The following is a guest post, written by Lora Lynn Fanning of Vita Familiae.
The thought of filling a lesson plan book full of notes that I may or may not ever refer back to has always seemed to be a daunting and unexciting task.
But when the idea of using a shareable online calendar for lesson planning came to me, it seemed ideal for my computer-reliant personality and our family.
Here are some of the advantages I’ve found from using Google Calendar in our homeschool.
- Events are easy to set to repeat. This means that once I have our schedule for the year set, I put each subject or meeting into the calendar on repeat. I don’t have to continually add math, science, and spelling to a day. They’re already there, just waiting for me to fill in the specific details.
- I have a printable, savable archive of all of our lesson plans whenever I need them. When my life is already cluttered, I’m not likely to hold onto bunches of paper that I don’t need anymore. But should the need arise, it’s comforting to know that all of my lesson plans, both present and past, are available to me via Google’s super-servers.
- My husband can access our calendar from work and knows exactly what we’re doing every day. This is one of my favorite features. I like knowing that when my husband comes home from work, I don’t have to whisper, “Ask about their history project…” He knows what questions to ask and how to encourage the kids. (He also knows that if the calendar says “arts and crafts,” he’d be wise to come home with Haagen-Dazs in his bag for “teacher.”)
- I can access my library list from anywhere, especially from the library. I’m notorious for planning a trip to the library and then arriving without my list. When I do our lesson plans, I keep a task list in the sidebar for the library and for “supplies needed.” Using my iPhone (another techy-tool no Mama should be without), I can pull up those lists any time, at the craft store or at the library, and know what we need to have on hand for any given week. I can also set up alerts to remind me to put books on hold a few weeks in advance.
- Google Calendar makes everything neat, tidy, and color coordinated without me having to wrestle with an Excel spreadsheet. I tend to require sedation after a few rounds with a spreadsheet document, so Google makes it easy for me. I can have the “pretty” without losing my mind.
It took a bit of time to play around with Google Calendar and learn how to make it work for our schooling and for me. But the time spent was minimal and well worth it.
I can make changes, keep better records, and access my plans from any place with internet access. Best of all, I can include my husband in our daily activities, just by making them available for him to see.
And if I’m lucky, I might even score a pint of ice cream for my efforts!
How do you use technology to help your homeschool run more efficiently?
This is cool Lora & thanks for the guest post!
I use Google Calendar to plan our seasonal calendar but that’s about it.
I have to admit I’m not very techy when it comes to homeschooling, or anything else for that matter.
I’ll have to play around with Google Calendar & see if I can figure it out. I’m planning to do some informal preschooling at home with my almost-4yo daughter, and we might homeschool indefinitely.
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Genius! I love Google Calendar for my work and personal stuff. I just never thought about using it for homeschool too. Thank you so much for the inspiration. I’m off to plan out our next month!
I also use Google Calendar and haven’t thought about it for HS. Do you set a calendar per child?
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Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae
Kela – I haven’t tried using it per child yet. We still do most of our school together, so I just made my schedule and designate which child I’m working with in the event. That’s a great idea for another way to use it, though!
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I had been meaning to check out Homeschool Tracker, but wonder if google can do the same thing — FOR FREE!? Do you use it offline? Wondering if my bigger kids could access it themselves and then know what they’re doing without me. This is brilliant! TY!
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Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae
I asked my techie hubby and he said that you CAN use it offline if you download “Gears” for Google. Here’s a link: http://gears.google.com/
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Hello Fish Mama,
I don’t think that homeschool tracker works with Apple… I think it is for PC user only, no?
What do you currently use with your children? Just curious as i am trying to figure things out. I tried an app on Apple called iHMK (iHomework) but i can not make it work for 2 kids. Not too bad as the second one is 6 but would lobe to find a Apple friendly app or online for more than one child…!
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Right now we use good old fashioned paper and pencil. 🙂
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Thank you! I was just browsing paper planners last night, but this definitely fits my lifestyle, and I love that I can access it by iPhone (my favorite object in the whole wide world!). Now I need to go play with it!
Love this post, Lora!
I’ve started doing this over the summer and one of my favorites features that you mentioned is not having to input the same things over and over. SUCH a time saver!
I still make notes on paper for myself, but they get transferred to google calendar and I love having less paper lying around 🙂
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Thank you, thank you, thank you! Sheer genius. Now I feel the need to smack my head against the keyboard for not thinking of it myself, but… yeah. This is really helpful. 🙂 I have been agonizing about not wanting to go “backwards” and revert to paper, yet not being pleased with any of the electronic tools sold for lesson-planning purposes. I think this is the perfect solution for our family — especially since we are already very tech-oriented.
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Oh how I love Google Calendar! I use separate calendars for each individual, family activities, birthdays, and due date reminders. My favorite, though, is my “possibilities” calendar. I read about the idea at Parent Hacks and find it incredibly helpful: you schedule events that you want to remember but don’t know whether you’ll actually attend. Library storytimes, free days at museums, and other things like that are all on mine. I keep the calendar hidden most of the time – until I’m looking for something to do on a certain day!
Whoops! I’m Haley, not “Ha, ley” 🙂
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I KNEW there was a reason I was still perusing my Google Reader on my iPhone as I settle down in bed! haha I love this idea of the possibilities calendar! We also use Google Calendar, a separate one for each family member and one for events that pertain to us all. I love the ability to turn off individual calendars and how they can overlap to see everyone’s schedule at once. I can also subscribe to public holiday & sports teams schedules. I will look into using the Tasks for lists..I never thought of that!
Is there a way to archive off the Google Calendars? I end up duplicating my work and am reluctant to totally move away from MS Outlook because everything is saved in one file I can backup.
April, you can sync Outlook calendars with Google Calendars! My husband does that with his work calendar so he can see his work events and personal events side-by-side.
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I use Google for everything! Gmail, Reader, Calendar, Docs, etc. I just love having everything in one place. As far as the Calendar, I love having a separate one, color-coded, for everything including homeschool, menu plans, activities, blogging, etc. The repeat function is great but I also love that if I don’t get to something that day, I can just drag it over to the next day. No more re-writing! 🙂
Haley, I love this idea of a Possibilities Calendar! I always have a list of things that would be great to attend, or things that would be great for a spontaneous trip, but I don’t put them on cuz I’m never sure if the day will allow. This is perfect! Duh, now why didnt I think of that! Thanks so much! 🙂
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Wow this gave me a great idea for University/college next year – keep a lesson log of what I’m taught in each class in the notes section of the event!
And you can set Google Calendar to email you every morning with the day’s schedule (or email your husband in your case 😉 ).
Good luck with the ice cream!
I do this with my Cozi calendar. http://www.cozi.com/ It also has lists, a journal w/ photo, and a ‘home’ page that puts everything together, including a box to email/text a family member. I get a copy of the journal every week and if the blurb I’ve written might interest grandma, I can easily email the entry to her.
Best Advice Ever. I tried Homeschool tracker (free version) and another program so far this summer, but don’t have time to play with the learning curves. They are officially abandoned!!! Mu-ha-ha!
I love Google Calendar, but hadn’t considered scheduling homeschooling. My husband I have quite a few calendars going already and it has been so helpful in our home and time management. Thanks for such a great idea.
I don’t know if your library does this, but most libraries let you request books from their website. What I find awesome about that feature specifically is that I can also choose the date that the request becomes active. I usually go on the my library’s site and plan several months in advance so that I don’t forget to get back on and request the books when the time is right. If I find that we are getting off schedule, I can easily go and change the date that the request goes active.
Great ideas! I already use Google calendar (from SimpleMom’s suggestions) and have homeschooling time blocked off as well as field trips, but I like the idea of breaking it down. I REALLY like the lists too. Off to plan…
Ok, here goes, back to planning and playing! I’ll probably just put everything from my paper copy to Google Calendar, but it’s great because I have a friend that helps me a lot and she would love to be able to access our calendar so that she can just jump in when she gets here. Or my mom when she comes to visit.
Great ideas here! Thanks for posting!
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I’m a little confused. I understand that you repeat subjects, then fill in the details for that day. But how do you see the details on your screen? When I look at my calendar, I just see “Science,” not “read pg 5-8” unless I go into edit mode for that entry. I also couldn’t see it on the printed out version. Is there a calendar setting I’m missing? Help!
Oh wait…are you entering the details on the “what” line or the “details” line? And then do you look at your calendar using the single day view to see the assignment? Just trying to figure this out…. Thanks!
I have the same question as Jen Peters. All I see on my calendar so far is “Bible”, but not “Genesis 1-3; Proverbs 1; etc.” I entered that info in the Description box–should I have put it somewhere else?
Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae
To be able to see it on the calendar, you have to put it in the event title, where you put “Bible.” Then you just click to “edit this time only.” If I reference a website, I will put the link in the description, or if I think my lesson plans need book authors, etc., I will use description. But the actual assignment goes in the event title. Hope this helps!
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Yep, that helped a lot! Great idea to include website links, etc. Thank you so much!
I have been desperately looking into a scheduling option whether it was a paper, electronic, or online option. I think I have looked at them all…then I heard about using google tonight for scheduling home school. We also already us google calendar for our family events and it is great. I love the idea for using it for homeschooling! Here is an article I read tonight that is a great goal to work toward, I’m just not sure how to get there…
If you have any ideas as to how to make this work I would love to hear them.
Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae
Catherine – I think the biggest difference between the two ideas if that one uses Google Calendar to keep lesson plans and one uses a spreadsheet. If you want your kids to be able to access and edit or notate their assignments, perhaps a spreadsheet is a better fit. However, if you want to be able to see your upcoming studies or if your kids can’t handle access to the family calendar (my kids would click too much and break the internet) then Google calendar might be more useful. Either one is a very workable solution. Good luck!
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Ugh. When I think of all the erasing and repeating of things in lesson plans I did in my years of school teaching it makes me not want to plan another thing. Now I am just starting with homeschooling. Thank you for sharing this idea. It looks right up my alley.
I have a question. If you set a subject like spelling and have it repeat….then when you go in to make different days (by typing in the description) doesn’t that repeat as well?
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Brilliant idea! Thank you.
Please share ideas on a little Homeschool learn and earn project I am working on through Google+. Could you post this idea as it is great!
Would love to hear stories of children being bullied in school as I believe if we talk about these things we can put a stop to it! Our children deserve better!
One of the reasons I like Google Calendar is that my students can access and update their own plans & studies on their computers. For example my 12YO sees that singing practice is on her calendar for today and once she completes it, she marks that on the calendar, too.
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Thanks for posting this. We are starting w 1st grade this year and I’m trying to learn from my prek/k efforts and know I need to be better organized and planned. We use google calendar for everything else in our family but I hadn’t figured out how to effectively do it for school. I wasn’t aware if the task list feature and could really use that to help me w library/supply lists like you stated. Thanks for the tips – guess I’ll be soon some trial runs w it next time I have!.
For teens, set up each student in their own calendar and then share that google calendar with them. They in turn can set up calendars for work hours, activities, events and share it back with you. This way you can see that they might have extra work hours and can know what their whole weeks schedule looks like. This is also good for groups like co-ops, if the leaders share the planned calendar with the parents, the parents can simply import it and overlay it in their master calendar.
De De C
My family loves Cozi! We have been using the calendar, to do list, shopping list, etc.. for years. You can import via iCal any other calendar (including Google calendars). It is coded for each child and they can review their own calendar on their devices (there is an app for that). It has been rated the number one calendaring software for families for many, many years. Best part it is FREE. I do not work for them in anyway, just a very happy calendar user!
This is an excellent post! I love Google Calendar. I’m not homeschooling yet (that’s the plan for next year), but I am using Google Calendar for everything else that I organize for my family. I was so happy to read your tips here on how to use it for homeschooling! Thanks!
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