Monday, September 15, 2014

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner - a Crew Review

Are you a planner? Do you despise planning? Do you wish you knew how to plan? Do you plan but not follow through? Does your lack of planning leave you feeling like you're spinning your wheels? Wherever you feel like you fall on the planning spectrum, I want to invite you to learn more about The 7 minute Life Daily Planner that I have been using this past month. The planner is from The 7 Minute Life and was created by Allyson Lewis, author of The 7 Minute Solution. While reviewing the planner, I checked out a copy of Lewis' book from our local library. If you are serious about getting your act together, and getting organized, I highly recommend reading the book, or watching several of the videos on The 7 Minute Life website. If you want to jump straight into the planner, you can see the the most relevant videos here.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
Let's back up, and I'll tell you a little bit about why I wanted to review this planner.
I needed help. I have gone through stages in my life when I've been super organized, and others where I've literally spun in circles all day... and then I'd get organized again, and then life would step in the way. I wanted to see if this planner, which I believe was originally designed for business people, could work to help me get myself organized for the new school year. Let's face it, Moms juggle a whole lot of schedules and responsibilities whether you have one kid in school, or six. If you own/run a business, or work part-time (or more) or want to homeschool your children, the schedules just keep piling up. How do you organize the seeming chaos into something you can actually work with?

I had been seeing my slightly organized life unravel all Spring and Summer. First, Kurt was sick, then he needed to have his gallbladder removed, then 4-H season hit with full force, and I felt like I was treading water. The problem with treading water is that you can only do it so long before you sink. I didn't want to sink, and our back-to-school schedule was rapidly approaching. What to do?! Then, the opportunity to review The 7 Minute Daily Planner came along. Thanks Allyson Lewis for the lifesaver thrown my direction!

This planner covers 90 days, and costs $24.95. Don't balk at the price, I found it to be worth every penny, and it comes with a money back guarantee. The planner is 7.3" by 8.5", and has so much more than any other planner I've ever seen... and trust me, I've seen a lot of them. (A side note to home schooling Moms, this planner will NOT organize your student's lesson plans, but it will organize you!) I really like the smaller size of the planner, because it can go with me. My larger 'appointment keeping' planner sits on the desk, but it's too big to take with me wherever I go. The 7 Minute Daily Planner has a lot of unique features, and if you want to see some of the pages close up, you can download sample pages to look through from the tools tab on the website.

This planner is lime green, ok, maybe that's lime with a touch of kelley green mixed in, so while it wasn't my favorite color, it was always easy to spot where I left it. It has a sturdy plastic over cover, paste-board weight covers with pockets, along with a  double-wire binding. It is designed to go with you, and it has held up remarkably well. The planner is designed for adults, not kids. If you have a High School Junior or Senior who also has a job or micro business, they might want to check this out.

The beginning pages (5-19) explain how to use the planner, and then there are specific pages for prioritizing what is important to you, discovering your purpose in life, setting both 90 day personal and work goals, and pages for financial and life goals. Then come several pages for unfinished tasks... you know what I mean, the stuff that floats in and out of your brain and distracts you from getting today's work done today. For me, this was a great place to start decluttering my brain, as there are several things that need done later this month, or next month, that I needed to get off of my radar in August so I could stay focused. These pages are divided into unfinished work tasks, or home tasks. This can be where you write things like: dig canna bulbs, mulch the trees, insulate the windows. Items you know you need to do, but don't need done this week.

After that come 12 undated monthly calendar pages. This planner is designed to work by the quarter (90 days) but realizes that some of your plans will be longer-term. It also has 90 day and annual calendar pages (much smaller boxes of course.) 

Next comes the heart of this planner, daily progress report pages that are divided into several sections. On these pages, I adapted some of the more business-focused sections to better meet my own needs. The first section is the daily contacts list. Think of this as making calls/ sending emails to business clients. I appropriated this section into prayer requests. At first, I was covering the title with Washi tape for each day, then I moved on to just using my correction tape to re-label the section.  Next to this comes the true heart of this planner, the "What will I do...5 before 11" section. This is the area where you prioritize the 5 most important tasks to get accomplished each day. (FYI- you are supposed to fill this out the night before, right before bedtime, so you make sure they are really your priorities.) I will admit, that even though these are supposed to be done before 11 a.m., I work nights, so these were my 5 before 11 p.m. tasks. 

There are also sections for daily appointments, unfinished tasks, life connections, thank you notes, and voicemail. Plus, a lined section just for daily notes. Each day has a two-page spread. The planner has a few pages just for notes, and some meeting planning pages. After each 30 days of daily pages, there is a monthly progress report with a page just for notes for planning the next month.

If you are in business, you are going to adore this planner. If you are a Mom or Dad who needs help getting organized and staying organized, you should want to get this planner ASAP. If you never do anything, and have no goals in life, then this is not for you. I think many people will realize how much smoother their lives run when they prioritize, organize, and simplify with The 7 Minute Daily Planner and will get it again and again. Right now, I'm thinking about purchasing another copy when this one is almost finished. I've been reviewing it for almost 6 weeks. I spent the whole first week reading and re-reading the introductory pages and working on the goal setting sections. You really DO need to take time to work on these, even if you can't fill in all the blanks, you will have a plan to start with. 

This is an undated planner, so you can start any day of any month, of any year. Another bonus of the undated part, if you are going to be gone (let's say vacation) and don't use it for a few days, you haven't wasted any pages. If life were to interrupt in a major way (major medical emergency or a storm takes out the power,) you can still go right on with your planner... or you can take a few days off. If you've been faithful to write down your unfinished tasks, you won't lose them. They'll still be right there waiting for you.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
A critical point this planner has in its favor are small checkboxes next to the lists, and a section at the bottom of each day to keep track of your water consumption, sleep, exercise, reflection, and reading time, and what you ate (3 meals plus 2 snacks.) Then comes the most telling part of each day "Did I do what I said I would do today?" with two small boxes, yes, or no.

This planner has helped me turn my large goals into daily micro-tasks that can be done one at a time. It has helped me find what I should be focused on in the midst of the chaos, and set myself on the right path to accomplishing more goals. One of my favorite sections is on the daily progress report. It is the "Unfinished Tasks" section. It lets me keep a running list of what didn't get done that week that still needs completed. An item that might not make my 5 before 11 section on Monday, usually gets put here because I know it needs finished by Thursday or Friday. I have taken all of those various to-do lists from around  the house and put them all in this portable book.

Does it really work? Oh yes. On the days when I didn't plan the afternoon or evening before, I found myself waking up without a plan, and not much got accomplished. On the days where I spent 5-7 minutes planning, a lot got accomplished. I still have a lot of unfinished tasks on those beginning pages, but I have a planner that is helping me stay organized. I think you should get yourself a copy and get organized yourself!

If you're still on the fence, I challenge you to watch the videos and download the sample pages. I think you'll be quite happy you did!

You can learn how the planner worked for other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew by clicking the banner below.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thankful Thursdays - 9/11/14 - Potatoes

Today we are thankful for potatoes. New, fresh, potatoes we grew ourselves.

There were not a lot of potatoes when we harvested them last week, but it was a great learning experience, and has left us planning again for next year.

I had seen the 'potato box' idea online, and tried to follow it...but of course life got crazy along the way, so we didn't follow all the directions to the letter. Our original plan was to use the box for potatoes this year, and make it a planter for something else next season. I'll need to do some crop rotation planning this winter so I can reuse all that lovely dirt.

I think we'll make another potato box for next year, or maybe two. What we did learn, we want to plant more potatoes for next year, and put the box closer to the spigot for the days when we need to water them. I think we would have had more large potatoes if we had watered them more often.

Considering we planted 4 left-over organic potatoes that had sprouted in the fridge, we didn't do too badly. In the end, we're thankful for all we learned, and our yummy potatoes. We had some already this week with a roast - yum!

What vegetable are you most thankful for this week? Leave a comment, maybe I'll get some ideas for next time!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I thought you might need a smile today, so here are some pansies ... with their funny little faces. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Under Drake's Flag - 2 Cd Set - A Crew Review

Many people have heard about G.A. Henty and the many (122) books he wrote to tell the story of history. We've seen several of Henty's books and heard praise for his works. What intrigued us was a chance to review the dramatized Audio Theater of Under Drake's Flag from Heirloom Audio Productions. 

audio theater, audio drama, G.A. Henty

For this Schoolhouse Review Crew run we received the 2 CD set, which includes a small study guide and the Prayer of Sir Francis Drake. The CD set includes 2 hours of dramatized audio and retails for $29.95. Emily, Arlene, and I listened to the CD's in the car over the course of a couple days. We agreed that the amount of dramatization was just right. It adds to the story, without being overwhelming or making it difficult to hear the dialogue.

If you're not familiar with Henty's Under Drake's Flag, it is a story about Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) and his life as a privateer under Queen Elizabeth of England. The Spanish considered Drake a pirate, the English considered him a hero. 

The small study guide included with the CD set can give you questions and topics to discuss with your children. When you purchase the CD's you can also download the full study guide as a 28 page PDF file. The full study guide goes more in-depth and asks you to spend time listening to and thinking about each part of the story. It also includes vocabulary words that you and your children can look up and discuss.

This audio drama is designed for ages 6 through adult, but I would suggest you pre-listen before sharing it with your children under 10 or 11. While there are no words or scenes that are inappropriate for young listeners, the topics of slavery, warfare, and the Spanish Inquisition are covered during the story. As a parent, I would have had a difficult time explaining these to the girls if they were 8 or 10, and I would have wanted time to think through my responses before the questions were asked. Now that they are 14 & 16, this was an excellent open and go story, and a great conversation starter. After listening to the CD's a couple of times, the girls and I talked about pirates/privateers, the Spanish Inquisition, English rule under Queen Elizabeth, and what happened in Europe for the 300 years following Drake's lifetime.

At two hours, this is obviously an adaptation of Henty's original book. I haven't yet read the book, but I liked the audio drama. Arlene commented that is was as well done as a movie, but without the pictures. Emily and I discussed the implications of the war between England and Spain and how the gold and silver Drake captured went back to Queen Elizabeth, and how it might have funded other English endeavors. 

The story presented in the CD's focuses on Drake's Christian faith, and is intended to help build character, while teaching about making wise choices. 

After listening to the CDs a few times, we discussed the differences between true faith, and using the church for personal gain. I believe the story does a decent job of not going too in depth on touchy subjects, leaving those for your family to discuss. For example it is enough to know there were runaway slaves to understand the story, while  you decide how in-depth your family wants to go with discussing specifics of slavery and mistreatment of other people.

I enjoyed Henty's way of telling the story of Sir Francis Drake through the eyes of Ned and Gerald. I frequently read historical fiction because I find that a well-written historical fiction novel can teach me more than a dry history book just stuffed with facts. Listening to this CD Set has encouraged me to consider adding some Henty books to the girls' schoolwork for later this year.

Overall, we were impressed with the quality of the audio, and the adaptation of the story. If your children (or you) enjoy a swashbuckling good story, grab you family a copy of Under Drake's Flag today. Your next car ride can be an adventure you'll all enjoy!

Heirloom Audio Productions is working on another  G.A. Henty title In Freedom's Cause, the story of Wallace and Bruce, due out later this Fall. It is currently on pre-order status, but they expect it to be available sometime in November. Maybe I'll get it for my birthday, and share it with the family.

Under Drake's Flag Reviews

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Thankful Thursdays - 9/4/14 - A Thankful Mash-up

Today I am thankful for a lot of things. While I had an idea at the beginning of the week for today's theme, I realized that there are SO MANY things to be thankful for this week. I have decided to give you a glimpse into my thankful mash-up.

This week I've been thankful for:
A quality mechanic
Working internet
Educating our daughters
The power of prayer
God's perfect plan
The Body of Christ in action
Our chiropractor
The Schoolhouse Review Crew
Our mailman
Grocery Sales
To-do lists
Long talks
A clean kitchen
Indoor plumbing

If I were a graphic artist, I'd draw you a mash-up picture, but I'm not. Just know that I'm thankful for every day God grants me!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Thankful Thursdays - 8/28/14 - Planning

Do you love to plan, or are you a 'by-the-seat-of-your-pants' type? Even if you are smack dab in the middle of the spectrum, planning is something we all need to do. I know, life doesn't always let you stick to your plan... but it's still a good idea to plan.

I was thankful for the opportunity to plan this week, even when life threw us a major curveball. The curve? The internet went down, and we needed a new modem, and we had to wait on our provider company... get the picture? It's quite hard to re-adjust your life to a no-internet status when you've gotten used to it, AND when you're trying to get blog things accomplished!

Yet, I can still be thankful for planning. Even though I didn't get to print out a map I thought I wanted, didn't get to Google my questions about harvesting potatoes, and even though you're reading this "Thursday" post on a Saturday afternoon, I was still thankful for planning.

Not having regular internet service forced me to follow what I put down in my paper planner to do every day this week. 

Hmm. I think we got more accomplished, at least more of what I had planned to accomplish done because of not having the distraction to go look things up.

(And yes, I know there is a library just a few blocks away, and yes, I could have let the girls Google things on my phone, but I decided to follow where God was leading... and His plan was even better!)

Today, our internet is working (hurray!) Yet we still chose to stick with the written plan, which included a long family bike ride this morning. The internet was still here when we got home. 

Planning is not always my favorite thing to do, yet I have come to understand the wisdom in making plans. If God decides to change them, I want to be available to hear His direction, but if He does not, I want to know where we're going. As parents we don't plan to fail, yet we often fail to plan!

Your plans might be extremely detailed, or quite vague, yet they are STILL plans! Without any plans you drift, and your children may drift with you, or away from you. With plans, everyone has an idea where your family ship is headed. 

I want to encourage you to make some family plans, outside of just school plans. They may not all come to fruition, but the ones that do may just be beautiful! Then you'll be thankful for planning too!

Monday, August 25, 2014

What about when life happens?!

You might remember that I've mentioned that Moms worry too much. As a general rule, we do. While I'm getting better at trusting God to handle the details, I know I still have a long way to go. Want to know the one time  when I see a lot of Moms worry? When life happens.

homeschooling through crisis, homeschooling, life happens

What do I mean? Oh, things that we all might encounter during the years of homeschooling... a broken bone, a sick child, a job change, someone we love being admitted to the hospital. Having been through all of these in recent years, I'll be honest and admit I've worried too. How will we ever get "caught up?" What would that look like, and does it matter anyway?

First, breathe, second, pray, third, let go. Let go of your plans and try to embrace the plans God has for you. I might have had great aspirations of finishing a 36 week course with the girls in 20 weeks. I might have had designs to clean the house, plant the garden, or even read a book, but God had other plans.

How does this work in the real world?  When one of the girls is sick, we usually end up with a 'documentaries on Netflix' day. This is a great time to pool ideas from your friends. If you haven't thought ahead and made a list of possibilities, ask them now. Social Media can get you a few great answers, some decent answers, and a couple mediocre answers in about 45 minutes. Usually someone is sitting there watching your post pop up in their newsfeed, and will share some ideas. If you're not sure they will work for your children, click over to Netflix and read the descriptions. It doesn't really matter how much they learn, it matters that you can keep an eye on them all day, from the comfort of the couch, near the bathroom and the kitchen. Since our girls are High School age, we can always just peruse the 'documentaries' listings and find something. If your kids are younger, pay attention to the descriptions. If your children are little, pick a sure-fire movie instead of a documentary. Maybe Winnie-the Pooh?!

Job change? Yeah, been there, done that more times than we care to recall over our past 11 years of educating at home. How does that work? For us, in bits and pieces. If you need to help your husband proof-read his resume, or prep for an interview, your kids just have to learn to adapt. Some people are very hands-on in their teaching style (not me) and letting their kids work independently may seem little scary. (If you've taught them to work independently, it will be a great help right now.) In the big scope of life, it really doesn't matter if your child only does 3 math lessons this week instead of 4. If you are so committed to your schedule that you can't be flexible to be your husband's 'help-meet' when he deeply needs you, then you love your schedule more than you love God. Let go. Start writing in pencil, because from experience I can tell you, this will  NOT be the only time you are going to have your homeschooling interrupted.

Notice I said interrupted, not stopped. Just because your child isn't doing lesson #143 in their science book today does not mean they won't be learning. As homeschoolers, we have got to abandon the wrong idea that learning only happens from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you are still clinging to this idea - stop! Our children have learned loads of life lessons about to how act (and how not to act) by watching how Kurt and I interact with each other and with our jobs through tough times. Life is not all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns! It is healthy for your children to see that you struggle. It teaches then to turn to God (assuming that YOU are turning to God for help) for answers they cannot find on their own. It also teaches them about contentment. You may not find your dream job on the first try. Most people don't. Yet, you can be thankful for any opportunity God brings you, and ask Him to teach you through the struggle.

Broken bones, hospital admissions? We've been there, done that too during these homeschooling years. In our lives God has used His people to step in and parent our daughters when we couldn't. A few years ago, Kurt was in a car accident and broke his leg. During the first two weeks he was home (of 11) the girls spent each day with various homeschooling friends and their families. Did they get a lot of schoolwork done, no, but I didn't expect them to. They were fed, loved on, and comforted during the times when I couldn't be there taking care of them because I had to drive Kurt to his various Doctor appointments and tests, not to mention the seemingly endless phone conversations about insurance, or keeping track of times for his medicine.

This was the body of Christ in action. The girls got to play, swim, draw, spend time with their friends, and we got food. Lots and lots of delicious food, that I didn't have to shop for or prepare. The girls still talk about the things they did during those two weeks.

Earlier this year Kurt became violently ill. He ended up spending several days in the hospital with pancreatitis, and eventually having his gallbladder removed. Once, again, the body of Christ sprang into action. Rides for the girls, meals for the three of us that were still eating something other than jello, even some gifts to help pay our bills. Did the girls finish every math lesson on time? No. Did they learn about serving others through being served? Yes. 

Our school days went a little later in May than I had planned, our garden isn't outstanding this summer, and we still have some decluttering to do in the house before next week. These are all minor trifles in caparison to the great love and grace that the girls were reminded of through the actions of friends and family. Kurt is healed, life goes on, learning continues.

At the end of each day/ year/ interruption to our schedule, as I look back, I see that God has been faithful to work through HIS plan to educate our daughters when I couldn't. When I look at our goals for our homeschool, I see He has met all of them already, and the girls aren't even ready to graduate yet. What an amazing God we serve!

Ecclesiastes 3 begins "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." (KJV) 

When life happens, remember that you really do want God, who has a masterful plan, in charge of your life and your homeschool.

Remember, breathe, pray, follow HIS plan.

Blessings on you all!

Click here to read more about:
Homeschooling When Life Happens