Every year I start out with intentions of doing all the things all year long. You know the list – keep topic relevant library books in the reading baskets, have all of the science supplies for experiments before we need them, do all the art projects without having to run the store, know where we will be going for fieldtrips and know when we will actually be going, register for the homeschool programs at our library, introduce various types of new technology / learning tools, etc. Yet, somehow by November we are completely derailed every year – well, every year before last year. Let me share with you what changed.

Before last school year started, I took the time to set reminders in my phone to help me remember to do the things. I like to keep things fairly simple so I just placed these reminders in my Google calendar. Why Google calendar? First, our family uses a shared calendar for all our obligations so I know how to use it well. Secondly, Google allows me to set a repeating schedule. Third, my Google calendar is always with me on my phone or on the computer. I can get to it quickly and never have to try to keep in my head what I need to get done when because let’s face it if it is only in my head, it isn’t getting done. But by all means, use any app or paper calendar of your own that works for your family. With these reminders in my phone each month, I was making serious headway to keeping to my plan of doing all the things all year long.

After a few months, I realized that one reminder a month wasn’t going to cut it. Now, I’m sure many of you have tried to set a specific time each month – anyone else plan your whole month on the last week of the month prior? – but without a doubt this system has failed most of you. Why? Well if you are like me, it is because there is no way you are going to put the library books on hold, map out the art projects, order all the art supplies, find all the materials for science, prep the materials for the hands on lesson, plan the fieldtrips, figure out the new learning tool, and still actually homeschool your children in that one week. Something would have to give. So instead of throwing in the towel and deleting my monthly reminders, I chose to double down and add more.

This became a thing of beauty! I divided my list of things to do by four decided which week of the month I was going to tackle that piece of the planning puzzle. This meant that I could set aside about an hour each week – Tuesday afternoons between 2:30 and 3:30 – to get that one reminder accomplished. No excuses. No procrastinating. Just keeping it smart. Keeping it simple. By adding a reminder about library books and events the first Tuesday of every month, I found that we were always able to keep relevant books in our baskets and our calendar full of the fun activities we wanted to join in for. Second Tuesdays were devoted to prepping any materials coming up for our next month of lessons. Our third Tuesday reminder of art and science materials kept me from ordering off Amazon at midnight or running to the store the day we needed things. On fourth Tuesdays, I would figure out all of our fieldtrip days and any new tools or technology we wanted to use. The system of reminders made our chaos manageable and our dreams of doing all the things a reality.

Now, did these reminders keep me from ever forgetting something or realizing we didn’t have what we needed? No, they didn’t but they did drastically reduce number of times it happened. There will always be the moment when someone uses the last of the glue and doesn’t let me know meaning we can’t do the thing in science today but with our reminders, I am able to better handle these moments and truly give my children the education we dream of giving them.

What is on your list? How can you divide out the tasks? Where can you build in reminders to get the things done.

Keep it smart. Keep it simple.