"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

Monday, September 15, 2014

The 7 Minute Life...A TOS Crew Review...


I am a planner junkie.  I mean it.  I seriously think I have a problem.  My Type-A personality makes me go a little crazy when I get my hands on a new, blank, free to be filled up and crossed out planner.

So imagine my excitement when I was asked to review The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner ($24.95), made by The 7 Minute Life!  The 7 Minute Life is all about time management, organization, and increasing productivity, and their daily planner is a main tool to help moms with these skills.

Sound like anything you homeschool Mommas could use?

Yeah, me neither.

*wink*

Let me tell you a little bit about The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner, and how it's different from other planners I've seen and used.

First of all, The 7 Minute Life is a whole strategy.  If you spend some time on the website, you will find videos that cover a large amount of information about time management, goal setting, and habit training, as well as step-by-step videos that lead you through how to use the planner.  Although I found the planner to be relatively user-friendly and open-and-go, the videos that explain the how and the why behind the system were really helpful.  I would definitely recommend spending some time looking through them.

However, there is a good deal of information in the planner itself.  The first several pages serve as an introduction, explaining how The 7 Minute Life's strategy of Prioritize, Organize, and Simplify can be applied and used in your own life.  Each section of the planner is then explained in detail.

The next section of the planner is titled "Prioritize".  In this section, we are encouraged to take time to think about and select which values are most important in our lives, through a checklist.  After completing the checklist, we are then asked to choose the ten most important values checked off, on the way to completing the next section, "Discovering Your Purpose".  Here is where we write our purpose statement, define what we love, and find our "purpose words".

Some other features of the planner include sections to help us define our strengths, our work priorities, our "high value activities", and our reward choices.  There is a section to write down our mental clutter in order to clear our minds.  We are then encouraged to set 90-day goals, using a goal-setting plan shown in the videos and explained in the introduction to the planner.  Personal, work, financial, and life goals are included, with action steps ready to be listed and the outcome identified.  

There are several pages where unfinished tasks can be listed, again in order to clear up some "brain space", a list of home repairs that need to be done, a standard grocery list, and a list of Personal and Business Life Connections.  Many other features of a planner are included, such as monthly and yearly calendar pages.

Phew.  That's all before the planner gets put into daily action!

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

Once we have an idea about our priorities, our goals, and the things that need to be completed, we can move on to our everyday planner use.  Each day contains a two-page spread.  The sections on those pages are:  Daily Contacts, 5 Before 11, "7 Minute Life Connections", Unfinished Tasks, What I Spent, Appointments, Thank You Notes, and Voice Mail, as well as some room for note taking, a section for meal planning, and a spot to check off things like exercise, reflection, and drinking water.  The pages aren't dated at all, but are set up for us to date ourselves.

How Did I Use the 7 Minute Life Daily Planner?

Initially, I used it just exactly like it was intended.  I watched the videos, read through the introduction of the planner, and worked through my priorities, purpose, and goals.  And although I will admit to thinking that the process was going to be a bit cheesy, I really enjoyed it and learned a good deal about myself by spending time working through it.  Having my priorities and purpose so clearly listed out helped me to define what was most important for me to do on a daily basis.  It also made it easier to make decisions about taking additional tasks on.

My daily use of the planner, though, was probably not exactly what was intended, and I think that is because I am not working outside of the home.  There were some sections that were not ones that I needed to keep track of, so I simply relabeled them to fit my life.  One of these was the Daily Contacts section.  Instead of keeping track of how many new people, or leads, I was talking to, I used this section to write in prayer requests.  This way I found that I was keeping people close to my heart throughout the day, and could pray for them regularly.  

Another section I changed up a bit was the Voice Mail section.  Instead, I used this to list people I needed to talk to--friends I hadn't spent time with lately, or those I needed to catch up with.  I tried to list one to two people a day to try to reach out to.

The rest of the page was utilized pretty much like it was set up.  First I would list out my appointments for the day (there are lines for each hour of the day from 7 am until 10 pm.  I think it would be helpful if they ran the lines in half-hour increments, but I made it work anyway.)  After that, I would pick my 5 Before 11, the five most important tasks of the day.

Did I always get them done by 11?  Umm, no.  We are homeschoolers, after all, and we are homeschoolers that tend to want to do most of our school in the morning.  But, this section was very helpful in guiding my afternoon Quiet Time, when I do the bulk of my "Mommy work".  Having five main goals listed helped me keep my focus and streamline that time.

The Unfinished Tasks section was where I jotted down all of the things that came up during the day that I knew would have to get on a list somewhere for another day, and the Thank You Notes section was one that I was thrilled to implement.  Here I would make sure to list a person or two that I appreciated, and that I needed to make sure to let them know that day how much I appreciated them.  Or, I would use that section to list an action we would perform that day to be a blessing to someone else:  write to our Compassion child, donate to the Food Pantry, etc.

What Did I Think of the 7 Minute Life Daily Planner?

I really, really liked this planner.  It was so very helpful in my life to take the time to sit down, breathe, and figure out what my actual priorities and purpose are.  Going back to look at them regularly has just really helped me to stay focused on the big picture.

Daily, I am always using the planner.  It is small enough to fit comfortably in my purse, and the spiral-bound pages are book-ended by a thick plastic page to protect the planner.  That plastic page has a tendency to "roll" a bit, but it wasn't too bad to deal with.  Having a small list of the most important priorities for the day, a place to keep track of meals, a list of appointments, and a reminder of friends who need prayer helps to keep my day on track and keep "first things first".

The planner is set up for 90 days of use, and then a new planner needs to be purchased.  I think that re-evaluating goals and plans every ninety days would be a good habit to get into.  However, I don't know that I would be able to justify replacing the planner that often.  It would be nice if it could work through two ninety-day cycles.  That being said, though, I will definitely continue to use it until I've used it up this time around!

Find Out More About The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner:

The 7 Minute Life offers several free time management tools on their website, along with the videos I talked about earlier.

The 7 Minute Life on Facebook




Also, make sure to read what my Crewmates thought about their time using the planner:

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thankful on Thursday...


Today I am thankful for:

--Community Bible Study, which started again today

--Good friends who know to bring chocolate cookies exactly when you need them

--Freedom to choose

--Sweet puppy kisses

--Cool breezes during a long, long summer!

--God's grace

--Comfortable beds

--Perspective

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five on Friday...Our First Weeks of School...

So we are just finishing up our third "official" week of school, and I have quickly realized that I can't keep up with a "what did we do this week" kind of post every week.  Every three, though?  

I should be able to handle that!

Here's a little peek of what our first three weeks of school have looked like:


1.  Lots of Puppy Lovin'.  We are truly enjoying our new little Mykah!  Although she is quite a large distraction for her size, she is a distraction that we are all thrilled to have!  And I have so many eager "helpers" when it is time to take her out to potty, since it gives them a break from book work!



2.  Attempting a Roman Arch.  Our first official project of the school year came from Heart of Dakota's Resurrection to Reformation, and it was our first foray into Firefly attempting the projects independently.

Yeah.

Fail.

Oops.  Maybe the next one will be either: 1. a bit simpler or 2. better supervised by the teacher, haha!

3.  Space Unit Study.  This is Bug's first unit study of the year, and we are both learning a ton and having a lot of fun with it so far.  We are working through it kind of half speed right now (like much of our schooling so far), but we have already discovered about a million rabbit trails that Bug wants to run down.



4.  Working on working independently.  This one's a biggie, but it is one of the most important goals I have for Firefly this year.  As she gets older and has more work (and as her brother gets older and has slightly more demanding work), I am getting to the point where I simply can't sit right with her and read her every direction for every task all. day. long.

Really.  I just don't think I can handle it.

So we are slowly easing her into a routine of being more independent.  Like any transition with Firefly, I expect it to be fairly rough, with gnashing of teeth, pulling out of hair, and lots of tears.

But with God's grace (and ONLY God's grace), we will make it through.

Wish us luck...


5.  Enjoying the weather.  Ha.  Today had a heat index of 111. 

Gross.

Really gross.

So we're spending lots of time inside getting on each other's nerves, or we are at the pool.

Is it cooling down yet for any of you?

Thanks for checking in on us.  I hope you all are having a smooth transition back to school, or enjoying the last days of your summer vacation!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hewitt Homeschooling...A TOS Crew Review...


Recently, we had the opportunity to review a product from Hewitt Homeschooling, called My First Report: Sports.  This is a product that is for Grades 1-4, with parental direction suggested for Grades 1 & 2, that can also be used for remedial work for Grades 5-8.  This packet sells currently for $8.95.

My First Report was developed to help children with their creative writing, penmanship, vocabulary, reading, and critical thinking.  There is a large selection of My First Reports, covering some childhood favorites:  Small Mammals, Bugs and Worms, Reptiles and Amphibians, and Outdoor Activities, just to name a few.

Hewitt Homeschooling Review

We received My First Report already three-hole punched and ready to be put into a binder.  It came in a 44-page packet, and included an introduction, several report sheets, a unit study on sports, and master sheets for writing the reports.  

The report sheets are designed to be used once / week, and there were ten included in our packet.  The sports covered were:  baseball, basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, hockey, table tennis, badminton, tennis, bowling, golf, and stick-and-ball games (like croquet or field hockey).  Each report sheet includes several questions specific to the sport covered, or the history of the sport, in order to give children a stepping-off point for thinking about what to include in their reports.  For example, some of the questions for baseball include "describe a baseball diamond", "what can pitchers do to confuse a batter?", and "what is inside a baseball?"  There is also a list of vocabulary included on each report sheet, also specific to each sport--bunt, steal, and Babe Ruth were examples of vocabulary words on the Baseball report.

The master sheets included in the packet are 5/8" ruled, 5/8" ruled with a spot for a drawing, 1/2" ruled, 1/2" ruled with a spot for drawing, and 3/8" ruled with and without a spot for drawing.  They can be photocopied to use for each report.

In my opinion, the 15-page unit study is the most valuable part of this packet (of course, we are currently pretty fond of unit study-style learning).  There are several suggestions for many subject areas that you can use with your children to make a wonderful learning unit study on sports.  Bible is included, with stories about Biblical athletes, characteristics of winning athletes, and some Bible verse analyzing.  There are also suggestions for history, geography, science, health, physical education, and even art and music!  Reading and language are covered in other suggestions and there is a suggested book list as well.  There are even activities provided for covering math--things like graphing Super Bowl appearances or computing statistical averages for baseball players.  Other things found in the unit study section are useful addresses, for USA Hockey and the National Tennis Center, for starters, Bible verses for memorization and / or copy work, and a crossword puzzle.

I think that My First Reports are a great tool for families looking for a fun tool to help their kiddos get excited about writing and / or learning.  I wish there was a bit more instruction given on using the report forms and turning them into reports from the student, but I have enough confidence teaching at this point that I would be comfortable simply using the questions and vocabulary given as a starting point for my children, and then having them write what they learn through their research in a paragraph (or more, depending on which child!)  I am definitely excited about all of the unit study ideas, and will be planning a big unit study on sports later this school year!

To learn more about Hewitt Homeschooling, and all of the products they offer to homeschool families, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, or on their blog. Also, please make sure you take a look at what my Crewmates thought of their products--many reviewed products for older students as well:

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thankful on Thursday...Mykah Winter


We are amazingly thankful for this sweet puppy that God put in our path.  We adopted her almost a week ago, and are in love with her already.

Meet Mykah Winter.  The newest member of the Schooling in the Sun family--and the reason nothing else around here is getting done!

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