Fair warning, this is a long one.
I’m not one of those people who lives writing product reviews. Mostly because I feel like the companies never pay attention to my feedback anyway, but also because it’s tedious and I have other things to fill my time.
I spent the 2nd semester of this school year (2021-2022) absolutely adoring and benefiting greatly from the Well Planned Gal’s Well Planned Day homeschool planner.
I purchased it January 18, 2021 at a slightly discounted price because it was on sale mid-year, which came to $43.47 after tax and shipping. Why nearly $50 for a planner which is only useable for a remaining 6 months? Because I was struggling with staying on top of things in our homeschool, I was struggling with accountability in daily Bible study/Scripture memory, and I needed a visual break down of my priorities for educating my children and meeting my goals of keeping Christ the central focus of that process.
This planner enabled me to plan, prepare, and have a clearly laid out set of goals, priorities, activities, and it enabled me to be accountable with our schedule, my time and attention, and my spiritual disciplines.
What I loved about the planner was that it had a unique and distinctly Christian bent. On the monthly pages, there was a “read through the Bible in a year” plan- on any given day of the week, I could know, okay, I’ll be in the NT or OT today, or today is Wednesday, I’ll be in the book of Psalms… And I loved that! The rhythm was set for me and I was in God’s Word consistently.
I also loved that front and center in the weekly lesson planning section was Bible. This held me accountable in teaching the Word diligently to my Children (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). It stopped being a matter of “will we get to Bible today?” And became a routine of starting our study time in God’s Word- with Christ as the central focus of our homeschool (you’ll notice a theme here)
So naturally, after implementing this planner that took my focus back to the reason we homeschool in the first place- to set Christ at the center of our children’s education- and helping me to build good habits of accountability, I was all too eager to preorder the 2022-2023 homeschool planner.
It arrived in the mail yesterday, (5/9/2022) and I promptly opened it and began to flip through, noticing the new layout and additions to this year’s planner. And I couldn’t figure out what was so different about it until I started adding in important dates for the year.
What I first noticed was the lack of printed articles at the start of each month. They’ve been replaced with a large blank “Notes” page, and QR codes [out of respect to their business, I have not included the QR codes in the pictures, as even though they are links to free resources, they’re intended for the folks who actually purchased the planner…and I have integrity] to link to various Facebook groups, online resources, or ebooks… This bothered me.
1) It falsely presumes I’ve got a smart phone that I incorporate into my time spent educating my children. Which I do not; screen time for Mama while teaching is a recipe for distraction, and I switched to the Light Phone II back in December 2021 to eliminate that distraction from our daily routine, and to focus on face-to-face interaction with my children. The shift toward forcing technological dependance on smart phone QR codes in order to access previously included content feels like an undermining of my efforts to rid my life of stumbling blocks.
And while I’m listing things, here are the other bits that bothered me.
2) Bible is no longer at the front and center of the weekly lesson plans. Instead, the top section says, “Family Focus.” Why did that bother me so much? For starters, it is a subtle yet obvious removal of the word “Bible” from the curriculum focus. I don’t need to focus more on my family, my family needs to focus more on the Bible. So can I still write in our daily Bible study? Yes. But this change presumes that “Bible” as a core subject of study is no longer as relevant or necessary as Math, Science, Reading, Language Arts, etc. And that was a deep cut to the centrality of Christ in our home education process.
3) There are no longer inspirational passages of Scripture on each weekly layout page. No more memorization by encountering the same passage of God’s Word, every time I open up the planner to teach. No more “black and white” reminder of the reason behind why I do what I do in home education. No more Truth printed above my own handwriting to reinforce that it is God’s Words that are all-important, not my own. Again, a subtle change, but quite noticeable.
4) No more daily Bible reading plan printed on the monthly layout page. My correspondence with customer service at WPG informed me that the change was based on customer feedback (See? Certainly NOT MINE!) that requested more variety of reading plans, or various options, so instead- you guessed it- they linked to an e-book via QR code with various downloadable study options. And there is even an option for people to print off the reading schedule on small address label size stickers to put them in on each day…So they removed the cut and dry reading plan, again implemented a dependence on smart phone technology to access previously included content, and further secularized the planner by making the Bible reading plan available as what I consider to be an afterthought for people like me, who wanted to see the daily passages to read. An abundance of resources matters not if it’s not easily accessible. The ease of opening to the monthly calendar, looking at the passage listed for the day, and then reading it was easy to access. The process of using a smart phone to snap a QR code to then take me to an e-book which I then have to download, and print onto address labels which add extra time and expense to purchase, print, and stick in the pages… How is this saving me time? How is this helping me to steward the brief moments I have as a homesteading, homeschooling Mama of 5 kids under 8 to God’s glory?… it’s not.
5) There is a non-refundable/non-returnable status on planners purchased through WPG. Joke’s on me! I didn’t take the time to flip through the digital preview on the website before preordering the 2022-2023 edition of planner. And now I’m stuck with a $43.47 planner (after tax and shipping, discounted for early-bird pre-order from February 28, 2022) with a lot of content I neither care about, (teaching tips, e-books, online resources of which and with which I am already overwhelmed and flooded) nor can/will I use because they require me to violate my convictions and disciplines to avoid and put aside the stumbling blocks of social media and smart phone usage, and all customer service can manage is an, “I’m sorry that you are disappointed with this year’s planner, and I will pass along your feedback.”
Too little too late, WPG. For a purportedly Christian company, it is my belief that the changes indicated a shift toward secular culture and away from bold discipleship and integrity of faith. In a culture that screams any and everything secular, devoid of God’s Word, you went from boldly printing Scripture, and making faith in Christ central to your product, to being just another over-priced planner catering to sales, rather than to glorifying God with your product. Is it still a useable, pretty planner? Yes. But no longer in the same capacity it once was- Faith has been wiped from the pages, and taken an unseen seat on the back burner of some QR code-linked e-book.
What gets my goat about this whole ordeal is not that I failed to read fine print (which is annoying) but rather the fact that gone is the integrity that I appreciated, the centrality of Scripture, the incorporation and recognition of Bible literacy as key to home education, and the shift toward generic, secular teaching tips, technology dependence, and abandonment of all the features that were most beneficial to me as a Christian Homeschooling Mom of 5, short on time, battling tech addiction, and fighting for the centrality of Christ in my home and the education of my children.
Which customers were giving the feedback to which WPG so drastically bowed the knee? It certainly was not me. And if the changes were made to boost sales, then they can get those from the same folks who inspired the changes, because rather than complain about something and not do a ding-diddly thing about it, I’m launching my OWN homeschool planner.
THAT’S RIGHT! I’m stepping up and taking action to fill the void, since emailing customer service didn’t accomplish anything.
and it will be beautiful, and functional, and it will carry Christ at the heart of it- because it is to HIS glory that I sit and plan, and disciple, and discipline myself to steward my time, attention, and resources well. No teaching tips or Facebook group can replace the Word of God.
I am currently working on getting the Summer Workshop Series presentations recorded along with the downloadable content which will accompany them, and once that is done, my next hurdle will be to tackle the Christ-Centered Homeschool Planner.
Why is this so important to me? Because of Deuteronomy 8:11-17, “Beware that you forget not the LORD your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes…”
We are a forgetful people!! We NEED the daily, weekly, monthly reminders of His blessings and goodness; the Truth of His Word! It does not come secondary to teaching well. In fact, Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.” I submit that there are no good teachings which neglect those of the Good Teacher Himself. “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6). What benefit is optimal organization or teaching method apart from the LORD? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:6). “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33).
That’s why it matters to me. Because every single thing we do has eternal significance; even and especially sitting down to implement a plan for our home education process. And if you don’t homeschool with eternity in mind, why bother homeschooling at all?