Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Planner Review

I started out blogging over at HomeschoolBlogger several years ago.  (You can start your own blog there as well).  For a while, I worked for TOS in advertising under the now famous MoneySavingMom, Crystal Paine (she's awesome!).  I have ordered from the Old Schoolhouse Store, enjoying their always-free-shipping, and am now enjoying my first look at their new Download & Go products with their free Expedition Mexico unit download.  (We will most definitely be purchasing more of these weekly units!)

In addition, I recently joined the TOS Homeschool Crew as a product reviewer and am thoroughly enjoying my time getting to know new friends as well as share this adventure with 'old' friends whom I have discovered are on the crew as well.  I have had the privilege to begin using and reviewing several different homeschool products for free and am thinking this is a pretty cool gig!  LOL.

My latest product I have had the honor of reviewing is the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner from TOS.  I have looked at this planner since I first saw the 2009 edition last year.  (The planner actually first came out in 2008 but I wasn't aware of it then).  I was very intrigued by it, but always found something else to spend my school money on.  You know how us moms are.  Nobody can talk us out of buying something for ourselves like we can!  The kids (or our hubbys) always need something more than we need whatever it is we're looking at for ourselves.  That's why homeschool moms always have the most interesting Christmas wish lists... books, curriculum, microscope, blue-jean jumper.  If others buy these things for us we can't talk ourselves out of them!

But I am a planner at heart.  I love, love, LOVE making out plans for the new school year.  I have to have a calender hanging up at all times.  I never go to the grocery store without a menu for the week along with a grocery list made directly from that menu.  So I found myself going back to the TOS planner over and over, looking it over, reading the description about it, pondering over other's reviews of it (all of which were good).  Yet I still wouldn't allow myself to spend the money on something for me.  I could make up some kind of scheduling form on my own, right?  I could print out my own calendars, couldn't I?  The kids could use some more notebooks and cute little boxes to hold all their stuff in more than I needed that planner.  If I had extra money to spend maybe we should do a unit study on clouds instead of me buying something for myself.  I've always wanted to do a study on clouds.

You see, this is how I always talk myself out of spending any money on myself.  I keep at it until I've talked myself right out of everything!  (Maybe that's why I now have no clothes that I actually feel good in.  But THAT'S a whole 'nother post!)

Can you imagine my excitement when I found out I was actually going to get to REVIEW the TOS 2010 Schoolhouse Planner for FREE?!  (In exchange for my honest opinion of it of course.  LOL!)  I was SO excited!  I emailed my hubby at work and he was happy for me (for what, he had no idea!).  I told my mom and the kids... all of which thought I had finally lost it completely.

As soon as the planner was downloaded I dove into it with eager anticipation... until I discovered it was 614 pages long!!  WHAT?  Are you KIDDING me?  I didn't know whether to be ecstatic or scared.  I never ever expected to see that many pages in a planner!  What in the world was included in this thing?  I knew right then that I could have NEVER come up with anything even close to this on my own.  Not in the remaining 10 years I have left of homeschooling!  Who has the time?!

Moms, let me tell you, this thing is LOADED with information that would take you MONTHS, possibly even YEARS to find and put together.  Obviously there are planners and calendars, and forms (oh my!) out the wazoo, but did you know there are also articles, and stories, and resource lists, and recipes, and so much more that I can't even begin to tell you about?  You can either choose to print out the forms/calendars/planners you want to use OR simply type in your information right into the form and keep everything right on your computer or print it all out nice and neat.  I tell ya', those TOS people are so smart!

Each month, July 2010-June 2011, is laid out with articles, charts, tips, activity ideas, links, and resource lists all related to a common theme.  These themes range from Bible study tips, creative writing, and reading the classics to 'super' foods, computer literacy, and critical thinking.  Interspersed are also articles on avoiding homeschool burn-out, making your own gluten- and dairy-free foods as well as non-toxic cleaners, and nature walks!  Writers of these articles include people like Heidi St. John, Amy Pack, Molly Green, Jeannie Fulbright, Amanda Bennett, Karen Andreola, and my all-time favorite, Jane Lambert!  It's really not fair to think of this as a planner because it is SO much more!  Not only can you plan anything and everything regarding your homeschooling but you can also sit and enjoy reading some really great articles, be encouraged by fellow homeschoolers, cook up something new, learn some new things yourself, and because there is so much information included (science, history, geograhpy, Bible, math), you can use this 'planner' to teach your children many different topics!

Listen, I know it may sound like I'm going overboard on the praise here because I'm trying to convince you to buy one but I promise you that's not how I work.  If I don't like something I'll tell you.  I'm all for saving pennies and not wasting time, money, nor energy on things that aren't going to make our lives better or easier.  So if I tell you something is amazing and well worth your money, you can take it to the bank!  (Or, take it FROM the bank, however you choose to look at it.)

One change we are making to our homeschool this year is we will be attempting to follow a more Charlotte Mason approach.  I was so thrilled to see the section devoted to different types of homeschooling, which included CM, along with lots of helpful information and links.  I would have never known about several of these places had it not been for this planner.

Following Miss Mason's approach, we will be doing artist and composer studies this year.  Guess what is included in the 2010 TOS Schoolhouse Planner?  Yep.  You guessed it.  Information lists on famous composers, artists, and time periods concerning both throughout history!  And guess who hasn't had time to gather that kind of pertinent information yet?  Yep, right again.  ME!  Can you say 'divine intervention'?  You truly don't know what a blessing being able to review this planner has been to me.  I honestly mean that with all my heart.  Oh, and remember how I mentioned above that I've always wanted to do a study on clouds?  You're never going to believe this, but I just discovered that there is also a 'Cloud Types' article included in the planner!  That was totally unplanned on my part.  I really HAVE wanted the kids and I to learn about all the different types of clouds and what they mean.  Me and this planner?  Meant to be.

My oldest daughter will be starting high school this fall and I wasn't exactly sure how to keep track of all the different things she'll be doing.  Now I don't have to worry about it because there is a high school transcript in the planner as well as forms to track grades, books read, activities participated in, volunteer time, and everything else that I'll need to keep track of but hadn't thought of or come up with a way to do so yet.  (And what perfect timing considering we'll be starting our new school year next Monday!  Nothing like procrastination.)

Then I have three younger children whom I don't record grades for yet (however, if you do there are plenty of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly records for this as well as standardized testing forms) but I do like to keep track of the unit studies we do, the field trips we go on, projects we do, movies we watch and books we read.  Guess what?  All of this is covered in the 2010 planner as well!  I'll never have to try to come up with another form as long as I homeschool!

In addition to all the helpful life-saving homeschool helps, forms, planners, and calendars, the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner also has an abundance of household forms and planners as well.  From menu planners to medical information forms, babysitting info sheets, cleaning checklists, chore charts, household and vehicle maintenance checklists, gardening planners and checklists, personal property inventory sheets for insurance purposes, and so much more.  I simply can't tell you the wealth of information that is included in this planner.  (But surely knowing that it's 614 pages long should give you some idea!)

One of my favorite parts of the 2010 Planner are the recipes.  I have been stuck in a menu-planning rut for quite some time and couldn't seem to come up with any new, yet easy and yummy, recipes that I thought my family would enjoy.  Not a problem now.  There are so many included in this planner, seven per month which comes to a total of 84 recipes(!), that I can't wait to try out on the fam!  I really think they're going to love them.  (For those who may be interested, there are also gluten-free recipes.  How awesome is that?)

I so desperately wanted to include personal pictures in this review, showing you just how I am using the planner in our home, but there was so much to take in that I simply didn't have time... YET!  Oh yes my friends.  You can count on there being updates to this review, complete with plenty of pictures and testimonies of how this planner is saving my life!  Ok, maybe that's a bit extreme.  But I know it's at least going to help save my sanity and for that I thank you TOS.

Anyway, I'm telling you friends.  Take my word for it and seriously consider taking the plunge and purchasing one of these 2010 Planners for yourself.  I wish I would have a long time ago.  If you have been looking at it, thinking about it, contemplating it... trust me.  Just do it!  I promise, you WON'T be sorry!  For a mere $39.00 you will save so much time and energy using what the great people at TOS have already put together for you. 

Do this for yourself.  You deserve it and so does your family.  Think of it this way, you're really spending that $39 not only on yourself but on your family as well.  Having a calmer, more organized mom with more time to spend on the important things rather than trying to come up with all of this on her own is truly such a blessing to all members of the family.  You'd spend $39 (or more) taking them out to eat wouldn't you?  (Ok, so maybe on a special occasion you would.  A trip to McDonald's for our family is around $28-$30!)  Just think how much longer this will actually last and bless you and your family.  I plan on using this and reading through the articles and information over the course of the whole school year.  That averages out to a mere $3.25 a month!  Now seriously, who can't afford to spend $3.25 on themselves?!

Go here to read more about what all is included in the 2010 TOS Schoolhouse Planner, including information on some of the monthly articles which I think are one of the best parts.  It lists so much more of what's included than what I have here.  I guarantee you're going to be surprised!

You can purchase the downloadable version of the planner for $39 here or, if you prefer, you can purchase the 2010 TOS Homeschool Planner on CD here for $44.  And have you seen the monthly modules that compliment the TOS planner?  Here's a good look at the set that goes along with last year's planner.  (I recently reviewed the June 2010 module.)  You can learn more about and purchase them here.

 *As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it.  As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews are honest and contain only my own true opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!


Angel Crouse said...

This sounds perfect for me. I've been feeling overwhelmed and completely unorganized. I would LOVE to have a book to help me gain a little bit of control over all the activities and paperwork!

Thank you for the advice. I WILL be checking it out right now!

Lindsay said...

great ad! I am just here still working on past weeks of the TOS blog walk.....I know, very sad, I am a wee bit behind LOL! I am a new follower of your blog too!