Mom of 4 needs planner help!

Hi all,

I've been a member of this site (and loving it!) for quite some time, but this is my first time posting. I'm a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of 4 and I am in desperate need of a "planner" that will fit everything.

When I was expecting baby #2, I used a cardfile system (i.e. Sidetracked Home Executives) for housecleaning and paying the bills, etc. It worked really well and stuff got done! Baby #2 was a handful and I "fell out of the box", so to speak. LOL!

Since then, I feel I have tried everything under the sun and read every book on the subject. I now have 4 kids (ages 8, 6, 5, & 3), and we homeschool. I need something where I can track all the necessary information for our household to run, as well as our homeschool lessons.

I've tried FlyLady (, but I tended to get carried away with the routines.

I've tried GTD, but it doesn't really address the issue of recurring tasks, which most of my list items are. Plus, I had a problem with larger tasks that couldn't really be broken down into smaller tasks.

I've tried separating my household planning from my homeschool planning, but I just didn't feel like it was working. Basically, the more I try to compartmentalize my life, the worse things work out. :)

I've also tried some of the teacher forms here on this site, but they just don't fit in with the kind of information I need for our homeschool.

My biggest problem, I think, is that I hate flipping back & forth between sections, or switching back & forth between planners. I have a software program I use for our homeschool records, but the forms & reports I can print from it don't really work in a classic size that's easily portable and it doesn't sync with anything. I have had some success using Outlook and syncing with my old "smartphone", but I have trained myself to ignore the reminder chimes. LOL! Plus, there is still the issue of including the homeschool lessons. I hate to turn on my phone only to discover that I had 173 active tasks! :)

Many of these issues can easily be solved by using a cardfile system, similar to a hipster. The cards can be re-filed and reused once they're done (that also solves the recurring tasks problem & hassle of rewriting them). No problem. However, we tackle so many things on a daily basis that I need 10" deep box for all my cards. Of course, I don't need all of them everyday, so I thought about using an index card binder for carrying just what I need today.

That worked well for a little while, but I got stressed about using index cards for regular notetaking & inbox items. I guess that's the only kink that needs to be worked out at this time. If anyone has any suggestions on how to make this better, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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Would a larger card help ?

Is the size (or lack thereof) of the card the problem or is it the number of cards necessary to track everything ?

"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

A million & one things...

I like the size of the cards because they are portable and handy. I also don't mind the number of cards as long as I have a storage solution for the stuff to worry about another day. I actually sat down this morning after posting and started getting the "system" set up (again), but I don't know where to start. Should I do as GTD recommends and list everything, then sort through it later? Or should I just start with what is most important to me right now?

I apologize if I sound confused. I admit that I'm a bit overwhelmed and am anxious to get something going. The biggest thing for me is that I feel I had a good day if I can go through a list or stack of cards at the end of the day and say, "Done, done, done..."

Or maybe...

I got stressed about using index cards for regular notetaking & inbox items.

Does this mean that you are worried about things getting mixed up ?
How about color-coded cards ?
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Always thinking about money...

The stress was actually the cost of index cards versus regular paper, or something. I'm always looking for a cheaper way to do things. :)

Cut some.


If you've got a box already, and you like the notecard format, just get some cheap paper and chop it to the necessary dimensions. It will take up less space in a box (so your box won't need to be as big) and it will be cheaper. You might even take a ream at a time to the guys at the copy center and have them chop it for you. It will add to the cost, but it might still be cost effective. You can get 5 index cards out of a sheet of 8.5x11 if you do it right.


Forms not necessary...

I also wanted to add that I like using the cards because forms aren't really necessary. They are small enough that you have to limit what you put on there, yet large enough (for me) that I can put all the important stuff on there without overwhelming myself. Does that make sense?

Another way..


I like the SHE system myself, but didn't really like the lack of portability either.

I flirted briefly with the idea of a pocket-protector system in a binder as a replacement for the box. Photo here: Linkety

To reproduce this, get the binder of your choice and a box of 50 sheet protectors in the appropriate size and hole configuration (the classic size is one that Avery makes). If the sheet protectors are too expensive, then get some paper or envelopes and make your own pockets. Then get a bunch of stick-on index tabs and stick one on each pocket. I found a 7-up tab configuration was handy for the day numbers, while a 6-up was good for months. And you'll even have some left over for projects and other stuff. Make sure all the open ends are pointing the same direction, and you'll want a zipper binder for this, I think. :)

Note: This will be a heavy beast to carry if you use sheet protectors. They're heavy and bulky all by themselves. Then add a big stack of cards and you're carrying a big dictionary around all day. Using paper instead of cardstock helps, but weight is definitely a deterrent.

One advantage to this system, though, is that the slips of paper don't have to be the same size. In the picture you'll see classic stuff, index cards, and you can slip in business cards and fold a letter sheet in half to stuff in the pockets too. So it will accommodate anything anyone hands you.

If you want to try it without the time investment of DIY'ing it, I still have it and would be happy to let it go for a nominal fee. :) One black faux leather classic binder with outside pocket for techno gear, plus all the sheet protectors, tabs, etc. There are grommets for adding your own shoulder strap also.

I also made my own accordion-style index card box out of paper, to be held together with a ribbon or rubber band. Photo here: Linky Link

This was cool, and it was lighter than the binder, but not very professional looking. It was expandable, being an accordion type. The one in the picture would go four or five inches deep at full extension, I think. It would be better made with firmer pieces on the front and back of the body and good heavy paper on the sides. It is more portable than a wooden box, certainly, but no more convenient when you're trying to set a follow up appointment at the dentist or salon. :)

I don't have this one anymore, but I have some half-finished printable directions around here somewhere I could send over. Requires a bit of origami to put it together, but nothing too complicated.

And finally, the long box I used as my 'regular' box for a while: Linka Dinka Doo

I left this one at home most of the time. I bought it at the craft store in the unfinished projects/wood stuff section. Occasionally I would carry it to the office if I needed to go in, but that wasn't real often. For date-specific appointments, though, I would often mark them on a duplicate calendar I could carry with me--usually 3x5 or quarter-letter size.

I still have this box. I think it was less than $10 when I bought it.

I have an even longer 3x5 box for extra supplies--it's a black snap-together model about eight inches long. I kept my extra blanks and longer term storage in there for a while.

Now all my stuff is electronic because work wants it that way. :/ But I still have all my gear for when things change around again.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the SHE system when I had a zillion little things to track and was trying to get my housework in order. I will probably pull it back out again when this project I'm on goes into maintenance mode.




Felt like I should separate the system from the usage. When it comes to using the SHE system for multiple different kinds of things, I highly recommend color coding.

When you're cutting up your paper for the box, use different colors for different purposes. Example: Pick one color for the housework stuff. Just one color, then make all the marks a la SHE. Say it's blue.

For appointments and time-specific items, use a different color. Example: Yellow.

For Home-school related work, a different color: Green.

For ad-hoc notes and items that will be thrown out once they're done, white.

For any other stuff, choose other colors. That way when you're sifting through your stuff for today, you can sort by color and put away the stuff you're not working on right now.

Levenger now makes a nifty card board/stand thing--I had made one for my self before that was french-note-board style. Lev's is much classier. I would take out my cards for the day, pick out the first six I was going to work on, then stuff them in my stand in order so I could see them without pawing through the box. A nice playing card stand is good for this purpose too.

Anyway, good luck with your system. If even part of the system works for you, keep what's good and tweak just what isn't working. That way you have a core of goodness and stability to work from rather than starting over completely.


Great suggestions!

Thanks a lot! These suggestions are good. I probably wouldn't go with the binder because of the weighty-ness of it. But I do like the suggestions you made for the cards - especially the color coding. I've thought about using colors before, but it's been a hassle because I can never seem to find the same set of colors when I need more.

I did have an idea this evening to use highlighters to color code just the top of the card, then use colors for each of the kids (they're generally color-coded anyway).

I think I'm getting a handle on this and these suggestions have helped a lot. Does anyone have suggestions for forms that might make it a little faster? I know I said forms weren't necessary, but sometimes I tend to be too rigid in my view of things.

A search


My favorite form of all time is a simple grid with very faint lines. That way I can do anything I want with the paper without being locked into anything specific.

However, if you want to try out some different forms, I experimented with some and other people have posted a bunch in the templates directory too.

Mine are called "hipster portrait forms" and "hipster landscape forms". There are multiple forms in each package with different purposes. I also did a bunch of quarter-letter stuff that is fairly easy to resize.

Some other folks did some cards with icons at the top where you can write whatever you want on the card, then circle or mark the icon that applies when you're done. The icons are a nice visual indicator that's quick to parse when you're flipping through the stack looking for stuff.

There was another idea floating around about cards with holes evenly spaced around the edge. You'd assign each hole a meaning, and if that meaning applied to the card, you'd snip the hole so it actually made a slot to the edge of the card. Then you'd use coat hangers or pencils or whatever to 'sort' the stack when done. This I think would be easier for topic-related stuff than time-related stuff. If you're a scrapbooker and have lots of fancy small hole-punches, though, you could use shaped punches to do something similar to the icon thing.

For my recurring stuff, I preferred to print them out rather than hand-write. I could do fancy stuff with borders or pictures if I felt like it, and it was a nice change. I had a word mail-merge with a spreadsheet for all of my SHE stuff so I could fiddle with my list in a spreadsheet, then print it out on 3x5s when done. In a spreadsheet I could also look at the recurrence and see how the cards would 'fall' on any given day so I could decide whether the recurrence I was picking would be right, etc. Too anal, for sure. :) But pretty. :) I used a simple art deco border and printed them out on colored stock with the laser.

Not every printer handles 3x5s well--but more of them can handle 4x6s. Just a thought on the pre-printing front.



We are also a homeschool family of four kids (youngest in Polish preschool, however), but our kids are older, and more independent. They also are heavily involved in household chores. We set up a daily routine for everybody, that mostly works without a hitch (key word "mostly"). The kids are also responsible for organizing and managing their own time--but as I said, they are older (18, 15, 11), but they started quite young in learning how to organize their day to get their assigned work done. As far as your own organization... my wife simply uses bound notebooks, usually with grids, and writes out her necessaries. She also printed out the kids school work schedules (blanks, filled in by hand). However, she's pretty organized in her head, so doesn't need an extensive written schedule (unlike me. If it's not in my Palm with an alarm, it doesn't get remembered) ;-) Oh, we also use a quazi-classical, literature/living books-based curriculum, which probably changes things over a typical text-book-based curriculum.



How about a tickler system. In the card box set up daily (1-3x) and monthly (jan-dec) tabs. (see 43folders for the complete run-down on the system)

For daily and monthly recurring tasks, write or type out the task(s) on an index card and file behind the appropriate date or month. So for an item to be remembered in November, file behind NOV tab. Then when Nov begins, you grab all the cards behind Nov and file them into the daily (1-30) tabs. Then, each morning you grab all of the cards out of today's tab (15th) and you are ready to go. This works for bills, household, events coming up, etc.

For homeschooling, I would assume this would work as well, but I am not sure......

Hope this helps a little.

Keep the questions coming and we will all try to keep helping!
nay nay