about me, encouragement, homeschool, organization, organizing, planning

Announcement … Homeschooling Help Is Here!

NOW AVAILABLE!!

One of the hard things many of you have been called to do in this current season is to homeschool or to school your kids at home.

Some of you may remember, but many of you do not know, that I homeschooled my own children for 14 years. During that time, I blogged, wrote, and spoke on the topics of homeschooling and organization (and the combination). My blog was called “Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom,” and I also had a regular column in the Homeschool Enrichment magazine, Heart of the Matter Online, and wrote regularly for The Old Schoolhouse magazine and some other places. All of that writing and speaking was under a different last name—LeBedz, just in case you’re looking for it.   

Then life happened. You know, hard stuff. I’ve written about some of it on the blog here. 

But with current events being what they are, I’ve been encouraged from several different fronts to refresh and republish my homeschool writing to encourage people right now. 

So, that’s going to be happening some here on the blog and over on the homeschooling page on my website (www.bethanylashell.com/homeschooling). Also, I’m working on categorizing my past homeschool blog posts here on this website, so keep checking back to see what’s here to encourage you along the way.

First up is a helpful ebook on the basics of setting up an organized schooling area in your house—even if you don’t have a whole, separate room for it. Originally written 10 years ago (what? I’m feeling old now!), it’s 14 pages jam-packed with tips and tricks for getting you, your kids, and their stuff set up and rolling. And, it’s only $3.99 for the first week. Then it’ll go up to $4.99. 

Click here to purchase Get Organized!, the first eBook in the Simple Homeschooling Series.

Forward this to your schooling-at-home and homeschooling friends! And please let me know which topics you need help with!

homeschool, organizing, planning

The Family Calendar

How do you coordinate a busy family’s schedule when everyone seems to be going different directions at the same time? The most efficient way I have found to deal with mine and my teenagers’ ever-changing, full-to-the-brim schedules is to have a large, dry-erase calendar in a central location–ours is in the kitchen, on the pantry door because it came with nifty mounting hardware. Each person is assigned a different color in order to 1) tell at a glance who has an outside activity at any given time, and 2) save time and writing space. Every event must be written down on the calendar, especially if it involves the mom taxi; otherwise there’s no guarantee that it will happen. I also have an “all” color to designate events (such as church or Bible studies) in which we’re all involved.

This calendar is also magnetic, which makes it easy to put event tickets right on the day they’re needed. No more scrambling around to find out what time that birthday party starts! In addition, I love that there’s a small bulletin board alongside of the calendar. I use it for coupons and other such time-sensitive materials that don’t necessarily belong on a particular day.

The magnetic feature also allows for a small, magnetic eraser (top, right corner) and a colored arrow magnet (middle of last week), which make using my fabulous family calendar so much easier.

Q4U: Do you use a large family calendar that’s easily accessible by all?

homeschool, organization, organizing, planning

It’s Calendar Time!

Have you bought your 2013 calendar yet? If not, stop reading this blog post. Go buy a wall calendar, a purse calendar, a desk calendar, a family fridge calendar, refills for your Day Timer, whatever you use. Right now! Yes, really! Then come straight back. Now are you ready?

First, make sure you have your current calendar beside the new one. Then, go through and add in all the birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, and holidays. Use a pen for all these dates. Next, find all those scraps of paper stuffed under the couch cushions and scribbled on the edges of the old calendar that have the events scheduled for this coming year. Write all these events in your new calendar. Use a pencil for these events. That way if there are last minute changes, you won’t have a scribbled out mess on your calendar. Be sure to update all your calendars (including the family one on the fridge) every time you make a change.

The next most important tip is to use your calendar FAITHFULLY! Never commit to an appointment without consulting your calendar. Train your children (and hubby!) to do the same thing. Don’t forget to write down each and every new event right away, otherwise you’re likely to forget about it.

My absolute favorite calendar organizational item is my smart phone (it goes EVERYWHERE with me and syncs with my Google computer calendar, too). I realize not everyone wants one of those (or could have one), but it’s what I use. My next favorite tool is a monthly, magnetic, dry-erase calendar. All family appointments, classes, and other events go onto that calendar. Each family member has her own color marker to designate personal events. Each child also has her own small student calendar, and I am training them to put long-term homework assignments as well as schedules into these. We also have a few wall calendars by our desks, mostly for long-term reference.

Now, go get organized for the year ahead! Then come back and leave me a message telling me about your favorite calendars.

homeschool, organization, organizing, planning

What All Home Educators Need: Remote Digital Backups (guest post)

Using an electronic device such as a laptop, tablet, even a smartphone to help store lesson plans as well as archive other important school-related documents like graded assignments and projects is definitely the more green approach. More importantly, it’s also great for organizational purposes— you can create digital folders with appropriate titles and dates for easy retrieval. But as you’ve probably already learned, technology isn’t always “reliable.”
Sometimes computers crash and files on your hard drive are lost. Sometimes your USB flash drive won’t work and you can’t access your important documents (which can pretty inconvenient if you’re trying to give a lesson away from home).Sometimes your tablet can run out of power at the worst time. Sometimes your email is temporarily shut down. Whatever the case, it’s important that you backup everything on to a remote cloud device so that you have access to everything you need from any device at any time.
That said, below are some of the more popular remote storage -cloud devices to choose from. And the best part? They’re all free! 
DropBox
Wanting remote access to important documents without having to constantly email themselves or save their files on a flash drive, two MIT graduates created DropBox in 2007. Today, more than 100 million people around the world uses the free service to store college papers, photos, and other documents they don’t want to get lost.  Windows, Mac, Linux, and Mobile users start off with 2GB of free storage but can potentially earn up to 18GB of free storage by completing various tasks, such as inviting your friends to become members. 
Google Drive
If you already have a Gmail account, then using GoogleDriveto store documents and share texts and spreadsheets with your student is probably the easiest way to go since everything is already built in.  You’ll also have access to Google Docs. Google Docs can be used as a “tracker”—you can create lists and keep track of daily lesson plans, assignments completed or volunteer hours. You can also collaborate with more than one person on documents at the same time since you can see live edits.  Users get 5GB of free storage and must pay a subscription for more. 
Microsoft SkyDrive
Last but certainly not least is SkyDrive. SkyDrive works relatively the same as the other devices since you can store and share documents, but there is one nifty exception:  Windows 8, Windows 7, or Vista, and Mac OS X Lion computer users can automatically sync their files. This way, you automatically create a backup without having to think twice about it.  SkyDrive offers its users 7GB of free storage.
Aniya Wells is a freelance education and tech writer. She mostly contributes to OnlineDegreePrograms.com, a site that specializes in alternative online learning. She welcomes your questions and comments.  

homeschool, organizing, planning

How to Keep Track of P.E. Hours in High School


The only thing worse than high school itself (as a teenager), was gym class. I’m uncoordinated; I never played a sport, and every time there was a ball involved, it hit me in the face. And usually broke my glasses. One time when I finally, actually, served the volleyball over the net, the OTHER team cheered. Seriously. Oh wait, maybe that was college.

Anyway, thank goodness my girls are more coordinated than I am! Even though they were/are homeschooled, colleges like to see a physical education/health credit on their transcripts. Every state is different in their requirements, so be sure to check your state’s guidelines. Our state just requires one credit, and they don’t specify exactly how it should be divided up, so being the lazy flexible mom that I am, I decided that my girls could participate in whatever physical activity they choose.

Experts generally agree that 120 hours of effort is the equivalent of one high school credit. In our house, we don’t exercise for an hour at a time (except for that year or so a while ago when I took up running), so when I made the table to track P.E. hours, I made each rectangle equal to half an hour (for a total of 240 squares). Voila! One physical education/health credit accounted for.

high school, high school, homeschool, organizing, planning

How to Keep Track of Volunteer Hours in High School

High school was scary the first time I went through it (as a teenager). High school was almost as scary the second time I went through it (with my older daughter). I’m thinking that the third time will be a charm. My younger daughter started high school a few weeks ago, and we’re chugging right along.

One important record-keeping aspect of high school that was new to me the second time around was keeping track of volunteer hours. As colleges get more and more competitive, documenting volunteer hours becomes more important.

So, I created a table in Microsoft Word with empty blocks to fill in the dates for when my high schooler completes an hour of community or church service time. I hole-punched the paper and keep it in my Mom Master Binder (part 2 here). Then all I have to do is pull it out once every few weeks and update my daughter’s volunteer hours.

homeschool, organizing, planning

Staying Organized on the Go: Co-ops

            Homeschool co-ops can be a wonderful enhancement to our home studies. But it always seems to be a hassle to remember all of the books and materials we need each week/day, not to mention the times when we’ve had to turn the car around because little Susie left her essay in the printer tray at home.
            One solution is to have a designated co-op bag or container. Place everything that you need for co-op each week in that bag and only in that bag. Make sure that everything that gets taken out during the week to be worked on is returned promptly to the bag or container. If you’ve made yourself a note to add something to the bag or container for the following week, put it in there as soon as you get home—before you have a chance to forget.
            Another solution is to make sure each kid has all of his co-op belongings together the night before. Perhaps each of them needs his own backpack or book bag, and as he works on things throughout the week, he puts them right back in said bag as soon as he is finished. As soon as papers get printed, they’re retrieved and placed in the appropriate folder, ready to go out the door.
            Yes, just like all of the other solutions mentioned in this book, this one will also take some training and some reminders. It would be wonderful if children remembered such things after the first introduction, but then again, you probably wouldn’t be reading this book if they did!

Come see me over at Heart of the Matter Online today! I’m speaking at their fall conference at 3 p.m. (EST), and you can still get tickets!

anxiety, homeschool, lessons learned, organizing, planning

One Thing

I am the queen of multitasking. Just ask anyone who knows me well. Some people would even say I’m the queen of efficiency. But I wouldn’t go that far, and neither would the people who live in my house with me. When I start juggling too many balls, they start falling, one by one.

The more I do, the less I get done. Huh? Here’s a paraphrase: the more things I try to do at the same time, the longer each one takes. Make sense? I’ve been hearing from multiple sources recently that I should cut back on all the different things I’m doing, and I’m inclined to agree. And I’ve been hearing from my agent that I need to finish my book.

So, that’s what I’m doing this week. (Well, mostly! I’m still getting the hang of this one-thing-at-a-time process!) I’m sequestered at a hotel (not near enough to the shore) in Charleston to finish my book. No kids. No hubby (thanks, honey!). No (other) blog posts. Not much email. Not much school work. No planning for my new high schooler’s four-year plan. No lesson plans for college classes. No laundry. Just writing the book. This morning I had 17,000 words to write, plus a major revision of several chapters. I’ve written nearly 2,000 words already and revised those chapters, so I would say that my one thing is working.

While I can’t expect to go off and complete every project on my own in general, I can open only 1 browser tab at a time; I can complete 1 writing project at a time; I can work on planning 1 class at a time.

Q4U: What ONE THING do you need to focus on right now?

Oops, I lied. This post is about 2 things: Please remember to vote for this blog on the Circle of Moms’ Top 25 Homeschool Blogs for 2012! I’m in the top 25; help keep me there! There are only 10 more days left to vote (and you can vote once a day, for all your favorite homeschool blogs). Vote here: http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/Top-25-Homeschooling-Moms-2012

Thank you, thank you for voting and following!!

anxiety, encouragement, homeschool, planning, writing

What’s Next?

What should I do next? That question has often left me in a tizzy trying to figure out which item on my very-important-to-do-right-now list ought to be the next thing to receive my attention. Yes, I’ve read the books on prioritizing. Yes, I usually make a physical, written list of all that needs to be accomplished in a day. But, my lists always seem to have the word urgent beside each item. How do I choose what to do next?
A few months ago as I was cleaning out some files, I can across a copy of a page out of an old devotional book that was sent to me by my mother years ago. It contains an ancient poem that sums up what one must do on those occasions when it seems impossible to do anything. It simply says to do the next thing. I’m going to take the liberty of quoting the poem in its entirety here. The original author is anonymous.
          Doe the Nexte Thynge

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
It’s quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”
 Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, doe the nexte thynge.
 Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all resulting, doe the nexte thynge.
 Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be they demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as he beckons thee, doe the nexte thynge.

Did you have plans that got shot out of the water before 9 a.m. today? Me too. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Is your hand empty? “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). Still not sure where to turn next? Isaiah 30:21 makes it clear that God will show you which direction to go—if you listen to him. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”
So, what’s next? Is the baby’s diaper emanating a stench? Change it. Is your fifth grader stuck on the mysteries of making equivalent fractions? Teach her how. Will your husband be home for dinner in an hour? Put supper in the oven. Find the next thing to do, and then do it. The longer you spend agonizing over what to do, the more time you waste. Just do the next thing.