After looking into homeschooling immensely and speaking with other homeschooling families, I’ve come to appreciate that I live in Texas, one of the most non-regulated states for Private Schools, which is what homeschooling would be. Essentially, that means that there are no tests, there are no curriculum or portfolio checks, we are free to homeschool our children as we see fit. This is a huge relief to me, as my goal is to essentially not only try and get Truly ahead of her current grade level, but want to give her the time and freedom to discover what she is passionate about. I also want her to take the time and focus on things she loves and wants to learn more about. Essentially what we will be doing is an unschooling, directed learning, somewhat structured day.
The biggest thing about homeschooling that puts me off, isn’t the fear of teaching, keeping her interested, or socialization. Those are all things that I feel extremely confident about actually. My biggest fear is turning my home into a “school,” with papers and books everywhere, unfinished crafts, binders, and notebooks all the way to the ceiling.
In my blogging and social media world, I’m completely paperless. Everything I have is on Google Docs, or scanned and saved to my Google Drive. Documents are signed online, bills are paid online, I do all of my billing and bookkeeping online, let’s just say I keep everything neatly packed in my Macbook Pro.
I’ve started thinking recently, how can I make our homeschool paperless? While I know there are things you just need to have paper for, I plan on trying to go as digital as possible.
Get The Kids Computer
The biggest thing I’ve done: I bought Truly her own computer. I’ve been wanting to buy the kids their own computer for some time now. I’ve been going back and forth on if I should buy a PC or Mac, been back and forth on price comparisons and so on. It’s really hard for the kids to use my laptop.
1) Because I usually need to be on it to get some writing done, 2) Because whenever one is on the computer, they usually call the other sibling to come and watch, and even though my screen is 15 inches big, it gets hard. Most importantly 3) my laptop is my livelihood for work and school and if they accidentally mess something up or (god forbid) spill something on it, I’d be out of the game and thousands of dollars on my computer would be gone.
I did a lot of research and since we are all used to Apple products, and Truly has an iPad, I went ahead and bought her an iMac. There was no way I was going to get her a brand new, $250o set up, so I scoured eBay and Craigslist for a couple of weeks and found one that someone had posted were they have store and offer a lifetime support system for their equipment. $280 later, and a 2007 iMac all set up, Truly was ready to do all her schoolwork and games, with siblings able to watch. Right now it is on the desk in our bedroom until we figure out a new living room situation, where we will move it to the living room.
Google Drive Planning
There are a ton of really neat printables for homeschool planners. My favorite one is this one. As I planned on how many sheets I would need for a whole years worth of teaching and the cost of printing everything at home versus at FedEx Kinkos, I decided to do it the digital way. I essentially copied the Quarterly and Weekly Planners into an Excel Sheet that I have saved on Google Drive. I like this because I can easily go in and edit, copy & paste links I find online to go to, highlight, and do everything without having to print a single thing. I can also save each Month’s planning sheet to a new document, and easily keep a record of everything we have learned, all in cyberspace and without crowding our filing cabinet. This way, if I ever had to have a record of their progress and learning, I can easily send it someone, or then print it out. I can also upload documents and save them to our Homeschooling folder online.
I swear by Google Drive because it is backed up online, and I can save it to my desktop. In addition to Google Drive, I have a habit of emailing my stuff to myself as well.
Another resource I use is Evernote.
While going completely paperless would defeat the purpose of learning handwriting, I enlisted some help from my Walmart store and have begun stocking up on sheet protectors. Well not really stocking up because essentially, you can re-use them, but having at least 50 would be great. I will use these whenever we work on handwriting skills. This way, I don’t have to print out multiple sheets, we don’t have to use and throw away notebook after notebook, and so on. I’ve put together a 1 in binder for Writing and Math, with a couple of sheets in there, with sheet protectors over them. This way, she can use a dry erase marker or wet erase marker to do her work, and then we can just clean it off when we can move to something else.
*We do plan on keeping a journal where we will write everyday in a regular notebook so we could look back at it.
While I plan to do a directed learning type schooling, I still want to make sure she spends an hour or so each day, getting the basics and finding her interests. I have yet to decide on which online program we will want to use, but I know there are tons of them. These are great because they can eliminate some of the paper waste for things we don’t need, and can keep your house a little less cluttered, while giving you some time as well. You can find an awesome list of online homeschool options here.
Getting Out of The House/Hands On Learning
Learning outside of the home can be a great way to experiment how to be paper free. I have been trying to gauge my daughter’s learning style and interests over the past couple of months and here and there have done some lessons with her to see how they work with her. I found a really cute bug and plant life printable pack I thought of using for the girls. It was 20 pages I needed to print, cut out out, glue, etc, but instead I just looked over the materials and notes, and took our “class” outside.
We went to a large nature park by our home, I handed the kids our digital camera, and we went exploring and looking for different bugs and plants as I scrolled down the printable PDF on my phone. Whenever we saw a bug or plant on the scavenger hunt, the girls took several pictures of it, taking note of how cool they thought they were. After hours of playing (and collecting) we took our pictures, uploaded them on the computer and began to write (on our sheet protected manuscripts, with a wet erase marker) what each one was, what we liked about it, and more information. The bugs Truly thought were cool, we did some more research on the Internet or in books we had.
When we were done, I took a picture of what she wrote, and saved it into Evernote and Google Drive as a PDF. She is actually able to do this herself using her iPad or my phone. That way she has notes and we can evaluate her writing style later in the year. I also told her she could type out what she wrote down and save it for later, but she told me “some other time, when I’m bored.”
Being more hands on and taking the digital life and using it to our advantage saved us 20 (which for both girls would have been 40) sheets of paper that would have gone into the pile or filing cabinet. We used none.
Truly got an iPad from my mother for Christmas and since then we have used it a lot for learning. What I love about it is that we have downloaded the Kindle App on the iPad and can now read books (a majority of them free) in large print, without the stacks of books. I am very much a book junkie, but instead of buying books, I like to check them out or buy books on my Kindle. This way, I don’t have the clutter and loss of money you can find when you buy tons of books. A lot of Truly’s books are on her iPad, or we check out books at the library. This keeps her small bookshelf at home, small, and changing to her always-changing likes and dislikes.
While I am completely aware that paper-free is not going to work for everyone or that I could possibly be paper-free everyday, I do know that eliminating all the clutter will help keep our home, a home, and not turn it into a “school” that she dreads. My children and I stay up to date with all the latest technology trends and how they can help us keep our life digital and simple, so we can fully enjoy life outside the home as well.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on being paper-free and keeping your home clear of the clutter!