So you’ve been hearing a lot about this Bullet Journal thing and read a bit about the benefits of using one with your students in your homeschool.
I have been using Bullet Journals with my 3 students (5, 7, and 9) for about 6 months now and have 10 tips on how to make the transition as smooth as possible. As smooth as a nice chocolate malt ice-cream shake. Mmmm. That’s smooth. (I started a whole30 and I miss dairy…a lot.)
Clarify Why You Are Using a Bullet Journal
Whatever your reason for using a student Bullet Journal, have it in mind before you start actually using one, or purchasing one. Seriously, write it down. It will help later when you feel overwhelmed. There are a lot of choices on how to Bullet Journal and what can go into it. Keeping your ‘why’ in mind will help make sure that your Bullet Journal is helpful for you and leads you towards your goals instead of being a time-sucking distraction.
For me, I started a bullet journal for each of my 3 school-aged children to reduce power struggles and record the spontaneous schooling they were doing. If you were to flip through their most recent pages, you wouldn’t find certain elements that are common to Bullet Journal/planners, like a monthly calendar. A monthly calendar does not work towards my two goals of reducing power struggles or record keeping.
Make the List Small and Easy to Complete
Your students will be learning a new way to write things down and complete tasks. For some students this will be an easy transition. For others, not so much. To make the transition easier, start with just a few items that can each be completed in 20 minutes or less, fewer if you know your student will struggle with the change.
I come back to this rule any time things get overwhelming.
My 3 most important tasks currently are: morning time, zone clean up, and their focus subject for the year. At the beginning of the school year it was: morning time, chore, and one-on-one time with mommy. As the school year progressed, one-on-one time with Mommy got easier to do and didn’t need to be scheduled.
Make it a Habit
As homeschoolers, we build these beautiful systems. And what happens the first day of summer break? We throw them all out the window! I would encourage you not to throw your student Bullet Journal out the window when your not doing school. Surely there are still things that need to get done or goals to accomplish. Let your Bullet Journal change with your family and the seasons you are in and you may find your college graduate thanking you for developing the habit for them.
Keep the Layout Simple!
Searching “Bullet Journal Layouts” on Pinterest would be enough to send any sane mom running as far away as possible. I’m not sane. Evidence.
While I do scour the internet for ways to make my Bullet Journal a bit dressier (I’ll show you some of mine but remember, I am not a drawer! Don’t judge. Pic 1 Pic 2) my student journals are very simple. After all, I have to make 3 of them. Some day I may have to make 5! I want the process to be as easy as I can make it. Here is our current layout.
Include Space for Kid Choice
It’s no fun being told how to spend all of your time. You will get more buy-in if you give your students some choice in their day.
You may have noticed in the last picture that there are some bullets with nothing written next to them. Those are left blank for the child to decide what goes in them. Sometimes they fill them in as a task to be completed that day or sometimes after having done a task, they record it.
Use as a “When Then”
I have two “when, then”s on my student Bullet Journal.
- When you have finished your ‘must do’ tasks then you may work on your ‘want to do’ tasks.
- When you have finished all of the tasks (and it’s 5:00) then you may have media time.
I can’t tell you how many power struggles this has ended before they really began.
Use Natural/Logical Consequences
When you first start, you will want to impress upon students that diligence is rewarded. To do that, plan something in the evening for the first week or two. Students who get their list done by a certain time (like dinner) can participate in evening time. Students who do not, have the consequence of working on their tasks during the evening event.
The evening activity doesn’t have to be super special or involve spending money. It just needs to be something students would rather do than their tasks. During the fall, we went to the Rec Center (we already had passes). I should say, Hubby and qualifying children went to the Rec Center. I stayed home with task completers.
Now, it’s really cold outside. So cold we don’t even want to walk to the van. So, our evening activity has been watching documentaries with the older ones while the younger ones play.
You don’t have to be creative to have this work. Even just scheduling free play time will reward diligent workers.
Let the Bullet Journal Be the Boss
Yes, you are the one who writes the task list. Technically, you are the boss. But, if you let the Bullet Journal be the boss, you can be a sympathetic adviser. Instead of falling into the nagging trap and feeling horrible about your homeschool and maybe your child, trust that the Bullet Journal and your consequences will (over time) steer your child towards independent diligence.
When I first introduced the Bullet Journal to my 3 children, it was magical. They were so productive and cooperative. Sadly, the magic quickly evaporated. Well, more like exploded! All of my students have limit pushed the new system but one child in particular really pushed it! She’s what you might call spirited.
She went several days a week for weeks missing out on the evening activity. Every day (it seemed) the day would end and there would be something on her list that she had refused to do earlier. Normally just saying, “let’s check everyone’s journal” would result in tears and tantrums. She knew.
It was very challenging, but slowly I became good at letting the journal and consequences tell her what she needed to do. When she failed, in my sweetest voice I would say, “It’s okay, we’ll try again tomorrow”. And we did. And the next day. And the next. Until one day she decided she cared.
All of my children push the limits of the system every once in a while. As long as I stay firm, it doesn’t last long and there are no power struggles!
Include Goal Setting
Once a week (typically Monday) I ask each of my students (5, 7, and 9) what goal they would like to have for the week. If they seem really stuck, I might offer some suggestions based on what I’ve seen them working on (finish MineCraft town) or struggling with (play 15 minutes with sibling).
My spirited child once made a goal of getting her tasks completed by 4:00. I was really surprised that she made this goal since she was struggling finishing her tasks by 5:00. Several days into it, she was discouraged. She was failing at her goal. I was able to talk to her about her failure and brainstorm ways to improve. If I had given her that goal, there’s no way she would have come to me for help. I would have been viewed as “the mean mommy who makes me do things I don’t want to do”. But since it was her goal, I was viewed as an ally. When she did finally make her goal, her triumph meant so much more to her than it would have if I had been the one to give her the goal.
Schedule Planning Time
If you do not schedule planning time, it will never get done!
You need to schedule:
- time to add assignments/tasks to their Bullet Journal (I do once a week about 10 min/student)
- time to check in on their progress (I check progress daily around dinner time)
- time to have students set a goal for the week and break down what needs to be done in order to accomplish it (I do weekly).
Ready to Try?
Try it out and tell me it isn’t the best chocolate malt ice-cream shake you’ve ever tried.