I've been using a homeschool planner of some sort for the past 20 years. In fact, I can't imagine not using one, as I tend to be a pencil and paper list kind of person. I've tried doing my planning digitally but I've always gravitated back towards good ole paper.
Before things get too confusing, I want to state that there are really two categories of homeschool planners to consider: those for the student and those for the parent.
I really feel like these are so important for each of your kids to have. I'm surprised when I meet someone who doesn't use a student planner because I just think it keeps things much more organized for both the student and the parent when everything is written out for them to see. This is the type of student planner I've used for most of my homeschooling career.
Here is the process I follow when I fill out one of my kids' homeschool planners:
There are so many options out there with so many different price tags that it can make your head spin. Are you on a tight budget? Make a spread sheet that looks like the planning sheet above and print them out yourself to fill in. Better yet, have your spread sheet ready and every week type in what you want the kids to do and then print it out. I've done both and they both work just fine. If you really want to keep it inexpensive, pick up some spiral notebooks at the store and write down what your kids have to do for school for each day of the week in that. Super easy - super inexpensive.
This is the planner that I've purchased more often than not. Buying it off of Amazon is cheaper than buying it in a teacher's store. It is easy to work with and is entirely customizable since you have to enter all of the information about days, dates and classes yourself. Inexpensive and very straight forward.
Once my kids hit high school they begin planning out their own course of action for the school year. Since that is the case, I let them pick out a planner that suits them. More often than not it is one like this that we got from Wal-Mart. The girls pick out the colorful ones (notice the colored markers even) and my son, well, he's pretty basic so he told me just to get him the one like the younger kids use.
I have them follow the same procedure as I do as far as breaking down each course so they know what to expect and then each week they write in their planners what they've accomplished.
While I write down what needs to be done before we do it, they tend to write down what they've done after they do it. Either way works, I just find I'm more accountable to it if it is written down ahead of time.
When my oldest kids were in the K-3 grade range, I kept a homeschool planner just for me and didn't give them one. They were my only kids homeschooling and I found it much easier to keep track of what everyone was doing in one place instead of multiple places.
The years that we did a lot of unit studies, I kept those plans on my own and just used individual books for the work they did separate as there was no sense in writing the same unit study stuff over and over again in multiple planners. One year I found this amazing, but large, planner that let me keep track of five kids at once. It was beautiful!
If you're looking for a book where you can keep track of multiple kids and just use it for yourself, many people have gotten The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and have really liked it. I personally have never used it, but I know that a lot of people do.
If you're a digital type of person, there are many options out there for keeping track of school work and records. One, called Homeschool Skedtreck, is even free and keeps track of a lot of things. I haven't used it because I don't like a digital planner, but if you aren't sure if you do or not, using a free one would be a good way to go.
Since I'm focusing more on planning out lessons for your homeschooling day, I'm not even going to venture into the plethora of planners that a mom can get to keep herself organized. All I have to say about that is, whether it is a digital planner or a hard copy, you really should have some type of calendar that you can use to keep track of what everyone has going on. Find something that works good for you and stick with it. You could probably build a whole website around this topic alone!
I hope that this has helped you to see that it really works better if you use some type of homeschool planner for you kids. Your needs will change over the years with the mix of kids and ages you have, but keeping them, and yourself, organized really does make homeschooling much more joyful!