Evernote Tips for Homeschool Moms

posted in: homeschooling 7
evernote for homeschooling

Next week we’ll start delving into actually nitty-gritty homeschooling planning and record keeping with Evernote, but first I want to cover a few more random “power user” sort of tips to make sure your Evernote usage is faster and less frustrating.

Evernote has so many features, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out how to use it “right.” Don’t worry so much about that, though. Use it in a way that works for you, without worrying about taking advantage of every feature. The more you use it, the more comfortable you’ll be with it, and the more you’ll gradually pick up as you go.

evernote for homeschooling guide

Make sure to start at the beginning of this series with How to Use Evernote for Homeschooling and download the cheat sheet for setting up Evernote in a useful way. You can also find the index of all my Evernote posts on this page.

Next week we’ll start delving into actually nitty-gritty homeschooling planning and record keeping with Evernote, but first I want to cover a few more random “power user” sort of tips to make sure your Evernote usage is faster and less frustrating

Do smart searches in Evernote

If you only want to pull up notes that have a word in the title, and not every single note that has the word in the note itself (useful for searches like “book,” especially in my Evernote, where all my blog posts are in there!), you can search


Like this:


And, if you want to pull up only notes within a single notebook, you can use the drop down menu in the search bar, like this:


Select “search options” then “notebook.”


Then the drop-down menu that appears will list all your notebooks in alphabetical order. Select the one you want. Then you have to click “Add” before that restriction will apply to your search.


There are many more search tips; they become particularly handy as your Evernote collection grows and searches end up pulling up 50 or more notes each. If you want to learn more power search options, here’s the Evernote help guide for search.

Use tags carefully or not at all

Tags are a tempting feature, but one that I’ve found less useful overall. Unless you have a real plan for how they are useful – how they’d help you pull up related notes that you want to keep in different notebooks – then just don’t use them. Using the search feature is a much better, more reliable way, because it doesn’t require you to maintain consistency over time with tagging.

There are two possible use cases I see for tags:

1. Use them to mark which project notes are currently in progress.

When I’m really on the ball – that’s actually not all that often, believe me – I have all the projects I’ll be working on this interval marked with a “current” tag, so during a weekly review I can pull that tag up and see what’s there. However, that system takes a surprising amount of upkeep ensuring the right notes always do have that tag. Mostly, I now just keep a running note in a “Current” notebook of what plates I currently have spinning, and go refer to the specific note if I need to. It’s a lot faster to simply adjust a single list (that’s in the shortcut bar!) than go through and make sure tags are correct across the entire collection.

2. Use them to mark which records or lists apply to which students.

If you’re using Evernote to keep school records (something we’ll talk about more in coming weeks), then you can use tags for each student to mark what they’ve done and have a running transcript of sorts. If the year’s lessons and records are each in their own notebook, then you can tag each note with the student to whom it applies and be able to pull up that student’s tag to see what they’ve done all through the years.

I haven’t done this myself yet, but it’s on my summer to-do list.

Move emails to Evernote

I sometimes receive email newsletters or free pdf books that I want to read, but not right now. Often, they just sit in my inbox for way too long, until I get into “declutter the inbox” mode and just archive them all. Sure, they’ll be there if I search my gmail for them, but how likely is that? Or maybe I save them on my computer – but how many pdfs are sitting on my hard drive that I’ve forgotten about? Lots. How likely am I to search for something like that with the system search? Not much.

Those newsletters or pdfs are really reference material more than “books.” They are probably much more like extended blog posts than anything else, so they best fit in Evernote! I had Brandy’s newsletter all about narration in my inbox (I had read it quickly, but didn’t want to just archive and forget it) and Jennifer Dow’s new Guide to Teaching Classically (I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read it yet, but Sarah Mackenzie told me it was really helpful).

After they had languished in my inbox for weeks and weeks, to the point where I didn’t even see them anymore, I emailed them into Evernote. I opened them, hit forward, and started typing “eve…” and Gmail automatically pulled up my evernote email address for me, and off they went. They showed up in my Evernote inbox (that is what I named my default notebook), and I moved them to “Homeschool articles.”

Now if I search for narration in Evernote, I’ll get Brandy’s newsletter as well as the other articles I’ve saved or notes I’ve taken. Now if I search for “teaching,” I’ll see Jennifer’s guide as well as other articles I’ve saved or notes I’ve taken. They aren’t going to be lost in my email archives or on my hard drive, but will be pulled up whenever I’m looking for something like that – in Evernote, where all my reference material and saved notes are.

Set up a gmail filter to automatically forward some emails

If there are certain emails you know you’ll always want saved and searchable, you can create a filter in gmail to forward them to your evernote email address automatically.

So, I could tell Gmail that any email that comes from Brandy and says “Newbie Tuesday” should be automatically forwarded to Evernote.

I can also tell Gmail to forward any email that has the word receipt in it to Evernote.

Setting up filters like this not only saves time, but also the mental energy of deciding what to do each and every time.

If you want to use Evernote for everything.

I love Evernote, but I also like to use the app that’s designed to the purpose. So I use Evernote in line with it’s main purpose: as a filing cabinet. I also use a dedicated task management app and a separate habit-tracking app.

But other people have figured out ways to use Evernote for everything and if you’d prefer to use one app only and have it hold everything you need, then Evernote is the program that offers enough flexibility for that to be possible.

TheSecretWeapon.org is a free guide to using Evernote for anything and everything, using Evernote somewhat like a bullet journal.

Offline hacks if you don’t upgrade to premium

You do need a premium account if you want to be able to load all your notebooks offline or save new notes offline (to be synced when you connect to wifi again).

So far, I haven’t upgraded. I used to use the SimpleNote app for shopping lists instead of Evernote, making sure to sync it before leaving the house. However, that app started acting up on me and deleting my lists! Now I keep shopping lists in Omnifocus. “Go to WinCo” or “Go to Costco” will be a task, and the shopping list will be in the notes section. I can pull that up anywhere and add to it or shop from it. Evernote on my iPod Touch isn’t very snappy anyway, so this works well for me.

If there’s a reference note (like a book list) or directions or something else I know I’ll want while I’m out, then I just email that note from Evernote to my standard gmail address, and it pops up in my inbox. My inbox is on my iPod Touch, available offline, and there it is. When I don’t need it anymore, I just archive it.

That’s my little hack.

Premium is probably coming soon in my future, however, because the ability to annotate pdfs within Evernote is very tempting, especially as I’ve been brainstorming more school use ideas for this series. :)

Evernote for Homeschooling series

7 Responses

  1. Anna Mary
    | Reply

    Hi Mystie,
    I have your book Paperless Home Organization and I have tried to implement some of your suggestions, but to be honest while I love the idea of digital organization I am overwhelmed by it. Here is my issue. I have stuff EVERYWHERE! I have files in dropbox, google drive, microsoft one drive, my own hard drive and evernote. I am so overwhelmed on how to pick a program and put everything in there that I do nothing about it. I get overwhelmed by how to categorize or tag everything. So if you were a digital hot mess like myself where would you start with getting everything in one place? I know I’ve probably asked an impossible question but desperation makes me ask anyway.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      That’s a common problem, and it happens to me, too! I’ll devote a whole post to that question, because I know a lot of people do struggle with that. Thanks for bringing it up!

  2. Jennifer Sheppard
    | Reply

    I LOVE THIS SERIES! I have your book and have implemented most of your suggestions. I do love paper, but we have 5 children, and that is a LOT of paper. Evernote makes things so much easier!

    I am so pleased you are sharing these tips with us! Please, keep them coming. I am pouring over each one, and looking forward to the rest!

  3. stephanie
    | Reply

    I am enjoying this series as well! I’ve been using evernote for years and upgraded to premium about 2 years ago and won’t look back. It’s so nice to be able to access all my notes on my phone when I’m out. It never would fail that the one note that I needed would be one that wasn’t crossing over. Well worth the $5 a month!

  4. MacKenzie
    | Reply

    I love this series! It has definitely inspired me to get more things organized using Evernote. However, I have only had it for about 3 days and have already maxed out my monthly storage capacity! How in the world are you able to do all that you do with it and not be on a premium account?! I would love to know!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Evernote just recently changed the tiers of free and premium and what’s allowed on what. My use of Evernote and moving things over has been gradual, so even though I have a lot there now, I’ve never maxed out the monthly upload max because 1) it’s been babysteps over time instead of a big weekend project 2) most of my stuff is text and not pictures or files

      One option would be to join premium for one month just to get unlimited for a month, then return to free after you’ve got everything in there and are doing normal usage.

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