Keeping Track and Making Progress {Daily Planners and Checklists for the School Year}

by | Oct 9, 2012 | Alphabet Path, Checklists, Home Education, Organization, Schedule | 38 comments

Since I prefer designing our own curriculum each year, rather than purchasing a boxed curriculum conveniently complete with lesson plans and syllabi, I usually try and create my own plans and checklists. Each year has been different. When the older boys were younger, and using lots of workbooks, I would fill a page divider in their binders with all of their worksheets for the week.  As they finished the assignments they would move them to another page divider for all their “completed” work.  Some years we just used individual lesson planners to schedule and record our work.  (That didn’t work too well, though I wouldn’t mind giving it another try now that they are older.) The last couple years, I’ve been making checklists, inspired mostly by Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things.  Checklists have been perfect for us!

Here is a peek at the checklists I made the kids this last school year, in addition to our History Unit Study Checklists.   (Note: I always try and leave Friday free for attending Mass and catching up on any unfinished school work and projects.)

(Click to enlarge)

Each weekend I would update and print the lists for the upcoming week, after reviewing each child’s work.   It was working wonderfully, until the baby arrived…  After that I just didn’t have the extra time or energy to continue.    The kids continued completing their school work, but they really missed having their check lists. This year I knew I wanted to find an easier way… 

Inspired once again by Sarah and her Color-Coded Progress Lists, we began the year with beautiful colorful checklists, listing our“color-coded” goals for each of our four semesters.   This is such a awesome idea and has been making it so easy for the children (and mom!) to keep track of where they are in each subject, while being able to see their progress and overall goals for the whole school year at a glance. 

Sarah has generously shared her modifiable documents over at her blog. I created my own documents with tables in Microsoft Word, using the same idea and colors.  (They were perfect picks after all: Orange for Fall, Red for Christmas, Purple for Lent, and Green for Spring!)   

.: Links to our Checklists :.

I’ve uploaded copies of my completed documents to Scribd, for anyone who would like a peek at our plans for the year:

Snuggles :: Kindergarten

UPDATE:   Since I’ve had so many requests, I uploaded the actual modifiable word documents to Scribd as well.  You can find them here: Family, Captain, Rascal, Twinkle Toes, Chiquita, Snuggles (includes Alphabet Path).   When you click to download the documents just be sure to select “DOCX” to be sure you download the Word Document and not a Scribd PDF.   Depending on your computer the formatting will probably be off, but you can change the fonts, etc, to your own preference. Hopefully it will save some time for those of you that have students using a similar curriculum!  In exchange, would you please just offer a prayer for my family!  🙂  

For Snuggles I am also making a checklist for each letter of the Alphabet, as I finalize our plans.   So far I have only made the checklists for the letters A-C:

“When we once begin to form good resolutions, 
God gives us every opportunity of carrying them out.”
~ St. John Chrysostom
.: Organizing the Checklists :.

Using a 40% off (all Martha Stewart!) coupon, I purchased some Martha Stewart Office Supplies at Staples this fall.  I choose a pretty Black Damask three-ringed binder to hold the checklists.

I placed the “Family Work Checklists” in the front of the binder, followed by a section for each of the kids, using five Blue Paper Dividers.

At the back of the the “Family Work” Section I have printed pages for recording all of our extra Literature Read-Alouds.  The page pictured above is the record for our October Read-Alouds…  I’m still working on reading The Telmaj to the kids, and in the meantime they have already listened to four other audio books!  Yes, we are an audio book loving family!  I’m just not fast enough for the kids… 🙂

*I LOVE seeing that we are AHEAD in some subjects!  
.:  Weekly Checklists :.

(Click to enlarge)

I also made generic weekly checklists for each child so they have a general idea of what they need to accomplish each week.  I’m not updating them with the actual assignments and lesson numbers (that just takes too much time with this many kids) but so far these have also been really helpful.  On Monday morning I post the checklists on the pantry door in the kitchen.   That way, when they ask for extra privileges (i.e. watch a video, play a Wii game, etc) I can glance at their weekly checklist to see if they are caught up on their schoolwork before giving an answer.   At the end of the week I go over the checklist with each child, and update our Color-Coded Checklists in my binder.   Now I just need to come up with something similar for chores! 😉

“Without work, it is impossible to have fun.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas

.: Daily Planners :.

While I’m on the subject of planning, some of you have been asking about my daily planners and calendars…   Even though  I have tried using my computer and phone apps to get organized, I always fall back on my printed calendars and day planners.

I’ve already blogged about our Favorite Catholic Calendars.   This year, in addition to our wall calendar and Saints Calendar/Planner (which sits next to my computer to easily reference feast days and plan our celebrations), I am using two other Day Planners.

The first is my Half Sized Catholic Daily Planner. It fits perfectly in my purse, and it’s what I use for scheduling and keeping track of all of our appointments and activities that take us out of the home.

I also was given a copy of the Holy Simplicity Planner.  I’ve been using this Full Size planner to jot down notes each week, plan our menus, and record some of our weekly accomplishments that aren’t accounted for on our checklists (i.e. various science experiments, feast day celebrations, etc.).  

Note:  The Tan Saints Calendar and the Catholic Daily Planner include the feast days for both the Extraordinary AND New Church calendars!  The Holy Simplicity Planner is based exclusively on an [UPDATE: older version – not the current Traditional Calendar] of the Extraordinary Church calendar.  [UPDATE: I am no longer using the Holy Simplicity Planner, and will not be using it agin in the future.] 

My favorite part of this planner was the Weekly Planning Sheet which is found in the Reproducible Section in the back.  I may change my mind, but for now I’m posting it inside my broom closet in the kitchen… It was either there, or on my laundry room freezer, and lately I’ve been sweeping multiple times each day, and spending very little time doing laundry…  [UPDATE: I wasn’t consistent with using these either, and had the most luck with the above color-coded checklists I made for myself. LOVED those and will be making them for the 2013-2014 school year too.]

Anyhow, I’m still working on updating our old daily schedule, which has been quite challenging.   If only there were a few more hours in the day!   I’ll be sure to share it with you all if I ever do figure it out.

“The goal of all our undertakings should 
be not so much a task perfectly completed 
as the accomplishment of the will of God.”
~ St. Therese of Lisieux


  1. Grace Hincapie

    Thank you so much for sharing Jessica! What is Bible Study that you use with Captain?

  2. Jessica Gordon

    I think that is the one part of Captain's curriculum that I hadn't made a checklist for yet! We are starting with the Gospel of Mark. Each week he has one chapter of the Bible to read and then we discuss it using the questions provided by Laura Berquist in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.

    Here is an example for "Chapter 1:
    1. In the first fifteen verses, does it seem that the teaching of John and Jesus is the same? In what way is it the same, and it what way is it different?
    2. In verse 38, Jesus says He has come to preach. Where else in this chapter is there evidence that His teaching was more important to Him than His miracles?"

    She goes on to provide discussion questions for 16 chapters of Mark's Gospel. We will move on to Luke next.

  3. elm

    LOVE your ideas, here!! I tried something online and we used it for about 2-3 weeks… I felt committed – I spent many hours plugging all our info in!! But, it is more of a hassle than a help. I like the color coded checklists – those are great, simple and I may have to work on producing something similar!! Hope to talk to ya soon!

  4. Jennifer Elia

    Wow, Jessica. You are so incredible organized. Can I hire you next year to get my curriculum in order? I have weekly plans done for the entire year but seem to keep missing things each week. Maybe I need some sort of checklist. I must get a handle on it–it's already October. It hasn't helped that we have been sick the past 2 weeks. Finally getting on track and then we lost it when the illness hit and slowly made it way through the family. God bless you and thanks for all the great insight.

  5. Collette

    Jessica, thank you so much for sharing your systems, & in such detail! Organizing our schoolwork & chores has always been a challenge for me…and this is all so incredibly helpful. Especially since my family's curric & routines look pretty similar to yours, lol. 🙂
    Love all your checklists…and the planners!
    "When we once begin to form good resolutions, God gives us every opportunity of carrying them out."….. posting this one on my desk & in my planner. 🙂
    Thank you!

  6. Jessica Gordon

    I hope you are all feeling better soon! Everyone is coming down with colds here and I hope it doesn't linger too long!

  7. Marie

    This is all so amazing! I just love your binder and all the checklists. Would you be willing to share the word documents, in addition to the pdf downloads?

  8. Katie

    Jessica, thank you for sharing all this! You are a wealth of helpful information! I am just starting to get into homeschooling with the Little Saints Preschool Program. I remember you saying with Snuggles that you didn't do all of it because it was too overwhelming, and I have to agree. I was wondering, though, since the art projects are already piling up, what do you do with it all? How do you decide what to keep? What do you do with all the coloring pages all your children do throughout the year? This could quickly become clutter of epic proportions!

    I have also been wondering how you handle the potential mess with glue sticks. Do you put down a special tablecloth just for art projects, or does it just wash right off the table? (I'm afraid to experiment to find out!)

    One last question, although this is totally off topic…I am already starting to think about Advent, and was curious if you thought you could post the closeups of your Jesse Tree ornaments this year? Please don't feel obligated, I was just hoping…;)

    God Bless!

  9. JennyM


    These are beautiful! I love beautifully done, organized check-lists! This looks like something that would "fit" my personality and help my homeschool to keep on track. Thank you so much for sharing! (I'm kind of afraid to ask, how long did it take you to compile of them?)

    Also, when you go through the Alphabet Path – Catholic Faith section, how do you present that? We have almost all the same ABC books… do you just gather all of the books together and sit down with Snuggles and then read through the letter of the week in each one? Or pick up them up one by one throughout the week? Do you do any sort of activity along with them? Just curious, I would love to hear how you do that part.

    Thank you again for sharing!
    God bless,

  10. Kelly

    This….is a spectacularly awesome post! Thank you for sharing all of this! I loved Sarah's idea of color coding checklists, but just haven't had the time to figure it all out for us. Honestly, I've been so busy running to outside activities (mainly for my two oldest kids) that I haven't had time to work out our at home work lists. I love the black and white binder you're using. It really does help when we use something visually appealing to work with daily. I use both of the Catholic Daily Planner (I also have the smaller size that I carry in my purse) and the Tan Saints Calendar/Planner. The paper calendar/planners just seem to work better for me than the computerized/digital versions. I tried it with my iTouch one time a few years ago, but when I lost all of my loaded info. in one "glitch" I said never again.

    So, can I just thank you again for this post? 😉 'Cause really, it's just so awesome. This is going to help me organize my scattered sticky notes and jotted notes on notepads into real, workable checklists. I need this just as much as the kids do. It just feels so good to *see* that you're making weekly/monthly progress.

  11. Jessica Gordon

    I think I can upload the actual Word Documents to Scribd, but I am not sure if they will stay formatted correctly. If I have a chance later tonight I will give it a shot and update this post with the additional links.

    I'd be more than happy to share them with anyone that needs them. 🙂

  12. Jessica Gordon

    Yes… I have done parts of Little Saints Preschool with all of the children, getting more and more relaxed with how much we accomplish each time! 🙂 With the challenging pregnancy, new baby, and older kids that still needed lots of one-on-one time, it just wasn't possible to do much with Snuggles last year. I'm making up for it this year with the Alphabet Path and we are having such a great time! (26 themes is a little more doable than 40, or something like that!)

    The Art Projects — The kids each have a "Memory Box" (they are all under my bed) that they can save special things, art projects, baby books, cards, etc, in. They also have a "specific" Art Box in the school room for their coloring pages and illustrations. They decide what to add to the boxes and can keep whatever they want, as long as it fits. Once the box is full they will need to take something else out, if they want to continue adding. This way they keep their very favorites. Some of the other art projects are given away (godparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, et) and the rest are displayed for a little while and then tossed. Personally I have a hard time parting with anything that was made with their handprints, etc, and if they don't want to keep them I add them to "my box!" 😉

    My kids will glue over scrap paper most of the time, to prevent it from getting on the table. I noticed the other day that Snuggles (who hasn't used much glue) did get glue all over the table, but thankfully it wiped up pretty easy. Maybe I can find some sort of vinyl placemat or something for him? It was the same with Little Flowers – I always put down Vinyl Tablecloths, and they are always COVERED in glue after the meeting. I also use those purple glue (disappearing) sticks that dry clear, and AS SOON as you get it wet again, it turns purple. I'd wipe down the tablecloth and all of a sudden find purple streaks EVERYWHERE! lol It hasn't been a big deal.

    And thanks for the reminder on the Jesse Tree Ornaments. I will make a note in my planner 😉 and try and get going on that early this year. Maybe I can post them at the beginning of November, once I get past hosting our All Hallows' Eve Party, if not before. I'll do my best.

  13. Jessica Gordon

    It wasn't too bad, time wise. I think I spent most of a Saturday and part of a Sunday afternoon making all of them. The hard part was picking all the actual curriculum for the year! Once I knew what we were using it was easy to make the checklists, and some of the kids are using a lot of the same things so I could copy, paste, and modify, once I had the basic template that I wanted.

    As for our "My Catholic Faith" section to go along with the Alphabet Path… We are spending about 2 weeks on each letter, so I have been breaking it up:

    One afternoon we will read all the various saint pages from the ABC books for that particular letter, in addition to any picture books. Then he'll color a Saint Coloring Page of his choice for his Picture Book of Saints.

    The next week we will read the page from the A is for Altar Book and I'll add a presentation of some sort. For A he learned about the Altar. Since B is for Bible, this week we started his Bible Narrations and he added a picture for "Bethlehem's Blessing" to his Bible Book. I also tied in a snack this week (Bible Cookies) though I won't always do that.

    Sometime during the two weeks I also give him the Virtue Page to color and we discuss it, and read a book if I have one that coordinates. This is usually when he is asking for something to do, and not usually the same day as his other religious activities for the letter.

    Does that make sense?

  14. Jessica Gordon

    Oh, and I also made the checklists before I had all of our books, but I was able to refer to the table of contents provided in previews of the books! That was so helpful with getting these done before we started school!

  15. AM

    Hi Jessica,
    I just love your blog! You are so kind and have so much to share with everyone and are such a wealth of useful information! I truly appreciate all of your diligence and efforts to share with us all. I just love these and ordered the binders and dividers myself as well. This is just the thing I need to get us more organized as well. I only wish I was 1/2 as organized as you are! I have three active boys ages 10, 8 and 5 and with all of the daily activities (life, homeschool and trying to be with them as much as I can in the moment) I really struggle to find time to do the things I want to do to make our school life flow better. How do you do it all and do it well? May you continue to bless your family in all that you do 🙂

  16. Jennifer Elia

    Hope you don't mind but I found a great solution for art projects. My mother-in-law's school had all these "disposable" hospital trays that they weren't using. I took a stack and they are perfect because they contain all mess when crafting (great for beading too) and then the project can dry right on the tray and can still be easily moved. These are more expensive versions but I'm sure if you search hard enough you could find the cheap disposable ones. Just don't wash them with hot water, trust me. Hope that helps.

  17. Jessica Gordon

    Ok! I just updated the posts with links to the Word Documents! Hope that helps!

  18. JennyM

    It does make sense! Thank you so much for your response!

  19. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you Kelly! 🙂

    It's so hard when you have activities that take you out of the home every day! The only time I am able to commit to that is during the summertime, when we don't have school work to do each day! We leave far from town, at least the "big" town where most of the activities take place, so that help us limit our trips to no more than a couple times each week. I hope things calm down a little for you and you have a chance to make yourself some checklists! It really is therapeutic checking off those boxes! 😉

    I just finished uploading my actual word documents (the links are now in the post) if that helps. God bless!

  20. Karina

    Thank you for posting an editable version of the checklists! I've used a different version for the last few years. The kids loved them. I didn't…too much work for me! I have high hopes that your version will work well (just like all your other ideas!). Of course, we will remember your family in our prayers. Thank you. May God Bless You and Your Family!

  21. Cynthia

    Thanks for the inspiring post 🙂 I really like the simplicity and minimal pre-planning that this takes. I had weekly planning sheets made up for this year, but they aren't working terribly well. I think that the check lists will streamline things a bit, and the color coded sheets will make it easier to see "at a glance" how much we have actually done. Each grade added to school makes the whole planning bit more complicated, and each toddler underfoot provides a whole new set of challenges and time constraints! I think the check lists might enable the kids who could work independently to more easily see what they could work on when mom is not immediately handy to consult…

  22. Collette

    One last comment for today 🙂 Thanks again for posting all of this…I feel like I have just found a goldmine, here. And YES – we will say a prayer for you & your family (as you asked, lol!)…and will continue to do so as I/we use our lovely new planners throughout the year! God Bless!

  23. Annie

    This post was very helpful to me! I switched to the checklists midyear, and it was so much easier. Thank you!
    I'm looking for a new calendar to keep track of feast day celebrations. Do you have a preference between the Tan one and The Catholic Daily Planner now that you've used both?

  24. Annie

    Thank you!!!

  25. Wendy

    Your blog has been such a source of inspiration to me, a new homeschooling mom of 4. I am thinking ahead to next school year as we wind down this one and I am encouraged by the checklists you use. I am not very computer savvy so can you tell me what software program you used? I like the idea of at a glance, being able to see what we are working on and toward for the year. Again thank you so much for so much valuable information and ideas of enhancing our faith in our daily lives. Blessings to you and your family.

  26. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you, Wendy! I just used Microsoft Word to create all my checklists.

  27. Josette

    Jessica! Thanks for this! Do you have your independent work weekly checklist format available for editing? Would love to try it out this year! thanks!

  28. Ana Maria

    Dear Jessica, I enjoy your blog so much! I also am blessed with 7 children ranging in age from 1 to 13 🙂 I would love to see the CCM checklist. I can see it in the picture but can not find it. Can you tell me where to find it?

  29. Jessica Gordon

    I don't at this time. I am working on making out checklists for this coming year and will try and share it as soon as they are completed. 🙂

  30. Jessica Gordon

    This (2013-2014) will be the first year we have used CCM so that new checklist wasn't in the downloads from last year. I am still working on completing our 2013-2014 checklists, but as soon as I have them completed I will upload them to share. 🙂

  31. Kim

    Hi Jessica,

    I was trying to look more at Snuggles' kindergarten plans, but Scribd informs me that it has been automatically removed. Is there another place to look for it?


  32. Jessica Gordon

    I'm not sure why Scribd continues to have a problem with my lesson plans. They only include page numbers/assignments, but for some reason their automated system keeps flagging them as being similar to something that is copyrighted and removing them. I've had some successfully put back up, but it also just flagged/removed all my new plans for this year too. I'm looking for a new place to host my documents, but in the meantime send me an email and I can send it to you directly.

  33. Pam Barnhill

    I love these and have thought they were genius ever since Sarah first posted about them at Amongst Lovely Things. Thanks to her generosity with the template, I also have used them the past couple of years. Sadly, your link to her blog is broken up there. Might want to give that a look-see. 🙂

  34. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks for letting me know. I linked to her post a few times and two of the three links still work, but for some reason one of the links is incorrect. I'll fix it now.

  35. anonymous

    Hi Jessica,
    I'm finding this page very useful now that I will finally try to have a bit more structure for homeschooling. This link is broken: "Sarah has generously shared her modifiable documents over at her blog." Is it still available?

  36. CeAnne @ Sanctus Simplicitus

    Love the check lists! I think you may have inspired an addition the children's planners we have up 😉 Will have to think on it a bit more. Thank you also for sharing our Holy Simplicity planner. We are also considering putting out a half size general planner similar to the one that you have but to match the large Holy Simplicity planner. We will see what time allows and what God wills! Have a blessed day Jessica!


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Father in heaven, grant me the grace to appreciate the dignity which you have conferred on me. Let me realize that not even the Angels have been blessed with such a privilege—to share in your creative miracle and bring new Saints to heaven. Make me a good mother to all my children after the example of Mary, the Mother of your Son. Through the intercession of Jesus and Mary I ask your continued blessings on my family. Let us all be dedicated to your service on earth and attain the eternal happiness of your kingdom in heaven. Amen.

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Hi! I'm Jessica, a Roman Catholic wife and home educating mother to our nine children. I was home educated myself, along with my eleven younger siblings. I have a special devotion to St. Therese, through whom I have been given much help and many blessings--the beautiful "Shower of Roses" that she has sent my way! Here I will record a few of the blessings I treasure. Please remember that what you see here is just a little glimpse at our lives, so please say a prayer for us, as we continue to strive for holiness.

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