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, 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?

change, college, homeschool

Collecting for College

This coming fall (gulp!!), my older daughter heads away to a 4-year college. You’d think I’d be used to the idea because this is what we homeschoolers work towards for 12 years, right? Well, my heart is not ready for her to go away, but I’ve already started getting her stuff ready to leave the nest.

This is a large, plastic, storage bin. I commandeered it to start collecting the myriad of odds and ends that she’ll be taking with her. Just in case she had ideas of throwing other junk in there, I labeled it. I don’t have the money to buy her all-new stuff in August, so it works better for me to buy things a little at a time. So far, the container has a lint roller and a spray bottle of the homemade cleaner we use.

Other items I plan to add to the container: dishes and utensils (for 1), bed and bath linens, extra personal care items, Command hooks, laundry detergent, a small sewing kit (I can hope, right?), a first-aid kit, and over-the-door hooks. I’m sure we’ll think of other things, too, along the way. I found a really helpful, FREE college shopping checklist at Bed, Bath & Beyond. It’s available on their website at bedbathandbeyond.com/shopforcollege.

When August comes, all of her extra stuff (besides clothes and electronics) will be ready to go.

Q4U: Have you sent a child off to college already? What am I missing?

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, 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, 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

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, organizing, reinventing

Staying Organized on the Go: Out Basket


Not long ago, I came across an ingenious solution to forgetting stuff that had to go out the door with us: the out basket. Our main entrance is in the kitchen, and I had already hung a row of hooks for our keys behind the door (I think I’m the only one who actually uses it, though). People were always forgetting the library books that needed to be returned or letters that needed to be mailed. Solution: a discreet basket that sits on the kitchen counter right beside the door. In it, I place items that need to go out the door.



For my next trick, I need to train everyone in the house (including myself) to check that basket every time we walk out the door.