I can’t lie – I’m a planner girl. I have tried just about every style of paper planning system on the market. There is just something about sitting down, laying out your week on a beautifully decorated planner spread. I’ve also had seasons of life where I’ve wanted to try an online homeschool planner but any of the online planner options have been a big bust. I had all but given up on ever finding an online homeschool planner option that had the functions I needed, and was both web-based and mobile-responsive. Then, one day the universe put me in front of the Homeschool Panda online planner, and I just knew that it was going to be perfect for our upcoming school year.
What is Homeschool Panda, Anyway?
I was meandering around a Facebook group when someone posted asking for recommendations for homeschool planners. My ears perked up because, well, I love planners! I was reading through the responses and saw the usual recommendations. Then I noticed a few people suggest some new online homeschool planner called Homeschool Panda.
I thought, what’s this new little find, and went off to Google to check it out. I noticed that it had both a website and an app so I downloaded the app, surprised that it was FREE, and took a peek at it quickly.
I was almost instantly in love with this app. I kept checking for the “strings attached” to this amazing, super functional, FREE planning app. As I was poking around all over, I kept going “OH! This is GREAT!” as I found function after function that was just what I was looking for.
When I saw that it has an option to SCAN the barcodes of our book library, my love for this app was cemented. What homeschooler doesn’t want an easy way to keep track of their kids’ booklists?!
I had the opportunity to speak to the creator of Homeschool Panda, Syeda Sanjeda, who took me on a tour of the app and website. This is from our conversation:
Homeschool Panda was created by homeschooling parents with technology backgrounds. Their personal and local community’s need for better management of homeschool planning and a centralized homeschool hub to connect with other homeschoolers gave birth to Homeschool Panda. Homeschool Panda is committed to empowering education and making it within hand’s reach. -Syeda Sanjeda, Co-Founder, Homeschool Panda.
As Syeda walked me through all of the functions and capabilities of Homeschool Panda, I kept exclaiming “gosh, yes! This will be great!”
Why Use an Online Homeschool Planner?
As someone who normally prefers to have a paper planner in front of my face, I have been skeptical about online homeschool planners. The couple that I had tried before Homeschool Panda all left me feeling like something was always missing.
Why would a homeschooling parent decide to use an online planner as opposed to a paper planner? Well, if you’re anything like me you probably are on the go a lot – field trips, outings, nature walks, and in between activities and lessons, you might spend a lot of time in the car or on the road. Having your plans (and notes, and to do lists, and shopping lists!) easily accessible from a tablet or phone, makes schooling on the go a breeze.
Also, one of my biggest frustrations with putting any plans down on paper is when things all have to get shifted and adjusted due to sick days or unplanned changes to our days. I really need to have something laid out a little ahead of time, in order to keep things moving along. Once a day changes, though, it can start to feel really overwhelming to look down at my planner and see arrows and scratched out plans. An online planner, like Homeschool Panda, makes moving plans around a breeze. With the click of a button, the whole thing can be shifted around as needed.
Homeschool Panda is Stuffed With Functions
What do you get when you use Homeschool Panda? In short, you get a functional, clean, truly mobile friendly planner that includes website access as well. Here are the functions that are available with Homeschool Panda right now:
- Dashboard – when you log in, you’ll see your dashboard with your to-do list for that day, calendar, and other useful items
- Lesson Planner – this is where the magic happens. With a ton of ways to choose how to schedule your lessons, you have complete control over how and what you plan. You can share your plans with other Homeschool Panda users AND access the plans that others have shared. Other online planners do this at additional cost to the user, but with Homeschool Panda you can share plans to/from other users for free.
- Calendar – this is where you will see monthly, weekly, and daily views of your lessons, events, and anything else you’ve got scheduled into Homeschool Panda
- Collaborate – this, to me, is one of the coolest aspects of Homeschool Panda. You can find and connect with other homeschool parents using Homeschool Panda, and network and get support. This is a really cool feature!
- Community Forums – a safe, online space where you can ask questions or get feedback from other homeschoolers.
- Student Info – this is where you’ll keep track of your students and their plans
- Budget – I love this feature! Having my plans, booklists, resources, AND my budget all accessible by my phone or tablet when I’m on the go is such a handy tool. When I’m on my laptop or tablet, gathering resources or curriculum shopping, it’s so convenient to access my budget with a simple click!
- My Books – hands down, this is my FAVOURITE feature and the one that drew me in to this app/website. You can search for and/or scan the barcode of almost any book, and add it to your booklist. Syeda mentioned that there will be some additional functions being added to the My Books tool in future updates, and I can’t wait to see this feature expanded.
What I Love About Homeschool Panda
I really wanted to highlight a few things that I especially love about the Homeschool Panda planner. Often planners, both paper and online, have a lot of features that aren’t necessarily useful to me or that I have to MacGyver a bit to make it work. Homeschool Panda, however, has a ton of functionality and very little wasted features.
I love that it was created by a homeschooling family, and also by someone in the secular homeschooling community. You wouldn’t think that this would be a big issue in online planners, but…well…as is the way, it’s actually tough to find homeschool planners created by and for secular homeschoolers.
The ability to create and share your lesson plans amongst the Homeschool Panda user community is another favourite feature of mine. This sense of community and collaboration is something I think is a really important part of homeschooling.
As I mentioned above, the My Books feature is MY ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE. I think this makes Homeschool Panda unique, and for me is a huge part of why I know this will be a planner that I’ll actually use. As a family who is heavily inspired by the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and Brave Writer, we live a very literature-heavy life around here. Being able to quickly scan my books, and assign them to my kids, is such a useful tool. My son whowill be using Build Your Library Level 8 next year, has a MASSIVE pile of books that he’ll be working from. Sitting down for a day and scanning them all in to my planner will be an incredible help to me.
Know what else I think is awesome? In the lesson planning section, you can upload photos and notes from your day, AND when you need to create an easy portfolio for your homeschool you can do that with a few easy clicks!
I also love that it’s free. Not free for a limited time, or “free but you have to pay for in-app options”. Just…free. An amazing resource, chock-full of features and tools, all free for the user. The creators of Homeschool Panda want to help home educating families and offering this much content for free, really is a blessing to most homeschool families.
But Wait! There’s More!
I know, there’s so much to love about Homeschool Panda – but one thing I really find exciting is how MUCH is always being added and updated in the app and website.
Homeschool Panda already has a ton of amazing features, but there are constantly new things being added – coming up soon are:
- Homeschool Panda Kids: Secure, kid-friendly area where the student can log in and see their plans. This will be a great way to encourage our children to take ownership of their learning and actively participate in their planning
- Event Management: This feature will allow you to better manage homeschool events, invite other homeschoolers, and manage pictures.
- Nutrition and Activity Tracker: Empower children to develop healthy eating habits. Parents and children can actively participate in making healthier choices while reducing the frustrations of meal planning.
Who Should Use This Online Planner?
In short? Everyone.
I think that no matter what homeschool style you prefer, from school at home to Charlotte Mason to Unschooling, this planner has tools and functions that will make your planning life so much easier.
With the Homeschool Panda planner being free to use, you can easily (and guilt-free!) use the components that make your planning easier, and leave what doesn’t.
It’s still early in my “planning season” here, but I will definitely be posting updates as I sit down and really start inputting my son’s Build Your Library plans as well as my daughter’s Oak Meadow plans.
So stick with me and watch for more posts about how my family is using this AH-MAZING resource!