A Year-Long Approach to Lesson Plans, by Lynne

 

I have been told that my lesson plans are intimidating.  At first glance, it might appear that way! If you take a peek into my lesson plan binder, you will see that I have every subject planned out down to the page numbers of the books we are using that day.  I have learned not to show my lesson plan binder to folks who are considering homeschooling, since it has sent a few of them into a panic about how they are possibly going to take on this gargantuan task.

At that point, I have had to backpedal and tell people that this is MY way of doing things.  I need to have a detailed and highly organized lesson plan to follow, or I won’t be satisfied that we are covering all the things we need to cover.  This is my way of keeping tabs on all the interesting curricula I have chosen for the kids, and my way of making sure we use all those cool extras I found to incorporate into the lessons. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is that each parent gets to choose what he or she deems to be the best method of organization and planning.

In some cases, parents choose not to have any lesson plans at all.  They choose quality materials, and let the children investigate the materials at their own pace.  Parents can encourage children to move on, slow down, dig deeper, etc.  This is a great way for self-motivated kids to really get into the nitty-gritty of a subject that fascinates them.

There are also programs that are referred to as “open and go.” These curricula provide  built-in lesson plans, which means that you just do each lesson in the program sequentially. Once you’ve completed that day’s lesson, just continue on to the next lesson on your next school day.  This is an extremely uncomplicated way of going about homeschooling.  This method works for many busy homeschooling families.

A homeschooling parent can find a variety of planners, both online and in print, that can help with daily, weekly, or even monthly lesson planning.  Many homeschoolers have created their own planners and have shared them with other parents.  Just glancing through some of these planners can often help you to figure out how you should break down the work. I queried some of the homeschooling moms who participate in this blog, and along with just your basic lined paper and pencil, here are some of their favorite homeschool planners:

Google Drive (An example of one mom’s schedule)

The Well Planned Day

Donna Young Planner Pages

Homeschoolskedtrack.com

7 Step Curriculum Planner

Scholaric

Evernote

Homeschool Helper App

Urthemom.com

As you can see, there are many options to help you with lesson plans.

I am one of those parents who has created her own planning system.  I will outline for you exactly how I go about doing lesson plans.

First of all, I carve out a significant amount of time during which to work on my lesson plans.  This usually involves the cooperation of the household.  Personally, I require peace and quiet to concentrate on the planning.  I cannot be constantly interrupted by boys jumping off furniture, demanding to be fed, or otherwise disrupting my homeschool planning zen.  I am fortunate to have lots of family members who can help me out with this.  However you can manage to work it, I recommend setting aside a time to plan.  That’s not always possible, I know, so just do the best you can.

My primary objective is to plan out the entire year all at once.  This is NOT a common way of doing things.  This is my way.  Take what you will from it, and leave the rest.  I just want to reiterate that this is what I have found to be helpful to my style of teaching, my children’s style of learning, and our homeschool atmosphere.  I hope that it may provide insights and guidance for others that may have a similar working style.

To start my planning, I assemble all the materials I have acquired and make stacks for each subject.  If I have online resources, I print out a list of those resources for each subject and put it on top of the stack.  I have some sort of anxiety that I will forget to include something vital or really interesting, so it helps me to have everything all together in one place. I also use three-hole punched paper and a large three ring binder for my yearly plans.

I work on each individual subject separately.  I begin by spreading out all the materials on the table (or couch or floor) around me.  Using the table of contents, any plans that came with the materials, and just my own skimming of each item, I break the entire subject down into daily chunks.  I write each day out by hand on a sheet of lined paper.  For example, a week’s worth of science would look like this:

Day 17: Read Biology text pp.  200-211.

Day 18:  Complete worksheet on p. 212 and read Library book about life cycles

Day 19:  Do color by number p. 33

Day 20:  Read Biology text pp. 213-220.

Day 21:  Visit life cycle exhibit at the Natural History Museum and draw in notebook

Math might look like this:

Day 52:  Watch Video of Lesson 24 and do workbook p. 56.

Day 53:  Do workbook pp. 57-58

Day 54:  Practice Math facts with Mom

Day 55:  Lesson 24 Quiz

Day 56:  Math games workbook p. 19

I try to break each subject down into 180 days of material, since that would correspond to our public school system’s schedule.  Some subjects are only one semester, or unit studies, so those are just broken down into manageable chunks.  Once I have each subject broken down into the daily chunks, I put those sheets into my large binder that is separated with tabs for each subject.

This large three-ring binder becomes my go-to book for the entire year.  Obviously, I cannot foresee what is going to happen over the course of an entire school year, so I need to be flexible and willing to change my lesson plans.  But, having this gargantuan year-long plan helps to keep me on track and not lose sight of our goals for the year.

My next step in lesson planning is to put the subject plans onto my weekly planner.  I normally do four weeks at a time, because by then, I usually know what our schedule looks like, and I can plan around field trips, outside classes, holidays, and the like.

Quite simply, I have created a table on my word processing software for weekly lesson plans.  For each day of the week, I have a two column table. The left hand column lists the subjects and the right hand column is where I fill in the assignments from my big yearly planning binder.

Monday
Language Arts Read poetry book pp. 98-102.Write poem using alliteration.Read book club book for 20 minutes. Copy spelling words 3x
Math Workbook pp. 33-34
Science Read library book about butterflies
History Listen to SOTW ch. 7 and do Map on SP 45.
Latin Workbook pp. 20 -21
Music Practice three songs on your recorder
Other Swim & Gym today at CSU

I have a table like this for each day of the week.  I can add things to the tables or take them out as necessary.  Once I have added an item from the big, yearly planning book, I make a red check mark through it so that I know it is already accounted for in my weekly plans. I usually print off the weeks in four- week segments and keep them in another binder of weekly lesson plans. I’m old-fashioned, and I like to be able to cross things off of a paper list when we finish them.  You could just as easily leave the plans in digital form, and cross them off on the computer screen.

Below is a week from my actual lesson plans from last year:

Monday: NEED TO PREPARE FOR JANICE VAN CLEAVE EXPERIMENTS
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 65-70 Go over spelling words. Write spelling words 2x
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Watch MUS Lesson 21 and Do 21 A&B
History Listen to Ch. 19 The Vietnamese Restoration Society. Complete the Outline SP 75Map SP 77
Science Janice Van Cleave #182 Toothy-Gears. Write about it.
Latin Grasp the Grammar p. 36
Health Read Nutrition 101 pp. 97-108. Do questions p. 18
Logic Connections p. 17
Extra
Tuesday:
Co-Op Day
Wednesday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 71-76Do Word Search & Parts of Speech analysis pp. 71 & 72
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Do 21 C&D and E&F
History Listen to The Mexican Revolution Ch. 20. Complete the Outline SP 80Map SP 81
French Simon Says game with body parts
Science Janice Van Cleave #183 WedgesWrite about it
Extra
Thursday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Read CE pp. 78-83Play 3 different Spelling City games online. Cursive book pp. 68-69
Reading Book Club Book or Non fiction Bin Book
Math Test 21
History Listen to Ch. 20 World War I. Complete the Outline SP 80Map SP 82
Science Janice Van Cleave #183 Lifter- Incline Planes. Write about it
Latin Vocab Review
Extra
Friday:
Opening Ceremonies Pledge, review poems, review science vocab, review Latin, Latin & French flash cards, grammar lists
Language Arts Spelling Test CE4. Read Building Poems p. 104. Write a poem with near rhyme or slant rhyme. Start working on All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters
Reading BOOK CLUB
Math Measurement p. 54
History Do Spanish Flu Maze Timeline AG 87, SP 85 & 86
Logic Unlocking Analogies p. 9
French Do p. 36 Vocab., Grammaire, Dialogue
Science Janice Van Cleave #185 Ramps. Write about it
Extra

As you can see, I make notes for myself in red so that I can see in the beginning of the week if I need to gather any materials or otherwise prepare for any of the lessons.

There is a second portion to my lesson planning which, to me, is just as important as filling in the binder and tables.  Once I have my four weeks of lessons printed out and put in my weekly binder, I insert pocket folders for each child behind each week of lessons.  In those pockets, I place the actual worksheets they will be doing, and any papers or maps we will need.  Basically, I get as many of the materials prepared ahead of time as I can.  We are ready to go with lessons as soon as the breakfast dishes are cleared.  We rarely waste time looking for materials.

This system has worked very well for us.  We all work well when there is a routine and a schedule. I homeschool my two sons, and they are only sixteen months apart in age, so I am fortunate that they can both do the same work.  If I had children working on different levels, I would probably do something similar to this, but have separate printouts for each child.

Doing the bulk of the planning up front has been quite a boon to me.  Last year, I was struck with a very unexpected illness, which kept me bedridden for a couple of months.  Fortunately, I didn’t feel too panicked about our homeschooling situation, because I had already done most of the work.  All I had to do was plug the daily chunks into my weekly tables and make sure all the materials were ready to go.  I’m a fairly decisive person.  I deliberate over curricula, then choose one and stick with it through the duration of the school year.  I re-evaluate after giving something a full shot.  I’m at peace with my lesson plans.  I know not everyone will want or be able to do things the way I do, but I don’t think I could homeschool any other way.

This quote sums up my philosophy of lesson planning:

“Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882);
Philosopher, Poet, Author, Essayist

Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism, who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon to be revitalized blog at http://www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com

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Liberal Arts Light, by Lynne

 

When my oldest child was a toddler, my sister handed me a book and told me to read it. “I think you’ll really like it,” said she. This book was The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. My sister, you see, had already decided to leave her job as a school teacher and become a homeschooling parent to her two children. She had read The Well-Trained Mind and it had influenced her thinking on how exactly she wanted to approach the education process for her children.

I had never given a thought to homeschooling my kids. We moved into a community with top rated schools. My intention was to send my kids to the public school and work outside the home.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d give this book a look. ‘A Guide to Classical Education at Home,’ it said on the cover. Classical Education. Hmmm. Frankly, it sounded a little boring. I began reading the introduction, blissfully unaware of how this book would change the course of my life. By the time I had finished the introduction, my world was turned upside down. Where had this book been all my life? I had been so bored at school. I was so unprepared for the small liberal arts college I attended. I would have killed for an education like one described in this book. I felt truly and deeply cheated.

At my small, private liberal arts college, I immediately discovered that I didn’t know anything about anything. I soaked up my college experience, because I had a desire to learn and be part of the world’s knowledge base. My professors stirred up a passion for learning and discovery. I later attended a large state university for my graduate degree, and came to appreciate my liberal arts background. It made me into a whole person, a thinking person, an integrated person. Until I read The Well-Trained Mind, it didn’t dawn on me that this process could be started much earlier in a child’s education. Why wait for college to learn how to learn?

I was so excited to share with my husband my discovery of this incredible way to teach our kids at home. The ensuing arguments are definitely a topic for another article. The bottom line is that he did not agree with me that homeschooling in a classical manner was the best idea for our kids. Many frustrating arguments later, we enrolled the children in the local public school. I was determined to afterschool them in the best way I could, using advice offered in the book and with support from the Well-Trained Mind online forums. After two years of mostly negative school experiences, my husband agreed that we couldn’t leave them there, and grudgingly agreed to let me try homeschooling for a year.

We spent the next three years learning at home. When I say we, I mean that I learned right along with them. We grabbed the grammar stage by the horns and did memory work, narrations and dictations, and lots and lots of reading of literature, history and science books. My older son has some challenges that were not handled effectively at school, and this new method of schooling was a definite advantage for him. Family and friends could see him calming and blossoming before their eyes. My younger son stepped up to the challenge of doing the same work as his older brother. They both made tremendous strides and accomplished fantastic things. Their enthusiasm and curiosity continue to amaze me.

We’ve had some changes in our family life, so my kids returned to public school this fall. It only took us a month and a half to recognize that it wasn’t going to work out for our older son at all. We brought him home. We will be bringing our other son home, soon, because we don’t want to completely lose the momentum we had built with our classical education at home. My boys have such a solid base. In my opinion, it would be a shame not to continue to cement that base into their hearts and minds even further by progressing into the Logic Stage. My younger son would survive and do fairly well if we left him in the public school, but I really think he could do so much more by being at home and persevering in the classical education model.

I am so excited for both of my kids to go to college and not be at the huge disadvantage that my husband and I were, because on that my husband did agree. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Our children will already be a part of the “Great Conversation” and beyond. They will get so much more out of their college experience by being completely prepared for it. That’s what a classical education means to me- liberal arts learning as a lifetime endeavor.

 

Five Tips for Making Homeschooling Easier, by Caitilin Fiona

 

When you are homeschooling, especially early on, life can often be overwhelming, and the advice you may receive is often equally so. Bearing both of these things in mind, I would like to offer five small tips that I have found make homeschooling easier. Please, take from this what you find useful, and leave the rest behind! No one has all the answers, and each of us has our own challenges to face; if even one thing here is helpful to you, that’s a win for us both.

1. Plan your meals, all your meals.

This is something I wish I had done many, many years ago, for though I’ve only been at it for about six months it has hugely improved our family’s diet and budget. Nowadays, I sit down on a Friday night or a Saturday morning and decide what we are going to eat for each meal for the next week. In the interest of frugality, I have switched our breakfasts from cold cereal and toast/bagels to hot cereal or eggs every day. I plan which of the five or six options for hot cereal we will have, taking into consideration what we will be eating later on each day. Thus, if we have cream of rice for breakfast, I’m not going to serve black beans and rice for supper, etc. From there, I go on to plan the rest of the week’s meals, giving thought to what we had last week, what is on sale at the grocery store, and whether each day will be busy or relaxed.
A couple of websites I have found very useful are www.budgetbytes.com, which has a fabulous selection of different types of meals on a very reasonable budget, and www.soscuisine.com, a Canadian meal-planning site, which has both free and paid subscriptions and an interesting variety of recipes; it is also often less meat-heavy than many American options I’ve seen.

2. Have assigned chores, for you and for your kids.

As a homeschool parent, often you’ll have the lion’s share of household tasks. However, you can significantly lighten your burden without overloading your children by giving each assigned tasks to complete daily. The reason to assign them is that old saw about how Anybody could have done the job, and Everybody thought Somebody would do the job, but in fact, Nobody did it. If five-year-old Charles knows it’s his job to feed the dog and set the table, and nine-year-old Helen knows it’s hers to unload the dishwasher, and so on, then all those necessary things are done, and done with minimal argument, because everyone knows that there’re plenty of jobs to go around. Mom (or Dad) is then freer to focus on the larger-scale aspects of running the home and the homeschool, using timely reminders, rather than having to newly assign every task to someone as the day goes on.

3. Work for finite periods, both daily and in the longer term.

Homeschooling is a tough gig: though the rewards are great, the pay is miserable and the hours are often long. One way to help counteract these long hours is to decide to only work on school for limited periods of time. To begin with, decide on a time when you’ll be finished for the day, even if you’ve not accomplished everything you wanted to do.
At my house, we school from 8:30 to about 3:30, with an hour for lunch in there somewhere. If you have only young children then your day will be shorter, and if older the day can often be longer, but whatever your cut off time is, stick to it. Older kids can work on schoolwork as homework later, after supper for instance, but you and they both need a break.
In the grander scheme, it has been very beneficial to our homeschool to have finite schooling periods after which we have a small vacation. In some years, we have divided our year into quarters, with ending points at Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and summer. More recently, we have shifted to a six weeks on, one week off schedule. For us this has been a wonderful change, as it allows us the freedom of more frequent breaks without getting behind.
These are just two of the myriad scheduling options you can choose from, but whatever you choose, make sure you schedule in breaks–you and your children will be thankful.

4. Say NO to outside activities.

It is often tempting as a homeschooler to try to take advantage of every educational opportunity that presents itself to your attention. Resist this temptation. While a couple of outside-the-house activities are very enriching, maybe even necessary, to the homeschool, undertake too many and you’re dooming yourself to failure. You will find that you’re doing fine for a while, a month or two maybe, but as time wears on, you’ll soon start to dread every trip, consumed with worry that you’re falling behind, with the feeling that you’re failing your kids’ education, and generally succumbing to serious stress. Don’t do it. Thoughtfully consider where your and your children’s time is best spent, and spend it there–not in the car.

5. Take time for yourself.

I know, I know, this is trite, and everyone says it ALL.THE.TIME. But you know why? Because it is pure and simple TRUTH. You must take some amount of time away. This can be very simple and functional, as a weekly grocery-and-necessities shopping trip. It can be a monthly book club, craft evening, or Bible study. It may be a daily exercise regimen, or a once a year trip to a homeschooling conference. Maybe you go have hot chocolate by yourself at Barnes and Noble for an hour twice a month. But whatever your preference for spending time with yourself (and other adults), do it. It is not a luxury, it isn’t selfish; it is necessary to have the small breaks that give you the oomph to return to your day job.

Caitilin Fiona is a homeschooling mother of six children, ranging from sixteen year old twins down to a five year old. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include language and languages, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.

In the Beginning

by Briana Elizabeth

There’s always chaos in the beginning. The universe, Genesis says, was formed out of chaos. It’s no different with homeschooling. So, if you’ve decided to homeschool, I congratulate you on your life changing decision. It is still a brave and wild thing to do, and, because I want you to succeed, I’m going to lay some tough love on you.

First, I will tell you that I was the most disorganized person ever, and if you had told someone twenty-two years ago that I would have seven children and be organized, they would have split their face in half from laughing so hard. I was also the least patient, and cared not one whit about making a home, let alone homeschooling. So, I’m going to begin with some bold truths as I’ve learned some hard lessons, and I want to save you that pain.

Homeschooling will exacerbate your family’s problems. It’s like a magnifying glass, and you need to expect this, so that you know it’s not the just the decision to homeschool that’s made you all feel the pressure of close quarters. You need to know this upfront and really look at your family life and parenting style truthfully. If you are a yeller, there will be even more yelling. If your house is disorganized, you will become even more disorganized. If you lack habits of timeliness, then you will fall behind and be late even more. If dinner time comes and every day you are staring into the fridge, wondering what you will feed the family, that will now happen with every meal, because now you will have them all home for every meal.

The good news is that the good habits and virtues will also be brought to the forefront, but since you have all of that under control, I’m just going to give you the pointers I wished I was given those many years ago.

 The first rule of homeschooling in our house is “Begin with the End in Mind.” Now, that can mean planning, as you start with what you want your child to achieve by their 12th grade year and work yourself backwards with a schedule, or it can simply be a way to make sure that you have controlled what you can control during the day so that your day ends in peace, thus promoting household harmony and good feelings about homeschooling. You are going to have to do this school thing day after day, year after year (perhaps), and when you start going to bed hating the fact that you have to get up the next morning and teach your children again it will be impossible to maintain any sort of peace.

Look, God took chaos and ordered the universe. We are not God, and our universes are much smaller, but we can order our homes, especially with His help. If I, the most disorganized (yes, ask my mother) yeller can learn to keep a home that is reasonably clean and ordered with some ‘pretty’ thrown in for good measure; if I can learn to bridle my tongue, I know that God works miracles and can do the same for you. But, a warning, things may look worse before they get better.

So what can you do to manage the daily chaos that will happen when your family is together most hours of the day, most days of the year?

Like all famous generals, you need to have a plan.

Homeschool is about order and wonder. Without order, there can be no wonder. That is not my idea, it’s a very old idea, but it’s a very good one so I’m bringing it out and dusting it off.

The biggest piece of wisdom to share with you about the ordering of your homeschool is that teaching is a full-time job. Meaning, you can’t stop your teaching to go dust the living room. You will then pick up a basket of laundry and end up on the second floor, putting it all away, and then you will find another thing that has to be done and there will be no schooling done the rest of the day. So, rule # 1 is that during school time, no chores get done. Obviously, if you have one child in kindergarten, your hours of schooling will not be like mine, which run from about eight-thirty in the morning until about four in the afternoon with a lunch break.  So, if you adopt that rule, you can automatically see how everything needs to shift to accommodate the time you are schooling.

dscn1801

Beginning with the end in mind, you need to get the house under control so that you are just maintaining order once school is done for the day. If your kids are old enough to help and aren’t helping, this is the time for them to learn how. Their future mates will thank you for these habits!

If you have children that are old enough to fold laundry, then by all means, show them how. Fifteen minutes of folding before school starts in the morning is a lot of work done. If another is old enough to learn how to use the washer, again, by all means, show him how. They are not incapable, and you underestimate their ability if you don’t give them the privilege of helping the family in such a fruitful way.

Now is also the time to teach them how to load and unload the dishwasher. In our house, the dishwasher is run three times a day and that job cannot go to me all the time or no teaching would get done.

It is a grace and a blessing to teach your children to serve each other this way. Charity begins in the home. The bonus is that when they leave your house for college, they will know how to do their own laundry. Call it home economics and give them credit for it, even.

Now is also the time to wrangle the household schedule. I’m not talking about who has karate or soccer or piano, I’m talking about how you order your day. Don’t worry, I didn’t have a schedule, either, when I started, but this is easy to accomplish.

I start out the night before by making sure my coffee maker is ready in the morning, so that all I have to do is hit the button and go back to bed while it brews. If you have a timer on yours, bonus! Really, the day just is nicer when you aren’t waking up to have to clean the coffee pot, and work around a huge sink full of dishes.

When I get up to get some coffee, I stop at the washer and throw in a load. My reward for this first task is coffee.

As I sit and drink my coffee, I look over my planner and see what’s to be done that day. I also check my menu and before I even make breakfast for everyone, I make sure I have everything I need for dinner. Did you get a little scared there? Don’t, this is the easiest part, but the part that matters the most in the ordering of your day.

My second golden rule of homeschooling is to make sure you know what is for dinner by 10:00 a.m. The application of that rule has saved me from more catastrophes than I would want to list. How do I do that on a daily basis? I make a weekly menu with the weekly sales flyer in hand, and I shop by my menu. That way everything I need is in the house, because another “time suck” is running to the store to get last minute items. That happens occasionally, we’re human after all, but I cut the chances of that happening with a menu.

 So, drink coffee, look over the day, and start dinner. That sounds crazy, but think of this: If you were leaving the house at 8:00 a.m., and would be walking back in the house at 6:00 p.m., what would be the first question from everyone in the house when you got home? “What’s for dinner?”  And you’d learn quickly that you had to have a plan for dinner for when you got home. This is the same. The kids are going to wake up, the day is going to start, school will be rolling,  and before you know it, school will be over and you will be tired. The kids will want to go off and play, and you will not want to haul yourself to the store or think about what you are going to make. This way, you finish school, you roll right into dinner, and everything is under control. Chaos is kept at bay. Then dishes get done, people relax, and you’re ending your day on a peaceful note, which makes your getting up and doing it all over not such a grueling task.

 Which brings us to my third rule of homeschooling: You must read their books. You can skate by a year or two when they’re young, but the snowball effect will start and by the time they hit high school and if you haven’t read one book on their list (begin with the end in mind) you will hardly be able to catch up with them. How do you have a conversation about a book if the book hasn’t been read by both parties? Yes, there are all kinds of shortcuts around this, curricula made so you don’t have to read them, but you didn’t get into homeschooling to shortcut, did you? Look, this is the education of your children, and these books that they will be reading will shape them. They can fill out questions and write paragraphs or papers about them, but the real learning is when two people discuss the book. Not only will the book become a treasure to them, but sharing it will build your relationship. And that is priceless. Add to that when the siblings read the same books and say, “Oh, wait until ninth grade and you read The Once and Future King!” That stuff is magic. The conversations that happen after a few children have read the stories, and the anticipation of joining the familial club of those who have read the story. Truly, it is the magic of family and life and of people who love each other. So, at the least, stay a full year ahead of them so it gives you time to ponder the books and the ideas contained within. When you connect ideas and authors, you don’t leave their education to happenstance and formulas. They will get the best they possibly can from you if you do this one thing alone. That’s not to say it will all fall to pieces if they have to fill out questions on some books because there was a family crisis, but don’t let that become the norm.

knitting

My final rule is to find friends and carve out some time for yourself and your mate. Take up a hobby. Make sure you take time to reconnect with your spouse. Homeschooling is a lot of sacrifice, and the payoff is far off. Your marriage and your self cannot be left to rot as martyrs to homeschooling. Education is about instilling a liturgy of life and a culture of learning that will hopefully be passed down through generations of your family. This is heady stuff. You can’t give what you don’t have, so the cultivation of your own life cannot be left as an afterthought. You also can’t place the weight of decompression from this on your mate. I mean, yes, by all means, they are a parent also, but you don’t want your spouses arrival home to nothing but a litany of offenses of the day and complaining. And you will complain because homeschooling is hard. Parental discipline and decisions are a shared responsibility, but your spouse who also has worked hard all day and dealt with disappointments doesn’t deserve to be the sole bearer of your venting just because they are also parents. This is where friendships with other homeschooling parents are so valuable. It may take time to find them, and now a days we sometimes find these friendships online, but don’t stop seeking them out. And the friendships online can be just as, or even more valuable. You need them, and they need you.

You can do this, really. There are tons of us out there doing this now, in all walks of life. If I can, you can. I remember when I was going to take the test for my driver’s license, and I was terrified, my mother said to me, “There are terrible drivers out there. If they can get their license, so can you.” Truly, if I can do this, so can you, so take heart, adjust the sails, and start forth on this incredible, life changing, utterly fulfilling journey.

Briana Elizabeth is a wife, mother to seven children ages 23 to 7, and caretaker of one Amazon parrot, two dogs, and two cats. When she’s not planning lessons or feeding people, she paints, knits, and writes. You can follow her blog at www.justamousehouse.blogspot.com

Creating an Electronic Home Binder

by Megan Danielletablet

I remember a couple of years ago, I watched this video on creating a home management binder.  I thought it was a great idea to have everything you needed in one place. Plus it was so cute.  If you know me at all, you know I love the cutesy things in life, but I do not have a cutesy or crafty bone in my body.  So whenever I see something cutesy, I decide I must. have. it.

Pros of having a home management binder:

  • Once it’s out of your head, you don’t have to remember it.  Much less stress.
  • Everything in one spot.
  • Cutesy!
  • Easy to organize.
  • Easy to change and adapt.

However, this method didn’t really last very long.  Knowing me, that’s not very surprising.  It was a pain to lug that huge binder everywhere. And when adding something like this to your life, it takes awhile for the correct habits to form.  You have to remember to check your binder often.  You have to look for the binder often. You have to remember to carry the binder with you. You can see why it didn’t work so well.

Fast forward several years and I got a super handy thing called a tablet.  Squee!!  Oh my heck, this thing was amazing.  It had a calendar, so I could immediately record important events and appointments.  It had a sticky-note-type-thing app so I could take notes and not lose them all over the house.  It had a homeschool planner app so I could record our lesson plans and attendance.  I could go on and on. This thing was amazing.

So when I discovered an ebook that promised to turn a tablet into a Home Management Binder, I knew I had to read it!  It’s called Paperless Organization by Mystie Winckler.  At only $3.99, it has been worth every single penny.  In this book, she teaches how to use free apps (on both the Android and iOS market) to help with all the organization of your home, school, work, life, etc.

I don’t use it exactly as she does.  A friend showed me this website, which teaches how to use Evernote as a task manager.  If one uses this method, one of the apps from Mystie’s book is unnecessary. So today, I’m going to talk about how I use Evernote as a Home Management binder and a to-do list.

So what is Evernote?  Simply put, Evernote is an electronic binder.  You can create “notes.”  Groups of notes are put together into “notebooks.”  Groups of notebooks go together into “stacks.”  It was easier for me to remember that it compared to a physical binder like this:

Stacks=binders

Notebooks=tabbed dividers

Notes=pieces of paper

Before I found Evernote, I’d come up with the idea of using a spiral notebook for some of our subjects.  Story of the World is an example.  I didn’t want our lesson plans to be so strict that I planned the entire year beforehand and we could never deviate, lest the plans become discombobulated.  No one likes discombobulation, even though it’s really fun to say.  But I couldn’t just fly by the seat of my pants with the SOTW Activity Guide.  There were too many craft items and books to gather before hand.  So in my spiral, I put the chapter title at the top of each page and went through the Activity Guide writing down all the craft supplies, books, and any other items I would need ahead of time.  Then when I browsed Pinterest or other blogs, if I saw a fun idea, I could write it on the correlating chapter page. I’d take a picture for you, but that notebook got lost.

So then, I had the brilliant idea of using a three ring binder.  I could put multiple subjects into the binder (Artistic Pursuits, SOTW, Elemental Science) and use it in the same way.  Then when I planned my homeschool week, I wouldn’t have to take out each book and go through the teacher’s guides, it would all be written down in that 3 ring binder.

I’d love to show you a picture of it, but alas, it is also lost.

Do you know what does not get lost?  That’s right, my tablet!  It’s practically attached at my hip.  I’ve been YouTubing and tweaking and YouTubing and tweaking all over to get my Evernote organized just the way I want.  I’ve had many people ask me how I do it, so here’s a video showing you how I use it.

I forgot to mention some of the benefits of the Web Clipper.  Pinterest just copies the URL and pairs it with a picture.  The Web Clipper actually saves a copy of the clipped item, even if a change was made to the clipped site.  So there will be no messed up links, no links that take you to spam, and the information will always stay in your Evernote even if the site is taken down.  Also, everything in Evernote is searchable, even the text from a clipped article.  So if you can’t remember exactly what the project was, you might be able to do a search for it and find it that way.

To use Evernote as a to-do list, The Secret Weapon (TSW) has a series of tags.  As you have projects come to you, you tag each note with the corresponding time frame of when you think you’ll actually get around to it. As you work through the projects, you change the note’s tag and move other projects up higher on your priority list.  To be honest, I haven’t experimented much with this system; I’ve been busy focusing on getting the binder side of Evernote set up and running.  But last week I did remember that I was in charge of part of our Relief Society Activity.  I used Evernote to come up with a list of everything that needed to be done and I spread that work out over the next few days.  As I thought of new ideas or when I completed tasks, I updated my Evernote so I always knew exactly where I stood.  The day of the activity, I was busy, but I was not stressed. I had done as much work ahead of time as I could, I did what needed to be finished (checking off my to do list as I went), and I brought everything I needed (also on a checklist).  That was the most pain-free project I have *ever* done.  Here’s a brief video clip of how I used Evernote for a task manager.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments.  I’m not anywhere close to being the world’s tech savviest person, but I am a mean Googler and YouTuber.  For more detailed descriptions of how to use Evernote, please see The Secret Weapon and Paperless Organization.

Megan Danielle  is mom to three children: Pigby (boy, age 7), Digby (boy, age 4), and Chuck (girl, age 2).  She loves history, ballroom dance, and crocheting.  She made the decision to homeschool when her oldest was 3 and they’ve been on this journey ever since.