“Powerful, and with highly flexible and helpful scheduling features, Homeschool Planet hits all the right notes from the start.”
What We Like
What We Don’t Like
If you’re a homeschooling family, chances are you know that it’s never as easy as it might seem to other people. Between organizing school schedules and lesson plans, field trips and chores, ensuring accountability and attendance, extracurriculars and just keeping the household from descending into complete anarchy…well, it usually can’t be described as smooth. The words organized chaos frequently come to mind.
Fortunately, the people behind Homeschool Planet have made a product that can help simplify the organization and planning process and make it more approachable.
What is Homeschool Planet
Founded in 2000, Homeschool planet is an online, cloud-based subscription homeschool planner and organizer that was created with homeschool families in mind. It was designed to help manage the usual chaos of homeschooling life with such features as school scheduling, attendance tracking, transcript creation and more.
Homeschool Planet is competitively priced, costing only a little more ($5-10) per year than other full suite homeschool planning software services and is roughly the same price for a month to month subscription.
Homeschool Planet does offer a generous one month free trial, which we like since we feel 30 days is enough time to learn to use the program and see if it’s right for your family and teaching style.
Further, whatever schedules or data you input during this free trial carries over and stays in the planner if you do decide to go forward and purchase a plan with the company, which is really convenient and makes for a smoother transition.
They also don’t require a credit card to try their service out, making their trial even more risk free.
One thing we don’t like is that because of the month long free trial, they don’t offer refunds so you can only cancel before you have to renew your subscription. That said, we do like that they don’t automatically renew subscriptions, instead they end and you get to choose to renew or not, which is great for those of us who live busy lives and tend to forget to cancel subscriptions.
They also hold your data for 12 months in case you want to resubscribe.
Homeschool Planet Features
Homeschool planet has a ton of options and features for managing homeschooling.
Cloud Based Planning
Being an online system, when you subscribe to homeschool planet, your family gets 24/7 anywhere anytime access to your planner. That means if your computer crashes, or your internet goes out, or you’re just away on a trip, you can access your planner from wherever you can get internet access.
As you might expect from a homeschool planner, Homeschool Planet lets you organize and manage your students schedule, creating a calendar of classes and lessons. However, Homeschool Planet really shines because it makes things incredibly easy.
There are a number of super helpful tools (wizards) for scheduling that are built into the system, giving parents the ability to easily build out and customize their children’s schedules and calendars with just a few clicks. If you want to add a new class, for example, all you have to do is click on your student and a button with the option to add a class will pop up. The “Create Class” window will then appear, letting you pull down menus to select a start date and class time (the program really has a ton of options you can select for scheduling class times), assign resources, assignments and lesson plans with the click of a button.
It even has a wizard that can help you print out the entire schedule, as well as transcripts, class hours and attendance records, if you’re a fan of keeping things in binders. You can print in color or black and white or just save it to PDF.
The program lets you add phone numbers and emails of family members, which lets you send out daily and weekly reminders right to them wherever they are, which we think is pretty cool.
You can also link your schedule with most online calendars (icalendar, google calendar). Homeschool Planet lets you import your outside calendar items into the program or exporting parts of your planner/schedule to your calendars, which is a great feature for keeping your homeschool life and personal life in sync.
Because we all know life happens, the company has built in a really cool rescheduling helper into this scheduling tool. If, for some reason, things go a little off kilter and you need to move an incomplete assignment or task around, Homeschool Planner can work with you to automatically bump things around without messing up your whole schedule.
Essentially, if something comes up you can click the little Rescheduling Helper tool button and it asks you if you want to reschedule things that are overdue, overdue items and things due that day or take the whole day off and reschedule accordingly. The program can also pick up when assignments aren’t complete and give you the option of shifting them forward. The program will then shuffle your schedule automatically, moving times and dates around, preserving your carefully crafted preplanning so you don’t have to go through your year and do it yourself.
Lesson Plan Creation
Creating and organizing lesson plans can be a real pain for homeschooling parents, but we found that Homeschool planet makes the process pretty simple.
There is an inbuilt wizard, or help program, that helps you portion out lessons and assignments based on your school year and module start and end dates. You input often how you would like to assign lessons and assignments and based on how many assignments or lessons you have, how many per day you want to assign and which days of the week you’d like to assign them, the program will then automatically generate an entire lesson plan that you can then add to the calendar.
From there you can add grading schemes, extra resources, website links, upload your own PDFs and more.
One thing we found quite interesting is that the program is smart enough to actually warn you if something doesn’t add up in your scheduling. For example, if you set too many assignments to a class with too few hours scheduled, the program will warn you and give you various options it can perform to help you fix the situation automatically, such as lengthening the start/end date, doubling up on assignments or just dropping later assignments. With kids schedules becoming increasingly complicated, mistakes can be made and we think this is a really cool and intelligent feature that can save frustration in the long run.
Another thing that saves a lot of time is that when you want to add books to your lesson plan as a resource, you can add titles by their 10-13 digit ISBN number and the program will fill in things like titles, authors and such. It seems a bit librarian-ish but it can really save a lot of time.
Lesson Plan Marketplace
If you are a parent who is more into teaching than researching and coming up with lesson plans, Homeschool Planet offers a lesson plan marketplace. Here you can buy and then import professionally made lesson plans right into your schedule so there’s no need to type or input anything. You can also reuse them with future students.
We found the list of contributors to the marketplace to be quite impressive and they have hundreds of lesson plans from a variety of respected providers and educational styles such as IXL, Veritas Press, Thinkwell, BJU Press and more.
Some of these online lesson plans include versions with weblinks, printable PDFs, videos, worksheets and other enhancements that we feel create a more premium and interesting learning experience.
However, one thing we didn’t like is that you can’t download and print out these lesson plans individually (they are not individual PDFs), they’re designed to be integrated into and used with the software.
We found that Homeschool Planet great for organizing multiple students. You can set up separate accounts for each pupil, and create different lesson plans for each one. Each account has their own planner, schedule, to-do lists and even custom widgets.
Each account also can be set up with their own feature restrictions and seperate logins so their progress remains confidential. Moreover, as your children grow up and become more responsible, you can grant them more and more access to the program, such as allowing them to check off their own assignments and so on.
Planning Beyond School
One thing that we really liked with homeschool planet is the fact that it goes beyond homeschooling. In addition to letting you centralize your children’s lesson plans, calendars and chores, the program contains a number of widgets – little applications that sit to the side of your calendar, that can display things like the weather forecast or daily scripture. There is even a lookup widget that links to google, bing, dictionaries, the bible, wikipedia and even Amazon (in case you need to quickly buy a book).
What they can also do is manage general to-do and shopping lists, giving you the ability to manage many other aspects of home life. If you choose to add the phone numbers and emails of family members, you can then forward these to-do and shopping lists to them on the go, right to their phone. So, for example, if your significant other needs to pick up milk on the way home you can send them a gentle reminder right from Homeschool Planet.
There is also a messenger widget that acts like a sort of in-group chat that can be managed centrally from Homeschool Planet and also sent out to family member phones. While cute, we think that most families probably already have apps for that and so we don’t know how useful this really is.
Homeschool planet is an extremely flexible program.
First, in terms of subscriptions, you can choose to sign up for an entire year or on a month to month plan. They also hold your data for 12 months so you can even take a break from the subscription if you need to.
But in terms of the software itself, there is also a great deal of flexibility built right into it. If your homeschool uses a grading scheme, Homeschool Planet allows you to choose between pass/fail, letter grades and number grades. You can also decide the weight given to different aspects of the lesson plan so that, for example, you can choose whether you want to evaluate your student more by quizzes and tests or by projects and assignments.
As far as scheduling and planning is concerned, the various wizards and automation tools that are built into Homeschool Planet give parents a striking level of customization. It lets homeschooling parents fit it to their teaching style and needs, rather than the other way around. For example, if you need to move classes around for only a period of time (like a seasonal sport practice), or if you need to schedule classes for different times on different dates, not only will the program let you do this but it will reshuffle your calendar for you automatically.
You can move assignments forwards and backwards without really any need to input any more data.
Ease of Use
Despite the amount of things you can do with it, Homeschool Planet is actually pretty easy to set up and get running. While it does require more manual input than some other planning options (such as Homeschool Tracker), the program has lots of inbuilt scheduling wizards and guides, that really simplifies the process of creating a school year from scratch.
While it may take some time to get familiar with all the tools and options available inside the program, there are a number of video tutorials on their website to help new users explore the program. These cover a wide range of topics, from installation and startup to the various features available. These tutorials are easy to follow and are a good way to get into Homeschool Planet.
One annoyance we had is the lack of a homeschool planet mobile app. You can only access Homeschool Planet through a web browser, and while you can use your Android or iOS device it will display a more limited version of the program – on phones you can only view and mark off assignments one day at a time, while on tablets you can do so one week at a time.
Given that today’s society is highly mobile and probably has more phones/tablets per house than full computers, we feel an app would be less clunky and more useful.
In this day and age there’s one big concern when it comes to the internet and that is security, especially when it concerns your child’s personal information.
This is one area where you don’t have to worry. Homeschool Planet has features to ensure that your child is kept as safe as possible. All personally identifiable data- such as phone numbers, addresses, and even their name- are encrypted, and all data going through the website is similarly secure.
But there’s more to online security than just shrouding personal data. You also want to be sure that your information isn’t lost due to some sort of error. There are few worse feelings than working hard on something only to lose it due to computer problems and have to start again. Homeschool Planet is also a cloud-based solution, meaning the data is stored on the company’s servers rather than on your machine. The servers are backed up daily, so there’s very little risk of losing work.
Jennifer Keenes is a writer and a new mom living in Florida. She studied education and, prior to becoming a freelance writer, worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary and middle school level. She is a big fan of the beach, working out and homeschooling her two daughters.