It’s funny how things work. Sometimes you use a tool forever and then you realize there are a whole slew of features that you never even knew existed! Take OneNote for example. I used this the good majority of the year for keeping track of the children’s homeschooling lessons. I wasn’t very familiar with the tool so my notes were rather convoluted and messy.
I had a notebook for each child… so that was 6 notebooks. I had to keep and sync 180 days of school for 6 different notebooks. It’s no wonder the android performance was horribad with OneNote! Not to mention, the littlest boys all essentially had the same assignments so I was clicking in three different notebooks, navigating to the pages, and then checking off the same assignments. No wonder I was hating OneNote! I liked that it was cross platform, but I was not organized with it.
Fast forward to the end of the year, several articles and videos later, and here I am. I have learned about OneNote addins and installed a couple of different ones to assist me in creating a much better OneNote experience. I use Gem for OneNote to copy entire folder structures because seriously, this functionality should already exist in OneNote. Kind of crazy it doesn’t. I also use OneCalendar so that I can easily insert calendars into OneNote. Now granted, you could create the table yourself, but time saving tools are always a plus.
Now, instead of a notebook for each child, I have ONE notebook! Technically there are two notebooks for each child – my Master Notebook with all the lesson plans and such which I will describe shortly, and then a notebook for each child to put their work in. I read about this concept not too long ago and I thought it was awesome. Right now only Matthew, Lilly, and Sierra have digital notebooks. But no longer will I have to worry about lost papers, or claims of completed work. Now there is a place to store all of that. We will be purchasing a scanner before the school year so that the kids can scan any paper work and paste it into their OneNote digital notebooks. They can also add voice recordings (for Foreign Languages, for example), or screenshots, or even doodles, so I could in theory give them a worksheet right in OneNote. I don’t know if I’ll do that, but it’s there as an option.
Now onto the description of my Master Notebook.
- First of all I plan to have one for each school year. Therefore, I am naming them by school year (2016-2017 School Year) for next year’s notebook.
- Sections are useful! I have several large sections. Included are:
- Book List
- School Calendar
- Section Groups are just as useful as sections! For large groups of material that would have been overly cumbersome to have as sections, I made these sections into Section Groups. It keeps my UI cleaner, and it’s much quicker to navigate to the areas I need. My section groups are:
- School Material
- Term 1
- Term 2
My attendance section is fairly straight forward. I have a simple table for each day of that week. I have a page for each of the 36 weeks of school. It’s easier for me to think in terms of “Week 1 Day 3” instead of “Wednesday” because I have holidays that fall in the middle of weeks, or push my weeks out of alignment.
I really like the idea of a book list. I have never really used one before, but it really is useful. Too often I gather up these awesome book for use in the school year but then I forgot that I got them and they go to waste. This year, however, I wrote down all the books I downloaded and bought, and put them in the book list. I have one page for each subject, and on each page is a table with the child, and the books they will be using. To further increase the usefulness of this section, I also including apps and such that they will be using. Nothing more annoying than trying to think of a fun game to assign and forgetting all the ones I’ve found! No more!
This section isn’t really anything other than pretty. I created a school calendar for the entire year using OneCalendar. Then I added a legend to color code for holidays, birthdays, and vacations. I also added a link to my Google school calendar, where I not only track this information but also the day that school is. Mostly I wanted something pretty that I could see at a glance where we were in the school year. As I said this section is done manually – it’s not synced to Google or anything which sucks, but at least I have the link to Google so I can see that if need be.
I don’t have anything in the Answers section yet but how I intend to use it is as follows. Too often I need to check the kids’ work, but then I have to go find the book, find the answers, blah blah blah blah. So instead, when I have assignments I need to grade, I’m going to just use OneNote’s screen capture feature to port in the answers into the Answers section. It’s conceivable this section may become a section group depending on how much I need to use it. But the beauty of this page is that even though the kids will have access to this notebook, in order to get to their lessons and such, they will not have access to this section because I have it password protected. I love that feature. Now I can have everything in one place and not worry about kids getting stuff they shouldn’t have!
This section is just a template for my Week’s lesson plans table. I created a template because I have them all sized the same and color coded and I’m OCD enough that it annoys me if they aren’t the same size. So I created a template to just paste into each new page. All of my weeks for this year are already pasted in but I plan on using this structure in future school years too and I figured it would be easier to paste a blank template than go through 180 days of school and erase all the content in the tables. I have the template set so that I can copy all the pages and paste directly into a new week (when you see how I have my Terms you’ll understand what I mean). I also used my template to set up my weekly schedule. For example, Music is only for Matthew, Lilly, and Sierra, and it’s not every day of the week. So any children who will never have lessons on that day for that subject, I blacked out the day, so I don’t forget when I do my weekly lesson plans.
My Gradebook is a section group. I have one section for each child, and within each section is a page for each subject. On each page I have a table with the date, the description of the assignment, the points earned, the points possible, the percent, and the grade. This will all be manually entered, but this organizational structure made sense to me because when I do report cards it’s easier just to have one of a child’s items all together. And I really wanted a date and description of assignment area because not all assignments will have grades, so I needed to be able to distinguish.
Shane has agreed to do Prepared Dictation for me – that is, using the Charlotte Mason method, I will present the children with a passage each week to study and learn, and then he will read the passage aloud for them to write down with correct spelling, punctuation, etc. In order to facilitate this process, I made a Prepared Dictation section and put it under the School Material section because I thought I might have other things like this that will be useful. In the lesson plan I link to this page so that it’s easy to get to the prepared dictation for the week. I have a page for each passage, and I just used OneNote’s screen capture feature to capture the passage from the web. No need to browse to a site and get distracted now!
Term 1 – Term 3
I have divided out my school year into 3 terms of 12 weeks each. Accordingly, I have 3 section groups, one for each term. Within each Term section are the weeks for that term (Term 1 – weeks 1 through 12, Term 2 – weeks 13 through 24, Term 3 – weeks 25 through 36). One each week section, I have a page for each subject. On each page is a color coded grid with each child and the day of week. Then the lessons are listed within. I have check marks so they can check off the items as they finish, and I have added links to OneDrive, and other places in OneNote for their material. Where appropriate, I also linked to the particular pages in their digital notebooks, so for example when they have a written narration to do for a selection of reading, it should go right to their notebook, so their won’t be lost work, or can’t find this or that. I’ve noticed this feature doesn’t really work on the android tablets, but they do their work on their computers anyways so that shouldn’t be an issue. Another thing I did, which helps me use the templates with ease, is that instead of continuing the numbering of the days (for example going from Day 5 of Week 1 to Day 6-Day 10 on Week 2) I just kept it as Days 1-5. This makes copying templates much easier. Again time saving for the win!
The beauty of doing my lessons this way instead of how I’ve done them previously is that ALL my children for the ENTIRE week are all on one area. Of course you could organize it differently if you looked at data differently. But I want to see who all is doing the same subjects because a lot of them overlap. It makes copying and pasting a lot easier this way than having all of a child’s subjects on one section, and then a page for each child. If I want to see who has what work left I do have to tap or click through each subject, but it’s much easier to prepare lessons this way and that’s where my time crunch is.
I just love my discovery of the new functionality in OneNote. I never thought about section groups before, or color coding, or having 1 notebook for my school year. The ability to password protect sensitve sections, and my usage of linking to OneDrive and even other notebooks within OneNote is very useful for keeping kids on track with their assignments. Being able to clip data from an external source and paste right into OneNote makes creating digital curriculum a breeze too. And then the organizational prospects of having all of the children’s work in their own digital notebooks is much better than the pen-and-paper way we do it now. Lilly in particular is horrendous at organizing her work. One page will be a history narration, then on the next page she’ll do math problems. This way will somewhat force her to organize her work better which is a plus for me. And as usual – digital lesson plans means no papers getting lost, which is always a plus!