Our homeschooling style is eclectic with a generous sprinkling of unschooling so record keeping can be difficult with traditional homeschool planners.
A few months after using the planning forms that I created I realized that while they were getting the job done, it wasn't a perfect fit for our style. We don't do all subjects every day, we don't limit our learning to Monday thru Friday so I went back to the drawing board and simplified even more.
So far I like it and it seems to be working better for us, it's simple but efficient. Everything is logged as it happens without having to separate by subject or type of activity.
If you are an unschooler you may find this helpful as well so I have added this new template to the list of free downloads. Simply subscribe to receive the downloads for free. If you are already a subscriber, send me an e-mail and I'll make sure that you get it too.
There are so many cool experiment kits in the market that it’s easy to get carried away buying them all. They are great for the parent that doesn’t mind spending a bit more to get everything they’ll need in a neat little package. Alternatively, you can invest in a homeschool science lab kit for a lot of money but I don’t have that type of budget. For a while I would grab kits on clearance at Barnes and Noble or during Amazon lightning deals but the quality of many is plain horrible and you are limited on the experiments that can be done with them.
I had been drooling over the Magic School Bus Science kits for over 2 years but kept telling myself that I would just be paying a premium for licensing and pretty graphics so I decided to make my own kit.
Most of our experiment ideas come from blogs, YouTube, Pinterest, etc so I paid attention to the most common items in them and made a list. A lot of these items can be found at the dollar store.
Still due to the length of the list the cost does add up so I created our kit over a period of time, I started it back in 2015 and got some generous contributions from a friend and I still occasionally find something new to add.
I am 99% complete, still trying to find a cheap microscope that isn’t total junk but we have enough to do most experiments that we come across. I have a couple of items not on the list but the items below will suffice for many elementary level science experiments.
1-2 Clear Plastic Containers with Lid (quantity depends on size)
4 Good Plastic Disposable cups
Assorted Batteries 9 Volt, C, and D are the most used
I am thrilled to report that I am DONE shopping for next year’s curriculum. I know that I say that I am done every year and then buy more later but at least I am done with my core shopping list and anything else is just gravy.
I always like to get this shopping done early in the year because everybody else’s birthday in my house is in July so things get expensive for me starting with Father’s Day and I wouldn’t be able to do any homeschool shopping then.
I still managed to save a good chunk of money but not as much as last year mostly because of some supplemental purchases and 2 of the books were harder to find used so their used price was higher than I usually pay but it was all worth it.
The final stats curriculum for 2 kids =
$137 spent with a savings of 63% over retail.
If we don’t count my supplemental purchase of 2 Reading Eggs (discounted of course) and some workbooks I impulse-bought at Aldi the total would have been $103 and the savings 73%.
To make it easy on the wallet the expenses were spread out between the months of January and May and the most I paid at once was $27.
It may be more time consuming that just going to an online catalog and clicking “Buy Now” but the savings when every penny counts are more than worth it.
Now all I have left 2 buy is 2 notebooks that I’ll pick up at Walmart when they are on sale for $0.18 during their Back to School Sale. I am swimming in pencils, crayons, glue and construction paper so we are good with the rest.
There was enough interest on the homeschool planning forms that I had created that I am making them available to you in hopes that you find them useful.
Please note that my forms are plain because I value function over aesthetics. If you want pretty fonts, clip art and colorful pages you will find better options on Google.
The forms are:
Weekly Log- can be used for planning or after the fact tracking
Field Trip Log
NEW! Unschooling Log
I decided against creating a grade log because it turns out that I already had the right solution in the form of an Excel spreadsheet that I had downloaded years ago and forgotten that I had so I wasn’t going to reinvent that wheel.
All forms are available for free download for all e-mail subscribers. You can download them individually or get all forms in one file (plus cover and 2017-2018 calendar).
I am doing things a little differently from other homeschool bloggers that give free printables. While all of my forms are available for free download as-is, what is different is that if you want to have a simple modification made to the form (such as add, delete or rename a subject, change the font, change the title of the form, have your child’s name and grade added, etc), I’ll be happy to do it for you for a very nominal charge of just $0.99 per change.
I make this offer because I would have preferred to pay somebody else that has a free printable a couple of dollars to remove “Bible” from the subject list or to change the font than to have to create my own thing from scratch because I couldn’t violate their copyright and change it myself.
As those have been reading for a while know, I have been using Lessontrek Online Planner for the last 2 years. Unfortunately this solution hasn’t been working so well this school year. They haven’t added any new features and the Gradebook is still in Beta status. Customer service, while friendly, isn’t very good at fixing things in a timely manner and they haven’t made any of the improvements that they said are in the works for over 18 months so I am tired of waiting and have decided to do something else for next year.
Things weren’t so bad when I was using pen and paper but I want something better than the $0.18 notebook that I used to have. Printed homeschool planners tend to have more bells and whistles than I need so I decided to find a printable planner that I can just print the pages I want and ignore the rest.
Google has a huge amount of printable planners available, both free and paid from the very fancy to the very simple with the ability to mix and match as needed. With so many choices you think that I would have been able to create just what I wanted, right?… wrong!
Most forms were too fancy, or had the wrong layout, or had too many fields, others had a perfect layout but they ruined it by adding “Bible” as a subject or printing a bible quote in the footer, the rest were limited to 30 or 36 weeks of instruction when I homeschool year round, or I would find one that would work but it’s in landscape mode and I want it in portrait mode… After seeing how many hours I was wasting in this process I decided that it would be faster to just create my own, and it was.
I created my first form in 10 minutes and an entire planner in just a couple of hours. As a career accountant, I value functionality over aesthetics so it’s very fast for me to design a table that while it may look boring to most, it gets the job done. I don’t care about fancy fonts and colorful clip art so I don’t waste time on that. In the end I have been creating a complete planner that I can then upload to a printer’s website to have printed and bound.
My planner is very different from any other planner that I see online. I shouldn’t even call it a planner as it’s really a tracker. I will use it to track what has been done on a weekly basis. That is how I have been using Lessontrek and it’s how I would like to continue.
So far I have created:
– Year calendar with holidays
– Attendance Tracker
– Weekly Assignment Log
– Homeschool Resource Log
– Reading Log
– Field Trip Log
I could send this to the printer and be happy but I am toying with the idea of also creating a Grade Tracker. While I don’t use tests and teach to mastery, I do grade assignments to have an idea of strengths and weaknesses for lesson planning. My son has no idea that he is graded, this is only for my personal purposes but I have gotten used to doing it.
I have not found a suitable printable for that so it looks like I will be designing my own as well.
Once everything is finalized I am toying with the idea of making the PDF forms available for free download to my subscribers if there is enough interest.