Plan a Homeschool Year in Evernote

posted in: homeschooling 5
evernote for homeschooling

Planning a homeschool year, especially if you have multiple students, means managing and coordinating a lot of moving pieces. When I plan, I do use paper for brain dumps and brainstorming and for initial lists just to get the ideas out of my head and think about them. But when I’m ready to plan in earnest, I transfer those written notes into a digitally-kept plan, which is eventually all saved into Evernote.

Planning a homeschool year means managing and coordinating a lot of moving pieces. Follow along as I show you how I plan a homeschool year in Evernote.

I’m a planner by nature, but I’ve been referencing the Plan Your Year Kit for planning because it’s so handy to have a no-nonsense reference for what to do as I go along. So now this year as I’m in the very beginning stages of putting together a homeschool plan, I am roughly following her planning checklist, referencing sections of her book when I need ideas for a certain step.


1. Goals

I like to keep all my goals for all my kids (I make them for myself and the toddlers as well as the students) on one list. It goes into the School Year 20XX-20XX notebook with the title 20XX Goals. In 2012, I started off writing them in tables in the word processor, then later in the year moved them to Evernote by copying and pasting, and it turned out ok:


Last year I used the Plan Your Year sheets and saved those edited pdfs into Evernote:


Now this year I’m using Pam’s free guide to writing goals (she has a great formula and a helpful list of verbs), but just writing them directly into Evernote in list format. When I post about our upcoming homeschool year, I’m sure you’ll get a peak.

One of the reasons Evernote works well for me is that I think and write in lists by default.

Tables are useful and I do use them in word processors, but for the most part, keeping lists rather than tables feels like a good fit to me. If you are more of a spreadsheet sort of person, you can either save them into Evernote as pdfs when you’re done (you won’t be able to edit them), or use Google Drive or a folder on your computer with files. One problem with the folder and files method that I have run into, however, is old files from previous versions losing their formatting and also when I got a new computer, I didn’t move over all those old files, so then I don’t have them handy anymore.

Evernote can be installed on any computer or logged into in an internet browser, and I have access to everything I have saved. To find anything I wrote in a word processor from pre-2012, I have to go hunting on the old computer or on a backup drive.

2. Course of Study

To determine our course of study, I first refer to the research and notes I had saved previously, usually using web clipper, into my “Future Years” notebook. I have also had a “7th+” note where I’ve kept ideas for two years now. When it came time to start planning 7th grade, I pulled up the research and that specific note, deleted the ideas I knew I wouldn’t use, consolidated things, brought likely candidates up to the top of the note, and generally ruminated on it all.

Then I did some paper-based brainstorming, just because writing things out helps your mind think through things in a different way. My brainstorming always comes out as lists.

Now I’m in the process of merging my notes and ideas and creating a plan, which I’m doing both in Evernote and in Pam’s planning pages. I transferred my written lists into an Evernote note, cleaned up and improved. I’m almost ready to dig into the course of study planning sheet, but haven’t made it that far yet. Here’s one from last year:


3. Year’s Schedule

Making the yearly schedule is pretty streamlined for me now. We school year-round, dividing the year up into 6 terms of 6 weeks each, with a 1 week break week between. This leaves us with enough time to take a 3 week Christmas break, end school in May, and have all of June off.

It always flexes a little every year based on what’s going on. Last year we didn’t start until late July because Hans had a week-long camp in July and I needed some extra planning time after helping with my brother’s wedding at the end of June. We’re also ending early this year because of the dates we ended up being able to rent a beach house with friends.

So knowing our general rhythm to the year, I print off a “Clean Calendar” from that begins in July and goes through June. I mark birthdays and holidays and other important dates to take into consideration, then I start marking terms.

I start by working backwards from Thanksgiving. We always take Thanksgiving week off, so I mark 6 weeks before that to begin. I mark 3 terms before Christmas and 3 terms after Christmas, and I always do my best to finish up in May. My birthday is June 1, and from the time I was 9 or 10, I always tried to finish all my school before my birthday. Now I’m in charge of the academic calendar still, and I still set a goal of finishing before my birthday.

Now that we do some of our school with friends, there’s another step to our planning process. Whenever we do school planning together, we’ll go over the terms dates together and adjust as necessary to make it work for both of us. Then after Christmas we go over the remaining half of the schedule again and have the opportunity to adjust again. We are not opposed to “adjusting” those 6-week terms into 5-week terms if that’s what it takes to make school and life fit together graciously.

After I make that on paper with highlighting, I stick the paper version on my clipboard and also scan it into Evernote.


4. Terms & Materials

So with 6 terms decided and a course of study outline, I can start planning in 6-week chunks. Usually by this point I have already been browsing used books online and made some purchases as well as pulled materials off my shelf I already have. I start making notes about how many chapters books have and about how long we’d spend in a book and so the year starts taking shape.

This is when I browse the books, see how they might be divided up, and take notes on how I might fit them into the 6-term model. Since I rely more on simply reading real books than following curriculum, my term and materials plans amount basically to book lists, split into 6 blocks.

This often begins as a subject list, with books or materials listed underneath it, like this:


Once all those steps are thought through and listed out, it’ll be time to start putting together the nitty-gritty term, week, and daily plans.

Next up: Getting more granular with this general homeschool year plan, and how to make homeschool lesson plans in Evernote.

Evernote for Homeschooling series

5 Responses

  1. Tami Nickel
    | Reply

    I began using evernote for planning in February and love it! I am curious as to what to do at the end of the year? Is it just left in evernote? Do you take the notebooks and stack them under a label 2014-15? Thank you for any suggestions :)

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I merge all the notes in each notebook, then put those notes into a notebook named for the year in my “School Records” stack.

  2. Tami Nickel
    | Reply

    Thank you!! I began using evernote in jan/feb this year and LOVE it! Just curious as to how you file the year. Does that year of planning/etc get titled in a stack? Wondering how much space on evernote that will end up taking up after so many years, especially with med-larger families. Hope this makes sense. :) Thank you for these wonderful ideas!!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      You can merge notes, so I will merge my notes from the year and then store them in a “School Records” stack. So far my notes are not image-heavy, and I’ve had no space problems. The space that text takes up is negligible.

      • Tami Nickel
        | Reply

        Thank you!! My apologies for the double comments, I didnt realize (at 4am :) that my first comment went through, lol!!
        Looking forward to using evernote again next year thanks to your resourceful blog . :)

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