Planning In Pretty Notebooks

Planning time has been so pretty with my favorite collection of notebooks.  Each child has one.  And I have one.  Happiness.  All my planning tools and records and booklists live inside these notebooks.
The pretty notebooks live on the shelf just above my desk, and are at a comfortable arms reach for me so I can just grab the notebook I need for the child I need at any time.  (Note — Each notebook is labeled with the name of the person for whom the notebook is intended, but I cropped that out of the picture.  Just know that each child’s name is labeled on the top spine of each notebook making it easy to distinguish them visually…even though their patterns do distinguish them quite a bit!)
I keep a really nice collection of resources in each child’s notebook (and my own notebook), and I’m particularly smitten with my high schooler’s notebook.
This is a portion of the high school notebook with sections for keeping track of credits and transcript information.
This is a portion of the high school notebook with sections for keeping track of credits and transcript information.
What a sincere help having records, booklists, transcript information, course ideas….and all those things pertinent to planning and living a high school home education right within the covers of a pretty notebook.
The high school notebook contains:
  • General high school reference tools and helps, including:
    • State graduation requirements
    • Information on granting credit hours for work completed
    • Sample transcripts
    • Specific cover school information on high school graduation
    • Science records of the scope of science topics covered/read about
  • 9th grade work 
  • 10th grade work
  • 11th grade work
  • 12th grade work
    • Each of these “grade-specific sections” includes booklists for that year, PSAT/SAT information, math scores, grades, labs and lists of science lectures viewed from Khan Academy, credits earned in subjects for that year, and lesson plans are punched and stored here {but only for the current year….I do not keep lesson plans for all four years of high school work stored in here}
  • College Plus information, along with prospective college information
  • And then, tabbed sections with specific course ideas and places for recording information on:
    • Theology
    • English and Language Arts
    • Mathematics
    • Science
    • History (which my state calls “social studies”….I will refrain from sharing my opinion on that ridiculousness!!!)
    • Physical and Health Education
    • Fine Arts
    • Computer and Technology Studies
    • Foreign Languages
    • Electives
    • Projects and Leadership
My second grader's notebook last year
My second grader’s notebook last year
The preschool – middle school notebooks contain:
  • The child’s Big Picture Chart and the page-tool which helps me in scheduling books and pages
  • The child’s booklist for that year
  • A place for storing the weekly lesson plans after they’re completed {during the week, the lesson plans live on the child’s clipboard}
  • If it’s a Sacrament preparation year, there’s a divider for that, too.
  • Science scope checklist {found in the back of Science Scope}.
  • They contain the child’s blank book index (which I wasn’t diligent about keeping up with until the last year….so I have some serious catch up to do with my older children’s lists.)
  • Anything special or noteworthy about the child’s year has a simple divider so that there’s a place for filing records and resources.
  • Pertinent articles, especially Parents Review articles, which might be of particular value for that child’s year.

If you’ve got records and resources spilling out everywhere, you might consider a few pretty notebooks.

My desk. Sunny windows flanking me on either side, and all the tools and books I need at arms reach.
My desk. Sunny windows flanking me on either side, and all the tools and books I need at arms reach.

I know….I know.  A standard 3 ring binder would do just fine.  It would.  And I have enjoyed them as planning tools in the past.  Add a little pretty scrapbook paper to customize the cover and I’m there!  But just in case you need simple, ready-to-roll-prettiness (LOL!), you might consider these notebooks by Greenroom (only available in Target stores….not online.  Note — I am not a paid advertiser for Greenroom products, but I probably should be!!)

From left to right the notebooks belong to:
  • Me (Pink and Orange flowers in the 1 1/2″ size)
  • High Schooler (Blue and Green flowers in the 1 1/2″ size)
  • Current 7th grader (Larger leaf pattern in the 1″ size)
  • Current 3rd grader (Smaller leaf pattern in the 1″ size)
  • Current Preschooler/Kindergartner (In the Pink sunburst pattern in the 1″ size)
Clipped to the front of each notebook is the Big Picture Planning Resource I made.  It follows a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education which blends quite nicely with a Classical Education (a Classical Education based on the ancient idea of Trivium as skills, not the recent idea of Trivium as stages of development).  The Big Picture Planning tool serves as a nice scope and sequence for me as I plan for my children.  I’m happy to share it with you if it’s a help!
This big picture scope and sequence is an easy way to see a visual overall plan.
Behind the Big Picture Scope and Sequence chart are special pages which are very helpful for jotting down planning ideas for each of the subject areas I plan on covering for a given year.  I might note a book idea or a resource I don’t want to forget.  This works really well when I find an idea for an 8th grade art book for a child that is currently in the 5th grade.  Combining this paper resource with my gazillions of Amazon wishlists (which is how I organize-online my books that I like and might use) has kept me pretty organized over the years in terms of keeping track of worthy books I want to consider.  (I don’t use everything I consider!!)  When I am planning for a particular year, I can easily open my Big Picture Plans to see a collection of ideas that haven’t gotten lost in the shuffle over the years.
The entire Big Picture Plan document {which is actually a small book, thus the binding you see on it } is clipped to the inside cover of each child’s notebook.  It’s a fantastic planning tool!  Start with the big picture, and work your way in from there — from ideas, to a yearly booklist, to term booklists, to weekly lesson plans, to the daily work.  {Detailed notes on how I build a Considered Booklist is here.}
A quick note to say that this Big Picture Planning Tool was inspired by Simply Charlotte Mason’s Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education.  In their package they offer an example of a simple, one page version of a big picture plan for a Charlotte Mason education.  It was very helpful to see their version, but I was looking for a little more detail in my big picture scope and sequence {including history detail, science breakdown in upper years, etc.} so I created my own.  I like being able to change it to reflect an individual child’s work.
As I was taking pictures of my pretty notebooks, I thought I’d take a picture of my laptop screen.  There are layers upon layers of delicious booklists!!!!  See them all peeking through.  🙂
In the front of every child’s notebook is this handy reference which helps me in scheduling books and pages each year and term.  The numbers are based on an actual Charlotte Mason Programme, and it’s a very good guide in planning and building a wide and generous curriculum.
~ My Home Education Notebook ~
I’ve always had a general home education notebook for myself.  It’s a truly useful way to keep all those resources and papers collected!
Martha Stewart planning calendar.  {Note my favorite Robin’s Egg Blue color.  LOL!!!}
Lest you think all my resources are typed and formatted….nay!  See….I scribble book ideas on paper and keep all of my scribbled, noted ideas here…in my notebook!
 It’s nice to have one, secure place for attendance records to live.  Keeps me from going insane when I need to submit our attendance.

I try to keep my attendance records that I submit to our homeschool cover neat and tidy…..and then there are the planning calendars {shown above}.  These are just as necessary as you map out the year.  I really like the free attendance record sheets available through Donna Young.

 See!  More scribbled notes….on Shakespeare no less!  My notes on favorite plays for 7 – 12 yo’s to read.  {And because I know you’ll ask 😉 …..this is scribbled on Post-It super sticky grid note paper….which apparently got crumpled up from a trip to the thrift store in search of listed Shakespeare plays.  LOL!!!  In case you’re wondering – I found them all, and duplicates of a couple. One cannot have too many copies of Much Ado About Nothing, can one?}
I like using Post-It note index tabs as dividers in my notebook.  Which reminds me, I need to get some pink and yellow tabs for my girls’ notebooks!

So much of my inspiration and book ideas land here….in this notebook.  I find great book ideas at the end of chapters, in the recommended reading section, and in appendices and bibliographies {especially at the end of out of print books!!!  this is one of the most treasured features of old books – they always list MORE books to consider!!}.  If I find a book I really want to use, I put it on my planning list, and so many of those ideas started as a scribbled list somewhere.


So there you have it.  Now you know what I’ve been up to – planning in pretty notebooks!  I’ve got booklists built for my 11th grader, 7th grader, 3rd grader….and the cheeriest, happiest little booklist built for my preschooler/Kindergartner.  In pink.  Of course.  🙂

Gratuitous shot of the laziest, fattest, happiest, most adored kitty. Does this not make you smile? The fact that he thought he really COULD fit his X-large visage into the paper basket for snugging down? I simply could not resist even though this picture has absolutely NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with pretty notebooks or planning! LOL!!! Except that it makes me smile.
Gratuitous shot of the laziest, fattest, happiest, most adored kitty. Does this not make you smile? The fact that he thought he really COULD fit his X-large visage into the paper basket for snugging down? I simply could not resist even though this picture has absolutely NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with pretty notebooks or planning! LOL!!! Except that it makes me smile.

My friends, it always feels so refreshing to set out a nicely considered booklist at the beginning of the year, does it not?  A feast of the most delicious and worthy ideas has been lovingly prepared and considered and set before the children in a most attractive and pleasing way.  It is a delightful education, without betraying rigor.  Of course, the planning does, I’m afraid, inspire stacks and stacks of…

Note: This is a stack of books finished from the last year combined with books being planned for next year. Quite a happy melange of books.
Note: This is a stack of books finished from the last year combined with books being planned for next year. Quite a happy melange of books.
Up next, I’ll share the booklists in case you’re looking for a little fresh inspiration.  We start our new year in short order here, so I must away to the learning spaces!  I have much tidying to do!
Photo Credit: Sarah :)
Photo Credit: Sarah 🙂
See you soon with a few more posts of booklists and fresh and tidied learning spaces.  Hope these days are delightful for you as we each consider anew the upcoming year, fresh and full of potential.

{As always, I’m happy to share any resource published here in other formats.  Email me directly if you’d like a Word document or a Pages for mac document of anything shared.  🙂  }

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  1. Thank you for all these lovely posts. I am so glad you get them all posted right around the time that I'm starting to look towards next year. They are inspiring and help me stay grounded in reality and dive back into my own bookshelves before dashing off towards new resources!

  2. Thank you so much for this post.

    Just last night I was wringing my hands and “pacing back and forth” in my head about planning for the upcoming start of high school, as well as planning of my younger children.

    This information is SO helpful. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us. You are so generous.

    It has been helpful and I look forward to the other posts.

    Thank you, again!

  3. Thanks, Dear Friend!! Love those planning posts…AND I have to say I was laughing out loud at your “history vs. social studies” comment….heehee….
    I am not a cat fan, since I need an inhaler and an ER trip if I am around them…..BUT…that is one cute cat. Glad I can enjoy without respiratory distress!! 🙂
    Hope your Spring is springy and not too hot, yet!

  4. I love your planning posts, they have been so helpful to me. I started using the ebook Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education book earlier this year. Wow, it has helped me so much. So thankful to have found this resource now. Your pretty binders look so nice. I tried a pretty binder from Target last year and it did not last long. I had to glue it together so I am back in a boring binder. I will have to try agian this year. But best of all is the picture of the kitty. Priceless.

  5. Hey, Jen, I have a question — are you making life reading lists for any particular reason or just for yourself? Just curious… thinking about high school records… and I do like collecting booklists 🙂 Will wait eagerly for yours for next year! I'm trying to wrap my head around how that Big Picture planning chart — the second picture, I think, the one you've written on? — would work with more of an unschooling focus. I'm going to hopefully be revamping my space this year with place to hold actual physical notebooks/files for me. Can you believe we're in our 11th year of homeschooling and I've never had a desk? LOL

  6. It is so funny. After I planned a year, I was always looking ahead, buying and reading and reselling and shelving future winners. Now that it is all done, I can't stop the habit and happily learning some more. I am a planning reading addict.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing all these resources! I am aching to start planning for next year 🙂
    Your entire site is wonderful and gives me great encouragement. Thank you so much for taking the time to post to such detail, you really are helping ME personally!


  8. Jen–thanks so much for your sharing. I have been toying with the idea of a planning notebook for each child instead of an all in one. I've read through your post once and I'll have to read it again–thanks.

  9. thank you so much for your generous offerings of suggestions, experience/advice, and resources! i'm always inspired and refreshed when I read your posts!


  10. I've been trying to put everything in one binder and it was just starting to get a little unwieldy. Thanks for the inspiration – now I just need a few more binders, some reorganizing time, and I'll be all set!

  11. what helpful ideas and information you have shared here – thank you! i love the “big picture” plan and the lifetime book list… do you record every book the child reads ever, or just those assigned as “school work?” do you include books read aloud to the child as well?

  12. Hi Erin. 🙂

    On the lifetime reading lists, I {try to} record EVERYTHING a child reads. I had hoped to be able to build a treasured list of books a child had read over their childhood to be able to give to them.

    I have a *sort-of* list for my older two {and I'm trying to add to it, backfilling the list with books I know they've read}.

    I read a post {a long time ago….and I can't even remember which one now} by Harmony Art Mom in which she said that in looking back {her youngest will graduate this year} she wished she had been better at keeping up with a child's reading – ALL of their reading – as a list. I realized that this was something I wanted to do as well….so I started being more thoughtful about it.

  13. I love those binders! I REALLY wish there was a Target here so I could stock up!

    Thanks for sharing how you set it up. After 8, almost 9 years of homeschooling I'm still tweaking every year and it's always great to get a fresh perspective elsewhere. I'm now following!

  14. Thanks for all the great info! I realize I'm not the organized type…I guess I need to work on that! LOL Can you share a little bit about what your child's weekly lesson plan sheet looks like? (The one for the clipboard)


  15. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for your question. If you'd like to see what our weekly lesson plans look like – the ones that go on the kid's clipboards each week – you might want to take a look at my other site, Wildflowers and Marbles :: The Paper Stuff. I share all of our booklists, lesson plans and resources there. The weekly lesson plans can be found under the tabs: Elementary, Middle School, High School. From there you can view and even print all of our lesson plans.

    Hope this is a help!

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