Saturday, June 13, 2009

TOS 2009 Schoolhouse Planner - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

As a really new homeschooler last fall, I knew that there are endless resources for homeschoolers, but figuring out how to find the right one at the right time was a challenge for me. I was trying to plan, trying to organize my plans. I can remember looking for a template, a form, for practicing handwriting and copywork, and not knowing exactly what term to enter as my Google search. Knowing that something EXISTS doesn't mean I can locate it!

We'd had enough years in the public school system and interaction with teachers that I knew that templates and forms exist, that nice folks sometimes offer them for free on the internet, and that they are out there if I can find them.

Going on an internet wild goose chase for a template, form or chart is the biggest time waster, and is SO frustrating!

Last fall, I was privileged to have been chosen as an alternate on The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, a focus group created by TOS magazine to use and review homeschool resources sent by vendors participating in the program. One of the products I reviewed as part of my application process was the 2008 Planner.

And hooooooooooboy, I was thrilled to see some of those forms that I'd been seeking, allinoneplace, plus a bunch more I hadn't yet thought about, but immediately could use. And a bunch more, still, that I knew I wouldn't use right away, but I might later. That 2008 Planner, an e-book, is a gigantic all-in-one resource, useful for rightnow, and useful for later, too. It is so easy to open and skim for just the right form, chart, or template.

As a new homeschooler, I appreciated having that '08Planner in my "back pocket". Knowing that I could pull it up on my computer and scroll through it quickly to find the right template, chart or form, calendar page was a stress reliever and time saver for me: no more having to think of exactly the right term for a Google search and no more searching for a chart and having to decide among the 25 hits.

I'm very visual and I appreciate charts and lists. I like being able to lay out plans on paper. I was so new to homeschooling, I didn't know how to think about laying out plans on paper. All of a sudden, with this one e-book, I had numerous ways to think about homeschooling organization and planning. I have not found a calendar or planner at any store that offers all of the resources that this e-book planner offers.

I hesitated to mention last year's Planner and review in today's review of the 2009 Planner. I've gone back and forth. Should I simply write a review of the new Planner and not mention the old one? And ultimately, you see that I can't ignore last year's Planner, because having last year's Planner influenced me enough to want to own the new one.

I was poised to buy the new one, and accidentally let a big Schoolhouse Store sale expire on a busy weekend. You can imagine, I was tickled to learn that I would get an opportunity to review the 2009 Planner. I have been curious to know how the brains behind the planner would improve the old one -- the old one is pretty comprehensive.

The Planner is a comprehensive and customizable one-stop e-book/file that includes a school-year (July '09 to June '10) calendar, information, forms, charts and templates. Let your fingers do the walking to the Schoolhouse Store and take a peek inside the 2009 Planner. There are snapshots of pages and descriptions of what's inside the planner at the store. It is fabulous!

I can choose to print the entire Planner or just the parts that we will use. If I need more copies of a template, I can do that. If I need a form in the middle or at the end of the year, I can print it then. I can choose to print the each page "as is" and handwrite information into them, or I can type information directly into each page prior to printing each one.

The table of contents is SIX pages long. SIX! There are forms and charts to organize and document every second of your homeschooling hours, and forms and charts to organize and document every bit of schoolwork that happens in your home. Short-term planning, long-range planning -- it's all there.

(When I was in college, one of my professors always asked, "Who is Anne Moore?" when he poked fun at announcers on infomercials who loudly told viewers "AND MORE!" about an offer. Get ready. There's an AND MORE!)

Live links to web sites and information, calendar pages; recipes (not many are GFCF friendly, although the one I contributed *is*); articles (two by favorites of mine, Amanda Bennett and Jay Wile); 12 "Must Know" lists; what is and how to lapbook; copywork templates; TOS resource pages to show me what the Schoolhouse Store offers to complement a topic; and forms, forms, forms, forms for home and school -- they're all provided in the new Planner.

Have you ever looked through the backs of several cookbooks in order to find measurement conversion charts? What about a visual that explains how to lay out a business letter? This planner will save you time looking for that kind of information. (The timeline of inventions is fascinating to me. I had no idea Silly Putty has been around so long! lol)

I never thought to keep a log of videos we watched. PBS shows like "Reading Rainbow" and "Between the Lions" are sometimes a part of our shared reading -- now I have a place to track that. There are quite a few forms that I never thought about but immediately see how they will be useful. I am amazed at the minds of the creators of the planner as I scroll through the forms -- they thought of almost everything!

The one change I would make to this planner is an addition. A couple of months ago, while reviewing a product for the TOS Crew, we used a copywork book with wider lines and spaces, more like kindergartners use, and I learned that my daughter is more successful and more willing to practice handwriting on those wider lines. While the creators of the '09 planner give us many journal and copywork styles from which to choose, an obvious (to me) omission are versions of those same pages for pre-schoolers, with bigger spaces between the solid and dashed lines. The pre-school alphabet pages, journal and copywork pages, in my opinion, are lined too small for preschoolers and for children like my daughter who have fine motor delays. (FYI: I have submitted a request for the development of a free supplement to add those options to the current planner.)

The 2009 Planner is 375 pages and is priced the same as last year's smaller version, $39. You can use the whole thing on your computer and it won't cost you another cent. But if you print it, you'll need to factor printing costs, a 3-ring binder (or more, depending upon how you organize your stuff), a hole punch, and possibly some plastic sheet protectors and a set of tabbed dividers for a 3-ring binder.

And if I were forced to sum up a review in two words, I'd choose the same two words I chose last year: comprehensive and customizable. This year, I'd add, time saver and stress reliever to that two-word list.

I predict I will appreciate having the 2009 Planner in my "back pocket" in the coming year.

For reviews of my Crewmates, please go here:


Penny said...

FYI: The copybook with the larger spaces between the lines that I mentioned in this review came from Memoria Press.

Heidi said...

Excellent review, Penny! I've posted to the Crew blog, so you should head over and sign the Mr. Linky.
I'm not sure we'll get that copywork correction done for this year, but will definitely add it to the "list of things to add" to next year. We're already planning!

Kelli said...

good job Penny!

Tonia said...

Great review, Penny! It's nice to see comparisons between last year's planner and this year's.

Unknown said...

Great review!

Hidden Jewel said...

I like how you tied in your experience with the 2008 Planner to the 2009 Planner.

Penny said...

Thanks, everyone for the compliments! The Planner is really nice.

Unknown said...

Great Review!

Sheri said...

Nice job Penny. Say, I wonder if for the Mexican Lasagna (one I submitted) if you could use GF tortillas? Rice ones maybe. I know there are sauces that GF as well. I also know there are GF taco seasoning recipes you can make, so outside of that-most of it should be OK-I also see Amy's has GF refried beans too. So with some tweaking, I think you can enjoy this tasty dinner.
I will have to go thru my GF recipes for ya.

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