Jan 142015

A lot of people, including me, make New Year’s Resolutions to declutter their home and to simplify. But I bet not as many people resolve to declutter and organize their computer files.

Organizing Computer Files
Photo credit – Marcin Wichary

Keeping Your Computer Organized is Essential

You may not realize it, but keeping your computer organized and decluttered can save you both time and money. How much time do you waste looking for items you’ve saved on your hard drive? How many times have your looked for a computer file and not been able to find it? Or how many times have you forgotten that you had a great freebie or even purchased a resource and didn’t use it because you had forgotten about it?

January is Clean Up Your Computer Month

Here’s a free checklist with short daily assignments to help guide you through cleaning up your computer in 3 weeks. This checklist was provided by SingleHop, a cloud storage company. Click on the image to download a copy.



Organizing Computer Files

Organization is something that is individual. It needs to make sense to you, so there isn’t a single right way to organize your computer files. However, here are some questions to guide you through the organization process.

1. What do you save on your computer?

Do you use your computer for running a business? Do your children use it for school works? Are there pictures and ebooks on there?

2. Think about the general categories that you use your computer for and create folders for them.

I have folders for Home, Homeschooling Resources, Work,  and Blog. I also have folders for each child that uses my computer occasionally.

3.  Go through your documents and move them to the appropriate folder.

As you’re moving files, you may notice that you need sub-folders. I have sub-folders under Home for Recipes and Cleaning. In my Homeschooling Folder, I have folders for various subjects like Math, English, etc.

4. Delete documents that you no longer need.

Also create an archive folder for things you should save, but don’t need to access often (or maybe ever, but need to save just in case.)

5. Organize pictures by date or event.

Pictures are tough. I honestly don’t have a good system for my pictures.

6. Backup your hard drive.

You can do this with an external hard drive, cloud storage, or both. I like to use Snapfish for photo storage of images that I want to print, but I don’t save every image there. They do require an order every 12 months to use their service.

7. Maintain your organization system.

When you save something, go ahead and put it in the right folder. Go through your files at least monthly to see what you should move, archive or delete. Make a backup!

Hopefully these tips are helpful for organizing your computer files. I’d love to here about how your organize your files! (Especially for pictures. I need help!)

May 282014


As I set my goals this year,  I started by thinking about some of what I had been struggling with during the previous year.

I was frazzled.

I felt pulled in all directions.

I lacked focus.

I wasn’t paying enough attention to any of my children during “school time”.

I was exhausted.

I determined that there were a couple of things contributing to these problems. One was biological.

Electronic Distraction

I have this amazing device that sits open a good portion of my day. Its home is right at the end of the dining room table.

It’s my Macbook Pro.

Macbook Glow

And while I was “teaching” it sat there open.

I heard my e-mail notifications.

I heard my Facebook notifications.

So I would stop by and “just check my e-mail really quickly.” Frequently.

Unfortunately the “really quickly” was rarely quick. Usually I saw something to respond to, a link to check, or I thought of something clever to post on Facebook. And the next thing I knew, 30 minutes had passed, and I had several kids waiting on me to help them with something. (Sometimes they were physically waiting, more often, they just quit doing their school work and disappeared.)

I was frustrated when I was interrupted, but I was almost always doing something where my children would have to interrupt.

Removing Distraction

Finally, I realized what I had to do.

I needed clear and defined times when my laptop (and my Kindle Fire) were off-limits. Completely. No exceptions.

So I did it.

I made 8-11 am a “NO computer time”. The laptop was closed and put away.  We also set 6-8 pm as off-limits for both my husband and me.


I have to confess it has been HARD.

At first, I had to be extremely legalistic about the hours. I would find myself nearly desperate to open the laptop. Really. It was pathetic.

Addicted to Distraction

Once I got used to my new off computer hours, I felt like I had mastered my addiction, so I let the hours be a little more flexible. And I would occasionally pick up my Kindle Fire at 9:30 or so, just to see if there was anything important.

Then I realized that I was slowly sliding right back into the same pattern of distraction during our morning school hours. I realized, that like a recovering alcoholic should avoid bars, I needed the strict rules. Legalistic or not.

So even though there are definitely times when I don’t need to be working with any of my children in the morning I do NOT allow myself any computer time during those hours.

Productive Pursuits

What have I been doing instead?


Folding the laundry




Reading magazines

These are all things that I either enjoy or need to do that were getting pushed aside because of the amount of time I was wasting on the computer.

I have a long way to go. And with summer coming, I may not keep the same off-limits hours. But then again, it may be best to keep on with my routine.


How about you? Have you been able to successfully decrease your computer usage permanently? How do you do it?


Jul 242012

Do you know a child who has trouble following directions? Or one who can’t remember things he hears?

I do!

William, my 10 year old, has many learning difficulties. One of them seems to be related to auditory processing. (I do not have an official diagnosis of auditory processing disorder, but he is definitely weak in this area.) When I heard about HearBuilder Auditory Memory Software from Super Duper Publications, I was very interested in trying out the program with him.

The program is a game that helps children gradually increase their auditory memory and listening skills. The game involves the player as a secret agent who has to perform various activities in order to stop the villain.

The program is divided into 5 areas. They are:

  • Numbers
  • Words
  • Details
  • Closure
  • WH Info

After starting the game and clicking his name, the student sees the following screen.


From this, he can choose to go to any of the activities or check his progress in Agent Status. After all the levels of a game are completed, a badge will appear on this screen as well.


In the number game, the player is required to listen to a list of numbers, then type them in as the combination. It begins with a sequence of 3 and gets progressively more difficult.




The words game is similar to the numbers game. A sequence of words is read, and the player must click on the corresponding pictures in the same order.



The other games are more challenging and require higher level thinking skills. The details game asks players to select one of the people based on certain facts about them. For example, in the following picture the student might be asked to select the boy that is not wearing a backpack. (This picture is from the first level. They do get more difficult! The instructions are all auditory, of course.)


Another interesting game is closure. In it, the player has to fill in the missing word. It might say “Peanut butter and j..” or “Ring around the r…” The student is given choices and must select the right one.


The last game is the most difficult of all. In WH Info, there is a short factual “case” that is given. The player then has to answer a question about the case. The questions are all WH questions: who, what, when, where, or why.


We had a very good experience with this game. The software ran smoothly with no bugs. The games are engaging. After 6 correct responses in the main games, the player gets to play a reward game that is more fun and less educational.

My son who has difficulty with auditory memory doesn’t love the game, but he definitely likes it better than any of his schoolwork! Lizzie, my 5-1/2 year old, really likes the game and has asked to play it many times. Although this game was designed with the special needs student in mind, it is one that can be beneficial to any student. Neither of my children are anywhere close to completing the entire program. The games become progressively more challenging and higher levels even add in background noise.

You can purchase HearBuilder Auditory Memory Software from Super Duper Publications. The home edition is $69.95.

Disclosure: I received a copy of HearBuilder Home Edition in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

May 202012

Learning math facts brings up images of studying boring flash cards. And I don’t just mean boring for the kids! I really do think drilling math facts is important, but it has not been something that I’ve made enough time to work on with my kids. It takes time and my time is spread really thin homeschooling 5 children and working part-time.

What’s the answer, then?

Have someone else guide the drill. Or in this case, something.

There are many options for computer-based math fact drill. I’ve recently been given the opportunity to review one that I was unfamiliar with: CapJaxMathFax.


CapJaxMathFax is a simple computer program designed to drill students on all 4 mathematical operations. It allows students to master their math facts in a systematic progression. There is immediate feedback for the student and reporting capability for the teacher. It allows children to study math facts independent of the teacher, freeing up the teacher for other tasks.

The program is very simple to use. There are no distracting graphics and sounds. The problems are presented in a large font. Both horizontal and vertical problem orientation is used. The mouse is not used during the drill time, only the number keys (or keypad) and enter key. The student is challenged to not only get the fact correct, but to earn a SUPER rating on every math fact. The default setting for SUPER rating is answering in under 3 seconds. The student can practice or play for rating. Students build their rating over time and their progress is remembered in subsequent sessions. A bar graph is built on the screen allowing the student to visually see their progress.

I had my 10 year old son test serve as my main tester of this program. He has some learning difficulties and is behind in math, so he does need to work on his facts. He specifically needs to work on memorizing his multiplication facts, so that is where we started. I changed the Super Seconds from 3 to 6 for him. That is still tough for him. It just takes time for his brain to process what the problem is, then think of the answer, and then type in the answer. His progress on multiplication has been slow. Thinking that maybe the 6 seconds was an unrealistic target for him, I tested him with addition facts. I discovered that he can do the addition that fast because he knows it well. That definitely gives me hope for the multiplication!

He doesn’t love the program, but he doesn’t hate it either. (I know that doesn’t sound complimentary, but it actually is. He hates most everything that has to do with school. We’re really struggling.) I think that the program does exactly what it claims to do – helps students to master math facts. It is an ideal program for students who are easily distracted by games and sounds.

CapJaxMathFax is available to purchase through their website. A 12 month license is available for $29.95.


Disclosure: I received a 6-month license in order to review this program. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.