Busy homeschool parents know how challenging it can be to bring all the things together. You’ve got all the core subjects for all your kids, plus things like piano lessons and karate class, plus projects and field trips and checkup appointments and more. It can feel nearly impossible to keep it all straight and streamlined…until now!
Syllabird is an online homeschool planning system that was created by homeschoolers, for homeschoolers. Syllabird combines beautiful, modern design elements with all of the organizational elements AND flexibility that you need. Best of all, the interface is simple and intuitive, so even if you are not super tech savvy, you’ll be up and planning your school year pretty quickly.
In years gone by when I attempted to use various planning methods for our homeschool, one of the biggest missing elements was how to easily reorganize assignments if we needed to take a couple days off. The makers of Syllabird understand how things can change and flow in the life of a homeschool family, and they have built in ways to effortlessly reschedule an entire course, or to adjust assignments for a student that needs a different pace than anticipated, and more.
Syllabird works on computers, phones, and tablets, so you and your students can stay in touch about what their assignments are, and what has been done. Especially for families that are working on helping their kids have more independence with their school work, this is a terrific tool.
I love that with Syllabird you can set up a plan for your whole school year that will help support all of your best intentions. How many times have we purchased materials and planned to use them with our kids, but then kind of forgot that they were on the shelf? Syllabird solves this. No longer are you wasting your money on materials that you’ll forget to use.
The record-keeping is done for you! I have so many parents that ask me about things like keeping track of attendance, grades, and transcripts. Syllabird helps with that as well. You can see your child’s gradebook at a glance, and later this year they will be rolling out the ability to create transcripts! Terrific!
If you are looking for a reading and spelling approach that is time-tested, methodical, and provides a very high level of teacher training and support that will give you an excellent foundation as a home educator, you will LOVE The Phonics Road from Schola Publications.
The Phonics Road program uses a systematic approach over 4 years to build a firm foundation in the English language for kids ages 5-11. The materials are thorough, simple to use, and are super-powered by the daily video tutorial presented by Barbara Beers, who has been teaching since 1984. In the videos that I sampled I felt absolutely thrilled to know that this level of empowerment and training is available for home educators.
The Phonics Road series takes students through 4 years, helping them become confident spellers, excellent writers, enthusiastic readers, and proficient in composition. These programs utilize literary and composition activities, and include handwriting (print and cursive), vocabulary, grammar, and more. And if you want your children to learn Latin, you’ll be well-prepared to go on to The Latin Road after your children complete The Phonics Road!
I got to review The Phonics Road Level One, which is where all students begin, regardless of age or grade level. I really appreciated that the readers are all contained within a single book (so we don’t have 30 little booklets to keep track of!), and that the kids get to illustrate the stories. (So fun!) I like how this program combines the tried-and-true simple methods with the empowering videos that will make sure you never doubt what to do next or how to do it. I think any homeschool parent would find this program great for both their reading and spelling foundation, as well as gifting the parent with a greater skill set and awareness for teaching that will continue to benefit their children as they grow.
If you are a Christian parent that wants to provide fun and engaging music education for your children, you’ll want to check out Praise Hymn Inc..
Their video series feature animated friends that teach your kids about music concepts, instruments of the orchestra, classical music listening, and sing-a-long songs. Episodes take students on adventures as they learn. Here’s a FREE lesson from the kindergarten level program:
I was first introduced to the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner in 2018, and I have been a big fan of it ever since. In fact, this is the planner I use to keep my homemaking, homeschooling, mothering, appointments, and business tasks straight. Yes, even for a very busy person, this planner covers everything I need, without giving me a bunch of stuff I don’t need.
This is a sponsored post that I am very excited to share with you, because I use this planner just about every single day.
I like the smart and thoughtful design that went into creating this planner. I can tell that it was made by a mom like me, for moms like you and me. Sue Hooley brought this project to life based on what she needed as a busy wife, mother of six, and missionary. You’ll notice right away how practical it is.
Each year Sue has a theme for the planner, and the theme for 2021 is so perfect during these uncertain times. It’s “Flowing with change” and you’ll find encouraging quotes and Bible verses throughout the planner to remind you of this goal.
In the welcome message at the beginning of the planner Sue shares this quote that really resonated with me. “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” Yes, indeed, we have all been learning that lesson in 2020!
I know that a lot of people like to bedazzle their planners with stickers, markers, washi tape, and so forth. I’m sure if that’s something that you enjoy, you can use this planner in that way. But for me, I am not a bedazzler and enjoy the clean, thoughtful layout and peaceful quotes and colors throughout.
This planner has everything I need, both as a homemaker, a homeschool parent, and a business owner. Here are some of the highlights:
It looks pretty without being overwhelming
The spiral binding allows it to lay flat
The size can easily fit in my purse, tote bag, or back pack
There are just enough sections to be useful, without getting carried away. You can check out my video below for a full show and tell tour.
The Weekly Planning area is what I use the most. Each week has a two-page spread. I like that there’s a space for general tasks that don’t necessarily need to be specified by day. I also appreciate that there is space for about ten items in the daily To Do area. This helps stop me from creating a completely unrealistic (and disappointing) list of far too many things to accomplish in a day and keeps me focused on a realistic amount of most important things.
There’s also space to notate what’s on the menu for the day. Save yourself the brain space and have that planned out in advance. Each day you’ll know what your plan is, if anything need to be thawing or in the crock pot, or moved from freezer to fridge in preparation for later in the week.
Each purchase of the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner includes a FREE Bonus downloadable menu planner for the year, so you can literally map out your meal plan for the coming year and be free from the 4 o’clock “Oh no! What’s for dinner?”
Other categories include:
Great for reminding yourself of tasks for later in the year when you aren’t exactly sure what week or day you’ll be doing them on. This works for seasonal jobs, homeschool planning, things like tax season, birthday or Christmas shopping, or plans for a business
Yearly Calendar provides a good spot for keeping track of all the birthdays, anniversaries, and other noteworthy events.
Tasks List This area provides plenty of pages for you to use however you see fit, and the spiral binding allows you to neatly remove pages once you’re done with them.
Projects and Events
These pages are great for when you want to make a plan for a holiday meal, birthday party, garden planning, or other upcoming events. I like to keep track of menus we used for big meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I can easily refer back to it to know what portions worked for what size groups. Huge time saver for me!
This section is great for phone numbers, keeping track of all the clothing and shoe sizes in the family, and other bits and pieces of info you’ll sometimes need in a hurry.
Shopping Lists I love this section! Each page has three vertical columns that are perforated. You can easily keep a running list of what you need to get at the store, and neatly rip off that column when it’s time to go on your errands. This is especially helpful to me for times when I’m accumulating a list for an unusual errand, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, since it gives me a spot to accumulate the list of items I’ll need to get when I finally go there.
Handy pocket in the back for bills, letters to be sent, birthday cards that you’re having the family sign, etc.
They have an annual subscription! When you enroll in their subscription program you’ll get a discount on the regular price, and know that you’ll have your new planner in hand in the fall of each year so you won’t miss a beat on staying organized. To set this up you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can order your planner from Homemaker’s Depot and you’ll get a FREE coordinating menu planner as well!
P.S. I gave away one of these planners to a lovely lady named Melanie. She told me that she had struggled to ever make using a planner successful for her, but she was willing to try. I got a great testimonial from her that she said I could share with you, so here it is:
“I am really enjoying my planner. At first, I didn’t like how small the calendar book was but now that I have been using it, I like it just the way it is. I also like how everything important stays in the little book. For example, the last time I was in town, I had planned to do a big shopping trip so I brought my list…that was still in the book. But then we didn’t have time to do our big shopping. I only had time to grab a few needed items. In the past, somehow, I don’t know how but I would have lost my list by the time I got home. Then I would have needed to start all over but as it was, my list was/is safely in my book still. So I have just been adding as we think of new things that we need. Another example, for my kids birthday we always take the school day off. It is our special holiday. 😉😊 They also get to pick the meals for the day. Normally, I have to ask them several times because I lose the meal list. Not this year, it was safely in my book at all times.😉😊. It makes me feel organized!!😊😊”
One of the things I’ve loved about being a part of a homeschool support group is that my kids have had opportunities to take part in regular school experiences like competitive sports teams, proms, groups classes, yearbooks, clubs, and graduations. Last year our third child, Jacob, graduated, and it was our first experience with a homeschool graduation ceremony. I was so impressed at how lovely and meaningful it was! All of the graduating seniors were decked out in cap, gown, and tassels, and received diplomas, and I loved that it was in no way a second-rate experience for them!
With three remaining high schoolers to graduate from our homeschool, I was delighted when Homeschool Diploma wanted to send me some of their products to review! I noticed during our senior year, many parents in our group did not know where or how to find graduation supplies for their homeschooled senior, and I ended up kind of cobbling together items helter-skelter, so I know this is a common need. Being able to see the large assortment of options, and experience the quality of the products available at Homeschool Diploma has been impressive, and I am so excited to share about this with you!
Homeschool Diploma offers all the supplies and products you need for your seniors, from the actual diplomas and diploma covers, to caps and gowns, announcements and Thank You cards, gifts, and even class rings! If you’ll have a graduate within the next four years, you will definitely want to get in on this.
The first item I got to check out was a beautiful customized diploma. Since I don’t have a graduating senior this year, I made one up for a friend of ours, and it really turned out lovely. You can choose from really nice standard, simple diplomas for as little as $29.99, or choose from many different options to create a more personalized keepsake that reflects your homeschool and student.
The one we got has the graduate’s name and school name on the front cover, a beautiful engraved seal, a Bible verse, and a diploma cover tassel.
It’s wonderful quality and I love how it offers parents the opportunity to convey their joy and accomplishment in graduating their child in ways that reflect their own style and personality.
In addition to the diploma, we also opted to get an extra, archive copy of the diploma. This is great so that your graduate can take their actual diploma with them, but mom and dad can keep a spare copy for their records in case it’s ever needed. It’s high-quality and enclosed in a clear, archive envelope to protect it.
We were also able to get a cap, gown, and tassel set, which is a must-have for any graduation ceremony. Homeschool Diploma offers two fabric types (matte or shiny) and a wide variety of colors. Gowns are sized by height, so it’s quick and easy to choose one that’s right for you. Plus sizes are also available. I was really pleased to see that the quality of the gown is quite nice. The fabric has a soft, comfortable feel and a nice weight and drape, and the zipper works smoothly and feels like it is good quality. The cap is also well-made and sturdy.
I especially liked the charm on the tassel, which is a good weight and definitely feels like a quality keepsake, and not some cheaply made trinket. Certainly you could save and reuse these caps and gowns for future graduates in your family.
The final item I was able to check out was the personalized notecards. We opted for a navy blue card with Matthew’s name in gold on the front. The paper used for these notecards is a nice weight and quality. These cards are perfect for post-graduation thank you notes, as well as an ongoing stash of personalized stationery as your student goes on to further education, job interviews, and so on. Since the cards are completely navy blue, you will want to get a white gel roll pen to use with them, and thoughtfully, Homeschool Diploma offers one for a nominal fee.
All-in-all, my impression of everything that I got to experience from Homeschool Diploma was care and quality. Each item is something I would be so pleased to use with my own graduates, knowing that every item is well-made and high-quality and reflective of our excitement at having reached this milestone with our child!
Any Christian homeschoolers that spend time on social media have surely heard of The Good and the Beautiful by now. This relative newcomer to the homeschool curriculum scene has been quickly accepted as a favorite by many, and is known for their integration of fine arts into their materials, which I know is a special interest for Enrichment Studies readers, so I’m always eager to check out their materials and see what might be of interest to my peeps. When The Good and the Beautiful asked me to review their Creative Writing Notebook and their Nature Notebook, it was an easy yes from me! They have generously sponsored this review.
Creative Writing Notebook
The beautiful Creative Writing notebook does a terrific job of leading children through various aspects of creative writing in a way that is engaging and interesting. Designed for students in grades 4-12, my own high schoolers have been using this on all the days when I didn’t have something else planned for their writing. Even without my involvement, my students can easily move forward onto the next writing activity and they have enjoyed it.
This 89-page spiral notebook includes five sections:
Descriptive Writing Practice
I like how simply and effectively the student is guided on how to develop and improve their writing. The subtlety of it makes it feel less like school work, and more like a guided writing journal, which I think is wonderful for so many kids. I have reluctant writers and dyslexic kids, so this is an area we have struggled in. I’m happy to say that with the Creative Writing Notebook, I’ve seen each of my remaining high schoolers improve in their writing skills AND enjoy it! Pretty awesome!
Enrichment Studies families and others that value the integration of the arts into other subjects will appreciate that writing poetry and the process to get you there is included in this book. There are also several works of art included in this book that are used as jumping off points for observation, description, writing poems, and other aspects of writing development.
This is one of my favorite things that we’ve been using this school year, and I feel you really can’t go wrong with it for any child that is ready and able to do some writing. The fact that it’s presented so simply and in a non-intimidating way is a plus, and it doesn’t run on a lot of Mom Power, which I know we can all appreciate. It’s very affordable, at just $14.99, and will work with all learning styles.
One final note: The Good and the Beautiful is a non-denominational Christian program, but I found that the Creative Writing Notebook does not add in religious or spiritual messages. With the possible exception of the first page, it stays focused on writing skills alone, which makes this a great option for all families, including those that prefer to share spiritual beliefs with their children on their own, rather than with educational materials. As always, The Good and the Beautiful materials are wholesome with no objectionable or inappropriate content. It is well-done and stays on topic in an appropriate and professional way.
Nature Study is a popular buzzword in homeschool communities, and Charlotte Mason circles in particular. Whether you are already spending time in nature study, or if (like me) you kind of don’t understand where to start or what to do, you will love the Nature Notebook from The Good and the Beautiful.
This 117-page spiral bound nature notebook makes it fun and easy to get into nature study! Sections are divided by the four seasons (plus one Any Time section) and there are clear activities suggested for you to do, such as leaf collection or drawing, scavenger hunts done on a nature walk, description prompts (seamlessly pulling writing skills into the process), drawing and observation prompts, tie-ins with poetry and illustration, collection ideas (Seeds, rocks, flowers, leaves, etc.), and much more.
True Confession: I have always loved the idea of getting the kids out in nature, but honestly never understood what purposeful thing we were supposed to “do” aside from just take a walk and see things that we might talk about, etc. Having these suggested activities is a terrific way to get started and get over that hump of not really knowing what to do. The fact that you can jump around from one activity prompt to another is handy for families since it flexes with your needs and wishes. You can easily let the children pick what they’d like to do for your outing, and there is plenty that the kids can do as self-led nature study right in your own back yard! I also appreciate that there are plenty of things in the Nature Notebook that you can do indoors. Whether you have weather or personal needs that keep you inside, you can definitely keep going and let nature study be a part of your everyday school life.
Any age child can use this notebook, and you could use a fresh Nature Notebook year after year, since the observations you make and collections you form, etc. will be fresh and different. I also appreciate that you don’t have to finish this in one year. If you aren’t avid nature walkers, if you’re having a baby and not able to get out much this year, or simply had nature study fall of your radar for awhile, each child can still enjoy and treasure their Nature Notebook over several years and get so much out of it!
One aspect of the Nature Notebook that I found myself questioning was that there are some nature “scrapbooking” type activities suggestions that I am not sure how they would practically work. For example, gluing leaves onto pages seem like they would make it hard for the book to close, the leaves would eventually dry and get crushed and make a mess, etc. The bark rubbing activity seems like it has great potential to get the book pages ripped and would be awkward to accomplish with the page still attached to the book. I love the inclusion of these activities, but I think I would copy those particular pages on my home scanner/printer and provide a fresh stand-alone page for the kids to do those activities on instead. A 9×12 plastic storage box might be a perfect spot to store your Nature Notebook, plus all collections, nature treasures, and three-dimensional projects where they are more protected and can be enjoyed again and again.
Like the Creative Writing Notebook, the Nature Notebook doesn’t directly include any religious elements, so this is an item that will work for all families and all ages. The Nature Notebook sells for just $12.
Get The Good and the Beautiful annual reading list for FREE!
Each year The Good and the Beautiful publishes a popular reading list, and subscribers to their newsletter can get it for FREE! They also sometimes give away freebies, so this is a great way to make sure you don’t miss a thing. You can subscribe on their home page by clicking here.
You can read my other review of The Good and the Beautiful here:
Welcome to the Enrichment Lifestyle Blog! I'm so glad you're here. :) I'm Erica Johns, and I love to encourage homeschool moms and help them enjoy more of the beauty of the arts in everyday life.
About me: I started my homeschooling journey in 1997 and graduated the last of my six children in 2021. Amidst all the hard work, crazy days, uncertainty, and lost pencils, what I think we really gained was the gift of a lifetime: TIME TOGETHER. So awesome! Click my pic to learn more.