I’ve shared a few times on Instagram and Facebook already how spiral notebooks are helping us simplify. It’s made such a big difference to our family that I can’t help but give it its own blog post. You should know that this is not an original idea of mine, though; I’m really just passing it along!
A few months ago, Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things shared that their family has been using spiral notebooks for handwritten, daily checklists for each of the kids. At the time, I’m sorry to admit, I scoffed at the idea. Who has time for that? And besides, our printed checklists were working just fine.
Except they weren’t really.
A Few Problems with Printed Checklists
We ran into a few problems again and again with printed checklists:
1) They’re too inflexible. You make them once and keep printing them over and over again, but no week is the same as the next. We tried a few different methods to combat this (like using Days 1-4 rather than labeling the days, to give us one day off as needed), but it just didn’t work.
2) You can’t anticipate the needs at the end of the week before it’s even started. I’d try to look at our calendar and schedule chores and assignments based on what we had on the calendar, but something would inevitably change…an appointment or playdate, an extra chore that needed to be done, or some other distraction.
3) It’s too easy to overload kids with a printed checklist. The type is so small and you have a whole page, so why not fill it up? How else will you fit everything in? A written checklist lets me look at each day realistically and plan out assignments. If it’s too light one day, I know I can add more the next day. If something doesn’t get done, it’s easy to carry it over. And so on.
How We Use Spiral Notebooks
As Sarah promised, I love using spiral notebooks not only because of the flexibility it gives us and the hands-on touch each day but also because it makes it easy for us to keep everything together. We use ours for daily checklists as well as for packing lists when we travel, time sheets for their “jobs” around the house, and book lists. We don’t tear pages out (except when someone does their copywork in one by accident), which means I can flip back to remember what previous days looked like. After realizing I’d left science (a new “formal” topic for us) off the list a few days in a row, I just recently added a master to-do list to each notebook as well so that I can look back at it to make sure we’re covering everything over time.
And, because we have one daughter who tries to cut corners—a character issue we’re working to address—the rule is that everybody has to get their checklist signed by mom before they can go outside or watch TV. I like to write down the page or assignment numbers they’ve completed so I can make sure we’re actually moving forward.
Overall, I’m not exaggerating when I say these notebooks are saving my life. Our girls are doing more chores more regularly (and earning more allowance as well), our home is running more smoothly, and I feel better about the amount of school work we’re getting done each week.
And the really crazy part is the girls like the system too. They ask me for their checklists first thing each morning and work through them quickly. They giggle when I add something like “do a jig” or “draw a picture of an elephant” to their assignments. Even the 5-year-old pre-reader is in on the game with her picture checklist.
If I previously convinced you printed checklists are the way to go but they’re not working for your family, promise me you’ll at least try this system. I can’t say enough good things about it!
P.S. Just a few more weeks until Walmart and other retailers stock their $0.10 spiral notebooks for back-to-school season. I’ll be the crazy lady with a cart full…I can’t wait!
What is your favorite system to help simplify your home?