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Helps for Getting Organized this Coming School Year! Free and online ;-)
Susan Richman, Editor PA Homeschoolers, 8/7/2011

With the start of every school year, I know every homeschool mom at some point says to herself, "THIS is the year when I'm REALLY going be organized!!" Looking ahead gives us a new chance to try a new organizational plan or to set new goals for ourselves, and we all feel hopeful at this time of year. And sometimes we're on the outlook for some new tools to help us in this perrenial quest... and I've got some suggestions for you!

And know that even though our own homeschooled 'kids' are now adults on their own, I still get that school year organizational rush, as I'm very busy right now planning out my AP US History course for the coming year, seeing what topics I want to do for our monthly Homeschoolers Writing Club, and just in general wanting to hone my often 'challenged' organizational skills.

Maybe it was last night, getting the phone call at 7:05pm that let us know that my husband and I had forgotten all about the homeschoolers Square Dance we were supposed to be calling... right then. We were dressed and off within 5 minutes-- we had a wonderful time at the dance.... but the experience made me (once more!) resolve that this will be the year for me to really remember to LOOK at my calendars! 

Or maybe it was the email I just received this afternoon, from a very nice homeschooling mom who wondered where the 'school year' calendar that we 'always' had posted on our website was-- she couldn't seem to find it this time. I had to let her know that we'd *never* had a 'school year' calendar available on our site for download... but then I quickly found her a wonderful website that had just such a form.... and MUCH more. 

So first off, here's this site from Donna Young, a former homeschool mom-- and I *know* that many, many years ago, Donna and I used to correspond, so this felt like re-meeting an old friend ;-). Click on calendars right here, and you'll come to Donna's page with all sorts of calendar options that you can print out. And if you check this page you'll find a nice selection of downloadable forms for creating your own homeschool planner. The site is interspersed with a wealth of good helpful articles about how to plan, including a nice page re/ the high school years-- and there are ad banners for many of the very popular curriculum and books for this level. Great site! 

Next, wanted to share about an online calendar that I've found really helpful this past six months-- it's the free Cozi Family website, which includes online calendars and planners that can be shared among family members. Very easy to use (except on the *very* rare occasions where the site might be 'down' for repairs...), and I love the look of things-- and I have to admit that having a planner / calendar that I *like* to look at is very important to me! In the 'Lists and Calendars' section, you sign in to become a (free) member, and then can create all sorts of 'To Do Lists', calendars, keep a journal, and more.... all online.

I first heard about Cozi through Flylady, my very favorite organize-your-life-in-a-meaningful-way website -- you can sign in on Cozi as a 'Flybaby' and have a little Flylady logo on your CoziCentral page for your family, with easy access to various Flylady online tools that integrate easily. Flylady's biggest contribution to my own organizational challenges is to focus both on our *attitudes* towards getting more organized and on getting us to commit to taking 'Baby Steps' to get us actually started in the process. You know how so many of us feel utterly daunted by the crammed shelf of disorganized homeschooling books and curricula, that we never take that first step of choosing ONE six-inch stretch of shelf to clear out and organize. Flylady truly helps us feel momemtum by immediately getting us off our duff and doing something, however little it may seem right then. She helps us literally *sing* our way through to success, baby step by step. Try it. 
I once saw a neat website called 'Organized Junkie' linked to my daughter-in-law's blog, that featured among many other things, lots of 'before and after' photos of tackling major organizational projects in homes-- anything from reorganizing a pantry or book shelf or sewing room or kid's closet to a garage or attic... along with descriptions of how they went about the task. Just the process of sharing added great momemtum-- I loved seeing my daughter-in-law's inspirational work in this (haha, though a few times I mistook the 'before' photo for the 'after', as it really looked pretty good to me when she started!). I think ideas like this that make organizing not the 'lonely' work of us at home doing this all on our own, but something we can share readily with our friends is a really neat concept. It also reminded me of the times I've made re-organizing tasks into full-day friend times.... by inviting a old friend over who I really wanted to see and spend hours catching up with... but I also knew I really needed to tackle some major jobs, and knew I just wouldn't invite her over with this 'list' in my mind-- I wouldn't be able to just 'relax' over a cup of tea. So instead we planned 'organizing days'. One friend graciously helped me alphabetize all my kids' bookshelves one weekend (and, haha, this didn't just involve alphabetizing but some major 'wipe all those cobwebs and dust off the tops of those books and donate a bunch to the library book sale or toss them out' efforts as well!), and another friend spent a day with me totally going over my storage attic. And I have helped a friend tame the overwhelming box clutter in her garage, and clean out a few scary closets. 
Please add your own thoughts about getting organized for the upcoming school year-- and know that you are not the only homeschooler to have felt overwhelmed or out of control in this area! And may we all gain good and helpful new skills as we get set for September! 


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