Buy the Book!

It’s here!! It’s here!! Simple Organization for Homeschools is finally done and available to order! If you want a paperback in your hand, head on over to Create Space. If you’d rather have an ebook version, click your way to Amazon (actually, wait a few days for it to jump through the right hoops). Then pretty please leave good reviews, too, so others will buy it.

Here’s the extended back-cover information:

Simple Organization for Homeschools is completely geared towards homeschooling families since many books on home organization already exist. Examples, forms, resources, and practical suggestions make this a must-have reference book for all homeschoolers.

This book guides Christian homeschool parents in completely organizing their homeschools. Organization brings peace, balance, and the ability for true academic learning to a homeschool. Biblical encouragement for order in our homes is included along the way. In addition, each chapter or section is tied together with a unifying, biblical theme.

The first part of organizing a homeschool is choosing a style and curricula that not only fit your family’s lifestyle, but that also fit each child. Then you need to learn how to schedule and use your time effectively. After that, you’re ready to get to the good stuff: why, where, and how to set up a schoolroom, how to store supplies efficiently, and how to keep the paper piles under control.

This book encourages you to make organizational choices that work with your family’s style. I’ve tried many different methods and styles, but what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Simple Organization for Homeschools will help you to organize one piece of the homeschooling puzzle at a time in a way that makes sense for you with the different tried-and-true choices I present. 

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

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?


Organize Those e-Books

bookshelfsqA while ago, I wrote blog posts on organizing computer files, organizing digital photographs, and organizing website bookmarks. Those posts were so popular that I’ve been asked how to organize e-books and other downloads.

For starters, organizing your e-books and other downloads is somewhat like organizing your computer files: set up broad categories for the types of sites you usually want to return to. For instance, my categories run along the lines of homeschool subjects, encouragement, health, writing and publishing, and business. You need to choose the labels that will best suit your e-book and downloading habits; choose labels that make sense to you.

After the general labels are set up, you may need to add some subfolders/categories. For instance, my homeschool category is way too broad, so I have a subcategory for each subject plus ones for homeschool encouragement and general homeschool information/support/forms. I like to alphabetize my e-books within those categories to make it easier to find what I’m looking for.

As you’re filtering through your e-books and adding them to the folders/categories, make sure that you’re still interested in keeping each one. Sometimes, I will download an e-book just because it’s free and/or it looks interesting, but I later decide that it doesn’t need to be taking up real estate on my hard drive. This is also a good time to check for duplicates. Yes, that is all to easy to do!

I can already hear the questions about running out of space on the hard drive and computers crashing. So, I’ve got several suggestions for these dilemmas. The first solution is to purchase an external hard drive. It’s a good idea to back up all of your computer documents and programs anyway, not just your e-books. We’ve all heard the horror stories about lost essays and crashed dissertations, so why not act preemptively? I purchased my external hard drive for less than $100; I think it was about $75. It’s money well spent for peace of mind! Also, all of the computers in the house can be backed up to the same external hard drive, so you just have to purchase one no matter how many computers you have in your house (we have four laptops, plus my husband’s work computer!). You can set up your same e-book categories on the external drive as you would on a computer hard drive.

Another, less expensive option, is to purchase one or more thumb/portable drives. These are small devices, about the size of a pink school eraser (or smaller) that hold anywhere from 1 to 4 or more gigs of memory. No, I don’t know what that means other than they will hold a fair number of e-books. The more gigs a thumb drive has, the more stuff it will hold. If you have a ton of e-books, you may wish/need to purchase more than one portable drive. I would suggest putting different topics/categories on different drives and labeling them with a sharpie. You can also subdivide the thumb drives into categories. The more specific your categories, the more easily the e-books can be located. The other thing about these small, portable drives is that they can be plugged into any computer so it’s much easier to share the e-books if you’re viewing them on the computer screen.

My new, favorite way to store and view e-books is to put them on my Kindle. No, I’m not being paid to say that, I just really love my Kindle! It’s so much easier to read from than a computer screen; it’s easy to hold; easy to take places (like the doctor’s waiting room); and easy to use. Plus, there are a ton of free books available from many places online. I set up my collections (their word for categories/topics) the same way I did on my computer.

Looking for an e-book? First scan your categories, then your subcategories. If it’s not where you think it should be, check another category. If you remember the exact title, you can also do a search (computer, external drive, or thumb drive). If you get really ambitious, you can make a spreadsheet listing all of your titles and categories. You can then sort them by title, author, category, or whatever other information you put on the spreadsheet. I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I’m usually able to locate what I need since my e-books are sorted into categories.

Another categorization option is a free download called Calibre. It will import e-books from your hard drive so you can label them. It will also put them on your reading device (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc).

I’ve just addressed e-books in this post, but the principles are applicable for any other downloads you might have.

The most important things to remember are to be as specific as possible when you’re making your labels/categories and to be selective when downloading e-books.

Are you ready? On your mark, get set, go organize your e-books!



New Bookshelf

I finally did it. I went to Ikea (not a hardship!) and bought an Expedit bookcase for my office/school area. It’s 4 cubes by 4 cubes square and double sided, i.e., it’s wide enough to put a row of books in from each side (but mine is not that full yet). Of course, as you can see, I had to get the white finish so that it would match my desk. It came in 2 huge boxes and it’s a good thing I took my hubby with me to help bungee them into my trunk. It was easy to put together–easier than the desk, for sure. And, it only cost $129, which I thought was a good deal for this style, the quality, and the amount of space.

If you missed my initial post about my totally cool new desk from Ikea, here it is. And here is the post about the organizers I bought to put on it.

The red boxes are from their Lekman line and I’ve used 2 for filing cabinet drawers, and 1 for science lab experiment supplies. I definitely need to get 1 more so that I have 4, 1 for each row (yes, I am neurotic, just in case you haven’t figured that out by now). The boxes are only $9.99 each and are fairly easy to snap together after you get the hang of it. They come in a variety of colors, just in case your office/schoolroom isn’t painted burgundy.

Oh, and I just had to show you this totally cute little bucket that I bought from Hobby Lobby (I think) for my pens and pencils. Does it not match my accessories perfectly?

Disclosure: No Material Connection. I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


What Makes a Book a Classic?

What makes a book a classic? Why is it important to read classic books? While you may know that certain books are classics and that you should read them, you may not be able to articulate the answers to these two questions.

The Associated Press posted an online article that discussed this same question and came up with five basic elements that each piece of literature must contain in order to be considered a classic. These elements are morality, effective language, truthfulness, universality, and timelessness. In my quest to discover what makes a book classic, many of the other sources that I perused contained some or all of these elements. Basically, a book must say something worthwhile and believable, not beat around the bush saying it, and be interesting and influential over a long period of time.

Books such as Huckleberry Finn and Pride and Prejudice have certainly stood the test of time to stand out as classics. Some of Shakespeare’s plays such as Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream remain so popular that they have been made into modern movies.
Lest you think that only literature written before 1900 can be considered classic, consider such works as George Orwell’s 1984, C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series, or J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series. These are undeniably classics written in the 1900s. It remains to be seen which books written in the twenty-first century will earn the designation of true classic literature.
Reading lists of classic books abound, and you will find that they differ somewhat in the exact titles they choose; however, they will have many books that are the same. I’ve compiled a list of online sources with various genres of classic books: The Cincinnati Library, The Art of Manliness, Info Soup (classics for teens), Page by Page Books (classic books FREE online), The Well-Trained Mind, Marianchs, and Wikipedia. There are many other sites from which to choose lists of classic books; these are just a few to get you started. If you’re looking for a real book (as opposed to a Web site) that lists classic books, I would recommend starting with Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and Invitation to the Classics, ed. Louise Cowan and Os Guinness.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! How do you read classic books if you’re more used to reading comic books? One book at a time! I’m sure you would agree that the most important thing is to READ. I’d love to find out which books your family considers classics; leave me a message with your list!


The Missing Link: Found

The Missing Link: Found, by Christina and Felice Gerwitz, Media Angels

Have you taken a look, a good look, at popular pre-teen and teen literature recently? I have and I have not been impressed. Media Angels, a publishing company owned by homeschool veterans, is dedicated to bringing fun, clean, Christian literature back into the young adult genre.

The Truth Seekers Mystery Series is co-authored by a teenager and her mother. My aspiring fiction writer enjoyed and was encouraged by reading a book authored by a fellow teen. My preteen was practically biting her fingernails throughout the book wondering what would happen next. They actually fought over The Missing Link: Found when it arrived. I will be ordering the other two books in the series! The entire three-book set is only $22.00, and each book is $8.99.

The Missing Link: Found was written by a teenager, not a professional writer. If you’re looking for non-fluff, this is not it. If you’re looking for fluff with Christian values, then this series is for you.