An Evernote Workshop: (4) How Many Notebooks Do We Need?

So far in this series, we’ve looked at the basics of Evernote. We know about the left panel, note list and note panel and have decided how we want these to look. We can create such things as notes and notebooks and tags. Now we need to create our notebooks!

But what kind of notebooks do we need and how many should we create? I guess the answer to these questions could vary depending on our needs, but let’s explore some possibilities.

Homeschool Records Notebooks

I need to keep homeschool records for registration purposes. I make lots of notes as I capture all the unschool learning experiences of my daughters. So I need a notebook to put them into. Should everything go into one notebook? Or do I need multiple notebooks?

I’ve been creating a new notebook every week. There are ten weeks in every school term so I have a stack of ten notebooks for each term. There are 4 terms for each school year. Therefore, I have 4 stacks per year.

But I’m not sure this is the best way to arrange things. Evernote is designed for fewer notebooks and more tags. Instead of creating a new notebook every week, I could have one notebook per term. I could even have one notebook per year.

Does that sound too few? How would I ever find what I’m looking for? What if I wanted to know what my girls were doing in week 1 of term 2 of 2016, for example? Could I display the right notes on my screen without any problem? Yes, as long as I tagged everything properly.

With my one-notebook-per-week system, I don’t need to tag my notes with the week number, term number or year. I just go to my left panel and scroll through my notebooks to find what I’m looking for. But if I put all our notes into one termly or yearly notebook, I’d find the appropriate notes by searching the notebook using the week, term and possibly year tags. (I wrote about tag searching in Workshop 3.)

Although my left panel might look cluttered because I have created many homeschool notebooks, I do like this arrangement at homeschool registration time. When our Authorised Person (AP) from the education department visits us, it is easy for her to see I have homeschool records for each of the required weeks of the school year. If she’d like to see what my girls did week by week, I don’t have to search for the appropriate notes. The AP can scroll through the list and choose for herself what she wants to look at. Would she be happy scrolling through a term’s worth of notes at a time? Probably.

I’ve written about this topic in another blog post: Evernote Homeschool Records: How Many Notebooks Do We Need.

A Notebook for Each Child?

Do we need to create separate notebooks for each of our children? No. All we have to do is tag each child’s notes with his or her name. If a note applies to all children, it will be tagged with all their names.

Homeschool Registration Notebooks

I have several notebooks containing info that’s directly associated with our homeschool registration visit.

The School Syllabus Notebook

I have clipped the school syllabus into a notebook. We live in NSW, Australia and so our homeschooled children’s learning is supposed to be based on the syllabus used by the schools. I use my syllabus notebook when I’m matching my daughters’ unschooling to the syllabus. Also, because of this notebook, the AP knows that I am at least aware that my girls’ learning should be based on the school syllabus.

The Strewing or ‘Planning’ Notebook

How can we write the required homeschooling plan at registration time when we are unschooling? Surely we have no idea what our kids will be learning a week, a month or a year from now? I don’t write a plan but I do keep an Evernote ‘planning’ notebook which is really a strewing notebook. I browse the school syllabus for ideas and then search for appropriate resources such as Youtube videos, books, DVDs, websites, and articles. I clip links to all the resources into the strewing notebook.  I say to my AP, “These resources cover the topics in the school syllabus.” And I say to my girls, “I’ve put loads of links into the strewing notebook. You could take a look. You might find something interesting.” Sometimes they use the resources. Sometimes they don’t. It’s up to them. (Sometimes I use them!)

If you’d like more info about strewing notebooks, you could read my post Unplanning Notebooks for Strewing and Record Keeping.

I’ve made a couple of videos about them too:


The Progress Notebook

 Do you need to provide records of your child’s progress? (Perhaps you want progress records for your own interest and reassurance.) If you do, you could add regular observation notes to a progress notebook. Or maybe you could copy sample notes from your homeschool notebooks into this notebook. You could choose notes which you feel reflect your child’s development: a piece of writing such as a blog post, some photos of an outing, some artworks, photos of handicrafts, conversations, scans of certificates and awards etc. If you have to send samples of your child’s work to the education department at registration time, maybe you could print these notes and then post them off. If you keep this notebook up-to-date, everything will be ready when you need it.

Family Journal Notebooks

 Our homeschool notebooks are also our family journal notebooks. Unschooling is our life. Sometimes our notes look a bit schooly (because they need to satisfy our AP) but they are still a record of the days I share with my children. The titles of my notes correspond with the Key Learning Areas of the school syllabus which is not very interesting from a family journal point of view. Could I change them, make them sound more exciting? Or is it worth sacrificing a creative title for one that will catch the attention of our more schooly-minded AP? Somthing to think about!

If you don’t need to keep homeschool records, you don’t have to worry about such things. You might like to create special family journal notebooks and title them exactly how you like. How many notebooks will you need? I rather like the idea of having a new notebook every month, but a new notebook each year would work too.

Personal Notebooks

I have a number of personal notebooks. I’ve created them at random and they are in a mess! I should rename them and tag my notes properly and then I’d be able to find whatever I’m looking for easily. I could have a single personal notebook, just like I could have a single homeschool notebook, as long as I use the appropriate tags.

At the moment, I have a diary notebook and one for my blog posts. There’s one for other people’s blog posts and articles I want to keep. I clip details of books I want to read as well as notes on books I’ve finished. I have a notebook for blog post and other writing ideas. Then there’s my recipe notebook. I’m sure you can think of many other things that can be saved in a personal Evernote notebook. We’ll share ideas in a future post!

Sharing Notebooks

Talking of sharing, I share our homeschooling notebooks with my girls. (They also have Evernote accounts.) They are able to access the notes: They can read them, follow the links, edit the notes, and even create additional notes. This works well because often I don’t know what my girls are doing. It’s easier for them to add their own record keeping notes than it is for me to do it for them.


I made a screencast tutorial to go with this blog post. If you like watching and listening, please take a look!

Next time, we’re going to talk about how we can turn our digital notebooks into paper documents. Interested?

So how many notebooks do you have? And what do you use them for? If you’d like to share, you could stop by here or join me on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you!


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    • Kelli
    • May 5, 2017

    Me again,,, I’m wondering about the star icons you use for repeat piano lessons/runs/book reading etc. Is this a feature within Evernote or do you simple add the icons as a copy/paste? I can’t figure out where to find them. Help????

    1. Reply


      I downloaded the star icon from a free icon website. I saved it to my computer and then uploaded it to my Evernote note in the same way I upload photos. I copy and paste icons both within and between notes. You could try copying and pasting icons directly from the Internet without saving them. When I did this, my icons were too big but maybe I was doing something wrong! Workshop post (6) is about images and icons.

      I hope this helps!

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