Thursday, September 1, 2011

DIY Planner: Revised and Improved for 2011-12

It’s that time of year again! Do you have your planner ready? Do you buy one already made or do you design your own? Last year, I learned that I can make my own planner very inexpensively. AND I could make it however I wanted. Determined to not end up with a bunch of pages unused because they just don’t suit my record-keeping style, I designed my own and took it to a local office supply store with a print center to have it coil bound. You can read about that here and see what that planner looked like. This year, I made some drastic changes…

I was quite surprised and irritated to find that I still had a bunch of pages that I didn’t use. It looked good, but that planner just did not suit my style. I was trying too hard I guess. After heading back to the drawing board with K.I.S.S. in mind (you know, Keep It Simple Sweetie), I finally had to come to grips with the fact that we are, in fact, UNschoolers. Unschooling does not lend well to traditional record keeping.

My biggest beef with trying to keep track of what we do every day is that the majority of our learning is cross-curricular. I don’t want to write an activity or lesson down in three different subjects every time. I want to write it down once and be done with it. And I would find myself agonizing over where to put something because I only wanted to write it down once…paralyzing the decision making process and driving me nuts.

So, I decided, why fight my nature? Why not find a way to embrace it in all its disorganizedness creativity? We don’t just “do school” at home…we learn where ever we are, whatever we are doing, whomever we are with. Life is our classroom! And something as large and complex as life is not going to be easily contained in little squares on an 81/2” x 11” piece of paper. Life is also messy and frequently goes outside of the lines.

I found a website called Homeschool Launch where you can download TONS of free worksheets, forms, and other helpful documents for home schooling. You can also create your own account to upload documents to share. You can find the forms I created for my planner this year at my page on Homeschool Launch.

What did I do differently? To start with, I had more time to put into designing the cover. Since we learn all year long, I chose pictures of things we did over the past year and this summer, such as my daughter using a magnifying glass on a scorcher of a day to start stuff on fire. We LOVE science!

1 front cover
Front cover...covered with pics of my kiddos!

The guy who did my planner there last year accidentally forgot to put something on the cover page before laminating and had to double-laminate it, which I really liked, so I asked them to do it again. Especially since the paper I chose this time was thinner.

On the inside cover, I made a copy of something I have hanging on our school cabinet. It’s an adaptation of something Nancy Campbell wrote in The Power of Motherhood. I figured it would be a good reminder, in case I ever forget how to homeschool…

2 inside front cover

I only have three, yes three, planner pages bound in this planner: a yearly goals sheet, an attendance sheet, and a yearly evaluation sheet. Well, there’s some monthly calendar pages, but more on that in a minute.

3 yearly goals
Yearly goals, right there when I open it up
so I don't write them down and forget them later!
4 attendance
Attendance sheet, courtesy of
used this last year and really liked it.
5 yearly evaluation
Yearly evaluation, where we can write down
what worked and what didn't, what we liked or disliked
about the school year
Now this is where I got innovative. I bought six two-pocket folders without prongs when they were super cheap and had them bound in the planner. The first one will hold miscellaneous forms and records that we collect through out the year, such as important papers for Friday School, for example.

6 misc forms
Miscellaneous forms and records and important papers
will go in here
I created my own monthly calendar pages for the year and printed them out on cardstock. I have them facing each other, and used the blank back sides as a place to jot down notes and reminders. I searched online for a few minutes while trying to create something fun and interesting for a place to scribble notes, looking for something resembling a yellow legal pad for a background or graphic I could use. Then it hit me – I have a color copier/scanner and a yellow legal pad. Duh. So, I grabbed the Sharpies and ended up with this:

7 notes and reminders
I always need ample space to jot stuff down
8 calendars
I also need calendar pages to face each other so
I don't forget important dates coming up in the
next month
There is a set of two calendar pages in front of each folder. I used photo paper to print “labels” because it looks nicer. Not sure if the glue stick I used will sufficiently hold them after using it for a while, but that is easily fixed. I used Avery Design Pro to design the cover and the folder labels. Each folder will hold the Daily Learning Log Sheets for two months. This was the genius idea birthed at the drawing board. Planner pages don’t work for me because that is just not how I roll. This sheet has five large boxes to write lesson plans, activities and spontaneous learning opportunities. To the right are several check boxes with categories such as science, math, english, etc. This way, I can write in our unit study or when we stopped at a pond and observed the activity in the habitat or whatever and just check off what subjects were covered. I’ll print out 90 two-sided sheets of these and we will use them to record what and how we are learning each day. Of course, we can use more than 180, but that is to be sure we log in enough learning days to meet our state’s requirements.

9 month folders
Each pocket would only need to hold
15 sheets at the most. That's logging in
learning every day of the month!
91 daily log sheet in folder
I was very happy that the coil binding didn't
take up too much of the folder's edge so
the papers will still fit nicely.
I like having a full year’s calendar to look at in a place that is easy to find. Last year it was on the outside of the back cover. This year I decided I wanted it on the inside of the back cover. No particular reason, really. That’s just where I wanted it this time.

92 inside back cover
Always knowing where the whole year can be seen
is a huge benefit for me. I hate flipping through pages
to find things!
I was afraid it would be too bulky, but it’s really not. Of course, it’s not full of papers yet, either…

93 size comparison
This isn't one of those fancy smart phones, just an LG Rumor2
but I thought it would give a decent size comparison on
how thick it is. 
I would have preferred different colors for the folders…like orange and blue…but hey, they were only like  15 cents apiece or something like that. We are trying to do school free or as close to it as possible this year in order to save money for a family trip to California in a few months to see the middle of the oldest boys graduate from Marine boot camp. Guess how much this planner cost me this year? Less than last year!
  • orange polka dot paper, 25 cents each at Michael’s    $0.50
  • two-pocket folders, 6 @ 15 cents                              $0.90
  • printing costs, text documents                                   $0.60
  • paper (negligible, due to rebates making the ream
    • practically  free!)                                             $0.05
  • printing costs, color glossy photos (paper was free)    $0.10
  • double laminating, 8.5 x 11 coil binding                    $4.44    
    • 20% off coupon!
  • GRAND TOTAL……                                                    $6.59

I’m really excited about using this planner/organizer this year. It’s simple. It’s flexible. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg. And, it’s got cute pictures of my precious children on it. What more could I want?
If you make your own planners, what do you do? Do you change it every year or pretty much stick to the same format. Or, are you still trying to find something that works for you?

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