Previously I have written about the online program we use to organise our homeschooling [but the link isn’t working], Homeschool Planet. Despite what I wrote in that post, I soon began to keep records almost exclusively online due to a combination of the online program adding features and me finding it more convenient to do things online. And for the past year Homeschool Planet has served us really well. But I am now switching to another way of organising our homeschool planning that I think is going to suit us best going forward (at least for now).
Homeschool Planet has been pretty good so far. And if I was living in a part of the world where homeschooling meant I had to keep track of how much time we spent homeschooling, or the state required me to keep records of exactly what we did when, it would be super helpful. But we are under the auspices of the United Kingdom which is, quite frankly amazingly lax about having to keep records (in short, you don’t) and requiring you to teach specific subjects (in short, you don’t). So those kind of concerns do not really figure in my decisions around organising things. I do keep records of what Willem has done but that is because a) I like to keep records and b) if in future he wants to take courses/go to University/do something that requires an academic record it is much easier to put together a transcript if we have been keeping records than building it from scratch.
If you are interested in what is required of homeschoolers outside of the UK system this website is well worth checking out.
One of the downsides of Homeschool Planet for us is that it is linked to a calendar. As I wrote previously it is fairly easy to move things around BUT I was finding it couldn’t quite cope with the flexibility I felt we needed. For example, we have finally figured out when it is feasible for Steve to take leave. So that will be an academic ‘break’ for Willem. But during that break he is going to be doing some Science work with his Dad. And what if he really wants to start in early on some of the work not due to start until August (one can but hope …).
More big picture – I was finding that I was ‘squishing stuff in’ to try and fit to a calendar program and give Willem enough blocks of time off/take in to account family holidays. It wasn’t quite working. I needed something where I could list everything I want to do, and how much, and even come up with a sequence of lessons; but not attach them in to a series of dates. This way we can just work through the work until it is done, taking breaks where we need to or want to.
I also find that I need a repository of all the links, ideas and notes I make about the subjects I want Willem to cover. Inevitably nearly everything I find or write is now digital.
So what am I using now?
I have elected to organise everything with Evernote. I know I am definitely not alone in this – Mystie at Simply Convivial has written a whole set of posts on how to use it for homeschooling. I don’t use some of the techniques she does such as Loop Scheduling, so my approach is a little different. I suggest that if you are interested in using Evernote for homeschool organising, read Simply Convivial and my post and take what works for you.
Note: A lot of homeschoolers choose to use OneNote. I gave it a go but I found it was missing a lot of the features I was looking for, and with further research I found this is probably because I was using it in a Mac/iOS environment.
First, you have to get your head around three concepts to get what I am doing with Evernote – Notes, Notebooks and Stacks. And the easiest way to understand is to think of the physical equivalents. A Note is where you write or copy some information. It goes in a Notebook. A collection of Notebooks goes in a stack. Now I am going to give an example, except going from Stack to Note:
I have a Stack called ‘Learning 2015’. Inside this stack I have a collection of notebooks called:
- Daily Schedule
- Excursions Ideas
- Write For Fun 1
- Kidswrite Basic
- Language Arts
- Music History
- Nature Study
- Project 1
As you can see, there is no notebook for Maths. This is not because Willem is not doing Maths, but because as of August he will be mainly doing Maths via Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 (my review is here), which is a program where he works through it in a series of sequential lessons independently and I check in once a week to see how he is going. So he knows every day he has to do a lesson, and he just does the next lesson along. Once he has finished the program I will probably export his results and keep a copy on Evernote for future reference.
All the other notebooks (except for Daily Schedule and Excursions Ideas) are to do with topics or programs Willem is doing. So to copy a note from the ‘Daily Schedule’ notebook, here is what Willem’s weeks will look like from mid-August onwards:
(for those interested in what all the topics actually mean and how we are covering them, there will be future posts).
Some of the things he is covering will be through programs that are sequential and pretty much ‘run themselves’ (like Algebra 1). Others are programs I have to put together myself, and I am gathering all the information together, writing lesson sequences and listing resources in notebooks. For example, let’s look at History:
So there are 22 lessons there, most of them at this stage are empty notes. Some of them I have started adding in weblinks I think we will use, at this stage mainly episodes of Crash Course History that are relevant.
(Willem loves Crash Course. He will choose to go and watch a few episodes if he is given screen time.)
Soon those notes will start having the additions of links to other resources, listings of readings I want Willem to read, listings of stuff I should probably read, and then an outline of what I think we should be doing each History session. I am not going to be administering a test or anything – for history there is going to mainly be assessment through discussion and we will do a few projects around topics of real interest. Some of the notes there will cover more than just one ‘lesson’ on one day – for example The Trojan War and Homeric Warfare will be split across our upcoming visit to Troy (oh yes, there will be a blog post on that one, you can be assured!) and then a few weeks later on. At this stage I am going to see what Willem is most interested in and we can spend more time on that, and perhaps a bit less time on other stuff. But I plan to cover each of those 22 topics, hopefully by the end of the year.
Another nifty feature in Evernote is using checklists. For Science, we are following a program that has set lessons. However I have organised each section in to its own note so I can list things such as what experiments we might try to do while Dad is at home, when there are tests, and some of the experiments that require extra resources.
As they are completed they can be checked off, and I have a visual reminder of things I have to think about in advance. (Evernote also allows you to attach reminders – like you would have on your computer’s calendar – to notes).
Two of the notebooks
- Write For Fun 1
- Kidswrite Basic
Are actually part of Willem’s Language Arts program – both are online courses offered by Brave Writer. One is a course Willem is doing now and one we are doing together starting in August. I don’t need to list lessons etc. as it is something we work through as the program demands. But I want to keep a record of Wim’s work, including taking photos of some of his handwritten work which has been super imaginative.
I also have a Stack named ‘Learning 2016’ where I am already putting together notebooks of the topics I am planning for next year. More about that later …
I hope this has been helpful for anyone thinking of using Evernote for homeschool planning (or for anyone wondering what we are up to …).