Is your life so chaotic right now that you can’t even begin to get organized? If that’s your situation, you’ll appreciate these six steps you can take today to break through the chaos and get organized.
Too often when our lives are chaotic, we are in the midst of spiritual warfare and we don’t even know it. If it seems like everything is going wrong, we ought to consider the possibility that we are engaged in battle with the enemy. The day the post on marriage was published, my husband and I had a big disagreement (a.k.a. fight) that made no sense to me. A friend of mine pointed out that this was likely spiritual warfare. Of course it was! My husband and I were trying to strengthen marriages — something the enemy opposes.
When we are doing God’s work (and homeschooling is God’s work), we may find ourselves oppressed and challenged at every turn. The most powerful thing to do when we are in the midst of spiritual warfare is not to pick up another organizing book or to find another cleaning list on Pinterest. Instead, it is to stop what we are doing and pray for God’s strength, for His protection, and for His wisdom. This is step number one.
#2 Do what you absolutely, positively have to do today
When we are in chaos, we imagine that we have 100 things that have to be done today, and of course there isn’t enough time to do them. The truth is we have very few things that absolutely have to be done today. First let’s define what “absolutely has to be done today” means. It means that you would be willing to stay up very late to finish this task. You couldn’t stand to go to bed without it being finished.
I have created a list to help you find these tasks. Use this form for subscribers or a notebook to record your tasks. In order to find those things that are critical for today, we need to first check our calendar. What do you have coming up later today or tomorrow that requires any work on your part? Write it down. Next go through your inbox or wherever you keep physical mail. Make a list of any of the items you find that require action. Next look in your purse. Look for anything that requires your action and add it to your list. Next look at your phone text messages and listen to unanswered phone messages. Write down any tasks that have to be done. You are going to want to check your email inbox for things that absolutely positively have to be done today. Make a list of these. Finally, check social media. Did someone message you, tag you, or invite you to an event that requires your action today? Make a list of these things.
On the form I’ve created for you, you can add these tasks to a list based on where you found them. Then write only those tasks that have to be done today on the Tuesday list (or whatever today is). If you used note paper to make your list, star the items that must be done today and rewrite them on a separate list. This should be a short list. Remember that it should not include “like to get done” tasks, but “have to get done” tasks.
Now that you have your list, get to work on them. Do them in any order you please. Do the easiest first or the worst first. You can even roll a die to choose the task to do first. Whatever you do, get them completed as quickly as you can. You will feel so much better when they’re done.
#3 Plan dinner
After you have prayed and have tackled your critical task for today, you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, if you really want to break through the chaos to get organized, it’s important that you also have a plan for dinner. Even if your plan is to order pizza or to go out to eat, your plan will give you tremendous peace of mind. There will be no last minute scramble to determine what you’re going to eat with your family. If you will be eating at home, make sure any necessary preparations like thawing is done.
#4 Do the dishes and clear the table
I once visited elderly people’s homes as part of a research study I was doing. The tell-tale sign of an older person who was living in chaos was dirty dishes stacked in the sink and on the counters. Dirty dishes are a distraction and a discouragement to us. Getting them clean, whether that is loading them into the dishwasher or washing them by hand, will go a long way to helping you feel organized. Doing the dishes does not have to be something you do alone. Get your family involved to help you get them done.
In order to have that peace of mind that comes from being organized, you also need to clear your primary table. If there are dirty dishes on the table you will want to wash those. But if you have leftover school books or experiments or newspapers or just clutter on the table, you need to remove it. Don’t even worry about getting everything put away. Just get the stuff off your table. Your table is like your brain. The more clutter there is on the table, the more chaotic you are going to feel. This is also critical for your family’s peace of mind. Now you can enjoy dinner at the table if you’re cooking or having takeout.
#5 Declutter for 15 minutes
Set a timer for 15 minutes to clean or de-clutter an additional area of your home that is robbing you of peace. You definitely want to get your family involved in this. Don’t spend a lot of time deciding which area to focus on. If the kitchen counters need attention and that’s what you were looking out at the moment, choose to start there. If the family room or bedroom or school room are robbing you of peace, go to work there. If an area of your home is cluttered, declutter it before focusing on deep cleaning chores. Always work on visible clutter before tackling hidden clutter. Get clothing off the bed and floors before decluttering drawers or a closet, for example.
To begin getting organized when things are in chaos, you don’t want to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to give away. If something is obviously trash, throw it away. You may want to have a trash bag with you as you work. If something does not belong in that room of your home, put it in a box or laundry basket to be moved later. Do not waste time walking from room to room to put things away. Stay in the room you are working on the entire time — and that includes your children. If you find something to give away and you are emotionally prepared to give things away, you can also use a box or bag for giveaway items. But this is a very quick organizing sprint. Do not concern yourself with where you’re going to put things, where you will donate items, and certainly not with selling things. Stay focused. I recommend listening to upbeat music while you work.
#6 Take time for self-care
Set a timer for 15 minutes of self-care. One reason our lives get to feeling out of control is because we try to mix self-care time with work and family time. This doesn’t work. This is a common form of multitasking which leads to discouragement. If we are on Facebook while our kids are asking us to help them with their math, we won’t feel like we’ve had a break and our child will be frustrated by not having our full attention. We need set boundaries for our time. If you haven’t heard the podcast on self-care I did with Andy and Kendra Fletcher of Homeschooling in Real Life, you will want to listen to that episode. We need time for ourselves to be refreshed. It’s the most loving thing we can do for our families.
Some of the things that I do during my self-care times are reading the Bible, journaling, reading other books, exercising, spending time on hobbies like scrapbooking, or socializing through a variety of online sites and apps. Of course, it’s very important to set a timer for our personal time, just as it’s important to set it for work. Personal time without boundaries creates guilt which works against the refreshment we are trying to achieve. Teach your children to take personal time at the same time you do. You could encourage your child to nap, play with Legos, listen to an audiobook, play an educational game, or watch a favorite television show while you are having your time. If your child trusts you to abide by the time boundaries, you are more likely to get his cooperation.
When your self-care time is up, you can choose to do another 15-minute organizing sprint or work on tasks that don’t absolutely have to do be done today. Follow your 15-minute work period with another 15 minutes of self-care. That may sound crazy to you. The Pomodoro technique that many of us are familiar with recommends working for 25 minutes and then taking a five minute break. The reason I am being so liberal on the self-care time is because if your life is in chaos, you need extra rest. You’re likely overwhelmed and burned out. Short work periods followed by liberal periods of rest are healing. Once you’ve regained your equilibrium, the work-to-rest ratio can be increased.
When things calm down, I highly recommend my book, The Organized Homeschool Life. You’ll get 15-minute missions to complete four days a week that are designed just for homeschoolers.
These six tips are survival strategies for today. The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow but to focus on today. If you simply repeated these six steps tomorrow, you would be well on your way to getting organized, regardless of how chaotic things feel right now. You can do this! I’m cheering you on.
Effective time management is critical for entrepreneurs. You may not consider yourself to be an entrepreneur, but I think all homeschoolers are exactly that.
You’re running a private school and your time is precious. Successful homeschooling relies on excellent time management.
But therein lies the problem. How can we make the best use of our time in our busy homeschooling lives?
We need to adopt the strategies that other successful entrepreneurs and homeschoolers use.
Keep in mind:
We need a method for the madness that is homeschooling.
If you approach things strategically from the very beginning, you will find a rhythm that works for your family.
Be realistic and flexible about your homeschooling because it’s one of the greatest benefits of the lifestyle.
Tracking how much time you spend on various activities can be eye-opening as well as serve as a baseline for marking improvement.
Not all tasks require your time. As your children get older, they can share more and more of your responsibilities.
If you have a business in addition to homeschooling, you can save valuable time by delegating to skilled virtual assistants. You can focus on those responsiblities that only you can do while a virtual assistant manages routine tasks.
Want more ideas on time-saving tips and tricks?
Here’s the DEAL:
MyTasker, a professional VA company, has developed this 17 Time Management Tips for Busy Entrepreneurs infographic.
I completed a year-long series of time management experiments and proved to myself that these tips really work.
The MyTasker blog explains each of these tips in detail. Scheduling and focus are important to me as a homeschooler with a business, but being positive is crucial. If we feel like our family or others are wasting “our time,” we’ll be unhappy in our homeschooling and may even want to give up.
I consider a serious focus on time management has been a vital part of my homeschool success and happiness.
Which of these tips do you need to focus on first?
Last week my husband and I shared about how to keep a homeschooling marriage strong. I think that’s such an important topic. But a few months ago, a listener pointed out that it’s hard for her to hear homeschooling advice designed for moms whose husbands are supportive of homeschooling when hers isn’t. That got me interested in talking to single homeschooling moms and married homeschooling moms whose husbands aren’t supportive. I want those of you who are homeschooling without help to have sanity, too!
For Jessica, putting her children in school after her divorce didn’t make sense. LaToya met a single, homeschooling mom before making her decision to teach her kids at home, so she knew it could be done. Both women opened my eyes to the need for married, homeschooling moms like me to be more supportive. Unfortunately, other married homeschoolers were some of the loudest voices telling Jessica she couldn’t keep homeschooling. Jessica and LaToya had these tips for single, homeschooling moms:
#1 Keep a flexible, relaxed schedule.
You may have to teach at unconventional times because of your work schedule or to accommodate your children’s father’s schedule. The blessing of homeschooling is being able to find a routine that fits your family. LaToya advises giving yourself time to find that.
#2 Make time for you.
Having time for self-care and refreshment can be very challenging. Jessica has made Sundays a completely free day on which she will not schedule anything. She still has her children with her, but it’s a time when she can relax. Consider trading childcare with another homeschooling mom so you can have a few hours alone.
#3 Let go.
Jessica emphasized the importance of crying when you feel like it. She said things got better for her when she stopped expecting friends to help her. She determined to stop being hard on herself.
LaToya noted that homeschooling improved for her when she stopped trying to make her school look like a traditional school or even a strict homeschool philosophy. She feels comfortable blending approaches that work for her family now.
#4 Get support.
LaToya pointed out that when she attends homeschool activities, the other mothers don’t know she’s a single mom. That allows her to feel comfortable in groups. Jessica has found support through Facebook groups for homeschoolers that aren’t necessarily for single moms. Single homeschooling is becoming more common and you will feel great in giving other women support as well as receiving it.
I also asked married homeschoolers whose husbands don’t help with homeschooling to answer some questions. I think their reponses will be enlightening if you’re in the same situation.
Describe your husband’s involvement in homeschooling and parenting.
My husband is often at work for most of the day. I am usually the disciplinary figure. I involved my husband in the Principal role so when I had times where my son did not want to fully attend or focus I would intervene with Dad.
I had the idea that my husband would teach the kids some of his interests on a regular basis. For example, he would have an archery class or wilderness survival class every Saturday for an hour or so. However, he was never really on board with the idea of teaching the kids on a regular basis. My husband is pretty busy with work and generally does home improvement projects on the weekends. He did spend a little time with the kids and their bows right after they first got them for Christmas in 2015, but the bows were really heavy duty, and the kids tired quickly, so that was the end of that. He now wants to hold off with the bow training until the kids are older. His involvement with parenting happens in the evenings when he gets home from work, usually only an hour or two before their bed time. He is the fun dad who loves to tickle and wrestle the kids but most of the time he’s exhausted and needs to relax after a long 10-12 hour day at work. The kids completely depend on me for almost everything, but I don’t think it’s unique to our homeschool household vs. our non-homeschool household. It’s always been that way for us.
There is no involvement in homeschooling other than to ask how his day went. As far as parenting, he does back me up on most decisions… but he is not really actively involved in much with my son. My husband retired from the military 10 years ago and it seems he retired form everything. He spends most of his time on his phone playing games. He occasionally plays video games with my son but he does not respect my wishes no not have them play violent games like tour of duty or the likes… instead he tells my son to keep it a secret and he plays it with him. My son spent a lot of time when he was younger looking for a father figure in other men like his boy scout leader or his head master when he was in school. My husband does play board games at dinner and sometimes he goes places with us… He does love our son… of that I am sure but he is kind of done parenting I think. We have grown daughters ages 30, 28 and 26 and our 11 year old son. Our son was very wanted, and he is my husbands and my only biological child his daughters are from a previous marriage although we raised them as their mom was not around. I do a lot… I work 1 full time and 1 per diem job, homeschool and run the house cooking (even when I am not home) and cleaning and running errands… its overwhelming.
My husband has been more involved with parenting in the last few years, but he is almost completely hands off with homeschooling. I work 3-12 hr shifts per week, and occasionally my husband is home before I am. When he does get home before me he will ask the kids, “did you guys do you school work today?” If they say “yes”, all is good, if they say “no” he will tell them “better get it done.” Occasionally, If I ask, he will listen to our 10 yr old son read. He will also listen if they recite a poem or bible verses. He does not help with any lessons, shopping, grading etc.
Have you discussed your desire for more involvement with your husband? If so, what was his response?
I have talked to him about being a little more involved but it does get tough due to responsibilities. I know he tries his best. Every time I have reached out to him and expressed my overwhelmed feelings he doesn’t hesitate to help out more than usual.
I have discussed my desire for him to be more involved in our homeschool but his response is usually as follows, “I don’t teach. I’ve never had the desire to teach and I don’t think I ever will. This is your thing.” I began this journey knowing that this was going to be all on my shoulders. Even though I secretly wish he’d be more involved and sometimes catch myself comparing our situation with others who have husbands who enjoy teaching their children, I do my best to appreciate this opportunity. I know our situation isn’t my ideal situation but still consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I do. I know single moms who work full time and homeschool on their days off and just know that I have got it pretty good.
I have not really spoken to him about becoming more involved because I don’t want to have arguments about the curriculum, if I am teaching it right, if our son is understanding it… My husband has very little patience and does not tolerate mistakes well and my son has a terrible tendency to talk back (I am trying to get my point across he says) so having my husband involved would most likely end in disaster. I do wish he were more involved, but a lot of him would need to change before that happened. That is not to say that I am without fault… I have many a day where I lose my cool as well.
We have been married for 17 years, I know what to ask for and what to let alone. I would actually prefer if I needed help, that he help in another area of our life (parenting, yard work, home maintenance, even cooking).
What have you done to compensate for a lack of partnership that has NOT worked?
I have complained directly to my husband that he doesn’t help me enough with the kids. This usually starts a fight. Complaining to your husband that he doesn’t help out enough when he works more than full time is usually a bad idea. Especially when you don’t work. Yes, sharing responsibilities is a great idea, but there’s definitely better ways to discuss concerns so you don’t end up sounding like you don’t appreciate what he does do for your family.
Listening to many podcasts and reading many blogs for advice is good but can get overwhelming… I tend to compare myself to them and their lives… failing to remember that my life is not like theirs… my circumstances are different. I tend to feel pressure to do it like them, to have the amazing schoolroom and the books and the reading and the laughter and the sunshine, unicorns and rainbows… and end up disappointed when I don’t… I change curriculum because someone recommends it, I am easily swayed to try something new because I cant see what is working… I spend a lot of time in tears. I think doing this past year without some form of community like CC has not worked as well for us…
Buying every curriculum that floats by my computer screen! Asking my husband to do more within our school than I know he wants. I knew from the beginning this was ALL on me. Asking him to check math answers or help with grammar is just met with his obvious frustration, resulting in me becoming frustrated too.
What have you done that HAS worked?
Communication is key in anything but knowing also the right words to say with love is important.
I make sure to thank him for what he does for our family. I will ask him to do the dishes or give the toddler a bath while I’m busy with something else and trust him to do a great job. I don’t complain about the way he does things or nit pick if he does things differently than I would do them. I always make sure to thank him with extra affection. A little affection goes a long way in a busy lifestyle. We make sure to take time to be together as a couple on date nights a few times a month. I know neither of us are perfect and in order to have a happy family, we have to have a happy marriage. If he doesn’t want to be involved in teaching, I will respect that and remember to be thankful that I can work from home and teach my kids this way. I know I’m so blessed to have a wonderful family and a husband who provides for us so I can stay home and homeschool the kids.
There are no co-ops in this area, so last year I joined CC just for the language part… it was out first year schooling and he needed some other people to be around as he transitioned… It worked well but we didn’t continue this year because of my job and traveling. (I work full time as well as a travel nurse and we tried homeschooling on the road… but that was not a good decision for us at this point) I have found other homeschoolers and try to get together with them… I am trying to form a book club for the kids as well… but that is going slowly… I have friends to run ideas by and I listen to a lot of pod casts! I talk to my minister, my sister and friends as well as other homeschoolers for ideas in inspiration.
Reflection on what seems to be working and not working. Talking with our kids about what they like and don’t like and what they want or need. They know that I make all the final decisions, but I will ask their input. Actually, I have asked my husband to listen as I read from three different history books in order to help me decide which one I would use for the upcoming year. He enjoys history and gave good input regarding what he thought about both kids and how they would or would not like each of the history books.
What do you recommend to other married women who are homeschooling without help?
Set a schedule, make sure to stick to it.
I recommend meeting with other moms who are in your situation. You can search for facebook groups of homeschoolers in your area and ask if there are others in your situation who might want to chat for encouragement. It always helps to know that you aren’t alone. I like to watch “homeschool in real life” or “a day in the life” videos on YouTube for ideas and encouragement and listen to podcasts about homeschooling. We all need constant reassurance and confidence boosts to continue on our journeys so we don’t burn out, doubt ourselves, and give up.
If you are married take the time to try to get your spouse involved… a little bit at a time… even if its reading aloud. Get them to take something off your plate. Maybe have them take them on weekend field trips or something… they don’t have to grade papers or teach the lessons, but have them part somehow… even if they don’t know they are! If your spouse is good at something, have them teach it to your child. Shift roles, maybe since you’re schooling they can do the cooking… or the cleaning or run the errands. Tell them you really want this to work and even if they cant participate in the schooling could they help you out by doing other things that will free you up to teach? Don’t take this on alone… if you cant get your spouse on board, find a co-op or a community where others are joined and use them as your sounding board. Ask others for help… use every resource your community has to offer in order to find what works for you. Pray daily… ask God for guidance… Don’t forget tot take care of you. Find time for you to have time with friends… or do an activity for yourself… something you enjoy. Don’t get consumed by all of this… learn to let some things go… you’re human and we are all bound to make mistakes. Forgive a lot… be humble and realize that time is precious… don’t work so hard on schooling that you forget about creating memories as well… I have spent the past year not doing the above and looking back, I wish I could go back and do it over… but I can’t. I ask for forgiveness, and I move on to the next lesson.
Homeschooling is not easy. I wish I did not have to work so that I could provide the environment that I envision. But that is not where we are right now, so facing reality is not easy, but it’s doable. We eat out way more than we should, the house is certainly not as clean as I’d like it, and I’m always in a panic that I’ve forgotten to pay a bill. But I have all the equipment that I need to get the job done and we just keep plugging away. The one thing that I think is quite helpful to me is listening to other homeschoolers. Note: Pinterest is great, but stay away! I also think that all media gets in the way. If someone is already struggling in their homeschool life, getting sidetracked with devices is not helpful. I have to constantly remind myself. I have a VERY limited amount of time to complete our schooling; I absolutely do not have time to waste on the computer. There are several podcasts that I listen to during my commute or while cooking dinner. I also have some conference talks that I just love and have listened to several times.
What other advice do you have for those homeschooling without help? Comment and let me know.
My husband and I will be married for 25 years this July. I consider a happy marriage to be a major factor in the success of our homeschool. I wanted to share six secrets for a successful homeschool marriage.
Marriage takes two. I would love for you to listen to the podcast or YouTube interview I did with my husband using the buttons above. I thought he had great tips to share.
We hear the importance of communication so much that it becomes meaningless. Communication in a homeschooling marriage requires time. Often we are so busy working, teaching, and parenting that we don’t have time to talk with our spouse. We have to have time set aside for this purpose instead of hoping it will happen by default. The time my husband and I have together has changed as the seasons of our family have, but currently we have the most consistent time to talk over breakfast in the morning. The kids aren’t up. Experiment until you can find a time that works much of the time.
The second key factor in good marital communication is honesty. I have been shocked by the number of couples who don’t discuss problems that are obvious — problems with money, kids, the relationship. The hope in staying silent is that the problem will disappear. It usually gets much worse. If you need to be honest about a problem and you’re afraid to talk about it, pray. Ask God to give you the courage. Ask Christian friends to pray. They don’t need details. Choose a good time. Don’t talk when the kids or something else is distracting you or when you’re tired, hungry, or particularly stressed. Then use the I feel…when…and I need. For example, if you are worried about your finances, begin by saying something like “I feel anxious when I hear you talk about changing jobs. I need more details about that possibility. Can we talk about it?” The key is not placing blame and focusing on how you feel. Read Communication: Key to Your Marriage by H. Norman Wright.
#2 Understand your spouse’s personality
I used to think my husband was just trying to drive me nuts with his occasional controlling ways. Now I understand that control is a primary need for him. When something happens in another area of his life that makes him feel out of control, he will try to exercise more control in our family. If I can get him to identify the problem and talk to me about it, the need for control usually dissipates.
Not understanding my husband’s love language caused me a lot of grief early on in our marriage. My love languages are meaningful words and gifts. My husband’s is acts of service. We both tried to give the other what we wanted with not good results. My husband doesn’t care about gifts at all and took almost everything I bought him back to the store. That wasn’t personal; he takes almost everything he buys back, too! I was hoping my husband would spend a lot of time choosing gifts for me; instead he once scribbled a gift I could purchase on a piece of notebook paper and handed it to me.
I now understand that my husband doesn’t feel loved if I have no idea what’s for dinner and if I haven’t made our physical relationship a priority. He understands that if he is being critical and not complimenting me that I won’t feel loved. We compromised on gifts. I only give him very personal gifts like scrapbooks and he allows me to purchase my own gifts. I’m a lot more generous with myself than he would be, so it’s a win! Read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman to learn more.
#4 Keep your spouse informed of what’s happening in your homeschool
Occasionally, my husband has been worried about how the kids are doing in school. Because he doesn’t teach or even help me choose curriculum, he doesn’t know if they’re doing as well as they should be. It’s important to talk with each other about challenges and successes and to get advice. My husband will be less worried when I tell him how the kids are improving in areas and he can offer me support for areas that are weaker.
My husband and I have different concerns with the kids’ education. He wants them to be very physically active and to spend little time on the computer. He also wants them to spend time with other homeschooled kids, but he doesn’t want to spend a lot of money to make that happen. It needs to be a priority for me to explain how I address his concerns while also addressing mine. He usually scores love language points after these talks by telling me what a great teacher I am.
#5 Give your spouse a break
My husband has always been willing to play with the kids when he is done working and give me a much-needed break. Even if the primary teacher can’t give respite during the week, it’s important to do that on the weekend whenever possible. My husband usually doesn’t work long hours and isn’t exhausted in the afternoon. If your husband is tired when he gets home, consider relying on him for a break after he has recuperated. Of course, if your roles are reversed or you’re both tired from working, find ways to give one another breaks to avoid resentment.
Breaks don’t just come from taking over childcare. I wouldn’t have been able to keep homeschooling six kids if my husband hadn’t been willing to stay with the kids so I could go out with friends on a fairly regular basis. We both spend time in separate hobbies and even occasionally take independent trips. These absences from one another have made our marriage stronger.
#6 Make your marriage the priority
I love homeschooling, but I love my husband more. If our marriage fails, homeschooling would be very, very difficult for me. In my podcast interview with him, my husband said something I had never considered. He said that if a huband feels like homeschooling takes all his wife’s time and there’s nothing left for him, he won’t be supportive of it. Fortunately, I don’t think my husband has felt this way or he would have said so. In fact, homeschooling has made it possible for our whole family to spend more time together.
But, there have been times when homeschooling, parenting six kids, and my writing and speaking responsibilities have left me depleted. It’s been tempting to skip time alone with my husband or the exercise that gives me the energy and confidence I need to be intimate. Fortunately, my husband has never let me get away with neglecting him for long. But not every spouse is vocal about their needs. Have a conversation with your spouse today about whether the marriage is a priority. If it isn’t, take steps to put it back in its rightful place. If you need help making intimacy a priority, read Sheet Music by Kevin Leman.
What other suggestions do you have for keeping a homeschooling marriage strong? Comment and let me know.
There are a number of problems homeschoolers have in using digital curriculum. I’ve had them myself! But now that I have the solutions, I’m excited about using digital curriculum again. I can’t wait to share the solutions I’ve discovered.
Before I share the solutions to the challenge of digital curriculum, I want to share the advantages of it.
#1 It’s less expensive.
Digital curriculum is generally less expensive than print and even if it isn’t, you don’t have to pay for shipping. Digital curriculum is really less expensive when you are able to make copies for more than one student. For example, two print mission manuals for Grammar Galaxy are $60 while one digital copy is just $25.
#2 It takes up less space.
Bookshelf space is at a premium in a homeschooling home. Digital curriculum is perfect for homeschooling in small spaces or just because you cannot buy one more bookshelf.
#3 It’s easier to use with multiple students at once.
Digital curriculum is perfect for morning/family/circle time because you can display the text on a large screen for all to see and read. It’s also ideal for homeschool co-ops, even if the co-op is just you and another family. You do want to make sure you are complying with the publishers’ rules for use before using curriculum with a co-op, however.
#4 It may include multimedia for many learning styles.
Some digital curriculum includes audio or video which is perfect for auditory or visual learners. Multimedia can help expand your students’ attention span and increase motivation.
#5 Digital curricula may permit your student to use digital tools and create digital projects.
I interviewed Beth Napoli about cool webtools for students. You’ll want to listen to that episode if you haven’t already. Beth’s online unit studies direct students to create digital projects — in the process, teaching them valuable skills. Other curricula allows students to type on pages rather than hand write on them — something my boys have always appreciated.
Problems with Digital Curriculum
These advantages of digital curricula sound great, don’t they? But there are problems in using digital curriculum, too.
#1 Digital curricula can be expensive to print.
This is especially true if you are printing color pages or have to use a printing service. You may need to purchase binders or a hole punch to prepare your curricula for use.
#2 Digital curricula can be time-consuming to print.
The more pages to print and hole punch or bind, the more time it will take you to prepare the lessons. If you do not have a two-sided printer, it can be challenging to get your printer to print all of the pages in order. Paper jams inevitably occur. Finding time to go to the print shop can be a problem. I’ve even been hassled by a print shop about the copyright of a curriculum that clearly gave me permission to make copies for my family.
#3 Digital curricula can be difficult to organize.
You think you bought a digital math curriculum, but now you can’t find it. Maybe it was on the computer that died. What website did you buy it from? Can you download it again? What was it even called so you can search for it on your computer or in your email? Maybe you give up on finding it and buy something else. Can you tell that I’ve had these issues?
Solutions for Using Digital Curriculum
Thankfully, there are solutions to these challenges.
Print curriculum using the right tools.
First, if your curriculum needs to be printed, purchase a laser printer that prints on both sides of the page. These printers like the black-and-white and the color laser printers I have from Brother are extremely economical to use even though they require an initial investment. The toner has to be replaced very infrequently. I buy off-brand toner that saves me even more money. Click the images below for pricing.
A laser printer will also save you time by printing faster and eliminating the need to go to the print shop. Purchase a 3-hole punch that goes through a stack of pages. If you’re printing digital curriculum, the time-savings are worth the negligible cost.
Don’t print curriculum.
You can also save time and money by not printing your curriculum. It doesn’t make sense to print curricula that includes lots of web links or that allows your student to type in fillable forms. Instead, consider opening your PDF curriculum on a laptop that is connected to your TV so everyone can see at once. You can also use a device like Apple TV to wirelessly display the curriculum on a large screen. If curriculum is to be read by an individual student, open it with or send it to your tablet. Here are instructions for opening a PDFs on a tablet.
What if your curriculum includes pages that require hand-written work? Open the curriculum on a tablet using the free Adobe Reader app. Your student can type or write with a finger or stylus anywhere on the page. No printing required.
You can use a combination of these approaches as well. If you want your student to read the text on a tablet but do the written work by hand, only print those pages that you think are critical. Remember that a lot of written work can be done orally as well. With Grammar Galaxy as an example, you could put the Mission Manual pages on the big screen and ask your kids the On Guard questions without having them use a highlighter. Or better yet, for squirmy learners, ask them to touch the correct answer on the screen.
How to Keep Your Digital Curriculum Organized
You may be thinking that this sounds great, but how do you find the curriculum you purchase and how can you keep track of it from now on?
Find the curriculum you already own.
My recommendation for storing these files permanently is to store them in the cloud using Dropbox or Google Drive. Then if your computer crashes, you’ll still have access to your digital curriculum. Create a folder for Dropbox or Google Drive labeled curriculum and add it to your favorite folders. (Click here for how to use Dropbox and here for how to use Google Drive). Next, open all the files on your computer and sort them by kind of file. You want to look at Adobe Acrobat files. Fortunately, those will already be near the top because they start with A. Look at each PDF file’s title. If you know it’s curriculum, drag it to your newly created Curriculum folder. If you don’t know what something is, hover over the title to reveal it in its entirety. If you still don’t know what something is, double click it to check. If you find a file you’re sure you no longer need, put it in your computer’s trash. My youngest will be a 6th grader, so when I did this and found first grade curriculum, into the trash it went.
If you have many files that go with the same curriculum, create a new folder for that curriculum within the Curriculum folder. Use the command key to click and highlight all these files. Drag them all to the specific folder.
Finding access to courses you’ve purchased is more challenging. Do a search of your email for the course name if you remember it. Search for the words course and receipt. Check your payment records. If you used PayPal, you can search for the company name or look through your activity.
Create a database of your curriculum.
The next step is to create a database listing all your curriculum. I would not put regular ebooks in this table, but would reserve it for other homeschooling materials. The easiest database for me to use is Airtable. I think you will love it. Set up an account. Once you have an account, you can make a copy of the database I’ve already created for you. Once you have copied the database, you can add your curriculum to it with its name, subject, grade level, format, password, and notes. I’ve already set up these options for you, so you can select them quickly. You have the option of attaching PDF curriculum directly to the database or of pasting the dropbox or Google drive URL where you have it saved. I recommend using the URL because the free version of Airtable only includes 2 GB of attachment space per database.
If that sounds like gobbledy gook, don’t worry. I’ll show you step by step what to do in this video.
If you’re still with me, here is what your Airtable database will allow you to do. You will now be able to see exactly what you already have for each subject and each grade level. And ta da, you’ll actually know where to find it! You’ll also be able to keep track of the new digital curriculum you purchase.
I have been going through this process myself and I can’t believe the valuable curriculum I haven’t used because I couldn’t find it. It was out of sight, out of mind. Now that I’ve found it, I’m so excited about using digital curriculum next year.
Digital curriculum can save you time, money, and your sanity when you use these approaches.
It’s almost summer and that means it’s time to plan for summer learning. Whether you homeschool year-round or need ways to keep your home education going during the lazy days of summer, I’ve got you covered.
You’re likely familiar with this option. Even if your child is already an avid reader, the variety of summer reading programs available can make reading even more fun. The first place to check for reading programs is your local library. My church has run a summer reading program for many years as well. Barnes and Noble, Half Price Books, Chuck E. Cheese’s, and Sylvan also have summer reading programs. But you’re not limited to formal programs. Create your own! You can make a list of reading requirements such as what’s in my Reading for Treasure Map and offer a reward for completing it. Click the button below to claim yours.
Zoos, science centers, museums, and even Home Depot offer free programs for kids in the summer. Check their websites or newsletters for details. You’ll want to Google summer kid or family activities 2017 for your area, too. There are many festivals, reenactments, and other opportunities that you wouldn’t think of otherwise.
#3 Park Events
Parks frequently offer nature programs for kids during the day and music events in the evening. Use these opportunities to expose your children to new musical genres. Our outdoor theater in the park allows standing attendees to watch musicals for free. Your local park service’s website and newsletter are important places to look for educational events. But park learning doesn’t have to be formal. One homeschool support group here has park play dates in the summer. Activities can include sports and crafts or just the chance to build friendships. If your support group doesn’t offer this, start your own play dates!
#4 Outdoor learning
Summer (especially in the cooler morning hours) is an ideal time to do nature study. Go for hikes, observe ants at work, study life in pond water, and more. If you’re going on vacation this summer, the opportunities for nature study expand. We’ve learned a lot about shells, sharks, crabs, alligators, sting rays, and jellyfish while at the beach.
It’s a wonderful time of year for enjoying a variety of sports like baseball, swimming, and tennis. We love playing four square and will be playing with our new pickleball set as well.
I’m also a big fan of doing messy art and science experiments outside in the summer. Whether the kids use traditional paints or paint with water or use sidewalk chalk outside, summer is a great time to learn art. I don’t think my kids will ever tire of the Mentos in cola experiment. It’s definitely one we want to do outside. Check out the Outdoor Science Lab for Kids.
If you have a comfortable area outside or can go to one, why not spend some time reading and doing tradiitional lessons there? There’s just something about a change of venue that makes learning more fun.
#5 Classes & Camps
Summer is also the time when traditionally educated students sign up for classes and summer camps. I used to be very wary of these classes because I didn’t know the students or teachers. Having my child attend with a friend made me more comfortable and we’ve had good experiences. You can find classes and camps on just about everything. Again, Google summer camps in your area for 2017 and you’ll probably be overwhelmed. You can limit your options by asking about your child’s interests first. You could ask for recommendations on Facebook as well.
Summer is a good time for your student to attend or help with VBS or church camps. If your church’s schedule doesn’t fit with yours, consider having your child attend or help at another church’s event.
#6 Coursework you didn’t have time for
Summer is the perfect time for getting caught up on subjects. Without all the regular school-year activities, your student can make quick work of the last lessons — that is, if you schedule time for it. Even though for many homeschoolers summer is a relaxed time, we still need dedicated time for reading, activities, and studying if that’s your plan. A mastery curriculum like Learn Math Fast (use code SANITY5 or SANITY10 for a discount) or Grammar Galaxy are a wonderful means of helping your student catch up this summer. The lessons are short and even fun!
Use codes SANITY5 / SANITY10
I love summer as an opportunity to complete the subjects or courses we didn’t even have time to start during the school year. We have cooking, music, videography, and coding classes to do. The best times for us to do these will be in the morning or on rainy days.