Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Planning Our Homeschool Year with LessonTrek

In the 6 or so years we've been homeschooling, I've tried a variety of different planners to keep track of the kids grades, classes, and assignments. I've had some that worked out okay and others that didn't work at all. I tried buying them online from homeschool companies, assembling my own with a store bought planner, or piecing together printable ones from online. So many of them were filled with all sorts of extra pages that were overwhelming or that I didn't even use. I needed something simpler and easy to use.

When I began gearing up for this year I found an online lesson planning tool through a Facebook group I'm in. I thought eh, I'll sign up for it and see what it's like. I was very pleasantly surprised! LessonTrek is a very easy to use online lesson planner. It's available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE 10+. In addition to yearly lesson planning, it also comes equipped to record grades and assemble transcripts. I plan out a week or two weeks at a time and then print off a copy of the week's assignments for the children to attach to a clipboard and mark off assignments as they go. It gives them a little more freedom and responsibility and lets them know exactly how much they have to get done that day.

Adding and arranging subjects is very easy. LessonTrek uses a very simple drag-and-drop interface that gives you room to put information about the assignments and different types of tasks - tests, workbook pages, reading, etc. You can also copy and paste whole weeks at a time - which I've found to be helpful since we do the same subjects each week. I can fill in all the subjects and then just copy it to the next month or two and then fill them out as needed.

Grading subjects is also very easy with LessonTrek. You can use percentages, incomplete/complete, points, symbols, or leave the subject ungraded. Field trips and extracurricular activities can also be added in. I added our weekly Book Club and then in the blank space underneath their assignments the kids will fill in other tasks or events that are happening throughout the week.
I sent a message to the people who created LessonTrek and let them know how much I loved it and asked a few questions about a few different features. They were quick to respond and let me know that one of those features in particular (sharing subjects between students) was in the works and would be available soon. Very quick and helpful customer service!

They also very generously gave me information about a current special that my readers could use! LessonTrek has a 14 day free trial and normally costs $6 a month or $60 a year. (Still really good for all the stuff it offers!) But by using the special code below, you can get 50% off for 2 years. Just enter code HC243 inside the Monthly Code section Discount Code box in all caps. You'll only have to pay $3 a month for 24 months! That's a really great deal.

Disclosure: I emailed LessonTrek of my own accord to tell them how I liked their service and to ask questions. I also told them I was a blogger who thought her readers would also like their service. They offered my readers a discount code. I received no compensation and these opinions are all mine!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Rediscover Clinton Indiana

Clinton is a city of approximately 5000 people, located in west central Indiana. It is home to the annual Labor Day weekend Little Italy Festival. I saw a news story awhile back about Rediscover Clinton, a group formed in late 2014, that is made up of committed business owners and local leaders who are working to revitalize the downtown area of Clinton between Main and 9th, and who are working to help preserve its rich cultural heritage. I had the opportunity recently to talk with Dylan Riggen, who is the executive director of the Vermillion County Economic Development Council. I got an inside look at Rediscover Clinton and it's beginnings, and heard about what they hope to see happen in the future!

Rediscover Clinton was founded from the Community Development Committee of the Vermillion County Economic Development Council. The idea was first tossed around and then mentioned to the mayor in late 2014. Then followed several meetings with OCRA (Office of Community & Rural Affairs) and it's West Central Liaison, Jill Curry, who helped get the group up and going.
The group is working to be identified as an Indiana Main Street Organization. After being a member of that for at least one year, they would be able to apply for certain things like building facade & sidewalk improvement grants. Their main focus at the moment is to create more collaboration between businesses with a "Shop Local" campaign, and also with enhancing the look and feel of downtown Clinton. They have created two community calendars to showcase local events, four banners at each entrance to the city that show the group's name and tagline, and hanging flower baskets for Main & 9th Street. On June 15, the first of the four 40-foot banners was put up with the assistance of the local fire and police department. The first community calendar was installed on July 17 at the City Building.

The group's efforts have not gone unnoticed either. A sort of ripple effect has started to happen throughout the city and beyond, with different people and groups sprouting up to tackle tasks and ideas. One example, Jeff Winchester, the owner of Pike Bike Tune-Up & Repair is using the momentum to create a walking and bike trail in Sportland Park. Other local cities (Cayuga, for one) have also shown interest in how they can get something similar started in their towns!
Many business owners and citizens have been looking for something like this for a long time and the community leaders have provided the opportunity. The board of Rediscover Clinton is comprised of around 15 people and has various subcommittees where a LOT of work is going on. Mary Cuel-Spendal, owner of Spendal's Macelleria, is in charge of the Economic Development group, and is working on creating the "Shop Local" Campaign, and Gerrie Wilson, owner of Gerrie's Restaurant, is heading up the Design Committee. Becky Miller, who is the Ivy Tech Resource Development Director and t
he owner of Attic Buddees in Clinton, is heading up the Events Subcommittee, which is working to create more collaboration with individuals that have been putting on existing events on Main & 9th Streets. Many citizens and business owners have organized holiday family-friendly events in the past featuring activities, games, treats, music, and more - my family and I have went to several of them and highly enjoyed ourselves. The Events Subcommittee is hoping to help the existing events work together - they met just last week to discuss the upcoming Halloween and Christmas celebrations. And looking to the future - Rediscover Clinton will be hosting a fundraising event called the "Taste of Clinton" which will feature local businesses from Clinton and the surrounding cities in Vermillion County, to showcase their cuisine or other offerings. It will take place on November 7th at 6 PM at the Community Recreation Center in Clinton.

I enjoyed talking to Dylan and I admire his passion and dedication to the city of Clinton. I have always loved the closeness and community that the Indiana small towns I grew up in and live in now have. It's great being able to go into Clinton and know who I'm buying things from or doing business with, and also knowing that I'm helping neighbors make a living. Or going to a restaurant where the waitress remembers me and asks how my kids are doing. The overall mission of Rediscover Clinton is one I heartily applaud - to get Clinton citizens re-engaged in their community, and to bring back the sense of pride that once existed in this great town!
If you're interested in volunteering for Rediscover Clinton, simply fill out their volunteer form. Or visit their Facebook page - Rediscover Clinton - for more information!