400 | Home and Homeschool Organizational Tips (Jessica Smartt)
Jessica is a wife, homeschool mom of three, author, and blogger. She lives in sunny North Carolina on a big family farm with chickens, goats, cousins, and lots of mud.
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Jessica Smartt Hi, this is Jessica Smartt joining you here today. I'm excited to share with you a little bit of what's on my heart and what I've been thinking about. Make sure that you check out my homeschool course: Homeschool Bootcamp. The link is in the show notes. And of course, it's always a great time for picking up a copy of one of my two books, Memory-Making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home and Let Them Be Kids: Adventure, Innocence, Boredom, and Other Gifts Kids Need. Of the two, I would say pick up Memory-Making Mom as we're launching into the fall. Fall is a great time to make memories and I see some wonderful holidays coming up.
Jessica Smartt Hey, everybody! This is Jessica Smartt. I am happy to be here with you today, as I am talking about homeschool and home organization tips. So I'm going to go ahead and jump in. I am addressing this topic because my last podcast was--let's see, I'm trying to pull up the episode number--"Overcoming Life Overwhelm", and I talked about the two books and one app that changed my life. And I had so much feedback from this of people wanting to know just more specifically how I'm using these tools in my life as a homeschool mom. And so I'm going to go into that, and then also some general organizational tips. And I hope it's helpful. I do want to start with a disclaimer: If you're an organizational guru and super efficient, everything in your life is streamlined, and this is a strength of yours, some of this is probably going to be like, "Why is she even saying this? Everyone in the world does that." So you're welcome to listen, but just know that this is probably more geared to someone who's maybe needing a primer or in a bit of an overwhelming season, needs a reset. I am programmed to organize things. I do have a pretty organized brain. I like to sort things. I feel better when my life is under control. However, I have a strong side of me that really likes to be very busy and I can get very quickly overwhelmed in my life and lose track of things. So I've had to kind of go back to my roots and reinstitute some organizing things, which again is why I'm saying if you're someone who just constantly stays on top of this, this may not be the most super helpful advanced-level lecture you've ever heard on organizing. But I don't know, maybe it is helpful.
Jessica Smartt And the reason that I'm going to also mention not only homeschool tools, but also life and home organizing tips is because, as we all know, they are so intricately tied together to homeschooling. You can't really do a great job homeschooling if your life is a mess. And if you're behind and overwhelmed with just life, it will bleed in just how you feel about the day as a homeschool mom. And it's going to impact things, whether it's just logistically not finding things or your mental state. So this is kind of in that vein of, as we know, if you are in a healthy place and things are going well in your life, big capital "L" life, then homeschooling is probably going to go better. So some of the things I give you are not going to be specific to homeschooling, but I still think they have a giant impact on your homeschooling life. I think you guys probably know what I'm saying. Okay, these are just random tips. They're not really like in a certain flow and they're not really in order of priority. These are just random things that have helped my life to run more smoothly in the last year.
Jessica Smartt So in the episode that I previously mentioned--which I will link to—"Overcoming Life Overwhelm", I linked to the app Things 3 or Things. I think it's called different things; depending on where you look, it has different titles. But Things 3 app. So this is an app that is, I think, just for Mac and it's based on the book Getting Things Done. And there are other apps if you don't have Mac that can implement these similar tools, but this is one that I sync. I bought the version for my Mac computer and then the version for my phone. The one for my computer was $49 and then my phone was like $9 or something. So I bought it on the phone first just to make sure that I liked it, and then bought it on the computer. And they're synced. So that means that, obviously, it's super helpful if I'm standing somewhere I can input it in my phone, but I primarily use it on my computer when I'm organizing my life and stuff. But it sees whatever I inputted, so that's really nice. But there are other apps depending on what you have. Just search "Getting Things Done apps" if you don't have Mac, or you just want some other ones. There are some, I think, cheaper ones, there are definitely some more expensive ones as well. But this has been well worth it for me.
Jessica Smartt So I just wanted to talk you through a little bit about how I use this Things app. It's a glorified to-do list, it's a task manager, and it has an inbox, which is just...you could plop any random thing. So if I'm standing in the kitchen and think of something I need to do, I can put it in the inbox. The idea is that you would have inbox zero. That's not usually the case for me, but that's fine. Still really helpful. So the idea is that you would take it from the inbox and move it, give it a date, or move it to a different project area so that you can see it again. So the idea being that it's not in your head and it is on paper somewhere, and that relieves a lot of stress. And I have found that to be true. So I use it, just like I said, by inputting things. So let's say I think of something that has a task, like someone's birthday's coming up, I can type in "buy a birthday present" and then I can give it a date of when I want it to remind me to buy a birthday present. Or it can just sit in my inbox if it's super urgent. That's kind of how I use it. That's not really what you're supposed to do. But if I see it in my inbox, I will know that it needs to be done. So it's good for those sorts of things. It's also really good for just different areas of your life to have to-do lists, because I think his point in Getting Things Done the book, is that if we made a list of all of the to-dos in our life, it would be like 74 pages long. And so it does not work to have one to-do list, you have to categorize it. And I like the app because otherwise I would have a notebook with like 17 different lists and I'd have to be flipping back and forth.
Jessica Smartt So I have different categories on my Things app under "Projects", so I have one for, for example, the homeschool community that we are members of. So if I'm there—We meet on Tuesdays. If I'm there on Tuesday and something comes up that I need to do, I plug it in there and then I just go look in that folder or I can give it a date if it's time-sensitive. But everything to do with the community is there. And that was really helpful, especially in the summer when I was kind of getting things ready and there was all these different tasks that I had to do, all those were right there in that list. And then similarly, I have one for this next book that I'm working on. When I was getting ready for school, I had one for back to school before the start of school, and those were all things that I wanted to work through in our house or whatever that had to be done before then. And I could see that list right in one spot. You could do "Before Christmas", same kind of thing. You could create one for an event that you're throwing. When we did my husband's festival that he threw this summer, I had all of the list right there and I would just work through. So then you can have different areas. I'll be completely honest, some of these kind of overlap between projects in mine. But areas are like, "Kids". So you could have here's just a bunch of things: "I need to get out their fall clothes. I need to order someone new pants. I need to....", whatever it is. You can have a whole list to do with kids. Then I have one for our allergy program, and that's all lists or things that I need to do for that. And then one for our home. So hopefully that kind of makes sense. But I'm really only touching the tip of the iceberg.
Jessica Smartt For me, I find it really helpful to have categorized lists in there and it reminds me when I need to know things. So my routine is that every morning, most mornings, I will sign on to Things, pull it up on my computer, and look at what I have for the day, and then also kind of preview what's coming up for the week. And then I do still have a paper and pen planner because that's just my preference, so I'll take what's on the list and add it to my actual planner of what I need to do for the day, because I just really like checking things off and having like a handwritten list. So I check it every day and it will pop up with what I need to do. And then at certain points I can go to those different categories and see what I need to do. So if you have any more questions, please reach out. I know it's a little bit confusing, but it is pretty intuitive once you start working with it. It has made my life a thousand times easier because things aren't in my head.
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Jessica Smartt Okay, so let's move on from Things app. The other thing I used prompted by the Getting Things Done book is Google Keep. Google Keep is free and it's a list-making function form. It is on the computer for me and then also on my phone as an app. And these lists are more like shopping lists kind of thing. So all of the different stores, I keep my lists there because, I don't know if you're like me, but there's always 17 different stores that you get different things from. So I have my Walmart list and things I might need to buy on Amazon and the grocery store, and keep all of these different lists there. And then I have a list for—So basically this is another way you may be using your Notes app, but it's just a little bit more functionality because in the Notes app you can't really use links. So if someone—You know how people give you different random ideas that are good and you're like, "Oh, I should make a note of that."? So I have "Homeschool Tips", and if someone mentions something that might be like a resource that I would use for homeschool, I have that list. I have a "Podcast to Listen To". I have our prescription refill numbers. I have random things that I need to buy for our home, because of course you never remember that when you're actually at home store. I have gift ideas and just different things. So it's kind of like Notes, but you can just do more with it, I think. So I do use Notes. Really, the only thing I do is for random, very temporary things. And then the only thing that we do use it for is a shared note between my husband and I of things that we/he is doing around the house, because you can't share with Things app, which stinks. At least you couldn't when I downloaded it. So that's really the only thing I use Notes for, but that's helpful too for both of us.
Jessica Smartt Okay, so here's just some other random organizing things that have really helped my life out. So I print off every week a kids homeschool chart for each one of them, and it has Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And I, on Sunday night, go in and input their actual page numbers and assignments. So it's basically their to-do list for the week and I print it off and they can check it off, because before—And I started doing this—Let's see my daughter is in third grade, and she's about at the cusp of using this list, so I don't know that it's necessary prior to that. But I'm using it right now for my third and my seventh grader. And so they're able to see, "Okay, it's Monday. I have page...math lesson number this, language lesson number this..." And any other things I jot in that I want them to do. And then, of course, they have a box for like morning time and chores. So that has been super helpful. We did that a couple of years ago. And I actually have a way for you to download that, I'll put that in the links, and you can edit my copy. It's a Google document that you can download and just sort of see what I'm talking about.
Jessica Smartt The other thing that has been amazingly helpful, and I posted this on Instagram and people were like, "What in the world?" I still get comments from people in real life. But prior to the beginning of the school year, I planned every person's day, including myself, by 15-minute increments. And that was the most eye-opening exercise. We don't follow it to a tee, but it has been invaluable in giving us a guide and a goal-post of what we're trying to shoot for. And if someone is sort of like meandering around looking like they're doing nothing, I will just say, "Hey, it's 10:15, what does your chart say you need to be doing right now?" And that's like the end of the conversation. And it was also really helpful to organize so that not everyone was on the computer at the same time, and also everyone has a meeting time with me like 2 to 3 times a week. I don't always do that, but pretty much. So it just was awesome to set it out and kind of see, "Okay, here's how I think the day will go." You make sure you don't miss anything. And even though, like I said, we really aren't using that schedule exactly, it just is amazing to have the goal and know what you are supposed to be doing. So you don't need to wait until the beginning of school, you can do that mid-year or at Christmas.
Jessica Smartt And then the other thing that I wanted to share is monthly meal planning. I have been sitting down and planning out, for example, the entire month of September meals, and it's amazing. I loath meal planning, but I have to do it because with my son's allergies we can't just spur-of-the-moment go out to eat, or just...I have to have the ingredients on hand and know what I'm doing. So I was doing it weekly, and I hate it, and it's terrible, and if I was just in a very foggy brain mind-set, it was really even worse. So I sit down once, it is like probably an hour process, and first fill in activities for the month and then plug in my meals. And I think I've shared a couple of screenshots on Instagram. I'm going to go ahead and share one for October as well. And you know, you can repeat. Now that I have these pictures of throughout the years, I can kind of pick another fall month and just sort of sub those meals. So I found that I was making the same meals anyway, might as well just plan it out. And I don't know if you ever tried it, but I highly recommend that. So those are my homeschool tips. I would love to hear what you thought of this, and if you have any other ones. I'm going to start a thread when this goes live on Instagram and see if anyone else has questions or other homeschool tips. Please share. I know that you all are a wealth of information. So let me know what you thought, and best wishes in your homeschool week. I will talk to you later.
Jessica Smartt Guys, thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review and that’ll help other homeschooling parents find our community. And finally, don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of The Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. Hopefully I will see you there. And don’t forget to check out my books: Memory Making Mom and Let Them Be Kids, and my Homeschool Bootcamp course. You can rock homeschooling and I can help. Check the show notes for all of those resources