Treating Time Like A Video Game

While video games existed when I was a child (contrary to popular belief I’m not that old), I never had my own video game system. I did, however, have cousins that had Nintendo or Game Boy systems. We played a variety of games but one of my favorites was Tetris. If you do not remember the game, the basic premise was that different shaped blocks would fall from the top and you had to move them and turn them to fit as closely as possible at the bottom. If you did not plan well or just let them fall you would quickly have blocks stacked to the top and lose the game.

Time ManagementMaking it All Work Together

As a mother of four, small business owner, blogger, 4H leader, church volunteer and multiple other roles I stay fairly busy.  One question I often hear is how do you fit it all in? Before I get to far into how I fit it in, I want to first say I am not advocating that you take on more than you can handle, leave no white space, or worship busyness. It is okay to have down time, it is okay (even good) to say no to opportunities that would overwhelm your schedule or resources.  The concepts and tips in this post are designed to help you best utilize your time to complete those tasks that you need or want to complete not pressure you into taking on more obligations.

When I played Tetris if I just let those pieces fall how they came I was sure to lose in mere moments. With time management and planning if I just let the schedule and the obligations fall I will surely be overwhelmed and probably dropping the ball. When we plan our schedules it is important to look not only at all the small pieces but also at the big picture. If I know that Tuesday nights are busy because of American Heritage Girls then maybe I say no to other obligations on Tuesdays or maybe I schedule afternoon appointments on Tuesdays because I know we are already out of the house.

Planning ahead allows me to minimize those frantic days when I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Those days where you realize you have 3 appointments, cupcakes to bake, a blog post due, company coming over, and the house isn’t clean are no fun. When I look ahead and know what is coming up I can use time to prepare. For example, if I know Tuesday is going to be really busy and I need to have cupcakes for Tuesday afternoon, I plan ahead and bake them on Sunday or Monday when I have more time. I can prewrite my blog post the week before and have it scheduled to post during a week where I have too many other commitments.

I use a Google calendar to track all of that because it works well for allowing my husband to see what is going on and add anything that he schedules to the calendar. You can certainly use other planners or programs but the important thing is to have something that shows all of your obligations. When you have your sons ball schedule on one calendar, your church obligations on another, and your daughters dance schedule on a third it is easy to overbook your days. When someone asks if we can participate in an event I can quickly and easily look at my calendar and see what else is going on and whether or not it will fit into our schedule.

In addition to basic scheduling planning ahead can look like meal planning and including crock pot or instant pot meals on those busy days when you don’t’ have time to cook. It is knowing that December is a busy month and getting certain tasks done ahead of time so that you have some breathing room during the holidays. I try to have my Christmas cards made and ready to mail the day after Thanksgiving and most (if not all) of my shopping completed by ‘Cyber Monday’. It might mean gathering all of the things you need for an event the week before because the day before is busy with some other obligations.

My children participate in several organizations that have major events such as Junior Historians history competitions, 4-H presentations, and 4-H State Fair projects. If I wait until the last minute these times can become overwhelming and they do not turn in their best work. Since I know those things are coming, I can work them into our schedules. I start months ahead by having them decide what projects and topics they will be working on. I also use that information to determine if I can combine any of these projects with other schoolwork. For example, this month my children are working on a research paper for their writing that will be turned into the Junior Historians competition next month.

When we take the time to look at our calendars and our obligations and plan ahead, we can make the pieces of our lives fit together in a way that reduces stress and overwhelm. Some days it feels like you do not have time to plan and work ahead, but those few minutes of strategic planning will pay off in a calmer and easier to manage schedule. I still have those occasional days where I did not plan well or life throws one too many curve balls but overall, things run much smoother and I do a better job keeping all the balls in the air when I have planned ahead and fit the pieces of our puzzle together with care.

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Make meal planning easier with done-for-you meal plans and a variety of recipes that will keep your menu full for years with the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle. Get recipes for every type of eating style for $37 during this 6-day sale!

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

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WriteShop

 

Are you looking for a free Bible study that your whole family can enjoy? The Proverbial Homemaker is offering up a study of James that is FREE for a limited time.

Join the FREE Get Active Inside Challenge!

Over the course of 5 days, we’ll discover ways to allow physical activities indoors, get your child’s energy out when it’s too ❆ cold ❆ to go outside & keep your kids busy so they’re not bored and asking for cartoons.

 

How Do I Get Started Homeschooling?

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

There are as many variations on homeschooling as there are children. Each family has the flexibility to choose what works for them and sometimes that even varies from child to child with-in a family. That said, I hope these resources help provide a path and support to get you started on your own journey.

The very first thing you need to do when you are thinking about homeschooling or have just decided to homeschool is spend some time in prayer asking God for his guidance and talking with your spouse so that you are both on the same page.

Then, check your state’s laws. Each state has different requirements for starting and annual reporting. In some states you do nothing, some you simply register, and some have testing or portfolio requirements. I will discuss North Carolina’s laws because I homeschool in North Carolina but if you live in another state I encourage you to look up the laws of that state. The HSLDA website is a great place to get information on the laws of each state.

In North Carolina you must register your homeschool with the state once your children reaches compulsory attendance age, which means that you register during the school year your oldest homeschooled child turns 7. In order to register you must hold a high school diploma or equivalent.  If all of your children are younger than 7 there are no requirements and you do not need to register or report.  You do not register each child in North Carolina so once your homeschool is open any, or all, of you children can attend your homeschool without further registration. Once you have registered your homeschool, you are required to keep attendance, immunization records (or waiver), and complete a nationally standardized achievement test annually. You are required to “operate the school on a regular schedule, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations, during at least nine calendar months of the year.”(NCDNPE) You are also required to notify them when you close your homeschool. There are other recommendations but those are the only requirements in North Carolina.

Once you have registered, you will probably turn your attention to curriculum. One of the most common questions I answer is, “What is the best curriculum?” There is no one right answer to that question. As we mentioned earlier each family and each child is different. There are many wonderful curricula available and before you dive into researching them I highly suggest researching homeschool philosophies and determining which one you lean towards. This in no way means that you need to dogmatically follow one philosophy but by narrowing down your preferences you can narrow down the curriculum choices and help you find one/s that will work well with your family.

Personally, we lean towards what I like to call ‘Charlotte Mason Eclectic’ which basically means that I use some of the ideas and Charlotte Mason methods but I adapt them to meet the needs of my family. I have friends whose children thrive under a classical education and others who prefer a Montessori education, even a couple who ‘unschool’. For more information on the various styles I recommend this post by eclectic homeschool.  Based on our preferences, I tend to spend more time looking at resources that align with the Charlotte Mason approach though I keep an open mind to others as well. Once you have found the style/s that aligns best with your family, you can use that information to narrow down curriculum choices.

There are many good programs available and it is important to remember that just because it works for one family does not mean it is the right fit for your family. Honestly I recommend buying used, or at least on sale, whenever possible, especially that first year. In addition to lowering your initial costs, it means that if you need to resell it because it is not a good fit you should be able to get close to what you originally paid for it. I have many reviews here on the blog and the Review Crew also has reviews of hundreds of programs to help you get more information about what is available.

Research philosophies, read reviews, talk to other homeschoolers, and then make your selections. This should help you find curricula that will be a good fit, but most (if not all) of us have purchased curriculum that turned out not to be quite right.  This does not mean that homeschool isn’t the right fit nor does it mean you have to settle for a bad year. If a curriculum isn’t working for you I suggest first trying to tweak it to work for you, but if it simply doesn’t work ditch it and move on. Resell it if you can and try something different.

Now that you have prayed, talked to your spouse, followed you state laws, researched philosophies, and chosen a curriculum it is time to make a plan. I am a big proponent of having a flexible plan. A plan gives you a road map to get where you want to go and the flexibility allows you to make it work in real life. Many veteran homeschool parents will tell you that it takes the first two years to really get your feet under you and you still need to be prepared to change as you go through various stages and life events.  You can decide to school year round, five days a week, four days a week, on a traditional school schedule, on a modified year round or anything in between as long as it falls with-in the laws of your state you have a great deal of flexibility. We personally tend towards four days a week of ‘book work’ with the fifth for field trips, special events, appointments, or catching up on housework. For more information on how I plan out our year check out my planning post here.

Now that you have a plan you are ready to get started. I highly suggest finding a ‘tribe’ of homeschool parents to help you along this journey. This could be in person through local groups, co-ops, or it could be online. There are many great Facebook groups including Schoolin’ Swag where you can ask questions, share successes, and get encouragement. You may also want to read some encouraging and informational books about homeschooling. You are ready to begin this difficult but completely worthwhile journey. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them or point you in the right direction for assistance.

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Free 5 Day Learning without Worksheets Challenge: FREE 5-Day Learning Challenge We have done several of her different challenges in the past and they are lots of fun and easy to implement.

Fall in Love with Art - You ARE an Artist Clubhouse

You Are An Artist Clubhouse Memberships are now Open for enrollment! and having a 25% off Sale through September 4th!!

Apologia Digital Back to School Sale 25% off through 9/15!

Alice in Wonderland on Audible for less than $1!!

FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!

FREE Fantasy and Fairytales StoryBuilders from Write Shop!

Final Days for this awesome sale!

August sale

Friday Favorites: My 5 Must Have Supplies That You Might Not Think About

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

Today’s blog hop theme was Friday Favorites and I decided to share five of my favorite homeschool supplies that you might not have thought about. There are other supplies that we need as well (pencils, paper, books). I also did not include chocolate milk which I find to be necessary for me to function homeschooling or not, since I know many of you prefer coffee or tea. However, these are supplies that make my life as a homeschool mom a lot easier. I’ll share what they are and how we use them in no particular order.

Velcro Dots

I am not sure how I would have survived homeschooling without velcro dots. Especially the preschool and early elementary years. I used them for our calendar time, I used them for counting games, for matching activities, and for identifying things on a map or timeline. I recently realized that I could use them on sheet protectors to make an extra pocket in our three ring binders. This was really helpful in keeping the pieces in my four year olds calendar notebook. I love that with velcro dots it is easy to keep reusing things and to switch things out as needed.  They are also inexpensive, you can get 250 sets for less than $10.

Primary Journals


These are my favorite nature journals for young children (even through upper elementary). It gives them lines spaces to write and blank spaces for drawing, leaf rubbings, or even gluing flowers or leaves. They are fairly durable and handle being in and out of bags on nature walks without being overly heavy. My children get new ones whenever they fill one up and at the beginning of the school year.  They are also great for young children who are learning to write and want to illustrate what they have written.

Boogie Boards


When I hear the term ‘boogie board’ my mind immediately goes to the ocean, but this is a different kind of Boogie board. This is more like a high tech etch-a-sketch and we love them in our homeschool. You draw or write on the board with the stylus and then when you are done you simply push the button and it erases. My children use them for school and play. One way we use them for school is spelling practice. They find it to be more fun to write it on the board than in their notebooks. They also use them to work out math problems and for doodling while they listen to me read aloud. It saves paper and clutter while being fun and reasonably inexpensive.

Magazine Holders

I love these for sorting books, particularly books that we are using during the current year or unit study. I sit them on top of the shelves and for example I can put all of our “Ancient Greece” books in one, and all of our “Skeleton Books” in another. I also use them to sort loose papers, extra folders, and extra notebooks. This allows me to keep those supplies handy and available without having them cluttering up desks or tables.  The children could also use one on their desks to store folders or notebooks that they need throughout the school day.

Glider Rocker

Almost 13 years ago my husband bought me a glider rocker when I was pregnant with our first child. I have used that chair ever since. First, it was in the nursery but when we began to homeschool when he was six and his younger sister was four we moved it up to our school room. It provides me with a comfortable but supportive place to sit while I read, teach, or monitor progress. Even if you do not have a separate school room I highly recommend a comfortable and supportive chair. The glider rocker is also a great place for me to hold my littles and read. I even ‘sneak away’ to sit and relax or read in it by myself occasionally.

Those are five of my favorite homeschooling items. What items do you love in your homeschool that people don’t always think about?

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Save up to 40% on the Knowledge Quest 2018 History Sale!

You Are An Artist Clubhouse Memberships are now Open for enrollment!!

Apologia Digital Back to School Sale!!

Alice in Wonderland on Audible for less than $1!!

Give Your Child The World is on sale on Kindle for less than $1.

$0.99 for 3 Months of Kindle Unlimted (limited time offer)

FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!

FREE Fantasy and Fairytales StoryBuilders from Write Shop!

August sale

Check out these other posts:

Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Angie @ Run Ran Family Adventures & Learning
Annette @ A Net in Time
Ashley @ Gift of Chaos
Betty @ Let’s Get Real
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

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Work it In Wednesday: Evening Education

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*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

If you have been in the homeschool world for very long you have probably heard about morning baskets, but in addition to a morning basket we use our ‘Evening Education’, not to be confused with night school,  to fit it all in. ‘Evening Education’ is the term I coined for the parts of our school day that we do in the evenings with my husband. With children at varying ages, homestead chores, household duties, 4H and American Heritage Girls/Trail Life our days can get pretty busy and it is easy for certain subjects to get pushed to the side. Our ‘Evening Education’ time allows for us to utilize that time together in the evening for subjects that are fun and enjoyable as a family.

What Do You Use For ‘Evening Education’?

This can certainly vary from family to family based on what you enjoy and what you want to cover. For us we want to keep it fun and engaging so that they enjoy the family time while still covering areas that we need to cover. We love using Drive Thru History Adventures during this time. The children feel like they are being rewarded with a movie and I know that I’m covering Bible or history. We can sit back and watch the movie with popcorn and then discuss what we saw. We also use other movies and documentaries that correlate with our studies.

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We use a cable to stream the videos from our computer onto the television.

We also use simple family discussions. My husband will ask them about what we are covering in a subject like science or history and then share more information and discussion. He’s really great at extemporaneously coming up with content and guiding a discussion.

This year we are going to use our ‘Evening Education’ time to cover our music appreciation studies. We will be choosing a different genre of music each month.  A couple times a week we will use Prime Music or YouTube to share various songs and artists from that genre.  I prefer Prime Music because of avoiding commercials. The children love to sit and listen to music with us, so this should be a fun experience. We also hope to attend some free or inexpensive local concerts to represent as many of the genres as we can.

We also enjoy using board games for our ‘Evening Education’. Sometimes that is a common board game like Yahtzee that teaches math skills and sometimes those are the history games from Home School in the Woods that go along with whatever we are learning (or something we have already covered.)

How Often Do You Do ‘Evening Education’?

We do not have a set schedule for our Evening Education time. We generally do something three or four nights a week depending on our schedule for that week. It may be as simple as a discussion at the dinner table or as elaborate as pizza and a movie or game night.

What Are The Benefits of ‘Evening Education’?

We have seen several benefits of ‘Evening Education’. One big benefit is that it allows my husband to be involved in the children’s education. Many dads are interested in what the children are learning but work schedules can make it difficult for them to be active participants but this allows them to stay connected and included.

It also frees up time during our regular days and allows us to cover those ‘extra’ things that we may not otherwise have time to complete. Instead of feeling pushed and not doing music or watch that documentary we simply switch it to a different time of day.

Finally, we find that it creates lots of fun family memories. They truly enjoy our game nights, family discussions, and movie times. I love that it connects learning with fun and family.  They do not feel like they are being made to do ‘school’ at night but simply that they are learning through our family time.

I encourage you to consider if ‘Evening Education’ could benefit your family. Is there a subject or activity that you could move from your regular school day and enjoy as a family whether that is in the evenings or even on the weekends. I’d love for you to share ideas for ‘Evening Education’ in the comments.

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Save up to 40% on the Knowledge Quest 2018 History Sale!

You Are An Artist Clubhouse Memberships are now Open for enrollment!!

Apologia Digital Back to School Sale!!

Alice in Wonderland on Audible for less than $1!!

Give Your Child The World is on sale on Kindle for less than $1.

$0.99 for 3 Months of Kindle Unlimted (limited time offer)

FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!

FREE Fantasy and Fairytales StoryBuilders from Write Shop!

August sale

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Check Out These Other Posts!!
Christine @ Christine Howard
Christy @ The Simple Homemaker
Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Diana @ Homeschool Review
Felicia @ Homeschool 4 Life
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Take a Look Tuesday: Our School Room

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*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

I need to start off by saying, you DO NOT have to have a dedicated school room to homeschool. That said, we are blessed to have a room that is our ‘school room’. This does not mean that all of our learning is done in that room, but it does give us a place to focus on our school work and to keep the books and materials ‘mostly’ contained. We had an unfinished upstairs and my awesome and handy husband finished a section of it for us to use for our school room.

My cozy window seat might just be my favorite part of this room. I had dreamed for years of a comfy window seat for reading but we never had the right space. When we build this room in a space that had a dormer window it was a perfect fit. Sometimes I sit here to read or teach and sometimes the children sit here and work. We can also use the space to look outside at the trees and watch for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.

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My second favorite spot is my glider rocker area. I have spent many hours sitting in this seat reading to my children, watching them work, teaching them, and praying over our homeschool. When I sit here to read or teach the children can sit at their desks or bring out the pillows or bean bags and sit on the floor in front of me. During different seasons of our homeschool we have had a calendar area just above the rocker as well as a magnetic board for our All About Spelling tiles. There is a CD player just to one side of this so that we can listen to music or audiobooks.

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My handy husband also built dual purpose bookshelves. In addition to holding books they serve as a room divider. We have some of our book collection on these shelves, separated into broad categories such as chapter books, picture books, history, science, and Bible. We have a fairly extensive book collection (thanks to yard sales and Amazon) and not all of our books fit into our school room but I try to keep a good variety of fun books to read, books for extra studies, and books that go along with our current curriculum.

On one side of our school room we have a round table that we use for working together or when one of the children needs a larger work space for a project or assignment. My children, particularly my older two, also like to have individual work spaces so they each have a small desk on the other side of the room. The four year old never likes to be left out so he has his own small desk as well but spends most of his time in his preschool space.

Beside the round table I have our preschool area. There is a book shelf which holds bins of educational toys that are only used during ‘school’ time to keep them exciting, books, and crafting supplies for the four year old. In addition he has a small vertical book rack/shelf that makes it easy for him to see the books he has and to put them away when he is finished.I am also working on a container of file folder games to go in this area so that he can work on those with this older siblings.

I hope you have enjoyed this closer look at our school room. We enjoy using this room as well as our kitchen table, front porch, and even the van to learn and grow. I would love to hear about your school room and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about our space.

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Save up to 40% on the Knowledge Quest 2018 History Sale!

You Are An Artist Clubhouse Memberships are now Open for enrollment!!

Apologia Digital Back to School Sale!!

Alice in Wonderland on Audible for less than $1!!

Give Your Child The World is on sale on Kindle for less than $1.

$0.99 for 3 Months of Kindle Unlimted (limited time offer)

FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!

FREE Fantasy and Fairytales StoryBuilders from Write Shop!

August sale

Check out some of the other Take a Look Tuesday Posts:

Jennifer @ Dear Homeschooler
Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Karen @ Tots and Me…Growing Up Together
Kellyann @ Walking Home …
Kimberley @ Vintage Blue Suitcase
Kristen @ A Mom’s Quest to Teach
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Linda @ Apron Strings & other things

Which Planner is the Best One?

calendar

Which planner is the best one can be a loaded question. I have friends that love their planners and spent a great deal of time finding the perfect fit. There is the Happy Planner, Erin Condren, and The Old Schoolhouse Digital Planner.   There are hundreds of different planners out there and this time of year it seems they are being featured in e-mails everyday and are all over the stores as folks get ready for the new year. Everyone has different needs and I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution to planners but I’ll share what has been working really well for me over the last several years. This plan has really helped me to move passed the frazzled and forgetting stage that I was in from lack of planning.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

First, I want to clarify that I am talking specifically about my personal planner not our homeschool lesson plans which I keep separately on the computer (my template is located in our free resource library). I needed a planner to keep up with where we need to be and my long list of to-do items. I have tried several different planners but found that I would forget to have them with me when I needed to schedule things and my husband never knew what was supposed to be happening. I needed something that was easy to transport and easy for my husband to see.

Like most people today, my phone goes with me most everywhere I go and it comes ready with Google Calendar. I have found that a shared google calendar is the best way for me to track appointments, events, deadlines and other important dates. Some e-mail services will even link to the calendar and auto-populate dates.  I even use it to remind me to bring things on a certain day or to make phone calls. This solved a big problem in our family. Since my calendar is almost always with me and my husband can also use the calendar we don’t double book our days.

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While google calendar solved my calendar problems, I didn’t want to put my long list of to-do items on it everyday and there were other times I needed to take notes and have information that didn’t conveniently fit into the calendar. In our house the solution to this is called, “the brain” because it functions better than my brain to help me remember things.  It is simply a small lined journal that I keep to write notes and make daily to-do lists. At first I just used it front to back but I did find that at times there were pages I needed to be able to reference more often so this year I added inexpensive sticky tabs to give myself sections.

I set up the bulk as a section for my daily lists, but I also had sections for blog planning, and one for each of the organizations (4-H, Trail Life and American Heritage Girls that our family participates and helps in planning). This allows me to more readily find the annual plans or event notes for an organization while still allowing me my normal daily lists. It also keeps it very simple and easy to use. The tabs I chose can also be moved around if I figure out that the sections are not working like I originally planned.

The last component of our planning is a large monthly calendar (or for a more colorful option check out this one) that hangs in the laundry room. Any important family dates go onto that calendar each month so that the children can see what is happening and have a way to track things. I simply look at my google calendar and write down any applicable events. As they get older they are experimenting with their own calendars and planning, but this gives them a central place to see what is happening that week and month.

The fancy planners with lots of features work best for some people but if you are feeling overwhelmed or don’t feel like you are keeping up with everything that you need to keep up with, I recommend giving this method a try.

New Year’s day is often a time for setting new goals and planning, but you can start anytime with this method. Since the google calendar is free and always there and the lined journal doesn’t have dates you can start at the beginning any day you are ready.

For myself and my family, planning and having things on an easily accessible calendar has made our days more smooth. We are much less likely to double book or forget about an obligation. It also makes it easier to look at our schedules and make sure we have enough “white space” to account for much needed down time and those unexpected things like illness, car trouble, etc that always seem to happen (we are still working on leaving margin, if that is an issue for you I recommend the book The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst). I’d say that the best one is the one that works for you and you are willing to actually use.

 

Friday Deals and Freebies

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul  is free on Kindle (as of posting Amazon changes prices frequently so always double check before purchase).

snowman

 

Need a good way to organize all of these great printables and have access to them when you need them? Try a free Dropbox Plan.

Amazon Prime 30 day FREE trial. If you do not yet have Amazon Prime this is a great time to try it for free for 30 days! Get your Christmas shopping done with free shipping, enjoy Christmas music and more.

The Green Ember is only $2.99 on Kindle or Free with a KindleUnlimited Trial

$10 Sign-Up Bonus for Ibotta and they are doing some major savings and rebates starting today. Great way to save money on the things you are already buying.

$40 off your first HelloFresh Box

Homeschool Buyers Co-Op is offering a great deal on Discovery Education Streaming right now. 60% off and bonus Smart Points redeemable for other products. We have used this in the past and enjoyed it.

 

When you sign up for our free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Common Questions about Lessontrek, and a Sneak Peek!

lessontrekblogimageLessontrek has been a very popular planning and scheduling tool at Schoolin’ Swag! Our friend Jason Pessemier has been hard at work, tweaking and upgrading as he can, to make this valuable tool even more user friendly and seamless.  I asked Jason if he would tell me what the most common questions about the product are, so users could find answers easily here at the blog.  Here is what he shared.

Common Questions

1. Question: How do I add hyperlinks in a lesson? I need to click to websites for my child’s assignments.

Answer: To set up, click a lesson block, paste the URL and click save. To access, navigate to the lesson block and click the Open button, then click the hyperlink in the upper left.

2. Question: How do I print in color?

Answer: Make sure your browser’s Print Settings is set to print in color. Most browsers set their Print Settings to Black & White

3. Question: What curriculum can I use in Lessontrek?

Answer: You can use any type of curriculum or you can create your own. Lessontrek was built to be as flexible and easy-to-use as possible.

4. Question: Can I add weekends to Lessontrek? We sometimes have classes or we like to add household chores to our calendar.

Answer: Yes, make sure to click the Show Weekend check box located inside your Student Home modal.

5. Question: Can I use Lessontrek if I’m a public or private school teacher?

Answer: Absolutely! We encourage anyone to use this if it fits their needs. School teachers are currently using Lessontrek and they love it.

Sneak Peek!

Here is a list of items Jason plans to add, as he is able:

  • Shared subjects/school years across multiple students
  • Bumping subjects/assignments
  • Monthly view
  • Report card printouts
  • Separate student/parent/teacher logins

There is some great pricing available right now at Lessontrek!

lessontrekpricing.png

Want to try a FREE TRIAL? Click here!

Got another question for Jason? Let me know in the comments!

Free Lessontrek Membership–start the New Year right!

lessonfamOur fabulous lesson planning superhero, Jason Pessemier of Lessontrek, is about to make your New Year fabulous!

Extended to the first 700 (you read that right!) folks who really need a new plan for this New Year, he is offering a FREE FOR LIFE membership!!! Here are the instructions (follow them exactly):

1) Go to this link. Click the Sign Up button in the upper right hand corner of the website, then click the 14 day trial (this will enable the Referral Code text box where you enter the code), if you choose the 14 day option and not enter the code, you will not receive the Free Membership. If you click either the Monthly or Annual plan it will not work as this is a free code, so no credit card needed.

2) Enter the code exactly like this (or else it wont work): FFL15
If you don’t enter the code and only do the 14 day trial, you will not receive the Free Membership.

3) Enter the rest of your information (make sure your email address you use doesn’t have capital letters).

4) Then proceed to checkout and begin planning your new school year!

**This offer expires January 5, 2016.**

Curriculaholics Anonymous–Are You Addicted to Collecting and Perusing Stuff?

curriculahelpI’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:

  1. Does this material jive with our learning style or can it be easily tweaked?
  2. Is this material going to necessitate additional purchases (supplies, etc) for it to be useful? Am I able/willing to invest in those?
  3. 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?
  4. If this is something to save for the future, do I have a logical, usable, accessible way of storing it?
  5. 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!

evernotescreen

  • 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,

Diane

Homeschool Product Review: Order Out of Chaos Academic Planner

chaos1My sweet friend Leslie Josel, sent me a couple of her beautiful Academic Planners to take for a test drive this school year. I was going to wait until we were actually using them to post a review; but I’m so excited about them that I wanted to jump right on it and get the word out, so folks could get theirs ordered before August rolls around!

The planner is available in four different styles, to suit your taste. I loved the blue kaleidoscope design! The front and back are beautifully colored vinyl…very durable! I love the size of this planner, too…a generous 7″ x 11″ which gives plenty of space to write, as compared to impractical “pocket” planners. It is also 3-hole punched to fit into a binder, if you so wish!

I’ll post some photos here to show you the inside (click to enlarge). This is a great, intuitive organizational tool that is easy to use, without a lot of flipping around…and it teaches the student how to own their school planning!

If you need help, Leslie will hold your hand a little bit!
If you need help, Leslie will hold your hand a little bit!
Write in your subjects and activities once on the left, and they line up with each day's pages!
Write in your subjects and activities once on the left…
Neat vinyl storage pocket in back!
Neat vinyl storage pocket in back!

Here is a nifty video, explaining the perks of this great tool:

As a perfect accompaniment to the planners, Leslie was gracious enough to include her new book, “What’s the Deal With Teens and Time Management?”  What a great pairing! The handy little book covers everything from procrastination (oh boy!) to homework strategies. These are important life skills for your teen! Click here to preview!

Speaking of teens managing their time, while you’re at it, sign up for the FREE Back to School Webinar (Monday, August 17, 8pm EST), targeted specifically for middle and high schoolers, titled “Have You Done Your Homework Yet?”–click here!