THE PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE BULLET JOURNAL FOR THE CHARLOTTE MASON MOM

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We here at Learning How to Live love the method of the Bullet Journal for planning, collecting, and organizing.

The longer we use it, the more we use it.

The more we use it, the better at “life” we get.

Over the next few weeks, we’d like to provide you with

A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE BULLET JOURNAL!

We’ll show you how the Bullet Journal works for managing our homes, our personal goals, our money, our menus, our life.

We’ll blog on how the  Bullet Journal fits so naturally for homeschool planning–book lists, future goals, evaluating our children. It especially works well for a Charlotte Mason approach!

We’ll write about how the Bullet Journal has simplified our routines, organized our lives, and helped us find peace.

But first, we want to talk about why the philosophy behind the Bullet Journal fits with the way we see the world. Like so many of our readers, as we’ve read Charlotte Mason’s life-giving philosophy of education, we’ve learned principles that haven’t just made us better teachers and parents, we’ve become better humans!

So principles first, then practices for a cohesive, integrated whole!

Why is the Bullet Journal such a useful and revolutionary, yet simple way to get a hold of your life?

We believe that its success is because it’s a method, not a system.

The Bullet Journal is a method, not a system!

Charlotte Mason writes on the importance of method vs. system in education and her ideas are all of the same reasons the Bullet Journal works.

So what’s the difference between a method and a system?

A SYSTEM is a machine, like a bodies, like a factory conveyor belt, that breaks down when it comes into contact with our very real, very human life. We are not cogs in a system; we are persons!

A METHOD, like a system, is way to achieve a desired end, yet it provides for “the vital growth and movement of a living being” (Volume 1 page 11).

Method implies two things––a way to an end, and a step by step progress in that way. Further, the following of a method implies an idea, a mental image, of the end of object to be arrived at. What do you propose that education shall effect in and for your child? Again, method is natural; easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple as the ways of Nature herself; yet, watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling. Method, with the end of education in view, presses the most unlikely matters into service to bring about that end…Charlotte Mason.Volume 1 page 8.

  1. We all need a way, a path, a step-by-step guide to achieve the end, the idea, the object we have in mind.

This is true in education, but it also true for menu planning, party planning, homeschool planning, list-making, tracking appointments, wish lists, recording memories, collecting ideas, brainstorming for the future.

If we don’t stay on the path, we will get lost in the details or lose a detail. We miss  appointments, stack up library fines or forget to pick-up more vanilla and toilet paper at the grocery store. Without a method, we feel stressed and anxious.

The Bullet Journal allows you to create a way, a path that is flexible, meeting your individual families needs and the way you think.

2. We all need a way, as Mason says, that is “natural, easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple.”

The Bullet Journal is just that. A simple Pinterest search will show you the thousands of different ways people set-up all the things you might ever need to track, all in one place.You can doodle, add art and stickers, or you can be plain Janes, like Camille and me! If you need to change your weekly spread, you can!

The blank page of the Bullet Journal is key.

The problem with other planners, apps, or systems is that they operate on creator’s ideas but may not work with your world.

Take the example of Meal Planning. You want to meal plan and make your grocery list on the same page. You only want to plan dinners but your planner has a 3 row by 7 column grid. Or you like to have your menu list in your calendar on that day of the week, you don’t want a whole separate table, but the cells aren’t big enough to hold your to-do list, your appointments, and your menu. So you have different notebooks, papers all over the house, sticky notes, apps. You end up needing a system to keep track of all your systems! Or you just give up!

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3. The Bullet Journal, as a Method, is “watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling.”

We use it for everything–work, family, creativity, home-making, holidays, journalling. And it helps us to be more “watchful [and] careful”!

A great example is planning for one of my children’s birthdays. When I create the monthly calendar and fill in my child’s birthday on the 9th, I immediately turn to the next open page and create a new page titled, “Birthday.” Perhaps, I also had that nagging thought that she wanted new shoes and I had an idea for a great theme so I jot them down and then head back to the calendar. The “Birthday” page is there for me to come back to and create menu plans, wish list, shopping list, RSVPs, etc, etc!

4. As an analog method, the Bullet Journal also helps us be more “careful.”

With technology we can move at such a fast-pace that we often let details slip. As we are forced to slow-down and write out our plans and ideas, we ruminate on them. This plants our plans in our minds, new ideas grow, and we feel at peace.

5. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is that once you figure out your method, you can turn it into a system.

But if that system stops working, you can try a different method, but you don’t need a new notebook or a different approach. The Bullet Journal allows for you to change as you need.

Mason tells us that “There is always the danger that a method, a bona fide method, should degenerate into a mere system.” Volume 1 p 8.

Since the Bullet Journal is just a blank book, we can always turn to the page and start again as we need. After trying different weekly spreads, for example, I have one I mainly stick to week after week, but if it’s a very different week, Christmas or illness, I can change it up easily.

Method…aid[s] the many sided evolution of the living, growing, most complex human being; but what a miserable wooden system does it become in the hands of ignorant practitioners!

We are living, growing, complex human beings. In the Snell home, there are 7 of us, living growing, complex human beings! No wonder wooden systems have failed before.

If a human being were a machine, education could do more for him than to set him in action in prescribed ways, and the work of the educator would be simply to adopt a good working system or set of systems.

But the educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being… (Volume 1 page 10).

Thus, a bullet journal is needed.

So how do we Bullet Journal? What do we recommend? Would you like to see how we keep track of our curriculum as Charlotte Mason mamas? Subscribe today so you don’t miss out future posts!

Would you like to learn more? To see some of these collections and pages “live”?

Sign up for our Bullet Journal for Homeschooling Moms Webinar, now just $10!

Camille and Amy will walk you through setting up your bullet journal and maximizing its potential for homeschooling!

February 21st at 8pm.

We look forward to “seeing you” there!

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Freedom in the Rules

Amy and I have been chatting a lot about schedules recently.  Largely, as she has already noted, we have both recently moved to new towns and as such we went from having scheduled obligations to having a largely blank calendar.  Now, I’ve had many a day where I lamented signing my kids up for even the best of activities because it has meant getting all four kids into a car and perhaps I didn’t have dinner quite ready and so I could already see the pending chaos that would ensue when we arrived back through that same door hungry, tired, and (likely) with all sorts of stuff that may or may not find its rightful home right away.  I would have thoughts of, “Doesn’t Charlotte say our afternoons should be available for handicrafts, poetry, tea time, good music, reading, and other fruitful leisure?” while creating pictures in my mind of children who would be painting en plein air and enjoying Mozart if only THIS ACTIVITY didn’t hinder them.  It seems silly written out, but I assure you, I have thought this.

Well, after moving 5 times in 15 months and having almost no kids’ activities scheduled during that time, allow me to tell you, it was nothing like my utopian vision of my homeschool. All too often, I would set up a temporary schedule but because the only thing keeping us from veering off schedule was our own discipline (or lack thereof), it was all too easy to change the schedule when even the smallest issue would come up.  There were no hard and fast stops in the day where we had to go, and so we could drag things out, dawdle, or substitute for other items in the schedule without regard to how much time they took.  We didn’t have a rhythm to the day, or enough good habits formed, and it left us feeling like we had both fallen behind and couldn’t figure out where our time went.  Less schoolwork got done, there was more bickering, less quiet, and general unease.  This was not the freedom I had envisioned. 

It reminded me of an extremely good example I had once heard about the need for rules and order. The premise was that if you are going to play baseball, you need the rules.  If each person was to play their own version of baseball, it wouldn’t really be baseball at all.  People would be free to run the bases backward or ignore the foul line.  That would have many consequences: 1. No one would every be very good at baseball, because there would be nothing by which to measure success, 2. No one would enjoy watching it, because they wouldn’t know what was going on or if things were going well or not for their team, 3. Squabbling, disagreement, and general anarchy would ensue with no rules and no authority there to decide if rules were being properly followed.  With the rules of baseball clearly set out and publicly known, we can know when the game is played well, enjoy the game, and know when a play has stepped outside of the boundaries of proper baseball.  It is the rules that create freedom, and not a lack of rules.

Now that we are in a place we plan to be for a while, I am attempting to rebuild enough structure to create checkpoints in the day, while leaving enough time for contemplation, boredom, leisure, and play for every member for the family.  Let me tell you, this is no small task.  I’m sure you’ve tried it, or at least thought about trying it, and it seemed intimidating.  I’ll be sharing some of my attempts, and their varying levels of success here as Amy and I start up a scheduling series of posts.  I will say, that in my first years of homeschooling, I have found some tools to be extremely helpful in my previous plans and schedules, so I thought I would share them here:

  1. Nicole shares a wealth of knowledge and study of CM’s programmes at her site.  I can’t recommend highly enough reading through her posts on planning a schedule for your homeschool.
  2. Pam is also a wonderful resource, and her eBook, The Confident Homeschooler was the key to my wasting a lot less time by creating procedure lists.  This meant that when I was starting a new book, or skill (like dictation, narration, etc), I would plan out what my plan was for that short lesson.  I could then follow the steps until it became a good habit for me and my student.  I can’t tell you how genius this is because all too often I would write down the book, and the time allotted, but when we go to it, I would forget that I had meant to bring out a certain journal or wouldn’t have the materials needed for a written narration, or forget a step altogether such as scaffolding the previous lesson.  Having a list helped me immensely.
  3. A bullet journal.  I use this one because I like that the pages come already numbered, but many people prefer a Moleskine or some other notebook.  I’m not artsy, my pages are not Pinterest-worthy, but I love having all of my lists, brain dumps, random thoughts, appointments, ideas, goals, etc all written down in one place.  I can plan future months, assess previous ones, see if I am following up appropriately, or making progress on goals all in one book.  Cute pens are key for me.
  4. Excel. I used this throughout my working days before I stayed home with the kids and old habits die hard.  I love it for creating neat checklists for the kids, schedules, and chore charts.

And that is really it.  I don’t want to clutter up my time with too many tools, so I stick with trusted sites and items that have stood the test of time.  What are your go-to tools for creating a schedule and a rhythm to your days?
 

Spaces to Think

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On Fridays, we plan to share with you quotes from Charlotte Mason that we’ve been pondering over the past week. For now, we’re calling these posts, “Spaces to Think.” We hope they will give you space in your full day to consider a golden nugget from Mason!

 

To begin the series, I’ll share with you where we found the idea of “Spaces to Think.”

 

A few years ago a friend accidentally stumbled across a short, yet lovely piece in the L’Umile Pianta from June 1922, “Education is the Science of Relations,” a summary of a talk given by Miss Parish.

“What Miss Mason’s teaching gives us is really the philosophy of life, the art of living. The realization of our ideal depends upon Proportion. We must have a just sense of proportion, we must have harmony. The old painters new this…We must not think only of developing the body, nor on the other hand of only the mind, but must keep the balance true. We must not overcrowd our lives and live in a perpetual hurry. We want spaces in life to think. Thinking is most important in life.”

I need to hear this again and again. It is too easy to fill our days with busyness, to be pressured to take on more than we should and be left hurrying from one thing to the next. When our schedule is overcrowded, our interior life shrivels.

The analogy to proportion in art and decorating is a helpful one. The summary continues…

“We should not care to have every bit of our walls covered with pictures as beautiful as each might be by itself. Miss Parish told us she had recently slept in a room containing 90 objects! Let us have spaces.”

Yes, let us have spaces!

We have the chance now in the hot, lazy days of August to stop and consider Proportion in our lives.

Do we keep the balance true?

Do we have spaces to think?

When in our day do we stop just to think and do we have a physical space to go to think?

How can we find space in a home of 4 children and a newborn with laundry to be done, meals to be made, spills to be cleaned, emails to return, swim lessons to make and a birthday party to plan?

At a particularly stressful time, I found it helpful to actually create a visual “time budget.” Mystie Winkler writes about it here. Yes, I had a daily schedule for our family, but I so often wondered where did my time go each day? A helpful thing with the time budget was that it also required me to include travel time so that I saw that each event outside our home actually required more time than I had realized.

Why was a “Time Budget” helpful?

I learned that I do accomplish a lot each day! But also in seeing my time laid out, I could see places we needed more space. It helped me to evaluate whether some of our outside activities were really worth so much effort. I also saw blank spaces in my day that I could take better advantage.

The summary from the L’Umile Pianta ends, “…We want a unifying principle to guide us.” Mason shares with us more than an educational plan but an entire “philosophy of life, the art of living” if we make the space to consider it.

 

 

Quotes taken from the L’Umile Pianta: For the Children’s Sake. June 1922, p. 23-23. Transcribed from the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection, Redeemer University
http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/LUmile-Pianta/L_UP_PDF_PACKAGES/1922/06/p01-28UPje1922.pdf
The L’Umile Pianta was the magazine published for the alumni of Charlotte Mason’s teaching college in Ambleside, England