When it comes to homeschool planning, there are so many options and ideas out there that it’s overwhelming. Bound planners, diy crafter planners, planning sheets, calendar pages – the variety is astounding.
Unfortunately, it seems I can never keep those pretty pages looking very pretty. I always feel like my handwriting ruins the cute factor, plus it doesn’t take long before the papers fall prey to coffee stains, water bottle spills, or toddlers with pens.
So over the last few years I’ve switched over all my planning, tracking, and organizing to a digital format. I have a laptop and an iPod Touch, and between the two of them, I have all the information that I need quickly accessible at home (on the laptop) and on-the-go in my pocket (with the iPod).
The key program in my set-up is Evernote. Evernote is essential to my homeschool planning, both the summer project of planning the year all out and also in the day-to-day working out the plan once the year begins. Evernote is sort of like a huge blank canvas, which makes it very versatile and flexible, but also makes it harder to get started because the options are so wide-open.
Here’s how I set mine up. I hope it will give you some ideas to make using Evernote more manageable.
1. Save articles and ideas in Evernote.
Most of my ideas for our homeschool years now comes from my online reading, so I use the web clipper, the email-to-Evernote function, or the ability to save pdfs to Evernote to capture those ideas into a “Future Possibilities” notebook.
If the idea I want to save is in a print form, I can just snap a picture of it with my iPod straight into an Evernote note. Also, by saving the full text or photo into Evernote, I have that article or review no matter what happens to the source online.
2. Make weekly lesson plans in Evernote
Using Evernote, my weekly plan (a template note I copy each week) morphs into my weekly record as the week progresses. Before the year begins, I make one note that lists all the things we do every week, just like a weekly lesson plan sheet would have. Each week, I copy this note into my “Current Lists” notebook, update the dates, and, throughout the week, fill in the checkboxes and the details of what actually happens. Because it’s digital, it’s also easy to tweak as the year changes and I figure out what will actually work that year or season.
3. Keep records in Evernote.
That weekly planning sheet, after it is filled out, is a record of our week. At the end of the week, I move it to the School Year notebook. At the end of each term, I merge all the weeks’ notes into one, and at the end of the year, have 6 notes that contain the summary and the details of what actually happened in our homeschool. At the end of each week, I also email the week’s school note to my husband, so he stays up to date on what we’re working on, and I get a little accountability for keeping up the lists.
If you prefer working from a paper planner, Evernote can still be useful as the storage place for completed lists. You can scan your filled in planner pages and store them in Evernote, shredding the reams of paper that are so easily collected in this homeschooling lifestyle.
In our state, we have to administer achievement tests every year after a child is 8. I receive the results via a pdf by email, so I can immediately forward it to my Evernote email address and have it saved in my records notebook.
The great thing about saving things in Evernote is that the files are not on your hard drive, but in the cloud. Therefore, if your computer crashes without a backup, your records are not lost or even inconvenient to recover.
4. Tracking yearly tasks in Evernote.
Every year we plan out the next year’s curriculums, goals, book lists, and methods. It’s a process we go through often enough to learn what works for us and what doesn’t, but not so often that it’s easy to remember from one year to another how to make the best start. About three years ago, as I planned our year, I kept a list of each step I did, and made adjustments as I went, noting what would have been a better way or order than what I did. Then, the next year, I could start with that list and remember how I go about planning out our schooling. That has been such a time saver!
5. List lots of lists.
Evernote is so versatile that you can keep any and all useful lists. You can keep notes for classes you teach or programs you use, so you start prepared when you use it for younger children down the line. You can keep book lists: books you want to read, books you have read, book logs for each child, and books for each history cycle. You can keep lists of ideas as they occur to you, lists of pros and cons to certain curriculums, lists of potential field trips, and lists of observations you’ve made about each of your children.
Evernote has become an indispensable part of my homeschool, saving me so much space that would otherwise be taken up by legal pads and binders and file drawers.
How do you use Evernote? I’d love to hear your personal applications or questions in the comments!
Mystie Winckler is a wife, mother, homemaker, and home-educator. Mystie has been married for twelve years to her only sweetheart, Matt, and both are homeschool graduates themselves. Now they raise & educate their five young children. Mystie blogs at Simply Convivial on homemaking, home-educating, reading, and organizing and about simple cooking and menu planning at Simple Pantry Cooking