Bullet Journal for Life + Homeschool

It’s planning season for homeschoolers. Almost the tail end of it, actually, although I am still seeing a lot of posts and questions and Facebook comments about what material people are using and how they map it all out. In any case, it is much on my mind these days, so here is my planning post for this year: how I use a bullet journal for both homeschool and the rest of life. 

I love planners. 

I want to buy all the planners. I don’t know if it is the calming visual appeal of all those lines and boxes, or all the implied potential, like each planner is the key to an alternate future. I confess that I have bought rather too many planners over the last several years, both hard copies and printables, most of which have gone unused for one reason or another.

But I’m learning to say “no.” I still am sorely tempted each time I see beautiful designs or interesting content, but, I’m happy to say, I have settled on a system that actually works well for me. I started a bullet journal last fall, and I actually used it, daily, making tweaks along the way, for an entire year! Now I’ve got a system in place that is working well, and my 2017-2018 “bujo” is well underway. 

The bullet journal is so-called because it can contain bulleted lists, but it is a bit like a silver bullet for planning, because you can make it exactly what you need. Such a simple idea, and so magical. 

Through trial and error, I’ve come up with three basic requirements for a planner that I will actually use: 

It has to be physical. It helps me to think about things more clearly when I externalize them and can look at them more objectively; somehow paper seems more external to me than a phone app or computer screen, as well as more visually appealing. Plus the act of writing, sketching, and yes, decorating with washi tape, is soothing to me. You too? 

It has to contain everything. All the appointments, and the little day to day tasks, because if it’s not written down and in front of my face each morning, chances are better than even that it won’t get done. It also has to contain a full year of homeschool plans. That way I’m not switching back and forth between that binder and this app and that wall calendar, and double booking myself or forgetting plans that were written here and not there. It also needs room for mapping out some long term goals, keeping book lists, blog ideas, and other miscellaneous stuff I want to think through on paper and keep handy. So yeah: everything.

It has to be portable. I need to be able to write down an appointment right away when I’m out and about, which means all of that everything has to fit nicely in a purse. If I’m at the library and want to see my school plans for next week, or I have a brilliant idea for a field trip I want to take three months from now, I want to have those plans with me too. 

It’s not essential, but I do also want the thing to have some style, and if I’m going to be using it every single day, it’s worth getting something with nice-feeling paper. Last year and this year I’ve used a Leuchtturm1917 squared journal, and been very happy with it. It has the perk of numbered pages and a table of contents, so it’s easy to keep track of all those mind maps and book lists and such. 

The basic layout of my journal is this:

First, the monthly “future log.” I group these all together at the beginning, so I have a neat place to write down appointments and other date-specific things, and don’t have to flip all over the book to get a quick overview of what’s coming up. For each month I create a spread with dates on the left, and a blank page on the right. I enjoy using that right hand page as a sort of inspiration board, with some to-do items along with quotes, scriptures, sketches, craft or field trip ideas, etc. I love having a place to doodle and dream a bit, instead of a list of tasks. My journal goes July to July, and, based on last year, that’s about what fits in one book for me.

Monthly Future Log
The "9 months" in blue is how old my baby will be! That great quote in red is inspired by Christine Goodner at www.suzukitriangle.com

Next is a chart of week-by-week homeschool plans. I’ve put the weeks in columns, with subject areas down the left hand side, six weeks to a spread. If I had a spreadsheet of weekly plans, such as those from Ambleside Online, I might just print it and glue it in, but for now I enjoyed making my rainbow striped chart! 

Homeschool Plan Chart

The next section is where the rubber meats the road: the weekly logs. I draw them out six or eight weeks at a time, so I can plan ahead, but not too far ahead. Elsewhere I have mapped out some basic rhythms for our days and weeks (inspired by Jame C. Martin’s book Steady Days and Brandy Vencel’s average day posts), so it is pretty quick and easy to transfer plans from the big chart to the actual days where they belong. I’ll only write in the plans two weeks at a time, probably; we all know life happens, and plans will need to be amended. 

I leave space at the top of the pages to write out what I need to procure or prepare for the following week, along with things-to-do-at-some-point-this-week, things to remember, or whatever else I may want. As I get closer to this week, the page will fill in with reminders of my own chores, phone calls to make, meal plans, and all the small things that make a life.

Weekly Plan

(Worth noting: my version of weekly logs are a departure from the classic bullet journal, which is basically bulleted to-do lists written out day by day in real time. That way if you skip a day, or a month, you can pick right back up and not waste any paper. However, I like to be able to look down the road a little more than that. I know of other bullet journalers who do a weekly spread but don’t separate by days. My way works for me.)

All the other various and sundry pages I put at the back, so they are collected and they don’t interrupt the flow of the calendar.

And that’s it! So simple, so useful! 

All of this drawing and writing by hand might seem tiresome to some. I enjoy it as a bit of creativity that doesn’t require much brainwork, but the magic of the whole bullet journal idea is that you can design structures and pages that work for you, however glitzy or utilitarian you wish. 

Furthermore, if you see something in another planner that looks useful or appealing, you don’t have to buy a whole new planner to try it out—you can just incorporate what you like about it in to your own DIY version! 

No doubt bullet journals are not for everyone, but if this post gives anyone a few useful ideas or inspiration, I will be delighted. I would love more bujo ideas or links to your bujo posts in the comments!