Homeschool Posts

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Update: Review Schoolhouse Planner

Last week I gave a review based on my first impressions of this planner. I was still finishing up with my old planner pages and while I had already used some of the Schoolhouse Planner pages (like the yearly goals, and course of study), I had not switched completely. Now I that I've been able to dig in and use it more, let's get down to the nitty gritty:

Let's talk about all the good stuff first. I do like the Yearly Goals Page, the Beginning/Ending Page, Educational Objectives, Week-at-a-Glance, Curriculum Key Chart, Books Read this Year, Crafts Completed, Fieldtrip Planning, Unit Study Planning Sheet, and Bible Study Checklist. Here's a brief description of some of these:
  • Week-at-a-Glance is a handy place to list any appointments, planned activities, etc. that might not ordinarily make it it onto your weekly planning sheets, as well as give yourself a heads-up on what special materials you might need.
  • Educational Objectives is something you can fill out yearly, quarterly, weekly...whatever works for you...as a reminder of what your goals are.
  • The Curriculum Key Chart is a place to record abbreviations for your materials so you don't have to constantly rewrite the same things over and over and, if you are like me, you don't have to try to remember what all those abbreviations mean.
  • The book list gives you a place to not only record the book itself, but what the reader's impressions of it were.
  • The Craft page gives you a place to document special projects, including pictures.
  • The Beginning/Ending Page was a great idea. Here you can attach a picture of your child taken at the beginning of the year and note his/her likes and dislikes and goals for the year. At the end of the year, there is a place for a new picture and to note new likes/dislikes, etc.
Now, let's talk about the not-so-good-stuff:

I've already mentioned that I don't like the calendar. It's not perpetual, so either you will have to buy new calendar pages, use freebies from the internet (there are plenty of those) or design your own.

All the reference pages...while it's nice to have all these things in one place, I don't like paying money for reference materials that
  1. I don't necessarily need,
  2. many of which I already have in a cookbook or encyclopedia,
  3. and if I don't have them, they are readily available for free when/if I do need them.

The Weekly Planner pages, I just discovered, are all but unusable and here is why: They tried to fit an entire week (including Saturday and Sunday) and TEN subjects all on one page. (Every other planner I've ever used has spread the week onto 2 facing pages, much more doable.) While it's nice that the subject fields are left blank so you can choose your own subject to type in, you can't actually type anything in. Let me explain: The planner is in chart form with the days of the week across the top and the subjects down the left side. The word "subject" in each of those blocks runs parallel to the length of the page. If you look at the page with the days on top, there's a type-in field to the right of the sideways word "subject" in each title box (if you turn the page on its side, the field would be below the word subject). Now, common sense would tell you that whatever words you type beside "subject" in the title box should be oriented in the same way...nope. All the type-in fields on the page face the same way, so they line up like the days of the week. If you attempt to type a subject, you'll get in one or two letters and then the font will get progressively smaller until it is microscopic (there's simply no room). Aha, I thought, okay, maybe I need to insert one letter per line in the box, something like this:
M
A
T
H

No, only one line is given per box. Okay, I thought I must be doing something wrong because there is NO WAY anyone would design it this way. Maybe there is a way to change the orientation of the page? In Adobe Acrobat, you CAN change/rotate the page view, the trouble is it only changes the way you are looking at the page, it does NOT change any of the elements or orientation of the elements on the page (including the type-in fields). Okay, I thought, I'll just print out the page and write it in (in case you haven't noticed, I don't give up easily)...it'll be cramped but we'll try it and see...no, again. The title blocks on this page are done in a dark maroon...if you print it on a monochrome printer they are almost black and can't be written on unless you are going to use those special gel pens made for black paper... I can't imagine writing on the maroon would work any better. No, this form is definitely in every way a dud. It could be fixed. If it were designed "landscape"-style, for example, all the fields would be usable. Just rotate the whole form 90 degrees, don't change any of the titles, and rotate the type-in fields 90 degrees and you would have a usable form. Of course, you'd still go blind from staring at mice-type (there's really too much on one page), but it would be usable.

I guess I'll I have to continue using my old weekly planner pages. Maybe I should design my own pages (If I do, you will be the first to know and they will be FREE, not $40).

So, while the Schoolhouse Planner has some features I like, it is not the ultimate planner for me, and I really could not ever justify the $40 price tag.

3 comments:

  1. Forty Bucks! Is this for real?!? I got a "Homeschool Plan Book" from The School Box for $8.00 a few years ago. It was fine, but I am not really a "planner" kind of gal. Did you check out Lakeshore Learning Store? Many planners are for classrooms and have lots of unnecessary things for homeschoolers, but I would never think of paying more than about $10 for a planner.

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  2. Neither would I. I only tried it because I got it for free (see my previous post). This is a 250 page pdf file with forms for everything from menu planning to budget planning. It is a planner for people who want a form for everything (I'm not one of them) with $40 to burn (no, I'm not one of them either). I was asked to evaluate the planner. To be fair, I judged it on its own terms...does it "work" the way it claims to? You've read my answer.

    As an aside, yes having some kind of a planner helps keep me organized and on track, but I'm not desperate for a planner and I do have sheets that are useful. I'm not interested in a spiral-bound teacher's book I can replace every year...I would prefer to use a few well thought out, flexible forms that I can print. hole-punch and stick into the front of the week's binder. I have some that do the job, and if I want better, I'll design them myself. And next year, I'll just print more. If you are interested in that kind of planner, check out the Master Planner at Westvon Publishing:
    http://www.thehomeschoolshop.com/sh-masterplanner.htm
    You can buy it and download it on sale for only $5.

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  3. Hi there fellow Crew member-I read your review, and alas, I did not try to print a calendar. Thanks for the heads up. I bet they paid close attention to what you were saying and will fix it soon. That is the thing when you create something...looks great until several folks actually use it. Helps them get the kinks out to make it even better for future users when we cover those flaws. My biggest fear is that I will get some product that I just cannot find anything good about. That will definitely challenge my skills. Well, looking forward to working on this project with you. Blessings for a great weekend.
    TOS Crew mate: Sheri (aka: 1 0f 100)

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