You can continue with Singapore's middle school series, go straight to a supportive Algebra textbook, or go on to a formal pre-algebra program. Here are a few potential directions that you can go after Singapore 6 with math programs that are marketed to homeschoolers.
Singapore 6 isn't really that much different from the rest of the Singapore Math Program
I love Singapore Math because in a short amount of time, I can teach a challenging concept and have my son understand it enough to work independently. (And I love short lessons!) I like that the workbooks challenge the students without requiring them to do dozens and dozens of problems. I also love that I feel like my son is well prepared for the upper levels of math!
To learn more about Singapore Math, visit their website.
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Classical Academic Press' Writing and Rhetoric Curriculum is, by far, my favorite homeschool curriculum. Since I began homeschooling my son in 4th grade, I have changed our math curriculum, I have changed the structure of our day, and I have changed my approach to teaching science and history, but I have never changed our writing curriculum. Writing and Rhetoric is a cornerstone in my son's education.
6/7/2017 Update: I am searching for resources to help parents and teachers implement Writing and Rhetoric. Scroll to the bottom to see what I've found.
Disclaimer: Writing and Rhetoric has been a curriculum purchase for us for the past three years. I have in no way been compensated for this post. Opinions in this post are solely my own. No one at Classical Academic Press has any idea who I am.
Writing and Rhetoric Lesson Format
Most chapters in each Writing and Rhetoric book follow the same format. Each chapter starts with an introduction and a short literary selection. The literary selections all have a theme, which I like. In book 4 of the series, all of the readings where short biographies of important people from the Middle Ages:
After the reading, students process the reading, either through a narration (written or oral) or an outline. A set of discussion questions follow to encourage students to think deeply about the reading before they are required to write about it.
The next section is titled "Go Deeper" and it is a short section that requires students to look closer at elements of the story such as the vocabulary, themes, or main ideas. The following photos are taken from the teacher's guide. The student text is identical, but without the answers, of course!
In the "Writing Time" section, students do several things. They compete a series of short guided exercise where they practice writing sentences that are more complex than they might come up with on their own. My son likes that some of the writing exercises encourage humor. In later books, they also practice writing main ideas and topic sentences.
The "Writing Time" section culminates in a longer writing assignment. Books 1-3 focus on narrative writing and Books 4 and up focus on essay writing.