homeschool

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. 

homeschool, organizing

Science Stuff Storage

Everyone, well almost everyone, loves fun science experiments. But in order to do those fun science experiments, we need supplies. Weird supplies like 3 balloons, 2 bendy straws, and 1 small rock. After a while of buying bags of 50 balloons and ordering that 1 chemical from Home Science Tools, we’ve got science experiment stuff in the kitchen junk drawer, on the bookshelves, and in the couch cushions.

So, what do we do with it all? We containerize it! I bought 4 or 6 or the small, plastic bins pictured above in the dollar store. You can’t beat the price or the convenience. Then, I sorted the science supplies into categories such as glass/plastic, microscope materials, and chemicals. I put one category of supplies into each bin, made an appropriate label, and tada!

Even though my girls are teenagers, we occasionally have younger visitors, so I make sure to store all of these tools on a high shelf on my bookcase.

Whaddya think?

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.

Book Reviews, homeschool

The Year of Learning Dangerously (book review)

While I wouldn’t classify homeschooling as dangerous, Quinn Cummings, former child actress, does in her new memoir, The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling. And the way Quinn humorously describes their forays into a variety of homeschooling methods could certainly fall under the adventurous category. Her dry wit and humor had me giggling on every page.

Homeschooling isn’t just for a select few; it’s gone mainstream in America, even for people who hate math. Yes, Quinn, Alice, my girls, and I seem to share the same feelings for that subject, and I know we’re not alone.

In one year, the Cummings family tried out three different methods of homeschooling and perused several others; that’s real commitment to figuring out the best way for them to homeschool. It’s also a good starting point if you’re curious for a (mostly, okay not at all) unbiased glimpse at some of the ways all those other homeschoolers manage their learning. Their family adventure just proves that there is no single, correct way to school at home.

While you’re taking a break from your own homeschooling adventure by reading about Quinn’s, I’m going to audition for a part in The Real Housewives of Classical Education.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher (actually, from the author’s editor at Penguin) in exchange for a review, but the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Reviews, homeschool

Tattoo a Banana (book review)

Tattoo a Banana? Say what? Don’t you recognized the famous David on the banana on the cover. Phil Hansen’s premise is that anyone can be an artist with anything. Even me, and I can’t draw a stick figure. Turns out I don’t have to with this fun how-to book that includes templates and directions for original, creative, outlandish works of art.

Fun, fun, fun! Our only problem was deciding which project to tackle first!

Disclaimer: The publisher sent me this book totally for free, but the opinions expressed are my own.

homeschool, organizing

Staying Organized on the Go: Car Schooling

Let’s be real. Not too many of us actually do 100 percent of our schooling at home. Even when our family had one car, which my husband drove to work every day, the girls and I rarely spent every day of every week inside of our house. It helped that we lived in walking distance of the park, our church, and a number of other places in town.
            Aside from co-ops, many of us find ourselves dragging younger kids to the older kids’ sports or drama practices. Or, we may find ourselves frequenting doctors’ offices. So, how can we maintain even a semblance of order to our schooling schedules in these circumstances?
            One answer may be to organize the materials we need for schooling on the go. Decide what is absolutely essential and only pack those items. The last thing we need is to be carting around stuff that we won’t actually use. We can utilize the same general principles as we would for co-ops by having a separate bag or container ready to whisk into the car at a moment’s notice. One important addition, though, is a pencil case. It should be stocked with pencils, pens, erasers, a pencil sharpener (or extra lead for mechanical pencils), and whatever else is regularly needed for each child to do his schoolwork. If possible, each child should have his own small pencil case for his things, even if all of the stuff is in one central bag. In addition, be sure to stock extra filler paper, crayons, a coloring book (for the younger set), a fun reading book, and a puzzle book in the bag.
The car-school bag should be used only for taking schoolwork on the go. Leave as many basic supplies in it as possible, so no one is running around looking for a pencil when you’re already ten minutes late for the doctor’s appointment. Before it’s time to walk out the door, have each child collect a reasonable amount of school work to put in the bag(s).
To ward off the claims of not knowing what they’re supposed to do, either make sure they pack their own planners, or make sure that you throw your family homeschool planner in the bag. While I love online planners, they’re not very practical for on-the-go use, unless you have an iPad with 3G access. I suggest printing out the schedule for a week at a time, that way it’s ready to grab on the go.
Q4U: For real, how much time do you spend in the car during school?

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!

homeschool, learning styles, study skills, writing

How to F.O.C.U.S.

Forget trying to get the kids to focus, I’m the one having problems concentrating! So, here are a few tips to help moms (or anyone else) focus on the task at hand, which will enable you to finish sooner.

F – FACEBOOK (Twitter, blogs, email, etc.) = NOT! Turn it off for a while!

O – ONE thing at a time. Even for multitasking mom mavens, it’s best to concentrate on doing one thing WELL at a time. You’ll find that you’re really more efficient in the long run.

C – CONCENTRATE on whatever is in front of you. Don’t be distracted by the T.V., kids jumping on the trampoline, or the cats chasing each other. Bonus: CAFFEINE helps–sometimes. You know yourself; if it helps, have some. If not, don’t.

U – UNDERSTAND that you will have interruptions no matter how good your intentions (and/or instructions) are. Sometimes your own thoughts will interrupt you with other things you have to do; write down whatever pops into your mind so you can get it out of your head and focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.

S – STAY on task for a specified length of time or until you meet a certain goal. Make short goals (to write 1,000 words, to clean 1 kitchen cabinet, to make 1 project, or whatever), meet each goal, then take a short break. Bonus: SLEEP. It’s a good thing. Get some.

Today’s confession: I scribbled the outline for this post while I was trying to focus on another writing project!

Q4U: What are your best tips for focusing on the task at hand?