It’s never been a secret here on Raising Arrows that I am NOT a planner gal. I cannot seem to make any traditional planner work – homeschool or otherwise. (Thankfully, I have never lived in a state that required homeschool reporting!) I liked the concept of having some sort of homeschool planner, but no planner fit my life and therefore, every planner I ever tried ended up cast aside.
My friend Lisa from CreativLei was sitting next to me at a conference last year, and I was telling her my oft repeated tale of my homeschool planner woes when she whipped out her Traveler’s Journal and said, “I think this might be a good fit for you.”
At first, it scared me. You see, Lisa is an artist (check out her 31 Days to #LoveYourLettering). Her journaling is naturally BEAUTIFUL. I have ok handwriting, but I’m no artist. However, as she walked me through her journal, she assured me it was not about art at all. It was for HER, because that’s who SHE is. But, it didn’t have to be that for me. (phew!)
So, I let my guard down, and began to fall in love…
The first thing that caught my attention was the leather. I LOVE leather. I purposely bought a leather Bible because of how it feels in my hands. I am a book person, and soft, pliable leather is my happy place.
The second thing that caught my attention was the fact that it is more about JOURNALING your day than planning your day. Very little in my life goes as planned. I organize chaos and herd cats. Flexible is my middle name. I hate the guilt of a well-planned homeschool day going awry and leaving me with pages of things undone. But, a Traveler’s Journal is a blank slate waiting to be filled by the things you actually DID!
I’m going to stop for a moment and give you just a bit more information on this thing I’m calling a Traveler’s Journal because that isn’t its only name, and there are other components to it.
Traveler’s Journals are sometimes called Traveler’s Notebooks, with Midori being one of the more famous brands on the market.
Their original purpose was to journal the owner’s travels. They would often contain mementos from trips like ticket stubs, maps, and pressed flowers. They were the traveler’s scrapbook, and they became cherished memory books.
I had a difficult time finding exactly what I wanted and ended up looking on Etsy for one that fit my wishes – mainly a thicker cover that was brown and the right size for my hand. I finally settled on one from ShepsLeatherworks, and I am EXTREMELY pleased with the product! As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, I also purchased a cross charm to go on my cover band. (THIS is the exact one I purchased.)
So, the Traveler’s Journal itself is a cover with bands inside that hold multiple “books.” Many Traveler’s Journals come with several books – mine came with blank books, but I knew from seeing Lisa’s journal that I wanted grid books, and I ended up purchasing these:
They are from a company called Moleskine, and you buy them to fit the particular size of journal you have purchased. The concept is very similar to buying refill pages for traditional weekly planners that require a certain size, so you do have to pay attention to the dimensions of your journal when ordering extra books.
NOTE: if the leather and the bands and all of that don’t matter that much to you, stay tuned…I have a simple and CHEAP option for you after the tour!
So, moving on to the inside of my “Homeschool Planner” that isn’t a planner at all…
On the very first page of the first book of grid paper, I write out each child’s name in their color and all of the subjects they would be working on that year. At the bottom, I write out the corporate studies that all of the children are going to be studying. (By the way, this is last year’s front cover, not this year’s.) Doig this allows me to shorthand in the rest of the journal and not forget what my shorthand stood for. It also allows me to simply say “Math” and not have to actually write out the name of the math curriculum.
As the year progresses, if they finished a book, I simply make a note of it and keep going. Another thing to be aware of is that my older two children keep track of their own work using a simple online homeschool planning software by the name of Scholaric. Even within that program, I do not plan their work, they simply write down what they do as they do it. This was their choice, and has given them ownership of their work.
On the following pages of the journal, I get a little colorful. I may not be an artist, but I can color. I also often add stickers and washi tape here and there to create a bit of cheer. (Yes, this is an unnecessary added step and one I abandoned when I had morning sickness.)
As you look at the pages, you will see it is color coordinated by child. I use a colored highlighter to run a strip of color across the grid line, and then I use a colored pen with a small tip to write in each child’s name and what they did that day.
I put the day of the week at the top of the page with the date vertical at the bottom of each page. The top portion is for individual work. The bottom portion is sectioned off with washi tape and contains the work all the children are doing together.
Notes and observations are in red with an asterisk beside them so I can easily pick them out at a later date.
How and When Do I Fill in My Planner?
Every so often I highlight and washi tape a number of pages ahead so they are ready for me. However, as I said earlier, I did not do this when I was in the throes of morning sickness. It was too much, and I kept the pages simple by only using colored pens and squiggly lines to denote each section.
As we start each day, I write down the day of the week at the top and the date at the bottom and then keep the journal handy as we work through our day.
My 11 year old daughter and 10 year old son come to me at the end of their individual work (nearly all of their work is independent) and report what they have done so I can write it down in the journal. I write down what I am doing with my two younger guys as we do it. For corporate work, I write it down after we have completed all of it. (This is mainly our Bible time and Tapestry of Grace. <— that link takes you to an assortment of posts I’ve written about TOG.)
That’s it! Super simple and no stress about getting everything in the planner accomplished because only what we’ve already accomplished is in there! Yippee!
OK, so I promised you a simple and cheap alternative to a Traveler’s Journal. Ta Da!
It’s the lovely composition notebook! Cover the front of it with some pretty paper if you like. Use colored pens and highlighters if you like. But, don’t feel obligated to do anything extra with this uncomplicated method of journaling your homeschool day!
By the way, if you live in a state that requires you to keep track of hours, that is super simple with the Traveler’s Journal method! As you write in what each child has done, denote a time next to it. In the corporate section, write down the full amount of time it took to do everything in the section or separate subjects out and give them times. No stress!
One more thing…there is another method out there called Bullet Journaling. It’s not quite the same thing, but can be. To decide if that is a better fit for you, I recommend this post from Intentional by Grace. The indexing and all of that was a little much for me, but it can work quite well for the Firm Routine Mama I talk about in my book Home Management for the Homeschool Mom.
I’m certain there will be questions about my Traveler’s Journal, so feel free to leave them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’d also love to hear from other non-traditional homeschool planner moms! What are you doing and how has it worked for you?
And always remember…there is no one right way to do this homeschool mom thing. You have to do what works best for you and your family!