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.