I love planners! I think I seriously have an addiction. There’s just something about a new one with empty pages that need to be filled. About a year or so ago, I learned about the bullet journal and fell in love with the concept! After figuring out the basics, I discovered how to start a bullet journal for homeschooling.
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What Is a Bullet Journal
The Bullet Journal was created by a digital product designer named Ryder Carroll. Ryder had learning disabilities when he was younger and had a difficult time focusing, which made it very difficult to be productive. He experimented with different techniques that helped him get organized and accomplish his goals. This method is a result of those efforts. Now he uses it to help others be more productive and intentional in their lives. His idea has literally taken the world by storm!
Why It’s Effective for Learning Disabilities
Difficulties with organization is a common characteristic of children with learning disabilities or ADHD. If you have a child who struggles in this area, this method may be something you want to try. It could help in the following areas:
- time management
- remembering appointments
- organizing thoughts and decision making
- turning assignments in on time
- goal setting
- brain dump to clear his mind when trying to focus (I’ll explain what this is later)
- streamlining information into one place
Of course, these are all areas any student could stand to improve.
The Basics of How to Start a Bullet Journal for Homeschooling
There are a few basics you need to know in order to understand how a bullet journal works. The information you record is done through a process called rapid logging. This means that information is written down in a bullet list format made up of short phrases. Each one is marked by a symbol to identify whether it is a task, event, or note. You can make up whatever symbol you want for these, but I will explain the ones Ryder uses to give you a starting point.
Tasks are marked with a regular dot like you would see in a bulleted list. This symbol was chosen because it was quicker to write than a checkbox and easier to change it into other symbols to show the different actions that need to be taken.
Here are the five different ways you can mark a task:
* Leaving the dot means the task was not completed.
x If a task is completed, draw an x over the dot.
> If the task wasn’t completed, you can move it to a collection. To reflect this, turn the dot into a right arrow.
< If the task isn’t completed, it can be rescheduled in the future. To show this, draw a left arrow over the dot.
–A line through the dot and text means the task is canceled or is not relevant anymore.
To signify an event, a circle “o” is used. These usually represent the date of something that is going to occur or noting something significant that has already happened so you can remember it.
Notes are marked with a dash “-“. These entries are for things you don’t want to forget such as ideas, thoughts, or facts. These are particularly useful in a setting where you are taking notes such as lectures, classrooms, church, etc. All of these symbols can be mixed in any order when writing in your journal. The idea is to get the information down and out of your head so you can free your mind up for other things.
You can take it further and mark things that are important and given priority with an asterisk “*” in front. Or use an exclamation point “!” to show great ideas or inspiration. This is in addition to the task, event, or note symbol.
Ryder suggests keeping all entries short so you are more likely to record them.
What Kind of Journal to Use
There are many types of journals you can buy to do this. You can even use a regular notebook if you want. One of my favorite journals is the Scribbles That Matter (Pro Version) Dotted Journal*. I really like that it already has some of the important features done for me such as the three index pages at the front, a key code page, and page numbering. It also has a pen holder, an expandable pocket in the back, two colored ribbon page markers, an elastic closure, and two blank test pages so you can try out different pens without ruining a regular page. This journal comes in some cute colors too!
Setting Up Your Bullet Journal
If you are using a regular notebook without an index, skip a few pages to leave room for that. On the first regular page you want to start your journal, give it a title so you know what it is for. The second thing you want to do is number the page at the bottom (if yours doesn’t have them.) Once you have the page set up, go back to or start a table of contents at the beginning of the book. List your title and page number, and then you will be able to find it quickly when you need to.
Here is a video showing you how to set up a Bullet Journal
Reasons to Use a Bullet Journal in Your Homeschool
Homeschooling requires a lot of organization. There’s a lot to keep track of, especially if you live somewhere that requires you to turn in this information at the end of the year. A homeschooling bullet journal can help to keep all this information in one place. You can quickly fill in your journal each day or week, and at the end of the year, all that work is already done for you. This is a huge help when you have so many other things to deal with.
I don’t know about you but my brain is constantly thinking about too many things at once, and it’s hard to focus when I have so much on my mind. If you have not heard of a “brain dump” before, it’s a great concept. The idea is to sit down and write everything your thinking about on paper, or in this case, your journal. This can free up your thoughts and help you to be productive because you don’t have to worry you will forget it. This can be a great thing to do at night right before bed so you can sleep and not have all these thoughts floating around in your head. Or you can do it first thing in the morning and start your day off with a fresh mind.
I think we can often run around doing too many things at once because we start one task and then think of another and stop to go do it before we forget. This can lead to a lot of chores being started but never finished. If all of our important “to-dos” have been written down, we can focus on the task at hand and see it to the end before moving on to the next.
You know those great ideas you think of and then jot them down on a piece of paper that gets lost? Start a page specifically for these ideas! Perhaps it’s a list of field trips you’d love to take, crafts or activities you see on Pinterest, books you’d like to read, or school room ideas you’d like to try. You get the idea.
All In One Book
The bullet journal is unique in the sense that its uses are limitless. This means you can consolidate your lesson plan book, notebooks, calendars/planners, loose pieces of paper, and sticky notes lying around the house into one little book. It will cut down on clutter and I’m all for that!
Small and Compact
I have a hard time sticking to a paper planner that is big and bulky. I don’t want to take it with me, it doesn’t fit into my purse, and then I always need it when it’s not around. There are many journals available that are the perfect size to take on the go because they fit nicely in an average size purse or bag. Then it’s always with me to refer to or write in. If you plan to use something like the Scribbles That Matter (Pro Version) Dotted Journal*, it’s perfect when you’re on the go.
Ways to Use Your New Bullet Journal
It’s very simple to jot down your lesson plans in a one or two-page spread in a Bullet Journal. You can customize the spaces on a page by using a ruler to mark off areas for individual students or days of the week. The dot grid makes it easy to count the lines and divide the page up evenly.
As you saw in the video, you can set up monthly and weekly overviews to have a general idea of what is going on. Then you can take it a step further with daily entries as well. The nice thing about using this journal is the pages aren’t preprinted, and if you don’t want to use all of those formats, you aren’t wasting pages.
Some families like to set a specific schedule they use each day. This can be very helpful, especially when you are teaching more than one child.
Master Chore List
Another excellent reference tool to have handy is a master chore list. Making a list of all the chores that need to be done each day, week, month, and year makes it easy to refer to and assign them to the family. You could even create a separate checklist for the monthly and yearly ones.
Some states require a record of attendance, and this can easily be included on a two-page spread in the book. The dot grid and square type books work well for this and make it easy to draw straight lines and make check boxes.
I like having a page set aside to record grades. This is highly important in the high school years in order to create transcripts. If you want to create a report card, all you have to do is tally everything up. As soon as I am done grading something, I go to my page in the journal and enter the date, title of what the assignment was, and the grade itself. If you use a grading program, this makes the process smoother when you sit down to enter all the grades.
This is one of my least favorite things to do. But planning meals does make my life easier, and that’s why I keep doing it. Having a place in your bullet journal where you’ve already planned out your meals for the week makes each day go so much smoother when you know what’s for dinner.
Collections are ongoing lists. Here are some ideas for how they can be used in your homeschool or home.
Curriculum Lists-This can be a list of the curricula you are using this year or a list of materials you want to check out for the upcoming year.
Booklists-Keep a running list of the all the books your child has read throughout the year. Or keep a list of books you would like to read.
Master meal list-Doing school and running a home can be chaotic at times. If you have a master list of your family’s favorite meals, it will make meal planning so much quicker. Keep them in a collection and keep adding to it as you discover more recipes your family loves. You could also add a page of recipes you want to try and where to find them.
Important Events and Holidays
I’m terrible about remembering people’s birthdays. If I don’t have them written down, I’m doomed. Keep a list of important dates and holidays that you can refer to and add to your daily, weekly or monthly calendar. Never miss another important date again!
As homeschoolers, quite often we live on a single income or are watching what we spend. If you have a budget or financial goals you are working towards, this is another easy item to incorporate into your journal. You can list regular monthly expenses and then add upcoming costs that aren’t a part of your typical budget, such as birthdays, to prepare for them. You can list your categories with the totals and keep track of your spending.
Create a page for each child so you can record their progress throughout the year. Make notes about areas they need to work on, how they have improved, and what is and isn’t working with the curriculum, anything else you want to note. If you are someone who likes to stop and assess how things are going every nine weeks or semester, this is an effective way to see how your year is going.
Other Ideas for Yourself
While the Bullet Journal is quite helpful in your homeschool, it’s fun to add a few pages for personal uses as well.
I love to take notes at church on Sunday. It helps me to stay focused, and I can go back and refer to them later. However, I used to write them down on a stray bulletin and then it would get lost in the shuffle after church. Because I can carry my Bullet Journal with me, I can use it to take the notes, and I will know right where to find them.
Gratitude journals are very popular right now and are sold as “another” notebook you have to keep around and store somewhere. Why not add some pages for this as well? You could even mark off an area on your daily or weekly view for this.
Taking time to list the things we are grateful for really does change our attitudes and emotions, which in turn makes us kinder people. It helps us realize how many blessings we have. Research says it’s good for your physical health as well. Check out this article for 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round
I came across the idea of tracking your mood the other day and thought it was interesting. A number of factors can trigger our mood. They can be hormonal, physical, nutritional, external factors, and so on. Taking the time to note our moods and when they occur can help us pinpoint the cause. How we think and act is primarily affected by our mood. This, in turn, can have a tremendous impact on our homeschool.
If you have someone in your household who is trying to identify food sensitivities or allergies, a food journal is a must. Keeping track of what is eaten can help to zero in on the problem food when there is a reaction.
If you are not artistic or creative, don’t worry! You do not have to do anything fancy to use a Bullet Journal. I am not artsy at all and still enjoy using one. However, if you are the type that likes to embellish your pages, there are tons of Bullet Journal ideas you can find by searching Pinterest. You will be amazed at what people have done with these.
Here is an article with some neat ideas that go beyond the basics: 11 Bullet Journal Hacks to Take Your Planning to the Next Level
If you have multiple children, you may need to use one Bullet Journal per semester to have enough room to include all the information for your homeschool. Another idea might be to use a separate journal per child.
Bullet Journaling is not just for adults. I believe high school students would benefit from this as well. Developing organizational skills at a young age is going to give them an edge over their peers and future co-workers when entering college and the workplace.
You should learn how to start a bullet journal for homeschooling. There are so many benefits to gain from using one, as well as unlimited uses for it. I have only touched on a few ideas here. This could transform your homeschool day. I think you will enjoy having everything in one place and how organized your whole day can become as a result of it.