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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Homeschool Planet Review

I have a love/hate relationship with planners, and planning in general. Planning is a necessary evil in homeschooling as your kids get older. And a good planner is worth it's weight, or price, in gold. However, I have a very wacky way of thinking and consequently a very wacky way of organizing my thoughts and planning them out.  So I'm constantly on the lookout for a planner up to the challenge.

Enter Homeschool Planet by Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  I love the Co-op.  I think the idea is brilliant, and have used their purchasing power to get great deals on several homeschool products we use.  I also have used their templates for making homeschool ID cards that are remarkably effective with the rest of the world that seems to view them as some sort of magic credibility pass, instantly making us "real" schoolers.  Whatever.  It works, and I'm thankful for them.

Homeschool Planet is a planner designed by the the team at HBC. Here's a video that will show you a little bit about what the planner has to offer.

Homeschool planet is an online planner that allows you to manage not just your school schedule, but also all your other activities as well.  From work, to sports practices, to music lessons, to dentist appointments, and everything in between, Homeschool Planet allows you to enter it all onto one calendar.
Above is a screenshot of the full month calendar for must my schedule.  You can easily click on the "show calendars for" tab to choose whose calendar(s) you want to see displayed.  You can see myself and my students down the left side of the screen.  I chose to upload pictures of each of them.  I like to look at the month view, but if you'd rather view things by the day or week, you just click on the day or week buttons at the top.  Entering new things on the calendar is as easy as clicking on the day, and then following the prompts.  You can also choose your background from about a dozen options and customize your right hand sidebar to include shopping lists that you can text to yourself or your spouse, etc.  You could use that same area for lists of books to request from the library, or anything else you need to keep track of.

Below is a screenshot of all of our calendars meshed together.  It gets a bit crazier ;-).

Homeschool Planet can be used across you devices if you are a tech savvy sort of family.

The Pros:  Keeping track of everything in one place is quite nice.  And I loved that it did exactly what I wanted in terms of being able to block out our Sabbath week schedule (6 weeks on/1 week off) and still figure out when I needed to start each subject, or how many lessons we needed to do a day in order to finish "on time" at the end of the year.  For me, for getting the "big picture" for our homeschooling schedule, it did exactly what I wanted it to do.  It also has a handy feature that allows students to log in individually and view only their schedules and check off work when completed.  Their schedules can be emailed to them daily or weekly as well.  I haven't fully made use of this, but I do have my kids schedule sent weekly so they know what it coming up.  I foresee us using the online, they-use-it-themselves, part of the schedule  maybe next year.  I can also easily move lessons forward a day if we didn't get to it that day (like I or the kiddos work up ill, or to a blanket of white covering everything), and I can move things backward if we were a little aggressive and got more work done than I thought we would.  And the customer service?  It's the BOMB.  Really.  The best customer service around.  Prompt.  Responsive.  Constantly evolving their product to make it better.  That I really, really like.

The cons:  I've probably given them quite a workout with my questions.  How do I...?  Can I just...?  Usually the answer is that there is no easy way to do what I want it to do.  I told you, I just think strange.  We take a Sabbath week off, but our co-op doesn't.  So I need all our "regular" classes to automatically skip, but I also need to be able to schedule SOME work to be done because the co-op work still has to get done.  Homeschool Planet isn't that flexible.  And I'm not a sit-in-front-of-my-computer sort of gal, so I never, ever checked things off as "done" until a week later.  It does prompt you to do it, so I got it done, but it just wasn't the routine of my life like it probably is for others.  Another problem I encountered was with our Mystery of History schedule, which has lessons 3 days a week and supplemental work the rest.  I need the 3 lesson days to be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but ran into some problems as I moved lessons forward and backward to accommodate holidays like Thanksgiving, since I had already scheduled out the whole year before I took out the days for Thanksgiving.  But customer service was prompt to help me figure it out.

The bottom line:  Ultimately, I went back to my old excel spreadsheets for my kids daily schedules,  because they are comfortable and familiar and what we grew accustomed to when we used Sonlight, but I use Homeschool Planet for my big picture planning, and that works exceeding well for me.  Even now, I am planning the second half of our school year using Homeschool Planet to schedule out our days off and our end of school aim, and them building each subjects' daily schedule based on that.  I do think with my kids getting older that the online, device friendly attribute of Homeschool Planet will become more and more important to me, and will be something we continue to use more and more down the road.

I was able to access Homeschool Planet for free to write this review, but so can you!  They offer a free, no hassle one month trial of Homeschool Planet to anyone who is interested in checking it out.

Visit our website to see what other members of Home and School Mosaics thought.

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