The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Tess Hamre and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Purposeful Planning E-book, E-Handbook, and MP3 bundle Review by Donna Campos

Phyllis Sather
Sather Home School
16915 Schuman Lake Road
Avon, Minnesota 56310

The Purposeful Planning bundle includes the book explaining the ideas of Phyllis Sather and her weekend of planning, an accompanying Handbook to complete during the weekend, and an MP3 to listen to while planning your Purposeful Planning event for your family. The Purposeful Planning pages are oriented for double-sided printing with decorative division lines throughout. Scripture references are from the King James Version of the Bible. The book is a printable 78 pages with two pages of Contents listing the encouraging sections of the book. The breakdown of specific details for successfully implementing a Purposeful Planning weekend, or longer, for your family are explained fully. The E-Handbook is 47 pages long and is designed in a similar decorative, double-sided format as the Purposeful Planning E-book. The single page of Contents provides an overview for preparing for your weekend while note space is provided throughout. The MP3 is 31 minutes in listening length and downloads to the computer easily, the voice is a calming, female speaker with smooth reading ability. Visual illustrations throughout the program include a cartoon sheep named "Annabelle" with various backgrounds and activities, including a disco ball with scattered lights, flying blimps, a microphone and spotlight, and more, all to keep you visually amused while listening. Phyllis Sather has gathered thoughts, advice, and a plan for couples and families to help them schedule a few days away to spend time capturing a vision for what God desires in their home. As a mother of three who has home schooled her children, now home schooling college, she shares her knowledge and prayerful insight for other families. As a Christian author, her title verse reveals her heart and her hope for families using her material, Proverbs 29:18a, "Where there is no vision the people perish."

The bundle allows the user to either read or listen to the Purposeful Planning book, while using the Purposeful Planning Handbook as a note taking and planning tool prior to and during the time away. Both e-books have ample space for comments in the margin and any notes the reader desires to make while studying. Keep in mind, if your notes are particular to a specific year or changing subject matter it would be wise to make such comments in the handbook rather than the main book. The e-book format allows the user to print a new handbook each year for a new year of notes, while keeping a master copy of the Purposeful Planning book for annual reference. Encouraging and thought provoking quotes are scattered throughout the books. Our favorite quote was the first in the handbook, by C.S. Lewis, "We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road: in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive." Too often home schools become stuck in a rut, or because of high investment we refuse to change course mid-semester, or we simply continue doing exactly as we have always done. If we are accomplishing our goals and our actions are working well for our family, then we are content. In the event we have never set goals at the start, or more recently, how will we ever know what we are accomplishing? Purposeful Planning is life planning, not simply home school planning. Matters of the home (both physical and relational), your marital relationship, the Lord's calling for your family, your finances, your children and their character, as well as your home school plans, are all addressed. The Sather planning sessions began as a couple and later became a family event, but Phyllis encourages families to determine what is best for their own family.

Phyllis Sather consistently calls for prayer and teamwork in planning; between husband and wife, and among the family as a whole, particularly as the children mature. Helpful websites are listed for character education, biblical financial training, even a checklist for Annual Character Development is provided. The "Word from Dan" is an excellent encouragement for men and for women with a desire to uplift their husbands toward a stronger leadership role in the lives of their children. This page truly completes the Purposeful Planning book and makes it a great purchase for families. The overall cost of the single book or an entire package is incredibly reasonable and well worth the investment in your family. Some excellent questions are included for use with your children when seeking the heart of their true character. We loved the closing prayer significance after meeting with the children and the lasting example it bestows upon them. As I read I found my heart calling to a planning weekend and we found this to be an answer to prayer for our home. A few days away as a couple provides an incredible respite, but the ideas and guidance provided from Purposeful Planning make a weekend away fully refreshing as you find God's will for your family as a couple. An initial weekend may only lead you in the right direction, but it will reveal a start to a much improved future as you begin to direct the paths of your family, rather than just following them. My time away provided me a listening ear from my husband, and equally important, I provided a listening ear for him, as Phyllis suggests. This time together brought us closer, focused us more surely on God and all He calls us to for our family, and returned us as loving, motivated leaders for our home.

I continue to become accustomed to the e-book phenomenon, and although I appreciate being able to print only what I need, some of the formatting issues often found in many of the books still frustrate me. Some note taking space is not formatted for best placement on some pages, and not all examples or ideas in the book are listed in the handbook. This design allows you flexibility in use of the handbook with a more simple framework rather than a stringent point-for-point or fill-in-the-blank approach, which may be more difficult for some users to follow. The design provides individuality and open personalization, but users should not expect a fill-in-the-blank experience. A few paragraphs are broken in half awkwardly, presumably to allow for notes, but we felt simple spacing between them as paragraphs was adequate. Extensive quotes are used, but one long quote is without clear quotations or another manner of marking the ending of the quoted material, which was frustrating while reading. We did appreciate the burgundy accent coloring to help quotes and important points stand out, but the color should be noted if you prefer a grayscale print version in order to save on ink expense. Highlighting important passages will stress their importance just as easily.

Within a reasonably short book, the author instills great attention getting comments that, when really pondered, can make a big difference in your lifestyle or underlying goals as a family. "There is no perfect church, and if there was it would no longer be perfect once you began attending." This quote will bring many moments of thought to a broad range of readers, as we ponder our own judgmental spirits. Other quotes include Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dave Tyson Gentry, ideas from Vision Forum and Biblical Womanhood, and the vast majority of quotes are scripture verses from the King James Version of the Bible, occasionally they are from the New International Version and are noted accordingly. The book is printed with enough spacing so that notes may be made marginally and questions answered within if you wish. Planning for the future is particularly biblical when evaluating plans for the children. Discussing as a couple where God would like for them to be in five or ten years is an eye opening, as well as thought focusing, part of the Purposeful Planning session. We wholeheartedly agreed with the importance she placed on making changes to our home school while not questioning the committed decision to home school. The closing verse of Proverbs 4:26 captures the calling to every family to have a Purposeful Planning session annually, "Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." If you have not checked the direction of your feet recently, this is an ideal opportunity to invest time in a Purposeful Planning session and guide your family to more biblical goals. The author consistently gives God the glory for her home and the guidance found in this material, your family will see God honoring results when using Purposeful Planning from Phyllis Sather.

Product Review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewe, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2009