Monday, September 6, 2010

DIY: Make Your Own Homeschool Planner

Anyone who knows me well knows that organization is something that really does not come naturally for me. Last year, I used the homeschool planner from Home Educating Family called The Well Planned Day. I really liked it, but, as I find with pre-designed planners in general, there's always a lot of the pages I don't use. Maybe that says more about myself and my "organizational" style than the overall design of the planner, but either way I end up with a lot of wasted pages. [Did it work? Or did I still end up with wasted pages? Check out my new and revised planner for the 2011-12 school year and find out!]

I came across a great tutorial over at Dynamic 2 Moms that shows how to make your own planner (which was moved to their sister site, New Beginnings) as well as tons of other great resources! That idea had never occurred to me, so I was quite excited to discover that I could design a planner that would have exactly what I wanted in it and none of what I didn't. I was also very pleased to find out that I could do this for a fraction of the cost of buying a planner. It really wasn't all that difficult, either. I did make some mistakes along the way, but now at least I know what NOT to do!

Here's some pictures of my new planner:

Click on a photo to see a larger view
Front cover, 11" x11" laminated cardstock

Front cover. This was double-laminated because the employee at Office Max made a mistake. Actually I think I prefer it that way, it's sturdier!

Yearly calendar,

Starting things off with a yearly calendar with some holidays highlighted. Like that wretched Dumb Stupid Time we are now forced to observe. I never know when that is, usually.

Attendance record,

School attendance record. This one is broken down by month, but you could use any format you like of course. Last year I had it all on one sheet, but in a landscape orientation. Didn't like that so much.

The section dividers I designed myself, with a verse relating to the section

Course Objectives section. This is where I'll write out our goals for each subject of study and ideas for fun/interesting activities or events.

 Course objectives sheet, one for each subject of study. Form is from the free curriculum planner at New Beginnings

The course objectives sheets also include a section for an end of year evaluation.

 Monthly calendar before each month's weeks of lessons
I was able to customize this calendar at

Lesson Planner section. I have 52 weeks of planning sheets so we can continue with year-round schooling. There's a monthly calendar at the beginning of each month. This is one area I made a mistake in, because of how I put together the planner sheets. I'll explain that next.

Class Schedule. Form is available on in a type-able PDF

Weekly Goals and Review. I adapted this form from one on New Beginnings

To help me with accountability, I also included a sheet that has Weekly Goals for each subject and a Weekly Review. I'll write down what we should accomplish that week in the goals section, and in the review I'll make note of what we actually did, where we missed the mark (just in case that happens lol), and any deviations from the goals and why. There's also an area to keep track of behavior as well. My husband will ask to see this every week to help me stay on track. I printed the class schedule sheets and the weekly goals/review sheets double sided, reasoning that I'll just put the sheets in alternating. That was fine, until I decided to add the monthly calendar sheets. So I had to take out a few and reprint them with the calendar on one side and the required schedule/weekly sheet on the other.

 Field Trip log sheet from

Extra Curricular section. This would include field trips, organizations and social enrichment activities, such as Girl Scouts, Keepers At Home club, etc. All of these section dividers were supposed to be in sheet protectors, but the employee at Office Max couldn't get the sheet protectors to punch right when he tried to put the holes in them for binding. So, I had to come up with another plan for that. This section was also to have extra sheet protectors and a baseball card sheet protector to hold memorabilia, brochures, and business cards we pick up on field trips or outings.

Support and Groups section. I have information for Friday School here and the homeschool group we belong to, plus an address section to record contact information of other homeschoolers we meet. 

 Mead Zwipes pocket, front

Mead Zwipes, back pocket

Zwipes pocket. I picked up several of these at a local Amish discount store a couple years ago, but haven't found a good use for them until now. You're supposed to stick them in a notebook, but I didn't like how the side stuck way out so we haven't used them. But it works perfectly in my planner! The pocket attaches to the coil. You can put a sheet of something behind the front and the back side is like a folder pocket. The marker is really neat, too. You write on the pocket, but it doesn't  smear or rub off like a dry erase marker. It won't go anywhere until you use the special eraser tip on one end (it's wet like a marker, but dissolves the ink) and then wipe it off with the dry-erase eraser style tip of the other cap. It works on regular plastic sheet protectors, too. I don't know if they still make them, I couldn't find them on Mead's website and searching on the internet didn't bring up much, either. But just as I typed that, I glanced down at the unopened package of Zwipes I had on my desk and found this web address, which does still work:

Since I couldn't add the sheet protectors like I wanted to (and there's some conjecture here that I most certainly could have had it done that way if a) the Office Max employee knew what he was doing or b) their equipment was properly sharpened. But, since I didn't have the time or desire to run around the county to find a place to do it that way, I decided to figure out something on my own. Since the cover of my planner is 11" x 11", I have plenty of room inside. I put 3 slits in the back cover and pushed brass paper fasteners through the slits. Then I put my sheet protectors in. This ended up being my Household Management section.

Daily Schedule from Dynamic 2 Moms.
It's also available in pretty colors, too!

 Morning-Noon Schedule from

Menu planner and shopping list from Money Saving Mom, part of a free download of 14 different menu planning forms

Household Management section. Here I have a daily schedule (I use the Zwipes marker to add or change things. I will have to do this every day, so hopefully it will become a habit!) I got this sheet from Dynamic 2 Moms. Some of the other sheets in the planner are from Donna Young, a great resource of free printable planners, schedules, etc. for homeschooling and organizing life in general. I also have a Morning-Noon schedule that I found on Donna Young's site. I'm working on tweaking it to fit our home and schedule. It's kind of like a Flylady plan, but all on one sheet of paper. Then I have my menu planner/shopping list, and extra sheet protectors.

Back cover, calendar laminated on 11" x 11" cardstock
Calendar is from the free curriculum planner at New Beginnings

Back Cover. I decided to put an extra yearly calendar there so I know if I ever need a calendar, I just have to flip the planner over and there it is. I don't have to turn pages and look for it. Call it lazy if you want. I prefer to call it efficient. I hate messing around looking for things! I spend way too much time doing that as it is, so if I can find a way to NOT do that, I'm doing myself a huge favor.

  Post-it Durable Filing/Divider Tabs

Another great product I used is the Post-it Durable Filing Tabs.  They are reusable, though I'm sure eventually they won't stick anymore, but I can take them out of the old planner and put them in the new one the next year. I can also change things as necessary without too much fuss. I love that!

So, there you have it. My new homeschool/family planner. It cost me less than $10! $5 and some change at Office Max for the binding and laminating, and a few dollars (maybe) more for the paper and ink I printed out at home. You can easily spend $20 or much more on a pre-designed planner, whether it's a PDF file you print yourself or one that is already printed, bound and mailed to you. I'm hoping it works well, and I'm already thinking of modifications and additions for next year's planner. There's no end to the possibilities for personalization (if I had found this sooner, I'd have done it a little differently, but I had to get it put together before we start school!) such as pictures and scrapbooking-styled pages, dividers, etc. It was a lot of fun, too!
FOR TODAY...Labor Day, September 6, 2010

Outside my window...cloudy, cool, reminds me of Autumn...
I am thinking...about what God taught me this weekend on enjoying my children
I am thankful for...revelations in the strangest of places
From the learning rooms...planner is done (put together and bound), need to get the rest of the week planned out
From the kitchen...dd is making pancakes...she makes really good "cake-cakes" as her little brother calls them
I am wearing...comfy clothes
I am creating...a plan of attack for dealing with the Room of Mathoms
I am going...nowhere today, it's a stay home and relax day (after the housework gets done!)
I am reading...Devotions for Homeschool Moms
I am in-laws  have a good trip back home to Arizona
I am hearing...the sounds of traffic, pancake flipping, and toddler demands
Around the house...lots of straightening up to be done
One of my favorite things...early morning snuggles with my little boy, good morning kisses from my (not so) little girl
A few plans for the rest of the week:  Start school Tuesday, ladies over Tuesday night, Friday School starts
Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

The recipe is called The Best Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies and they're not kidding!

Blueberry Revelation


Ever feel like God just doesn't hear your prayers? I'm trying to be a better mom so I pray things like this:

Dear God, please help me
  • be more patient with my children 
  • speak more kindly
  • be more gentle
  • control my temper
  • not get so irritated by little things

Some days, it seems like God either doesn't hear my prayers or chooses not to answer them. Then I start whining to God "but God, I want to be a better mom, I need help in these areas...why don't you help me?"

Maybe I have been praying the wrong prayer...

Marshall County held their annual Blueberry Festival this year...something I usually avoid like the plague. I don't like being in areas stuffed with people who mostly don't even realize there are other people around them, say like a mom trying to navigate a stroller through the crowd. My husband works there every year, and this year his dad and stepmom were here from Arizona for a few days and we all went to the festival.

I had been up late the two nights before, which would set me up for a potential disaster. Not enough sleep, frayed nerves, gazillions (they expected 400,000 people this year over the course of 4 days!) of ignorant/oblivious/just-plain-rude people, other people who are just as ready to explode as myself...the makings of a Perfect Blow-up, really. I knew this going into the day, and so I prayed. But, for some reason, I didn't list all of the shortcomings and character flaws that I needed help with today. I just prayed a very simple prayer:

Dear God, please help me enjoy my children today.

The strangest thing happened...I really didn't get all that irritated by things. The people stopping right in front of me with no warning, the streams of people that would appear out of nowhere and cut the kids and I off from Grandpa and RaeAnn, even the person right behind me for a while that was screaming at the person beside them (but somehow it sounded like they were screaming right in my ear) was annoying, yes, but I didn't feel that typical, uncontrollable urge boiling up within me to snap at everyone.

OK, so I wasn't perfect, I must admit. My son, when not securely  restrained in his stroller, was all-over-everywhere-and-into-everything (he spent a large portion of our time there securely restrained in his and my daughter had some whiny moments that were starting to wear on me, but I didn't blow up like I usually would have. 

Later on, as I was reflecting on the day, I realized something.

If I actually enjoy my children, then being patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled should be natural responses in my interactions with them. God reminded me that love is patient, it is kind, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (See 1 Corinthians 13).  Of course, in light of that, sometimes I have to wonder if I really do love my kids! I do, but love has not yet been perfected in me. It's a work in progress. 

I realized that I should be focusing on enjoying my children, because I do love them. When I purpose to enjoy the time I spend with them...even the trying times...then that love has a chance to become more refined. Another cut is made in the gem to reflect the light of Christ that dwells within me. 

I would love to believe that I could just ask God to help me enjoy my children every day and I would be instantly transformed into the perfect mother I want to be. I don't doubt that He will help me enjoy my children, but what I have learned about God and how he teaches me things is this:  He gives me a hand, shows me the answer/solution, then expects me to walk it out every day. So today, I have to choose to enjoy my children and do it. But I know that when I need help, I can call on Him and He'll be there to give me the grace I need to get through the moment.

Maybe I won't avoid the Blueberry Festival so much anymore. It was a bushel of fun and revelation this time!

Enjoy the moments you're in

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Integrity is a Lost Virtue, but I Choose to: