Evernote logoI had briefly used Microsoft’s One Note for collecting ideas (mainly places to go and things to see on our travels), but it was too cumbersome and wasn’t really portable.  I didn’t want to have to bring my laptop on vacation with me and printing out all of my notes was a disaster…so One Note was abandoned.

Then, I learned about Evernote (about a year ago) and quickly eventually adopted it and adapted it for our homeschool lifestyle.  When I first began using it I wasn’t too sure what to make of it.  It was billed as another note-taking system and I was worried that it would end up discarded like One Note.  But, as I put more time into it and committed to getting rid of all the bits of paper that I had in my house I realized how much more versatile this program is.

What is Evernote?

Evernote is a digital collection of notes and notebooks that can be used however you want.  Think of it as a huge bookcase or filing system that can be accessed from your desktop/laptop computer and your mobile devices.

Or better yet, visualize all of those home management binders and homeschooling planners that look so gorgeous on Pinterest.:

Evernote is not quite so pretty as that, but it does the same thing…it organizes your thoughts into notes that can be tagged with keywords like crazy and then be filed into notebooks.  And it all lives in the cloud so that everything can be effortlessly synced to all of your devices.  You can have up to 100,000 notes and up to 250 notebooks.  I don’t even come close to those numbers, but it’s nice to know what the limits are.

Do I need to pay for it?

No!  There is a basic version that served my purposes for quite some time.  The basic version allows you to upload 60 MB monthly and have notes up to 25 MB in size.

I decided to upgrade to the Plus version when I started to upload all of the sewing projects and recipes that I had torn out of magazines to save for a later date.  I quickly burned through my monthly upload allowance, and I also liked the idea of supporting a product that was helping me immensely when it came to taming the paper monster.

a screenshot of my Evernote notebooksHow I use Evernote:

I have notebooks for all major areas of my life.  My Inbox is where I forward all of my e-mail messages that I want to save.  I have a To Do notebook that holds all of my to-do lists for each day (I make a new note every night for the following day).  I have a notebook for my daughter’s to-do lists so that she can access those lists from her iPad.  And then I have an education notebook stack (stack=collection of notebooks), a projects stack, and a reference stack.

I have all of my housecleaning routines saved, recipes that I have come across that I want to try, sewing projects, an inventory of clothing that I have bought for my children to be used the next year.  Lots of things can be saved, and then they are available whenever you need it.  For example, the clothing inventory that I just mentioned….I can pull up that chart when I’m out shopping to see if I already have socks for my children in the next size if I find a good sale.

One caveat: I still like to plan out my months and weeks in a paper planner.  I need to see the big picture and this seems to be best for me.  But, I put all of my day-to-day plans and all of my reference material in Evernote.

How I use this in our homeschool:

I’ve saved book lists and lists of other resources to evaluate in notebooks.  If I see someone say that they love a certain physics program I can save that to my physics notebook.  Then, when it’s time to pull together physics resources I will open up the notebook to see what I have saved.

I’ve also discovered how easy it is to make voice recordings in Evernote.  I save all of the dictation sentences that my daughter needs for her All About Spelling work and then I’m free to work with my son while she can work on her dictation by replaying those sentences from her iPad.

If you like the idea of reducing the amount of paper that you handle and haven’t looked into Evernote then I suggest you give it a try.   Just start by creating a bunch of notes (as suggested in the getting started section of their site): maybe curricula to try, chores that need to be completed, photos of recipes to try, or whatever you have laying around that you would usually try to file.  Then you can start thinking about how you would group them and what you might want to name your notebook.


I have been thinking a lot about our goals for the rest of this year and next.  We school year round and take breaks whenever we feel like it and I have been struggling to make goals that are not too far-reaching.  Last night, though, I realized that it may help me if I see the big picture.  instead of getting bogged down with what are appropriate goals for the first grade level.  So, here it is, my goals for my children and for me.

In no particular order, by the time they are 18 I would like my children to be able to:

1.  Run a household: cleaning, cooking (planning, shopping, and preparing meals), finances (opening an account and budgeting to investing and retirement planning), fix basic plumbing and electrical problems, change tires and oil (maybe even brake pads), sewing, first aid

2.  Communicate clearly, both orally and written in 3 languages (we are a bilingual household)

3.  Enjoy travelling and exploring new cultures

4.  Play a musical instrument

5.  Recognize great paintings/sculptures and musical works

6.  Understand how to solve problems (finding pertinent information, evaluating possible solutions, and knowing when to choose a solution versus gathering more facts)

7.  Be comfortable with themselves and their family

So, where does that leave me for first grade goals?

By the end of this year, I would like us to have completed:

1.  Math: single digit addition, easily counting to 100, tell time to the hour and half-hour

2.  Language Arts: be able to read a book such as Green Eggs and Ham and write her name (first and last) on lined paper with proper spacing

3.  Spanish: be able to read simple sentences

4.  Arts: identify Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the music from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, play Hot Cross Buns on the piano

5.  Home: finish two more felt animal sewing projects, peel and slice hard-boiled eggs, make her own sandwhiches, understand sales tax

6.  Science: recite 2 facts about each invertebrate group that we have studied, tend her own garden plot


Homeschool TrackerThis is the second post in a series about setting up Homeschool Tracker Plus for the first time.  In the last post we set up our school information along with school year and decided if we wanted to keep track of grades or the amount of time spent in school.  In step 2, we are going to add information about our student(s) and which subjects will be taught during the year.

1.  Under the Maintenance tab click on the Students tab.  Click on Add and fill out any information that you would like regarding your student.  I don’t feel a need to fill out the SSN, email, graduation, etc. fields and I leave those blank for my student.  You can also select the color that your student shows up as in the program which is great if you are already color-coding (or would like to) your students.  Make sure you hit the save button.  Tip:  You can right click each students name and edit their information to include standardized test scores and activities/achievements that you would like to keep track of.

2.  Under the Maintenance tab click on the Subjects/Courses tab.  You will see that 6 subjects are currently set up and you can right click on any of the subject headings to edit the name or delete it altogether.  Then, add any subjects or courses that you would like and remember to give each a code name (I just abbreviate the name).  Look at the grading options if that applies to your school and I would suggest deciding which activities will apply to that course (eg. for science I like to use lessons, read-alouds, projects, and worksheets).  Tip: In HST+ courses can be listed under a subject.  For example, I added the following courses under the Language Arts subject: phonics, handwriting, vocabulary, reading, and spelling.  You can also choose which subjects and/or courses apply to which students that year.

And that is enough for one day.  Phew!  If you haven’t thought about your goals for the year, then I would highly suggest doing so before tackling the next step.


This is the beginning of a series of posts addressing how I am setting up Homeschool Tracker Plus for our scheduling needs.  For those that may not have heard about this program, it is a beast!  If you need (or think you need) a scheduling program or a lesson planning program, then this may be what you are looking for.  In my last post I talked briefly about paper planning, Skedtrak, HST basic, and HST+.

After downloading the plus version of HST, there are a few things that you want to do at the very beginning BEFORE entering your lesson plans or scheduling assignments for your children.

1.  Click on the Maintenance tab and then click on the School Info tab just below.  Fill in as much information as you want regarding your school name and contact info.  Decide which days of the week will be the days that you will be doing school.  Make sure that you click the save button.

2. Click on the Tools menu in the menu bar found at the very top and then click on School Year Calculator.  Enter in your information for when your new school year starts and if you have a minimum number of school days required by law.  If you are starting in the middle of a school year then modify as best as you can.   After clicking the next button you can enter in any dates that you know you will be taking off for holidays and vacations.  Tip: If you want to enter more than one day (eg. you are taking a 7 day vacation) then click on the first vacation day on the calendar and then drag your mouse to the last day so that the entire time frame is highlighted.  You can then decide if you would like to break your school year up into terms and then save all of the information that you have just entered.

3. Click on the Tools menu in the menu bar and then click on Options.  When the Options menu has opened click on the Assignments tab.  Although there are many things that you can customize I think that it is easier to decide what you want/don’t want after you has used the program a bit.  However, you should first decide if you want to record grades for your student (and how to calculate those grades) and if you need to keep track of how much time is spent on an assignment.  If you don’t need these options, like me, simply uncheck the boxes and press save.

Well, that is the first bit of data entry for this program.  I would encourage you to think about your goals for the year and what subject titles you would like to have in your planner (eg. history, language arts, math, art, etc).  After thinking of general subject titles you can then have multiple course titles below.  For example, under Language Arts I can make course titles for Reading, Vocabulary, Spelling, etc.

Personally, I made the mistake of not coming up with goals for the year before trying to plan out our lessons.  I became excited with this program and grabbed all of the resources that we are currently using and blindly came up with a plan.  Because of this oversight I think I was simply trying to schedule too much for my dd instead of spreading things out over a longer period of time. So, I am starting over, and this time I have truly thought about what I would like to accomplish with my dd for the remainder of the year.