I’m a purger, not a piler. Piles make me crazy, and nothing distracts me more. True confession? Schoolin’ Swag was begun partly because I came across a ton of great homeschooling stuff I knew I’d never use, or I didn’t need at the moment…and I could not stand to let go of it! So I created the group as a place to park stuff (and in the process hopefully bless someone else who needed exactly that stuff). But that didn’t solve my compulsion to grab all things free and homeschool-oriented.
With all that free stuff at my fingertips, it was very easy to feel overwhelmed. Then it stopped being a blessing and turned into a very distracting burden. Counterproductive. I needed a “sieve” of questions to help me decide what was best. I have met people who buy stuff because it is on sale…without any particular goal or plan in mind. There may not even be a need for it. They may have never used that item before…but it was on SALE! Can you guess what the house looks like? Ever seen “Hoarders”? We don’t want to be that. We want to be good stewards of the money, time, and space we have…not to mention those few brain cells we have remaining.
So here’s the 5-question sieve for printables and downloads:
- Does this material jive with our learning style or can it be easily tweaked?
- Is this material going to necessitate additional purchases (supplies, etc) for it to be useful? Am I able/willing to invest in those?
- Does this fit in my lesson plan currently? Do I have a place to put it so I can readily find and plug it in?
- If this is something to save for the future, do I have a logical, usable, accessible way of storing it?
- Does grabbing this material obligate me to sign up for things I don’t want (read the fine print)?
At Schoolin’ Swag, I added a little sanity to my life by beginning some Files tabs. Also, by posting items in the group with a little blurb like “great resource for algebra” I can easily find it again, simply using the search tool with key terms. What else do I do with my stuff? Here are some things I’ve found helpful.
- First, I think it is good to ask why. Why do I think I need to do something different? Is it because what I am currently doing is not working? How do I believe this new thing will help me accomplish my goals? Don’t change for the sake of changing. Be purposeful.
- I rarely bookmark anymore. It doesn’t really organize things in a usable manner for me, and it is too TOO easy to click to bookmark every little thing that seems appealing for that “rainy day”.
- Pinterest? I’m personally not a fan. Many at Swag really love to use it, so I started Pinterest boards for our group. To me, that venue is totally sensory overload and it can be a certifiable time waster for me. I click one thing, which leads down the path to something else like a winding path through a dark forest. I get lost. I start out looking for lapbooks on George Washington and end up watching videos of dolphin rescues. Educational? Maybe. Productive? Not really.
- I use Evernote (free) which allows me to do save pages (or portions or articles) in folders I can create in a way that makes sense to me. Just download the little toolbar button, and simply click the little elephant when you are on a page with something save-able. Here is a screen shot with the options at upper right for how you want to save and where. I create folders like “Michael’s School” (for things I know we’ll use this year) and “2016-2017 School Year” (for something I’m looking to use in the future). Subfolders can be set up for particular subjects and projects. That way things are not saved just as arbitrary bookmarks, but are categorized in a way so that I can FIND them!
- So I don’t “print and forget” those great freebies that are time sensitive and won’t be free later, I have plastic milk crates with hanging folders to organize things I’ve printed. Since they are open and available, the likelihood of my actually filing things is much greater. Just make folders for each grade/subject, paperclip your projects, and plunk ’em in. Go through the folders at least every 6 months. Pull stuff you have realized has lost its appeal and see if you can find a new home for it. If not, flip the paper over, and you have scrap for sketching, math problems, etc. I keep a box of scrap. 🙂
- As far as free samples, I find I rarely use them unless they are substantial or it is a handout I need very SOON. So, I usually don’t bother with these and it uncomplicates my life.
- Books? I’ve been guilty of grabbing some off the free cart at the library just because they looked cool. We flipped through it once, and off it went to Goodwill. Why add that stress? Check it out from the library if it is cool to look through but not something you’ll make good use of. If you have books that are just gathering dust, set them free! Sell them on Ebay, Varagesale, or even via Amazon buy back. Or, if you are feeling philanthropic, you can give them away on Facebook pages like this.
- What about YouTube videos? We love to use those for school! Here is how to create playlists of your very own!
- And how about those humongous downloads you grabbed? Those things that are 200, 300, 700 pages? Yikes! Here is what I’ve done with those, because I keep forgetting I have them! I started pulling up the cover page on my laptop, taking a screen shot (on my computer, I click the “prt sc” button at top right, then open Paint and click “paste” and then save the image). Then I save the images to a folder I called “Homeschool Downloads”. At a glance, I can see what they are, and what they are called if I want to open them.
Got some great organization tips for curricula? A 12-step program? Tell us in the comments! 🙂
For the Love of Learning,