Friday, September 19, 2014

My Student Logbook Review

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     My Student Logbook is a company started by a homeschooling family. In the mother's search to find the right way to keep track of her children's schedule, she and made her own planner and then made it available to others as well. We had the opportunity recently to review the Sea Life Student Planner.

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     This daily student planner is different from other planners I have seen in that you write out your schedule once and then the weekly check-off page slips under the list each week to give your student a place to keep track of what he has accomplished. There are multiple copies of the schedule so if you need to change your schedule mid-year you can attach the new list to the upcoming week and start and new list there. This is useful as well to help you keep track of what your schedule looked like through the year and could also be useful if your state requires you to keep a daily report of what you accomplished during homeschooling. ( For our state, you are required to keep a log, but not required to turn it in yearly)

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     This logbook can also be formalized into becoming a high school transcript for older children! (My Student logbook is ideal for children 2nd grade and up) I love this idea, since I know that this can become an issue for homeschool student as they transition into college.

     For our family, we are not at the high school transcript age, and so I used the dated, physical copy of the logbook we received (there are undated and PDF options on the website as well) as a daily schedule, including not only schoolwork, but daily activities I wanted my son to accomplish.

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     This was really the perfect planner for our family, we got the pre-dated version and I was very happy about not having to write in all those dates for my son, for older children they could do this independently. For our homeschooling days we switch off and do different subjects on different days so this was a great way to keep track of what was accomplished each day. Also, my oldest son is in charge of things like, getting breakfast for him and his younger siblings and reminding me to do his "skin brushing program" twice a day (for sensory processing). The planner really helped him remember what he needed to get done without me having to remind him constantly. This was invaluable to me as a homeschooling mom with lots of little ones, I knew that even if I was stuck with a messy diaper change or handling a toddler temper tantrum, he could still stay on task and accomplish what needed to get done (he's my most high-energy easily distracted child, so this was a major accomplishment for us!) 

     There are also sections in the back of the book to record an "All about Me" page, prayers and goals, Bible verses memorized, books read, activities (events, projects, field trips, and presentations), and test records.  My student logbook is $15.00 . There is a video here if you would like to learn more about how it works .

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     Sometimes, something simple can really revolutionize your homeschooling day. This has been true for us with the My Student Logbook! It's a very simple concept, but I find myself consistently feeling  thankful for how it's helped us keep on track and also for keeping an easy record of the year for us!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Seven-Minute Life Daily Planner Review

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As a homeschooling mom of 4, organization is a priority in my life. In fact, as my husband and I have discussed many times, I find organizing and scheduling even more challenging now than when I was working full-time outside the home. When I was working outside the home, I had bosses and co-workers and daily routines that helped me stay motivated and productive. But as a homeschooling mom, I need to be the responsible one to keep us on task and keeping our priorities in the right order! Enter The Seven Minute Life Daily Planner by Seven Minute Life and Allyson Lewis. 

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     This planner is 270 pages, spiral bound, and 7.3" by 8.5". It's a tool for the moms (or dads).  This is a physical planner (not a download). The first pages give you instructions on how to use the planner, there are ten micro-action tasks that you are to do before using it. These steps will help you focus on what your goals are and give you inspiration and motivation to organize your life. We all know that the more organized we are, the more we will accomplish, however it can be difficult to remember what our top priorities are sometimes in the hustle and bustle of day to day life. This is where The Seven-Minute Life Daily Planner helps you improve productivity by their organizational system.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

 Some of the forms in the planner include:

  • Unfinished work and home tasks- there is a place to list many unfinished tasks you may have at work and home. As a homeschooling mom, this is a great place to put school tasks and projects for the children. 
  • Mental clutter- list any stresses in your life and plan the actions that can help overcome them. 
  • Home Repair  and Grocery List
  • Life connections-The personal and business people you need to stay in touch with . This is a great place as a blogger to keep up with link-ups or blogger groups, affiliates etc. It could also be used as a prayer list or even a to do list.
  • Annual Projects and Tasks This is a great place to organize and keep track of home tasks that need to be done regularly but not daily or weekly. Some of the tasks I have written here include: Run clean cycle on dishwasher, check children's drawers for clothes that don't fit, organize and clean freezer, bacteria for septic tank, change smoke alarm batteries, wash siding, etc. 
  • Your 12 month calendar 
  • The Meeting Planner- designed to help make meetings more efficient. This would be a great place to plan out family devotions or special homeschooling projects/activities. 
  • 90 Day goals–there are several pages for this so that you can keep seperate work, personal, financial and life goals.  There’s also space underneath each goal for breaking it into smaller tasks of action.
  • Notes pages 
  • The Annual Exercise Progress report 
  • The Daily Progress Report which we talk about more in-depth below

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      Now we get to the main part of the planner which is called the Daily Progress Report.  As you’ll see, the pages are pretty straightforward.  The first page includes:
  • Daily contacts–These are the people you actually talk to, call, etc. each day.  I changed this area to be activities I want to do each day to increase my blog traffic.
  • What I will do…5 Before 11–These should be the five most important goals you have each day that you will achieve before 11 o'clock. For me, this was a mix of home tasks, blog activities and homeschool activities, depending on the day. Sometimes it was "get a load of laundry in and hung out" or " Exercise". Often it was "Complete Math and English" or "Finish Blog Post".
  • “7 Minute Connections”–This is place for you to write down the people you are keeping in touch with and intentionally connected with through visiting, a handwritten card or a phone call. It could be also be a useful tool to help your children practice making intentional connections in their lives too.
  • Unfinished tasks–These will be the “to-do” list your continuing to add to from the previous pages as well as new things that come up. There are 10 spaces here and sometimes I could have use a few more!
  • What I spent–great way to keep track of your expenditures for your budget. This area was often left blank for me since I rarely shop on a daily basis.
     The bottom area of the page has a place for you to monitor your water intake, write down your meals and snacks, and log your sleep, exercise, reading time and quiet time.  There is question at the bottom of the first page is a yes or no, “Did I do what I said I would do today?”  
     The second page of the Daily Progress report includes spots for Appointments, Voicemails, Thank you Notes and then a blank area for whatever you may need to write down and remember. The appointment list makes a nice spot for writing down what you want to accomplish by certain times of the day since it has times written along it, the voicemail spot has small white square to check off as you complete them making it a nice extra "unfinished tasks" spot if you have more than 10 things you want to list, like me.

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     I found this planner to be very helpful in making me focus on what my goals are and checking my daily to do lists to make sure I am working towards the goals I am wishing to achieve. It's clearly meant for more of a business setting, but since homeschool moms are known for their resourcefulness and ability to think outside the box, I think it can be very useful as a homeschooling/blogging resource for moms, as long as you are okay with using some of the areas of the planner unconventionally for your own purposes. You need to be the boss of your schedule and the boss of your planner, it doesn't tell you what to do, you tell it what to do!

     If you are interested in more information on this time management tool , there is this 12 minute video explaining how the planner works:

     And, these additional 16 short videos (total viewing time approx 30 min) here:

     I have a limited data connection to the internet and so I am not able to watch videos online and was still able to effective understand and use the planner. However, I'm sure the videos are useful and helpful.

You can currently purchase The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner for $24.95.
Connect with 7 Minute Life on Social Media:

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Free Printable! Weekly Home Tasks

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^----(clicking this picture will take you to the PDF)----^

     I always feel like September is a great time for re-organizing myself and making new goals. Probably because of the feeling of "back to school" and the cooler weather that always spurs productivity. Not that we are experiencing cooler weather yet where we live now, but I still think of September that way!

     Now, as a homeschooling mom this hasn't changed! I still look at September rather than New Years as the time to get myself on track and figure out my plans for the next year. I had been using a check off list for several  years to help me keep organized with my basic house cleaning chores, but we had moved since I first made it so it didn't completely make sense anymore.

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          So I thought I would share my new list with all of you in case you find it useful as well! Let me share a little bit of how I use it myself.

     I am not a naturally organized person. In fact, my creative side really thrives with a little bit of chaos and "spur of the moment" added into life. But I do know that when I get too far out of balance on the side of that chaos, everything gets bogged down and sluggish. Too many dirty dishes? Dinner takes longer. Homeschooling area gets messy? Takes twice as long to find the worksheet you need. So I have made a list of the basic things of each room in my home needs to keep it running, and then a daily list of what I need to do to keep the house in functioning condition. Notice I said "functioning condition", not spit spot perfect shape! In this season of my life, I'm content with functioning, because let's face it, perfect stylish and beautiful aren't happening!

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     Certainly use this schedule any way you'd like, but here's a few things I'd like to mention. I do NOT check everything off every week. I don't change the sheets every week, or vacuum every single day (I do sweep and wipe down the kitchen floor everyday, but that's because the cat's litter box is in there and hard cat litter and bare feet aren't a great combo!) But I know that if I can keep up with MOST of what I've written down here, then my house will be tidy(ish) and I will be able to do all the thing I need to function everyday.

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She wasn't very good at sweeping back then, but she sure was cute doing it!

     Also, my kids are still young and can't help with a lot on this list, but they can help with some! Some of these tasks get assigned to one of them and this list can help me keep track of when they are finished.

     I like to keep my two lists back to back and in a sheet protector, on my fridge. That way I can use a dry erase marker on it and reuse the same one every week, rather than wasting paper.

I hope you find this list helpful for your September organizing as well! If you do, please leave me a comment below! I'd love to hear your organizational tips as well!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ubersmart Software Review

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      UberSmart Software is produced by David Kocur, a homeschool dad, who came up with the program to help his children learn their math facts. It's downloadable software to practice simple math skills such as typing numbers, adding, subtracting, multiplying, etc. It can be used by eight or more students.

      UberSmart Math Facts is $24.95 for home use. There is an option for a professional license so the software can be used in the classroom. There is a 30 day trial available and worksheets for extra practice. This is for Windows 7, 8, XP and Vista only. Use discount code “v4 Early Bird” for a 30% discount until September 30th.
     The goal of this program is to be a computerized version of traditional flashcards that helps make math easier through memorization and recognition. With Ubersmart, there are several different sections of the program:

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Learn: a chance to test yourself by answering the questions in your head or out loud. This section requires no actual answer typed in, but simply gives you the correct answer when you click on the > sign.

Practice: This section is not timed and doesn't appear on your "score card" But you can practice each skill and learn how to type them in faster.

Test: a timed session with a set number of cards, practicing a specific skill (typing numbers, adding, subtracting, etc.)

Compete: Connect to the internet and join with other children around the world in a timed challenge.

     For each of these options, you can choose beginner or intermediate. The beginner setting uses flashcards with dots instead of numbers. Intermediate is answering questions and mastering the skills.

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     As the parent, you can access records to see how your children are doing. What they are completing with success and what they are having a more difficult time with.

     There is a 32 page PDF document that you can peruse when you hit the "?" symbol in the upper right hand corner. It will give you information on how the program can be used and help you understand the different sections of the program more thoroughly.
     UberSmart recommends that you have a keyboard entry time of 3.00 seconds or less for each 2-digit number that you type in. If you are not able to do that you can switch your settings to untimed, or continue to practice typing in the numbers until you can reach a faster speed.

     Originally, our plan was to use the program with our just-entering-first grader and our just-entering-third grader. However, upon reviewing the program with our younger son, we realized he was just not ready for it yet. (This program is meant for grades K-6, or anyone struggling with their Math facts, but also children develop at different rates) If your child is not able to find his numbers easily on a keyboard yet and isn't strong with his addition, greater or lesser than skills, then this program may not be at the right level for your child either. My older son was able to perform all the basic skills and did well on his beginner test, except that he was not able to type his numbers nearly as fast as the program wished him too. They asked for a speed of under 3 second for each two digit number, he wasn't able to type any faster than 8 seconds per number. You can change the settings to have a longer amount of time for each number (up to 9 seconds) but honestly, the timing of each problem stressed him out so much that we turned that feature off. He did very well with it having it untimed, and it was very good practice for him to work on typing his numbers in over and over to learn their place on the keyboard better. He also worked on the addition and some subtraction problems as well.

     This is a no-frills "flashcard" type game. It would be particularly useful for children who are easily overstimulated or need lots of repetitive drills to learn/memorize their math facts. It was also nice to have it be a download onto my computer, rather than an online game since we live in a rural community and have a very limited amount of data we can use each month.  I can see this program becoming more useful as well as my children learn more to practice their multiplication tables.

     My older son enjoyed the program. He said it "wasn't his favorite" but that he was still "interested in playing it."

     Please click the link below to check out some reviews by the other Review Crew members, especially those with older kids who checked out this program!!

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Happy Kids Songs Review

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     Teaching your children manners and how to respond appropriately in various social situations are important skills and shouldn't be taken lightly. But teaching kids these skills in a light-hearted and fun manner is a great way to make those lesson stick and help to hold your children's attention! Dr. Mac, the music director and songwriter for the PBS hit series, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, produced these songs, along with Brian Mann to boost kids’ character, social and emotional skills.

Happy Kids Songs Review

     Happy Kids Songs has a series of downloadable songs whose purpose is to help you teach your children about Friends & Sharing , Happiness & Attitude , and Manners & Character as well as a physical workbook with lots of activities to help your children learn and remember important concepts on these topics. I was happy to be given the chance to review them with my children and to tell you about them as well.

     On the album for Friends & Sharing, there are songs focusing on how to be a good friend. In the song, "Sailing on the Seven C's", it talks about the seven "C's" of being a good friend: caring, consideration, commitment, communication, concern, curiosity, and cooperation. In the workbook you'll find the lyrics to the songs as well as coloring pages, word scrambles and then in the back more parent-directed discussions to go along with each theme. My kids enjoyed The Seven C's song the best on this album, there's a picture my 8 year old son drew about it below.

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     On the Happiness & Attitude album there are songs talking about changing your "I can't" to and "I can", giving compliments, enjoying time together and more. The music is upbeat and cheerful and my kids enjoyed bopping along to the beat as they listened.

     The last album we reviewed was Manners and Character which discussed subjects like honesty, saying please and using the Golden rule. This was my favorite as a mom, since these topics come up often on our house, it was nice to have the reinforcement of someone else reminding them of the importance of consideration.

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     All the songs on these albums were upbeat and lively and my kids enjoyed listening and even attempting to sing a long with several. I believe that the true test will come as they listen more and more and start to remember the words. I know in our house we often use music to memorize our Scripture verses and I find that, even as an adult, these are the Scriptures that stick with me the longest so I have no doubt of the effectiveness of music as an excellent teaching tool for children and adults alike!

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I'd say my kids are pretty happy, wouldn't you? =)

     Children ages 0-9 are likely to enjoy these albums, which can be downloaded and burned to a CD or using an MP3 player. They cost $4.95 each. The workbook, which includes 122 pages with activities for all 8 of the albums in this series and is reproducible for your family is $12.56 through amazon (available with Prime free shipping as well)

If you would like to follow Happy Kids songs on social media, you can do so below:

Twitter: @howsyourfam

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