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, organization, organizing, writing

Top Uses for Post-it Flags and Tabs

I can’t believe that I have never written about one of my favorite organization tools. They’re little, but they’re so cute and so versatile. What are they: mini, sticky tabs and flags! A Post-it by any other name is just as sweet (no, this is not a commercial). It usually works just as well, too. Let’s take a look at several different categories in which we can use sticky flags: bookmarks, textbooks, homeschooling, home management, Bible, other stuff.
The most obvious (to me) usage for Post-it flags is as bookmarks. Let’s get a bit more specific, though, then we’ll add to the list.
·         Bookmarks
o   Fiction
o   Non-fiction
o   Citations
o   Sections to reread
·         Textbook markers
o   Start teaching
o   Extra study
o   Instead of highlighting in borrowed books
o   Please help, Mom!
o   Assignment
o   Quick reference
§  Vocab
§  Abbreviations
§  Check lists
·         Bible markers
o   Teaching
o   Studying
o   Memorizing
o   Witnessing
·         Manuals for quick reference
·         Start/stop workbook sections
·         Corrections in homework to be done
·         Instead of tabbed dividers in 3-ring binders
·         Mark information in file folders
·         Sign here designations
·         Mark important information for others (boss) to read/note
·         On calendar/by door for stuff to take out the door
·         To do
o   In a book
o   On a steering wheel
o   On a calendar
o   Beside the door
·         Mark musical selections in a longer piece of music
·         Favorite recipes
·         Grocery lists
·         Wrap around toothpicks for herb/plant markers and cupcakes
Disclaimer: while I love these little guys like nobody’s business, I did a quick poll of some friends, who graciously added to my list.
Q4U: What are your favorite uses for Post-it flags?

homeschool, organization, organizing, writing

How to Prettify Plain, Cardboard Magazine Holders

I’m cheap. (Really, Mum, even though I know you don’t believe it!) So when I needed magazine holders, I went to Ikea and bought the 5-pack of cheap, flat (to assemble), white, cardboard file holders. Sorry I can’t remember how much they cost, but 5 were way cheaper than 1 of the expensive, brand-name ones at an office supply store. 
But plain, white cardboard is so boring. So, I took some contact paper, cut it a few inches wider than the  width of the holder, and voila: a prettified magazine holder! Then I printed labels for the contents onto my pretty Martha Stewart labels so I can tell at a glance what’s in each holder.
Above, you can see what several of them look like next to each other on my bookshelf. Below you can see how I wrapped the contact paper around the edges of the back so as to prevent it from peeling off.
I saved money and completed a DIY project. What could be better?

Book Reviews, homeschool, organization, organizing

Bookshelf Reorganization

 

I’ve been rearranging. Yes, again. It’s been a while since I showed you my Expedit bookshelf, so I thought it was time for an update. I believe it’s in its fourth different room since coming to live with me. It doesn’t seem to mind, though, and it’s actually fairly easy to move–after removing all of the books.

One block is homeschool teacher’s manuals and such, one block is reference materials for editing, another block is teaching homeschool writing, but 2 blocks (almost) are devoted to teaching college writing. One block has my fiction books, while another block holds my yearbooks and diplomas (yes, I should probably recycle the yearbooks, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it). One plastic bin is my filing cabinet, while the other one holds extra file folders, printer paper, and similar stuff.

The black bins? Well, let’s just say they’re holding stuff, which is what they’re designed to do 🙂 The white tray is my to-file bin. I’d like to say that I file stuff once a week so that the bin is usually empty. Sadly, I can’t say that. Hey, just keepin’ it real here, folks.

Of course, you’ll also notice that I’ve got a few pretties on my shelves as well. Organization can be pretty!

Q4U: How are your bookshelves doing?

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.  

organization

Dish Dryer Mat Storage

Recently, I discovered the best invention ever for my kitchen. Well, at least for drying my dishes. OK, to be totally honest, the best invention for my kids to utilize when they scrub the pots that don’t go in the dishwasher.

For years, I had a plastic dish rack with a thick, plastic mat that went under it to direct all the water droplets toward the sink. They were country blue. Remember those racks? And that color? Yeah, I’m showing my age. Anyway, mine were old, cracked, and nasty looking, so we never used them. They just took up precious cabinet space under my kitchen sink.

Enter the super-absorbent, microfiber, dish drying mat. It allows me my kids to place dishes neatly on the counter to drip dry without the dishes slipping onto the floor and without water spilling everywhere.

The only problem is where and how to store it when it’s not in use. After wrestling it into the cabinet under my sink for a few weeks, I finally hit on the idea of hot gluing a clothespin to the inside of the cabinet door. I simply fold the mat in half, clip, and close the door. It’s out of the way, and it can dry easily. Best of all, I can throw it in the washing machine with my dishtowels.

homeschool, organization, organizing

Staying Organized on the Go: Library Books

I have yet to meet a homeschooler who didn’t love the library. And I have yet to meet a homeschooler who hasn’t contributed enough fine money to have a new wing named after her. It’s even happened to us on more than one occasion. So, what’s the solution to this conundrum?
At first, I’m inclined to shrug my shoulders. After all, once my (then) 15-year-old daughter had to pay off her own $40+ fine over time; a few months later, I found another stack of overdue library books in her possession. Notice I even said that she had to pay the fine out of her own money; the Bank of Mom does not cover library fines, no ma’am. One would think that losing an entire month’s worth of babysitting money would be an effective lesson.
Anyway, not having the answer to teenage thought processes, I’ll move onto a few more practical solutions to the library-book dilemma. Some libraries have started printing out a grocery-like receipt for library books. Instead of sticking used gum in it at the bottom of your purse, put it on the fridge next to the family calendar. Then, go the next step and make a notation on the calendar date that the books are due.
Writing the due date on the calendar can happen even if you don’t have a receipt for the books. If you have more than one or two books, you can make your own list. If the kids are old enough, they can help by making their own lists for the books that they checked out, or the books that are specifically for their use. Again, post this list in a visible spot.
Another idea that I employed while my children were younger is to have a central spot for all library books: a basket, a box, a milk crate, or a separate shelf on the bookshelves. Library books had to live in the designated spot unless they were actually being read. Of course, I had to remind my kids many, many times before they caught onto the idea of returning their library books to the right spot when they were finished with them for the day.
When we grew out of the central-location-for-all-library-books idea, we moved onto each girl keeping all of her library books in her own library bag in her room. They each have several bags from summer reading programs, and I figured we may as well get good use out of them. That idea still works pretty well . . . except when it doesn’t (exhibit A from a few paragraphs ago).
Another option is using an online program to track your library books. Some libraries actually have their own computerized system that will email a reminder when your books are due. For the rest of us, a quick Google search netted me a bunch of returns when I typed in “online library books due.” I’m sure similar searches would produce more results for software or online programs to help you keep track of your library books and their due dates.
Of course, a program is only as good as its follow through. The same goes for the other ideas I’ve mentioned for keeping track of library books and due dates: they’re no good if you don’t physically return the books to the library when they are due (or renew them online).

Q4U: How do you keep your library books organized?

learning styles, organization, writing

Blog Posts Organized the Simple Way

It happened again. You had a great idea for a blog post, so you scrawled it on a sticky note. The toddler found it and colored over it, then the teenager helpfully threw it out. Or, you managed to remember the idea long enough to put it at the bottom of a messy list buried somewhere on your dining room table. After the kids go to bed, in the 5 minutes before you collapse, you decide to sit down and tap out a blog post. You drum your fingers on the edge of your laptop for a few minutes, thinking, then you finally find your crumpled list, complete with peanut butter.

That’s great, but then you see the next topic on the list and you just do not have in mind to write about that right now. So, you scribble out that and squeeze in a new idea. While you’re at it, you decide to jot down a few more thoughts for blog articles somewhere on the page. By the time you get around to actually writing, you’re down to three minutes before collapse.
writing calendar
There is a better way! I used to do the above process until I came across this nifty monthly dry-erase board at Office Max (maybe? or maybe it was Staples?) for $2. I didn’t really need another calendar, but I was sure that I needed that little dry-erase board! It has a string hanger, or it can lean against a wall (or bookshelf). It’s light and not too large. It’s also double sided; the other side is blank for notes and I’ve posted my yearly goals there.

Anyway, I decided to use my new find for my writing command center. In addition to blogging, I write for several magazines and websites; I write reviews, and I’m taking grad school classes with multiple papers due. I chose to use a different color dry erase marker for each place I write for, but you could color code your topics or just use one color. First I write in when my fixed due dates are for magazines, websites, and school. Some of those get repurposed as blog posts, which I note on my board. Then I fill in the blanks with other ideas.

I’ve chosen to blog only twice a week [usually]; with my other responsibilities, I can’t take on more than that usually. Whatever your schedule is, stick to it as much as possible so your readers know what to expect.

If an unexpected review or topic pops up, I just erase & rewrite. No mess, no crumpled paper, no missing sticky note. I can see at a glance what I have planned for the month and what I still need to work on; a check mark beside the title means it’s already written and ready to go.

No $, no dry erase board? Print out a generic monthly calendar from your computer and use pencil.

Q4U: How do you organize your blog posts?

homeschool, organization

Amy Bayliss on Pursuit of Proverbs 31

We women thrive on and love to multitask. There is definitely a time and place for multitasking, but somethings are better left to focus on by itself. Creating a home or revamping a system is one of them. Read all of Ecclesiastes 3. God created seasons so that the earth could function in such a way that it totally and completely sustained life. This same principle can be applied to managing your home. You don’t need to mow the grass in winter and you don’t need to shovel snow in the spring so your ways of managing the home should change accordingly. Your plans should also change according to your seasons of life. A couple with no children would have different tasks from a family of six. This is why it is so important that you do not compare yourself to others. I love how in Ecclesiastes 3 it is said that there is a time to dance, there is a time to cry, there is a time to plant, and a time to harvest. There is a time for everything. Vital to our life and home is our dependence on God to help us determine what time it is. Focus on the things you need to do now and let other, unnecessary things go. If you’ve ever wanted to tear the 31st chapter of Proverbs out of your bible this book is for you. She is a wife, mom, business owner, seamstress, she serves the needy, speaks life and wisdom, and seems to be quite the major overachiever, perfectionist type. Except that…she’s not. Come along and journey with Amy and take a look at the real woman of Proverbs 31. She isn’t as perfect as she seems. In fact, I think she is a lot like you and me. If you want the Kindle version, get it here: Pursuit of Proverbs 31 for Kindle. You can also download the free Kindle app on your PC, iPad, iPhone, or many other devices. For the downloadable, printable PDF version, get it here: Pursuit of Proverbs 31

Amy Bayliss Amy is a small town Cajun girl living life in the big city. She and her husband Ryan have four children, all boys, ranging in age from toddler to teen! Amy is a full-time blogger and WP designer at My Southern Media. You can visit her at her personal blog, Cajun Joie de Vivre or you can follow her ramblings on Twitter and keep up with her mischief on Facebook.

Thanks, Amy!