Bullet Journal Quick Start Guide

BuJo QSG

After writing yesterday’s post on the importance of using a Bullet Journal, I felt like it was time to write a Quick Start Up Guide.

What is a Bullet Journal?

A lot of people have heard of the Bullet Journal by now, and most people still want to know: is it a calendar, a journal, or a planner? The answer is: yes. This system sounds sleek and fancy, but it really is super simple. So simple that you could look around your house and find everything you need to get started right now.

The system is a method of keeping your life contained in one journal. So, your calendar gets written in here, your grocery list, the notes from last week’s seminar, your plans and dreams for the future – all of it. Just turn to the next page, title it, and start writing.

Sound too random to really work for you? Maybe at first. It might take a couple weeks to fully transition to the method, but I guarantee that the writing part of it all will be so rewarding that it will far outweigh your original feelings of skepticism.

How does it work?

There are four main pillars of the system: a spread, the index, migration, and future logs.

Most importantly, before you give this method a try, you will need to abandon any notion of doing it “right or wrong.” This is your journal, do what makes sense to you. The only essential piece to the success of your journal is to just keep writing.

Now, for pillar #1: A Spread

This is the next open page in your journal. What goes on the new spread is totally up to you.

Spread = the next blank page

Spread = the next blank page

A spread could be:

  • Your daily agenda
  • The current month’s events and dates to remember
  • A grocery list
  • You name it – whatever is going on in your life can be written down on a spread

#2: The Index

This is the only organization piece of the Bullet Journal system. It’s simple, easy, and streamlined. It’s commonly what people want to skip in using the system, but trust me when I tell you that this index will serve as a valuable record once you’re well into the middle and end of your journal.

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How to index:

  1. Section off the first 4 pages of your blank journal and dedicate these pages as the INDEX. (If you choose to use the Lechtturm journal – recommended below – the Index is included as the first 4 pages.)
  2. Title each new spread. (Keep it simple! And use shorthand. See picture above for example.)
  3. Write a page number at the bottom of each spread.
  4. Record the page number and title on your index page.

#3: Migration

Sometimes when I write a to do list, I include everything I must do and everything I want to do. When the want-to-dos don’t get done, the mark of their true importance is whether I want to move them to the next day’s spread and list them again. This is the process of migration.

Benefits of migration:

  • Rewriting tasks takes intention
  • Intention fuels productivity
  • Conversely, rewriting a task multiple times reveals that the task may be irrelevant

Threading is also nice when migrating tasks or thoughts to a new spread. To remember where in your journal you first wrote a specific plan or idea, just write that page number at the bottom of the new page next to the current page number.

It would look similar to this: 45 | 62

The “45” is the first page a topic was written down, and the “62” is the current page you are on.

#4 Future Logs

A future log is usually a collection of plans, dates, and events for the future. Since the point of the system is to remain in a daily mindset and not write plans in advance, the future log is a place to jot down future events that need to be remembered.

So, if you are currently in the month of January, then you would write out the whole month in dates and days on the first of the month for reference. Every day in the month of January would then get a fresh spread. (You can combine days and write more than one day on a spread.)

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To create a future log:

  1. Open a spread and section it into months of the year
  2. Label the months
  3. Jot down dates and events you’re already aware of
  4. Include the page number and record this log in the index 

Can I customize it?

Yes! One of the beauties of this system is how unique it is to the user. Some prefer to go all out and buy tons of scrapbooking extras and others work best by using a simple spiral notebook with no bells and whistles.

I created a Budget Bullet Journal for keeping track of our ledger. I keep this in a separate notebook which is technically a breaking of the Bullet Journal rules.

Thou shalt not keep separate calendars, notebooks, or planners.

But I’m okay with that. I’ve been with the system long enough to know what encourages me to write and keep the system going and what discourages me and leave me staring at blank pages.

Do what works for you in order to just keep writing.

What makes this system different than other packaged systems?

For those who struggle with fear of failure, this system is golden because you simply can’t fail at it. Each new day is a blank page. Start fresh.

For the creative types, there isn’t a box you have to fit your ideas into. Live it up, the Bullet Journal is your muse.

For the rebels and control freaks, you are in complete charge of where your Bullet Journal goes. You can be as ordered, organized, and OCD as you need to be.

What do I need to get started?

Simple Start – you probably already have what you need. A simple spiral notebook like this one and something to write with works fine.

Better Start – I have used a spiral notebook, a plain Moleskine (no lines or grid), a dotted Lechtturm 1917 (dots are my favorite – plus the pages are already numbered for you!), and an Official Bullet Journal.

May 2016 165

The Official BuJo doesn’t add any value for the added price (and it’s often “out of stock”) so my top recommendation for starting out is to get a dotted Lechtturm.

Optional accessories:

  • Specific pens, these are fun but these are my favorite
  • Page flags, I’ve used these in the past to mark months
  • Washi tape, YouTube videos abound on how to dress up your journal – I do not recommend this (I tried it, and it proved to just slow me down and make me feel obligated to make a system out of the colors of tape). Some people really enjoy adding this flare, so to each their own!
  • Pen holder attachment for a Lechtturm, there are many options to choose from – none are necessary

What’s in the name?

Bullet Journal comes from the creator of the system who recommends writing your lists using a “bullet” mark. Once the task is complete, you mark an “X” through the bullet. I personally prefer to use the “Dash-Plus+” system. Again, their’s freedom and beauty in the uniqueness of using the Bullet Journal system.

So. What are you waiting for? Get writing!

Want to learn even more? I share even more tips and challenges in the Accountability emails. Click here to get started and make sure to mark “Yes!” to get motivation in your mailbox.

Links in this post are for your reference to see or purchase the product mentioned. These are affiliate links. Thank you for your support of this site! To read more about affiliate links, click here.

Bullet Journal: Homeschool Planning Tip #1

BuJo HPT 1

You know you need to plan out what you want to accomplish in the next year for homeschooling your children. But where do you start?

In the last post, I wrote that I would be sharing my year planning tips in short and sweet chunks, and the best place to start is by emphasizing the importance of using a Bullet Journal.

There are so many moving pieces with lining up a homeschool plan, that every mom I know has struggled to keep it all together. From not being able to see the big picture, or not being able to figure out the small details, it can all feel overwhelming.

And most people don’t feel the urge to pull it all together until August anyway. When August rolls around they are shocked, overwhelmed, and irrational (usually this stays on the inside but it has a way of leaking into “jokes” and crazy eyes). Suddenly, there’s so much to figure out, and most moms complain that they feel so far behind.

So, why stay on that crazy cycle?

Let me encourage you that you can avoid all of that by taking the time to implement my bite sized planning tips now in the late spring and early summer. By the time August rolls around for you, it will be possible for you to feel at peace with your next homeschool year’s plan and have the confidence to begin.

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How to begin:

You need to have ONE place where you write everything down. You need a method of recording all the things in your life. This is why I strongly encourage you to use the Bullet Journal system. It’s simple, streamlined, and customizable to your specific preferences.

All you need is a journal and pen.

{I wrote all about how to set up a Bullet Journal for homeschooling last year. If you have never heard of this system before, go to this post and check it out. Then come back here to finish this post.}

Now that you’re ready to write, clear out a couple evenings or a Saturday afternoon to start brain dumping all your thoughts about your home, your kids, and your philosophy of education. This will be an ongoing part of your planning, but it is also extremely important that you honor this part of the planning process by putting it first.

WARNING: Do not purchase any books, resources, tools, etc. until you have completed this step.

It’s important to know how you feel about homeschooling. It’s valuable to write down where you are now emotionally, where your family is at in terms of functioning in the home, and where the next year could potentially take you.

Take the time to note all the major milestones that are expected to come within the next year. Can you imagine how these changes will influence how you feel about being a home educator?

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The goal in writing all these things down is to settle your mind and heart, to center your focus on the present and the foreseeable future, to detail the specific challenges you face, and to prioritize just a few educational goals. The whole point in all this is to turn away from the temptation to buy the prepackaged curricula that feels promising: Homeschooling made easy! Or the temptation to blame the challenges of the past year on the resources that you chose: Well, we completely failed to finish our science curriculum because the instructor’s guide was just too hard to use.

Both of these temptations appeal to my desire to have a sure thing. I want to be successful at this lifestyle of home education. I want to prove that I’m capable.

But when I write out that my child struggles with mood swings and impulsive behavior then it doesn’t really matter if I pick a perfect “school in a box,” it’s likely that this child will not want to do anything I propose in our homeschool year.

And if I’m not growing like I should in the discipline of ordering our routine to be consistent, trustworthy, and beneficial to all in the family then it doesn’t matter if I find the best science program with an instructor’s guide that I can understand – because chances are I won’t be disciplined enough to use it.

So, this is why the first step in planning for your next year needs to happen now. You must give yourself time to honestly reflect on the strengths and weaknesses that you have within your home.

Whether you like it or not, in the next homeschool year you will not be able to accomplish everything you feel like you “should” do. That’s why it’s important to make the time to really prioritize your goals.

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In summary, to begin your homeschool planning:

  • Set up a Bullet Journal
  • Write out the highs and lows from this past year
  • Note your child(ren)’s strength and weaknesses and just a few simple goals for their personal growth (I wrote out a page of prayer requests for my kids to help me remember the most important things)
  • Articulate your educational philosophy
  • Write down any anticipated milestones coming in the next year
  • Chart what a potential week in your life will look like – include outside commitments, routine goals, and rest.

Sit with this journal and continue to write until you feel settled. Don’t move on from this step until you feel confident that you can make wise decisions regarding how you will spend your time and money on the next homeschool year.

One game-changer resource that has helped me in this part of the planning process has been Sarah McKenzie’s book: Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (affiliate link). You should get this book, read a few pages a day (there are only 81 pages – but each page is a gold mine of truth), and record all your thoughts in your Bullet Journal. I promise you will treasure what you write. 

Next in this series, I’ll be sharing how I find closure for the year that we just finished. This can be a tricky thing because we don’t always “complete” a subject, but keeping it on the shelf when I don’t we won’t use it anymore isn’t helpful. The next post will help you move on, let go, and clean the slate.

Are you feeling motivated to plan? Or is it draining just to think about it? Maybe you're like me and you waffle back and forth between these two. Wherever you're at in this learning journey, I'd love to help you take the next step. That's why I've created an Accountability/Encouragement group. I send out 2 emails per week to inspire and challenge you - and these are applicable to anyone at any stage of personal discipline. Want to join us? Click here to sign up.

Deadlines are awesome.

I’m up to my waist in preparation for our little baby #4 to arrive.

At the time I’m writing this we have between 4-6 weeks left before we can expect her make her appearance. Nothing like a baby to create a big deadline.

I’m nesting. The wonderful and irrational have become a normal part of my everyday.

Nesting brings about some unique and seemingly irrational behaviors in pregnant women and all of them experience it differently.

Since I’m not a new kid on the block when it comes to this stage of pregnancy, I’m accepting the helpful parts of nesting (cleaning, organizing, decluttering) and I’m trying to reject the counter productive parts.

Women have reported throwing away perfectly good sheets and towels because they felt the strong need to have “brand new, clean” sheets and towels in their home. They have also reported doing things like taking apart the knobs on kitchen cupboards, just so they could disinfect the screws attached to the knobs.” 

There’s so much to do, and so little time. It’s definitely the procrastinator’s dream situation because there is no shortage of adrenaline when thinking through all the things that have to be done now.

So what does this mean for homeschooling?

I’ve decided that the baby’s arrival is not only the deadline for all the things I need to prepare for our home, but it is also the deadline for having next year’s homeschool plan prepared.

I realize that it isn’t popular to line up all the next year’s resources this far in advance. For goodness’ sake, most people aren’t finished with their current year yet – It’s May! But we’ve worked hard this past year, and we’ve been finished with the bulk of our curriculum load for weeks now, and so it feels natural to get the new stuff out now to review instructor’s guides, introductions, and user guides.

Baby or not, late spring is my favorite time to decide what we will do and how we will do it for the next year.

Because:

  • Strengths, weaknesses, and limitations are still fresh in my mind
  • Interests have emerged through what we studied that were different or more developed
  • I have fear of procrastination and this early “get it done” time frame works for me
  • I make bad decisions when I get overwhelmed (see this for proof)

So, over the next few posts I’m going to be sharing my year planning tips in short and sweet chunks. I’ll be writing primarily for the benefit of those who have never tackled planning for a whole year before because I recognize that when you’re planning for the very first time you’re in the most need of practical, step-by-step tips. (If you aren’t a first-timer, I would love for you to engage in the comments to add your tips and suggestions too. Thanks in advance!)

Plus, you may have similar feelings to the first time pregnant mama who is excited and scared to death at the same time. You’ve been carrying the desire, calling, and/or conviction to home educate your child(ren) and soon it will be time to “start.” To deliver all the training, resources, and tools. All you need is a deadline to get it done.

And trust me, you don’t want to wait until August.

How one conversation led to peace, rest, and the right curriculum.

Remember when I mentioned my conversation with Sarah McKenzie?

Well, she doesn’t know this yet, but her advice to me personally changed the course of our decision entirely (for the better*). Let me explain…

I went to the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) with 4 companies in mind as possible curricula for the next year. I was openly leaning toward Classical Conversations and away from Memoria Press with Tapestry of Grace and Veritas Press nestled in the middle. I didn’t even take the time to research Classical Academic Press because I was under the misconception that they didn’t put together a “whole grade” package. (And remember what I said I needed? Hand holding.)

Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)

So, here’s my process of research and decision.

Veritas Press: First Impression – confusing lesson plans without a clear instructor’s guide (each subject has it’s own lesson plan without a clear agenda and without a checklist). I would have to read separate plans for every subject. Very expensive. For one of my children I calculated an “at least” total of $1,300.

Tapestry of Grace: First Impression – too much work. As much as I appreciate the value of their history and Bible program – the 4 year cycle, the cool map, the whole family integration – I just felt like I would have to do so much more work to pull together all the other subjects to create a whole plan for my children’s year. At this point, I didn’t know what Latin, Language Arts, etc. to use, and by choosing Tapestry I would have to find all of those for myself. And it is also very expensive: $300+ for just the Instructor’s Guide. I would have to find and purchase all of the other resources in addition, along with finding and buying all of the other subjects we want for a whole year.

Classical Conversations: I have already experienced this curriculum, and I wanted badly to like their co-op. But the week of the GHC, I finally felt peace that the co-op would not fit our family. So, I wanted to use this program as just the “spine” for all our subjects. The Foundations Instructor’s Guide (IG) would be our hub for what to learn in all the subjects. We would use the history cards and memory songs, but all the additional resources I would have to find on my own. 

Memoria Press: First Impression – Great packaging. The resources were grouped by grade on one side of their booth and by subject on the other. It was easy to find and become familiar with what would be expected for a year using their products. They use a lot of workbooks (it’s kind of what they are known for) and they put a high emphasis on Latin. Talking with their representatives made me feel confident that we would be able to utilize their tools and teach our children in the classical model with their products. The cost for two students in the same “grade” was just over $700. This includes all subjects, even science and math.

By the second day of the convention, I felt convinced that Memoria Press would have to be the company for us. They offered everything I wanted most: convenience (hand-holding), confidence (full-curriculum IG with checklist), and relatively lower cost.

If left to myself, I would have grabbed the cute basket of goodies labeled with the appropriate grade, headed to the checkout, and breathed a sigh of relief that I would be all set for next year. Even though I wasn’t quite convinced that my kids would love all the workbooks, and even though the read alouds for the year were books we had already read.

Thankfully, I’m not left to myself. My husband was so supportive of my preference and even asked good questions of the representatives while we together looked over their products.

As a caution, he said: “I just want you to pick a company that we can stick with for the long haul. I don’t want to jump from company to company each year. Like Memoria this year, and Veritas the next. Whichever company we pick, I want to stick with them for the duration so that our kids don’t have gaps in their subjects.”

For example, if Memoria teaches biology for 3rd grade and Veritas teaches biology for 4th grade, then switching like this would mean 2 years of the same subject and we would miss other subjects.

I took his caution as a healthy burden. One that was wise and helpful in slowing down my desire to just pick and be done.

But the burden created conflict within me. I wanted to pick Memoria, but I had no peace about committing to use it for the long haul. I kept going back to their booth between sessions. I looked and looked at all their resources while praying. I did the math between Veritas and Memoria, which made me feel even more pressure to pick Memoria. Even so, I still didn’t have peace. I told my husband that maybe we should just wait and not buy our curriculum like we always do.

Used with permission from CAP.

Used with permission from CAP.

Finally, feeling at a loss for what to do with my urge to buy and my burden to wait, I saw Sarah McKenzie at the Classical Academic Press booth (which I still {wrongly} viewed as more of a classical model resource booth and not a “curriculum booth” – they have great curriculum!). I mustered the nerve and went over to talk to her.

I felt silly, but I laid out my situation for her and asked for her opinion.

She wisely gave me her advice to carefully listen and apply my husband’s advice, and she used her own experience of listening to her husband and how much of a blessing it was to her. I know she really listened to me, and even positively commended Memoria Press, citing a friend who uses and loves them. She joked that their packaged baskets are so cute, it just makes you want to go get your grade and take it home all nice and neat.

I had a red flag here, and thought “oh no, I don’t just want their product for the cute baskets!”

I thanked her for her advice, noticed she had more women lining up to speak with her, hugged her and thanked her for sharing herself and her work with all of us. I picked up a Classical Academic Press catalog just for reference and left the booth.

The next morning, I still had no peace. I realized that the red flag was really a stop sign. I did just want a cute basket to take home. 

So, I sat down and prayed. I had my bag with all the catalogs, so I opened up the Classical Academic Press catalog just hoping for some direction.

What I saw surprised meA chart of their products across all grades. A map for a “whole grade” curriculum. (You can view Classical Academic Press’ whole catalog for yourself by clicking here.)

I was hooked. I read every word in the catalog that applied to my children’s ages and grades. I liked everything I saw. I was able to connect the dots between the program and our life. I felt like their program was both full of integrity and academic excellence, yet their approach was gentle and restful. (Scholé, right?)

I was beginning to feel passion for this company, excitement that this could be truly what I was looking for. I started to pray. Then I started to do the math.

It’s true that they don’t have “bundles” for each “grade.” You can’t just drop into their booth, say I want 4th grade, and walk away with your cute basket. So, I used their map and the catalog to piece together what I would need for two students. The total calculated to approximately $400 for everything minus science and math. (They do not offer a science nor math programs.)

I sent a feverishly excited text to my husband proclaiming that I was changing my mind about Memoria, including what I had just found out about Classical Academic Press, and asking him to pray!

There are more pieces to this story: attending Dr. Christopher Perrin’s session (with my husband) titled “Classical Christian Education 101,” talking with (asking questions of) representatives at the Classical Academic Press (CAP) booth, and lots more praying. One of the fun things that felt like a treat to me was that CAP uses Veritas Press’ history program, and I loved this program. I wanted to use it, but I didn’t feel confident to pull that program out of the whole of Veritas. CAP did that work for me.

So, we picked CAP and I was so very blessed in the process. They told me at check out that they were offering a special 20% off discount because of an anniversary they were celebrating as a company, and we were going to get free shipping on anything not available right then.

Ready to see what we bought?

(Pictures, links, and product descriptions used from the Classical Academic Press website with permission. To find CAP products that would best fit your child’s age, go to ClassicalAcademicPress.com, at the top there are 2 navigation bars – the purple bar contains their “Products” and you can research their offerings by grade, subject, series, or online course offerings.)

SSL2-Program

Song School Latin 2: Student workbooks, flashcards, teacher’s manual, and DVD Weekly lessons include songs, chants, new and review vocabulary, an introduction to grammar, and derivatives, all without leaving behind fun illustrations, stories, games, and activities. Song School Latin Book 2 will more than prepare students for their journey on to Latin for Children Primer A. They will surely continue their love of learning Latin with Song School Latin Book 2!

W and R Fable

Writing and Rhetoric: Fable including the MP3 files of the stories being read. The Writing & Rhetoric series method employs fluent reading, careful listening, models for imitation, and progressive steps. It assumes that students learn best by reading excellent, whole-story examples of literature and by growing their skills through imitation. Each exercise is intended to impart a skill (or tool) that can be employed in all kinds of writing and speaking. The exercises are arranged from simple to more complex. What’s more, the exercises are cumulative, meaning that later exercises incorporate the skills acquired in preceding exercises. This series is a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric. Fable is the first in a series of twelve books that will train students over six years, starting in grades three or four and up.

Well Ordered Lang Lev 1

Well-Ordered Language Level 1A & 1B student books, teacher’s manual, and MP3 files of the songs & chants. What if the study of grammar could harness a child’s natural curiosity? What if it could be a source of delight to children? The Well-Ordered Language curriculum presents the study of language in a way that appeals to a child’s inborn curiosity and desire to collect, gather, and order.

VP OT History Cards

Veritas Press’ History program for Old Testament: Ancient Egypt with teacher’s manual, flashcards, enhanced CD for homeschool, and the memory song CD. Thirty-two major events chronologically from Creation to the fall of Egypt to Rome.

Gods Great Covenant OT

God’s Great Covenant, Old Testament 1 student workbooks, teacher’s manual, audio files, timeline, and map.  A Bible Course for Children teaches the biblical narrative from Genesis to Ruth, including the book of Job, at a third- to sixth-grade level. The overarching Old Testament themes of the promises and power of God are presented in simple weekly stories. Students will follow along with God’s people, see how He leads them and keeps His promises, and learn how the stories of God’s people begin to point us to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ.

Reasoning and reading

Beginning Reasoning and Reading student workbooks and teacher’s guide. The Reading & Reasoning workbooks develop basic language and thinking skills that build the foundation for reading comprehension. Exercises reinforce reading as a critical reasoning activity. Many exercises encourage students to come up with their own response in instances in which there is no single correct answer. In other cases, exercises lend themselves to students working collaboratively to see how many different answers satisfy a question.

Student Guide to CE

A Student’s Guide to Classical Education (K-12): this is a guide to which classics are appropriate reading for each grade. (Find it on CAP’s site: Our Products>By Subject>Educational Resources)

For Science and Math: We chose Apologia Astronomy and we stuck with Horizons math workbooks.

So, there you have it. The whole process of choosing curriculum for next year with our 3rd and 4th graders. I hope this encourages you to pray through the process of decision making for your family, to ask for advice (you never know how God will use others to help and guide you), and to trust His leadership when it comes (and to wait if it doesn’t).

I will be continuing to get us all set up for next fall now before our little one arrives (5-7 more weeks!). 

To read more about how I prepare check out these links:

Thank you for reading this lengthy post! I would be more than happy to start a conversation with you regarding what curriculum you are interested in trying for your family. I don't claim to be an expert on your needs, but I would love to listen and pray with you over your decision. Homeschooling is best in community! Also, if you're a Holland Local, let me know if you would be interested in joining a Scholé group. Contact me or leave a comment. Thanks again, and may your homeschool path be full of rest and peace!

For your personal education, I recommend the course I’m currently taking: Make Over Your Evenings by Crystal Paine. (Afflink)

Prepare to be productive like never before!

*I highly recommend Memoria Press – the company and their products. I just know that my children wouldn’t be served best by their products at this time. To learn more about their products for yourself – visit their website!