Posted in Homeschooling

Reinventing the Wheel

As those have been reading for a while know, I have been using Lessontrek Online Planner for the last 2 years. Unfortunately this solution hasn’t been working so well this school year. They haven’t added any new features and the Gradebook is still in Beta status. Customer service, while friendly, isn’t very good at fixing things in a timely manner and they haven’t made any of the improvements that they said are in the works for over 18 months so I am tired of waiting and have decided to do something else for next year.

Things weren’t so bad when I was using pen and paper but I want something better than the $0.18 notebook that I used to have. Printed homeschool planners tend to have more bells and whistles than I need so I decided to find a printable planner that I can just print the pages I want and ignore the rest.

Google has a huge amount of printable planners available, both free and paid from the very fancy to the very simple with the ability to mix and match as needed. With so many choices you think that I would have been able to create just what I wanted, right?… wrong!

Most forms were too fancy, or had the wrong layout, or had too many fields, others had a perfect layout but they ruined it by adding “Bible” as a subject or printing a bible quote in the footer, the rest were limited to 30 or 36 weeks of instruction when I homeschool year round, or I would find one that would work but it’s in landscape mode and I want it in portrait mode… After seeing how many hours I was wasting in this process I decided that it would be faster to just create my own, and it was.

Planner Cover
The only page that I got “fancy” for was the cover and still tried to keep it simple

I created my first form in 10 minutes and an entire planner in just a couple of hours. As a career accountant, I value functionality over aesthetics so it’s very fast for me to design a table that while it may look boring to most, it gets the job done. I don’t care about fancy fonts and colorful clip art so I don’t waste time on that. In the end I have been creating a complete planner that I can then upload to a printer’s website to have printed and bound.

My planner is very different from any other planner that I see online. I shouldn’t even call it a planner as it’s really a tracker. I will use it to track what has been done on a weekly basis. That is how I have been using Lessontrek and it’s how I would like to continue.

So far I have created:
– Year calendar with holidays
– Attendance Tracker
– Weekly Assignment Log
– Homeschool Resource Log
– Reading Log
– Field Trip Log

I could send this to the printer and be happy but I am toying with the idea of also creating a Grade Tracker. While I don’t use tests and teach to mastery, I do grade assignments to have an idea of strengths and weaknesses for lesson planning. My son has no idea that he is graded, this is only for my personal purposes but I have gotten used to doing it.

I have not found a suitable printable for that so it looks like I will be designing my own as well.

Once everything is finalized I am toying with the idea of making the PDF forms available for free download to my subscribers if there is enough interest.

Posted in Parenting

Lego Organization on a Budget

Shammy really enjoys getting the Lego Club Jr magazine and has been trying to follow the instructions for the builds in each issue, I have always loved Legos so I enjoy working with him on this. Until recently our 2,000+ bricks were just thrown together in a plastic bin which was fine during creative free play but not so convenient when the instructions call for a specific brick. More than one we were frustrated and disappointed when we spent several minutes literally digging through a brick only to discover that we just don’t have that type. I decided that now would be a good time to order the storage system I had my eye on for years. I had seen it as low as $40 last year so that’s range that I expected to find it for, sounds simple doesn’t it?

I come to find out that my dream storage system now commands collector’s prices, I refuse to pay close to $400 for several colorful plastic containers so I decided to search for alternatives. If I had that much money to spare I would rather spend it buying more lego bricks, not a plastic contraption to store them in .

Almost $400 for colorful plastic? no thanks!
Almost $400 for colorful plastic? no thanks!

Pinterest and Google have LOTS of brilliant ideas and suggestions but as much as I like Container Store geekery, I have the upcoming Yule holiday as a spending priority and many of them would require more than I was willing to spend in the storage and organization department of any boxed store.

Thankfully Amazon’s creepiness came in handy when it suggested the perfect solution based on my recent search patterns. Thanks to the Redbox Entertainer Advisors Panel and Swagbucks, I had some gift card credit on my account so for just a couple of dollars I was able to get this system (the price has since increased but it may come down again at any time).

Not as colorful but very efficient and for only $13!
Not as colorful but very efficient and for only $13!

When it finally arrived I spent almost 2 hours in pure OCD geekery heaven sorting them into their little drawers.

ocd legos
You know you are OCD when…

I am very happy with this system, when it’s time to build we can quickly find the right brick size and I just pull out the drawers and set them on the table when the boys one to do free creative building.  As our Lego collection expands I plan to buy more.

organized legos