How To Use Evernote In Your Homeschool

We started using Evernote as our homeschool planners this year for all the kids, from the six year old to the high school senior.  It’s been extremely effective already in helping and teaching the kids to be independent, in keeping me on track, and in utilizing all the resources on the web.  I will now teach you how to use Evernote in your homeschool.

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What is Evernote?

Evernote is a tool used to organize information.  It’s like a virtual shelf of binders, which are full of dividers, which are stuffed with papers containing notes.  It’s very simple and sort of “no bells or whistles”, but also very powerful, partly because of its simplicity.  You can keep track of recipes, plan a family vacation, make a to-do list, keep a list of favorite books, write a journal, or create homeschool planners for your kids.  Within your Evernote “notes” you can include images, documents, whole web pages (even if they disappear they’ll still be in your Evernote), text, or files of any kind.

Here is the anatomy of the format on Evernote:

Evernote page

On the left are your notebooks.  You can create as many of them as you want.  In the center is a list of the notes in whatever notebook you have selected.  Again, you can make as many notes in your notebook as you like.  This section acts like the tabs in a binder.  On the right is the note you have selected.

How To Build A Homeschool Planner in Evernote

I have a notebook for each of my children.  These notebooks are their homeschool planners.  The first step {after you create your free Evernote account} is to create your first notebook.  On the left of the screen there is a little dropdown menu with one item in it “New Notebook”.  I’ve circled the location in red on this image:

Evernote New Note

Once you select this a little window pops up and prompts you to name your notebook.  I named my kid’s planners “Nathan’s Homeschool” and so on.  You can see in this image that I’m making another notebook to fit inside “Nathan’s Homeschool” and calling it “January Nathan”.  I can’t call it just “January” because each notebook has to have a unique name and I have other notebooks for January for other kids.

New Notebook name

Now my new notebook is created and it automatically goes into my list of notebooks in alphabetical order.

New Notebook placement

But I want the “January Nathan” notebook inside of the notebook I previously made, “Nathan’s Homeschool”.   I can just drag it inside “Nathan’s Homeschool”.  Once again it will appear in alphabetical order.  You can make up to two layers of notebooks, like a shelf and binders on the shelf.

January dragged into Nathan's book

Now I will open “January Nathan” and create a note.  Each of my notes in these notebooks are a days worth of homeschool assignments for my kids.

new note

I named this note “Day 73 – Monday January 5th”.  My son can see at a glance if he has the right note because it is dated for this day for this school year.   I also want you to notice that you can copy and paste web links into a note.  When the child clicks on the link, the appropriate web page opens right up in a new window.  My kids have links to daily math facts practice, Khan Academy videos that correspond to their Saxon Math lessons, links to writing prompts for their daily journals, and links to whatever we’re learning about in our Layers of Learning program (like a video that analyzes a painting or a video of a science teacher explaining DNA, for example).

type a note

An Aside: When I created my children’s notebooks I did the whole year at once {not in one day though . . . this is a time intensive planner for Mom} in the summer before the new school year started.  My friend, Katie, used Evernote last year and is using it again this year.  She has two kids and creates their planners one week at a time on Sunday afternoons.  I knew that I had to do it all at once because I’m very motivated at organizing and planning, but I knew I couldn’t do it long term week after week.  I’m more of a sprinter than a long distance runner.  By mid October, if not before, I would give it up and we would go back to higgledy piggledy getting things done when I remembered and when I had the energy.

You can also add files to a note.  There is a little paper clip icon in the toolbar above the note.  When you click it it allows you to choose a file from your computer.  The file is uploaded to Evernote and available to anyone who has access to the note.  On the page you see below I’ve added some photos of ancient sites in Arabia that show what the buildings looked like in Ancient times and in some places today.  It helps my son understand what I’ve written on his Evernote lesson and makes it more interesting.  Sometimes the photos explain a concept or illustrate how to do an art project.  Besides photos you can upload files or a worksheet you want them to print and complete, for example.  You might find a grammar worksheet online, download it to your computer, attach it as a file to the note, and then later your child can print and complete it as needed.

adding an image

Sharing a Notebook

Once you have the notebook completed {mine are entire months worth of school work, but you could also just do a week at a time or whatever you like} then you’re ready to share your notebook with your child. You can have your child just log in to your Evernote on your computer and use it right off your account.  Or you can share the notebook and your child can use their own account to access Evernote.  This works well if your child has their own computer or tablet.  Just right click {or click on the drop down menu} on the notebook you want to share. Below you see I am sharing “January Nathan”.  Click on “Share this notebook”.

Share a notebook

A screen pops up that allows you to enter the e-mail address of the person you want to share with.  If your child doesn’t have an e-mail address make them a free one with gmail or hotmail or something like that.  Even my six year old has his own email address (which is really my email address in his name until he’s older) so he can sign up for things like Evernote.   When you share the notebook the receiver will get an email like this one, below.  Click on the button that says “Add notebook”.  If the receiver does not yet have an Evernote account they will be prompted to make one.

evernoteemail

Logging in and Using Evernote

Evernote has several platforms.  You can access it online {the above screenshots were from the online version}, in a desktop app that can be accessed even when offline, in an iPad/iPhone app, and through Android.  My kids use the desktop app.  I usually use the online version or the iPad version.  The online version keeps you logged in for a week. The other versions stay logged in permanently.  If you have more than one user on a device you have to log out and then log in to the new account to access your notebooks.  Kids can be taught how to do this.  This is what the desktop version of Evernote looks like:

desktop evernote

So each morning my kids open their Evernote, find today’s assignments, see exactly everything they need to accomplish, and get started.  They often have to be nagged by me of course.  But they have discovered that if they get to work and get it done, then they’re done.  Also, they have five days of assignments every week, but they’ve been told if they get done early they can have Friday off.  One of them actually accomplished that this week.   As they accomplish their tasks they can check off the boxes.

The moment an update is made to a notebook it is updated and automatically saved for everyone who has access to that notebook.  So I can see in real time who has what checked off on their Evernote {and demand proof}.   If I need to update their Evernote for a sick day, a broken link, a change of plans, I can do it and it’s automatically changed on the child’s version of Evernote as well without having to re-send or re-share the notebook.  This is true even for the offline version of Evernote.  In fact there is no “save” button on Evernote because it happens automatically and continually. Genius.

How Evernote Has Helped Our Homeschool Peace

For the last several years I’ve been feeling very torn and unsucessful in homeschooling my kids.  They all need and deserve so much one-on-one attention and help with the things they struggle with, but with six kids on six different levels none of them were getting the attention they needed.  I was just never available.  So I decided to re-think our approach. I was doing too many group lessons and too many curriculum pieces that needed my presence.  We switched up some of our curriculum and added more online helps, programs, and tutors.  But that wasn’t enough, I also needed the kids to be able to see and move forward with their assignments at their own pace and access those online helps and programs without me. Evernote has made the perfect online, web linked, totally custom made planner for my kids.

Since we have no group lessons anymore, no one is interrupted in what they are doing.  Also I am always free to help when kids get stuck on math, when my six year old needs to read aloud with me, when someone needs help getting started on a craft project, when my 8 year old needs his five minute grammar lesson, and so on.

Another advantage has been accountability for all of us.  In spite of the fact that I created the planners and I know I can edit them or adjust them, there is something about a written daily plan {online no less} that makes me and the kids feel accountable.  Those boxes must be checked.  I am far too prone in general to want to let grammar slide today because it’s noon, people were slow, and I’m tired.  But the kids are so much more independent that I can do my work around the house or on Layers of Learning and they can still be doing their work. Ha ha!  The boxes must be checked!

Michelle Signature

3 Comments

  1. Happiness Hill

    This looks very awesome! You have done a great job in creating this organized system for your children. I have a few questions and hope you can help. 1) Do your children each have their own computer to use? Is it protected from online junk? I struggle with allowing mine to use the computer freely because of the need to keep them away from that. We have used filters in the past, but I could not afford it at the moment. 2) Do you do all of your planning for homeschool inside of Evernote, or do you use another system and then transfer it over?
    Looking forward to hearing back from you!

    1. I did all the planning right inside Evernote. Yes, each of my children has his own computer. This works best if kids can access their own planners anytime without having to wait or log out and in. All of our computers sit in one room where the screen is visible to everyone at once and I am right there while they use it. That is our “filter” if you will. We have rules online like you don’t go to any site not approved by mom and dad, you do not click on video links on the sidebar of YouTube (though the links to videos I post in their Evernote are all filtered through Quiet tube), you do not ever click on any ads, etc.

  2. Thank you for this suggestion and tutorial. I did a test run with my eldest (11) this week, and our days have gone much more smoothly. Some things can be written off as novelty; this is a lasting impact.
    I tend to be gate-keeper for lessons, leading to struggles when everyday tasks are unfinished. I am best at planning on paper, hands down. I found the printable planning pages from LoL to be invaluable. Using that planner alongside Evernote has brought out the best aspects of both. As my kids get older, needing a different balance of structure and freedom, having each day clearly planned out is ideal for us. However, that still leaves me as gate-keeper to each schedule.
    This system has allowed me to transcribe my plans in a way that is accessible to everyone else. My daughter can see her weekly expectations (with the caveat that there may minor additions or adjustments), and I have a clear reference for applying and reinforcing my plans to each day.
    I have also been able to share some of our plans with my husband (a professor) in a way that allows him to be more involved in what we study through discussions, suggestions, etc.
    Thank you for the amazing curriculum, and thank you for sharing this way of implementing those ideas.

    TL;DR: Give this a shot. It’s definitely worth it.

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