Finding the right homeschool planner

finding the right homeschool planner | planning tips

My earliest homeschool memories include my mom working over homeschool schedules in her spiral notebook. Nothing fancy. Just a cheap spiral notebook with ruled paper. That “homeschool planner” served her well for years. Over the 6 years or so that I’ve homeschooled my own kids, I’ve been all over the gamut of homeschool planning. I’ve tried online planners, planning apps, free planning pages, printable homeschool planner pdfs, dry-erase calendar board, the Ultimate Homeschool Planner, Plum Paper Planner—you name it, I’ve probably given it a try. My planning needs and preferences are constantly morphing. But the one thing I’ve learned is that the key to finding the right homeschool planner is to know yourself and what you’ll use.

Tips to Finding the Right Homeschool Planner

Know yourself (and be honest). We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have short-comings. You won’t find your perfect planning system if you can’t be honest about what just won’t work. It’s not a statement of who you are if you can’t make a paper planner work or if you never get on the computer to log those lessons as completed. It’s simply a matter of a system that failed you. We are individuals with unique personalities; what works for one person won’t work for everyone.

Know what you are most likely to use. Some of this is trial and error. You simply won’t know until you give a few things a try. If you are good at keeping your Google Calendar up to date and like to keep Reminders and Notes on your phone, then try an online planner. If you are a list person who likes to write it all out by hand, then try a paper planner. Do you like to see your week’s events lined up vertically or horizontally? Do you like a large 8×11 size plan or a smaller “throw it in your purse” style planner? If you have no clue, then jump in and give something a try. Within a few days or weeks of using it, you’ll know what you love or hate about it.

Know what motivates you. And again, be honest. I’m cheap, and I hate to spend money on myself. But one thing I’ve had to be honest about: I just don’t plan well in an ugly planner. As shallow as that sounds, I have to have a pretty planner with soft, high-quality paper that invites me to sit down and plan. I literally try to think of something just so that I can write on that paper. If my pen scratches across the page, I won’t write it in it the way I should. Bottom line, if you hate your planning system, you won’t plan. If you hate sitting at a computer, online planning will not change that. If writing by hand is hard for you, then writing in a planner is not going to be a win. So find motivation that will make planning pleasant, and reward yourself for doing it. If stickers are your thing, than motivate yourself with some cute stickers and a Lisa Frank pen. If chocolate is your proverbial carrot, than by all means, have a private stash that only comes out during planning.

My homeschool planner for the 2017-18 school year

This year, I’m stepping way out of my norm for planning. But in a way, it really makes sense for me. Last year, I had two “planners” for homeschool. I had a traditional weekly planner from Plum Paper Planner that allowed me to customize my headings, add extra note pages and checklists, etc. It was my second year to use a Plum Paper Planner for homeschool, and I’ve loved them. But last year, I also had a cute little notebook from Plum Paper that was smaller and filled with graph paper. My idea was that all my brainstorming and Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, etc. would end up in my little notebook, then the final version would make it to the planner. But what I found last year was that I was much more excited about jotting down plans on that graph paper inside the notebook than actually using the planner itself.

While I love Plum Paper Planners as my personal planner for church, work, and home life, I’ve opted for the (much cheaper) Plum Paper notebook for my homeschool plans this year. It’s been fun to set it up, similar to bullet-journaling. And when I was done with planning, I didn’t want to be—I sat with it open hoping I’d think of something else to write in it. That, my friend, tells me I’ve got a winner. (Or that I’m a total nerd. lol!)

homeschool planner | finding the right homeschool planner | Plum Paper notebook

Here are a couple of other posts to get you started planning your homeschool year:

Need a little more direction with your homeschool planning? Subscribe to my email list for a link to my free homeschool planning course. Find out about different methods of planning and organizing, a list of planning resources, and tips for how to customize a system that fits your needs. Click here to subscribe.

3 Benefits of Planning (and why I love my Plum Paper Planners)

benefits of planning | planning 2017 | planners for moms | plum paper planner review

Life doesn’t always happen the way we plan it. And yet, there is something so comforting about having a plan. I love planning and planners, the old-fashioned paper planners,  especially my Plum Paper Planners (see my review and a coupon code at the end of this post). And in spite of the fact that plans change, I’ve found a number of benefits to planning. Here are my top 3.

3 Benefits of Planning

Planning to Create Order Out of Chaos

Just like some people vacuum obsessively so that they can see the nice neat lines in their carpet, and some people just can’t think until their kitchen is clean, I love a nice orderly list of check boxes—the chaos of my life neatly arranged into categories and days of the week and orderly lists. The rest of my life may be in total disarray, but I’m good with that as long as my planner is neat and orderly. So what does that mean? Well, it means I must have no empty boxes at the end of the day. If I decided something did not need to be done, I put an X through the box. If I still need to do it, I put an arrow through the box and write the task into the next day. And if it’s done—CHECK IT OFF!

Planning to Remember

I’ve learned that the physical act of writing helps me to remember things in ways that the iPhone just can’t. No number of reminders and alerts will do for me what checking off a little box in a planner can do. I’m much more likely to remember an event I write into my planner than an event I enter into Google Calendar. Though I use Google Calendar, mainly to sync my husband’s appointments with mine, I have to write events into my planner if they are going to happen.

I also use my planner to remember what has already happened, a special afternoon with a friend, a fun memory, blessings of the day (1,000 gifts Ann Voscamp style), etc. In this way, my planner also becomes my journal or scrapbook, recording the events and memories and special notes of the year.

Planning for Perspective

Planning gives me perspective. I totally write in tasks I’ve already finished so that I can check it off. It helps me combat the feeling that I didn’t get anything done. Most days, I got a lot done, even if it wasn’t what I’d planned. Sometimes “rest” is on my planner. It’s something I need to do, and yet something that I often feel as though I can’t do (because I’m not getting anything done when I rest). I combat that with the power of the little check box. It helps me remember that I am still doing something important when I take the time to recoup. Then there are those days when, honestly, I didn’t do anything but parent. I write that in, too! I parented. I homeschooled. And maybe that’s all I got done. But that alone is doing quite a bit.

What I use (a Plum Paper Planner review)

For the last three years, I’ve used (and loved) Plum Paper Planners. They are cheaper than Erin Condren or Inkwell, comparable to the Happy Planner but with lots of customization options. With a variety of layout options, add-on sections, and cover options, I can customize everything about this planner, making it exactly what I need. In fact, you can choose any start month and add extra months if you want to use it for longer than 12 months. I’ve used Plum Paper Planners to plan my daily life, my homeschool lesson plans, and even to journal our food journey (tracking everything everyone eats and daily symptoms and behaviors). They are perfect for just about everything. Plus, the paper is amazing!

benefits of planning | planning 2017 | planners for moms | plum paper planner

You can create your own cover, choosing from a range of colors, patterns, and designs; and you can personalize it with exactly what you want your cover to say. You can choose from a variety of add-ons: notes pages, to-do lists, checklists, budget planner, meal planner, fitness planner, etc. Lots of options! You can also choose from at least 6 different layout options, vertical and horizontal. My favorite is the ME option, which allows you to customize your own headings in your planner. {My personal planner is labeled Events, Projects, Tasks (plus 3 blank sections), and Blessings. My homeschool planner is labeled Reading, Tapestry (for our Tapestry of Grace material), Assignments, Meeting Times, Notes, and a couple of blank sections.} Not to mention, they are beautiful!

plum paper planner coupon code | planner review | planners for moms | homeschool planner

And as a special thank you to my blog followers, Plum Paper has provided a special 10% off coupon code for you all, good through March 31! Just visit their website and at checkout enter the code GRACE10 for your 10% off.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

I don’t always get to complete my well-laid plans: the unexpected happens in my life on a regular basis, and disorder is a constant, it seems. But the benefits of planning extend beyond the chaos that life can bring. At the very least, planning brings order and beauty to one small space in the messy disorder of my life. And I can live with that.

Take a look at specifically how I plan our homeschool: 5 Steps to Traditional Lesson Planning & Loop Planning with File Folders.