Sep 202013

I am so tired of clutter.

I don’t know about you, but we have too much stuff in our house.

And it is past time to do something about it.

October is nearly here. Then comes the busy season of holidays. Anyone want to purge a room a week in their homes in preparation for the winter season? A room a week is doable.

So from October 1-7, the focus is on making the living room a warm welcoming haven to your family and guests.

October 8-14 will be the kitchen. Get rid of those appliances you don’t use, all those extra plastic containers taking up room, rearrange the silverware drawer if you’ve been putting it off. Organize the canned goods. Make it a joy to walk into your kitchen in the mornings to start that coffee maker (or tea kettle if you are like me and use a French Press).

October 15-21 will be clean out that bathroom! Trash those half used bottles of shampoo, that perfume you were given that you hate and all that really old makeup. Make your bathroom a nice relaxing place to take a hot bath in. Is there something small you could do to make it more inviting? What about candles, replacing the dingy shower curtain?

And October 22-28 is clean out your master bedroom! Ditch all those magazines sitting beside the bed waiting to be read, purge the tops of the dressers, fluff up the pillows and make it a retreat for you and your hubby.  Make your room a place you want to go to at the end of the day.

So, who’s in? I won’t make you take before pictures as I really don’t want to take the before pics of my house after the insanity of this past summer…Yeah, my house is really embarrassing currently.  I will do a link up if anyone is interested in joining in!

Apr 112013

If you homeschool, you know the frustrations of finding a planner that will work for you. I can’t tell you how many planners, systems, printables I have tried in finding a system that will work for the way my brain is wired. In fact, it got so interesting in our house last year in regards to calendars and planners (of various sorts) that my husband had to put his foot down and forbade me from purchasing any more calendars/planners/printables/binders for new ways of doing things.

Ok, so maybe I have a problem. Is there a twelve step program for people like me?

I did come up with a way to keep track of lesson plans, curriculum and such that worked just fine for the way my poor brain is wired. It has been working well for me and the way we school for two years now.

Logo in black lettering for Apologia

Recently, I got to review Debra Bell‘s planning system (The Ultimate Homeschool Planning System and the Student Planner) which is sold by Apologia (yes, the wonderful people who has brought us the Exploring Creation series, the terrific Who is God series, a great selection of books to inform, motivate and inspire us in our homeschooling journey).

Front cover of Debra Bell's The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and the Ultimate Student Planner

This is a good planner. I appreciate the fact that included in the planner are articles to help you master the planning beast with a yearly planning retreat, how to plan for a month, take a quick plan weekly, how to use it to show your children the plan for the week and then use it for a review of what they did get accomplished at the end of the week. It has sections to set priorities, make a list of resources you need to procure and a large yearly planning grid. There is space for up to six students to plan individually your goals for each for the year too.

For the nitty gritty, there is a section to record grades, reading lists and activities that you are involved in. Plus there are helps and suggestions on how to create an independent learner, motivating those who are a bit more reluctant, an article on learning and thinking skills.

Front cover of Debra Bell's Ultimate Homeschool Planner

The planner isn’t overly feminine and frilly. It has a good neutral tone to it and a non-frilly floral pattern that I love (it actually goes fairly well with my wall calendar!). It is spiral bound with a sturdy spiral, and the covers are a plastic which will repel moisture (not like any of us would ever get liquid [ahem, coffee] on our planners, eh?) and have folders in the front covers.

I love the pages for planning your week, space to enter in your triumphs, prayer focus, your own Bible reading plan, and how you are incorporating ministry to others into your homeschool days.

I do really like the layout of this planning system. It is a good general homeschooling planner that anyone could use (and in the even that Mom isn’t able to teach, it is self-explanatory enough that most people could grab it and take over for a few days). I did have an issue with trying to switch planning styles (I’ve been using a printable and a clip board for the last two years and have become rather accustomed to the way I’ve personalized it). I also plan out our school for six weeks on and one week off and while it is doable in this planner, this planner is designed for a year, almost like a regular teacher’s planner book (only way more detailed than the ones I used as a teacher in Christian school). I know if I had started with The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, I wouldn’t have had the issues I did with changing planning styles/layout totally. I fully intend to use this to it’s fullest potential in the coming school year (which starts fairly soon for us actually since we school year round, six weeks on, one off with extra time off around holidays. It gets too hot in the summer to do much so we may as well school and have a great time when the weather is nicer).

While the planner is terrific as it is, I would add a few more folders inside. And perhaps an elastic loop to attach a pen (I don’t know about you, but it seems my writing utensils wander off on a regular basis) and a zippered envelope to hold paper clips, stamps, rubber bands and chocolate. And while this is a terrific general planner, I would love one aimed more for parents of elementary aged students (while I do intend to homeschool all the way through high school, I don’t need the articles on doing it currently in my planner) with more space to organize learning life skills for that age group, how to survive the years of not-so-independent learning, field trip ideas (and space to record field trips in more detail). Don’t get me wrong, I do really like this planner, but this is how if I was going to do it, would lay it out and what I personally would add.

I also got to review the The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students. It is laid out so very well for those beginning to learn how to schedule their days and assignments. I love how there are sections for the students to record their favorite things, articles and helps to guide logical and analytical thinking, the places to record grades, reading, physical activity plus the added history timelines, geography lists, how to convert measurements, multiplication table and a whole lot of other information that will be great to have at your scholar’s fingertips. I would love to see a place to attach a writing utensil in this planner too, and perhaps folder pockets in the covers like the master adult planner. My eldest would love for it to come in more girly colors. But then, she is a girly girl and loves pink and glitter and glam. One of the coolest features of this planner is that the spiral binding on it glows in the dark. Which at first when it got left on my nightstand kind of freaked me out until I realized what was glowing beside our bed…

Front cover of The Ultimate Student Planner

These planners are beautiful (and there is a choice of two covers for The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, so you have more options!). They are encouraging, make it easy to keep a record for the year of what you have done and will serve as a great tool for looking back and reminiscing when the kids graduate (which thankfully for me is a long way off yet). These are great for any mandatory record keeping you have to do in your state, promoting order and peace and training our children to make wise use of their time and being diligent in their work. I can highly recommend these planners to make your life more streamlined.

You don’t have to take my word for it, to find a medley of other review perspectives, visit Mosaic Reviews!


Feb 232013

I started this blog a few years ago at the urging of my husband who decided I needed a creative outlet. He noticed that I needed something else to do, we both realized that I really enjoyed reading some blogs and we both knew that I really liked to write. For me, writing is a way to express myself safely, be creative and is fun. So, close to my 30th birthday, my husband helped me put together my blog. It has taken a few twists and turns since then, and I’ve had times where I have written a lot, then not so much, as I was writing when the mood struck, when I had a review due, or when I felt led to say something. Posting has always been a bit helter skelter for me.

As a member of the Mosaics Review Team (noticed my newest button over to the right?) we were asked to choose a free printable blog planner and review it for our first review. I’d seen blog planners before, and figured that while they looked nice and all, I probably would never use one. I love to plan, don’t get me wrong, but then when things happen and plans fall through I feel horrible. I also have a very hard time finding a planner that works for the way I think. I like things with enough structure to make me be able to quickly see where and what I should be doing, but with enough freedom that if I wanted to move things around quickly I can. I like having seperate areas for different aspects of the blog (and life. It has taken me three years to get a homekeeping binder put together that I even remotely like) but I want something that flows and works together as a whole. And I want it to look nice.

I chose the blogging planner by Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations to try out. The pictures of it on Jolanthe’s website make it so pretty! I love flowers and gentle feminine looking things, ok? This planner is also quite huge. It is a planner designed for a full year, and is over 60 pages long. The forms contain calendars, sections to plan out a focus for each month, giveaways and reviews (including contact info, what key words to use, and even has a check mark box to say that you have chosen a winner for your giveaway), pages to mark off blog posts, SEO, and social media promoting. Those pages are a godsend themselves. I prefer to plan with a pen and paper. I have yet to be able to force myself to convert to straight digital planning. I just can’t do it. My brain has never worked that way and I’ve always been able to think better with a pen in my hand. These pages fit the bill precisely!

Then, if that wasn’t good enough, Jolanthe added in some extra forms which made this planner go way over and beyond what I was expecting a blog planner to do and be. There are forms to track your website analytics (very helpful to track trends and for pitching to companies), a form to remember websites and blogs you frequent and log in information, a form to keep track of your affiliate programs (great to keep passwords, payout information and such all sorted out and tracked), a Twitter Hashtag Tracker (yeah, I can’t remember the good hashtags to use, nor what they pertain to a lot of times…This is a wonderful form!), a form for the blog linkups you like to participate in, and forms to track income and expenses, mileage and a place just to jot down the random ideas that don’t want to leave you alone.

I printed off the pages at home on my black and white laser printer and did dual sides (so the pretty colorful flowers aren’t so colorful, but for us, that made the most sense economically for what it costs us to print versus taking it to the office supply store). And while I wanted it spiral bound, I ended up using my trusty three ring hole puncher and put it into a one inch binder I found on clearance. I mark where I’m at using paper clips (I do get the prettier colored ones) and I plan on putting in some page dividers and plastic pockets and a folder yet (one of those things that takes a bit of time which has been lacking for us this year). It is quite serviceable and useable the way I have it set up right now. At least for the way that my brain works.

Yes, this planner basically does it all (well, except the thinking of the blog posts, lining up giveaways, writing your posts for you….) if you use it. This is an excellent tool to help you take your blogging to the next level. It makes it easy to organize your thoughts and ideas, keep track of the nitty gritty details that are so easy to forget and is a breeze to use once you get into the routine. It makes my blogging feel more “official” if you will.

Having a planner helps to define my blog, my purpose for the blog and makes it easier to carve out the time I need to devote to it without sacrificing my family to it. I suggest that if you are serious about taking your blogging up to the next level that you use this blog planner. It is starting to salvage my sanity…Granted, there wasn’t much sanity to salvage to begin with, but knowing I have a chance at keeping what little I do have left is a wonderful feeling.

Do you think this planner won’t work for you? Well, there are many other options out there and other bloggers with the Mosaics Review team had a chance to review them. I hope you find just what you are looking for over there!

I was given this planner as a part of the Mosaics Review Team in exchange for this review. All opinions are mine and mine alone, no other compensation was received.