Sunday, September 14, 2014

The 7 Minute Life - A Review

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
On August 14th I sat down with my The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner by the time management company The 7 Minute Life.  I did a quick review of my current priorities and began working toward discovering my purpose.  I enjoy reviewing time and again what my strengths are and putting that knowledge to work in my life.  Sadly, it had been much too long since I took the time to do any real reflection of self.  Sometimes all it takes is a quick, personal inventory of self to set us back on track with our use of time and our direction in life.  The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is a wonderful tool for guiding you through this process, putting what you learn to work, and leading you using baby steps in everyday life to actively work toward life goals, both large and small.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

The timing of The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner in my life was perfect.  It's objective is to teach you how and assist you in a course of action which uses the method prioritize, organize, and simplify.  This was VERY encouraging to me.  I learned that I have taken great strides in these very areas in my life all on my own, and I hadn't even realized it.  Woohoo!  As I delved into the personal inventory tasks in the beginning of the planner I found that it was extremely challenging to create the different lists.  It's not that the tasks are challenging in and of themselves.  I am just short on items to list.  In previous years I would have found this no challenge at all.  In fact it would have been more likely that I ran out of lines on the page than struggle to fill them.  How refreshing!

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

Since I do not work outside of the home or even run a from home business, at least not at the moment, I used the areas that reference work items to reflect my work as a homeschool mom.  Again, perfect timing as I was preparing to begin structuring our new routine for the 2014-15 school year.  I do use a wonderful homeschool planner, but having The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is a blessing in that I can set personal goals and track items that pertain more to me personally; whereas doing so in my homeschool planner would have been cumbersome and truly rather impossible.  Having a personal planner with such a specific purpose allows me to really keep on track each day.  Although I am easily able to adjust this planner to fit my personal needs I can see its more inherent value to a mom (or dad for that matter), especially a homeschool parent, that either works outside the home or runs an at home business.  There is such a treasure trove of resources both inside the planner and online that owning this planner puts you in a position to actively achieve the goals you set for yourself, both large and small.  It can be applied to a homeschool, family, business, or personal venture.  Everything fits within the pages; goal setting and tracking, personal inventory, business contacts, home repair contacts, financial goals, life goals, and daily accountability to self, even in diet and finances, plus much more.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review

Over the past month I have been actively using the Daily Progress Report in The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner.  Praise God, I rarely need to contact one or two people in a day, never mind the 25 for which space is given.  Instead, I track my progress with homeschool related tasks.  I love the "What I will do...5 before 11" section right at the top of the page.  This really keeps me focused and on track,  The "Unfinished Tasks" is encouraging rather than stressful, as I first thought it would be.  Keeping my most important unfinished tasks in sight each day reminds me of what is most important, takes off the pressure, and encourages me when I get to check it off; no matter if it is today or a week from now, or even longer.  Having it listed as unfinished is perfect in keeping perspective and reminding me of something I could work on when the odd opportunity presents itself.  The unfinished task is right where it belongs.  No pressure!  I also love the small section at the bottom of the page where I list what money, if any, I spent that day.  It gives me a tangible resource for tracking my spending and keeping a tighter eye on my finances.  Also, I can either record my meals or plan them at the very bottom of the page along with tracking my water intake, sleep, exercise (theoretically, of course), and time spent in reflection and reading.  It also holds me accountable by providing two boxes, one labeled yes and one no, for me to check as to whether or not I accomplished what I set out to do that particular day.  Full accountability on one small page!

The facing page provides places for the days appointments, voice mail records, thank you notes to send, and a generous portion of the page is dedicated to allowing you to write down whatever notes you may desire or need to record.  This feature will surely come in handy whenever I am working on a project that involves some serious planning, and I'm sure you can see how it would be an asset to someone otherwise employed.

In addition to the $24.97 printed copy there are several other options available through The 7 Minute Life including a downloadable version, strategy tools, online community, live training, and much more.  This online video explains more about The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner and how it works.  You can learn even more by visiting them online and checking them out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and YouTube.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Learning Lessons Along the Way

The simple act of living life brings many a lesson along the way.  No institutional education can even come close to doling out the important lessons we experience in actively, or even inactively for that matter, living our lives.  Lord knows I've learned some real lessons the really hard way.  For many years it seemed, at least it felt that way, that I learned EVERYTHING the hard way, and often the really hard way.  Profound and life altering lessons like the value of purity, the sanctity of marriage, the importance of honesty and integrity, the value of friendship, and the tremendous value of family.

Thankfully, those lessons are behind me, and praise God I learned from them; some quicker than others in all truthfulness.  From there I graduated to the next level of lessons including the fact that things rarely ever go as we plan them.  Life will throw us quick and fast curve balls that will test our faith and challenge our endurance.  A time, or two or ten, will come where we will NEED to sink or swim.  We will tire, rest, recharge, and kick back into high gear.  As long as we have faith we truly CAN see anything, anything, through to the other side.

Lately, I have been reflecting a lot.  I rather enjoy it.  Yes, my life has been pummeled by round after round of challenges.  Sometimes it feels like I've barely caught my breath from the last circumstance, and there's already another huge challenge coming through my front door.  More than once I've felt there was no way I could withstand another hurdle.  "It's just TOO MUCH!", I would cry out.  "I cannot take ANYMORE!"  Then the peace would come.  Just when I reached the brink a glimmer of light would appear on the horizon, and there would be hope (no matter how small) that indeed I could see things through to the other side.

When I look back at the whopper challenges I have faced and seen through, the things I am facing today pale in comparison.  On my worst days I am reminded that I have faced far worse in the past and made it through, and no matter how bad things are they could ALWAYS, always, be worse.  And, Heaven forbid, there are likely worse days to come.  With the reality of circumstance in mind I have become much better at living in the here and now, and handing what lies ahead over to the Lord;  plain and simple, and sometimes as complicated, as it may be.

When I live consciously in the present I focus on what is most important now, and my energy sustains what is necessary.  There is no wasted energy and emotion spent on what has been or what could  be.  All of my valuable, more now than ever, energy is spent on what's most important, the present.  This has been becoming more and more clear to me as each day passes.

These past few weeks have seen me aggressively putting a concerted effort into planning our 2014-15 school year.  It has been a monumental task that was nearly all consuming.  At first I lamented its necessity.  Then I beat myself up for waiting so long to begin planning.  After a little reflection and some encouragement from fellow homeschooling moms I was reminded that this is my first year using this approach to educating my children in many years.  I didn't wait, I just figured out what we are doing and started preparations accordingly.  It has been a tremendous learning curve for ME, and that is perfectly fine and acceptable.  It's all good!  No worries.  Learn the lesson, and move on.  My lessons learned about planning the upcoming school year, so far and for me, are:

1.  Know ahead of time at least the "skeleton" of what you will be studying for the following year. Have a long term plan.

2.  Know your mission statement, and refer to it often.

3.  Cut yourself A LOT of slack.

4.  Purchase any curriculum and needed materials in the spring.  (April and May host my favorite homeschool conventions, and they are perfect resources.)

5.  Spend the summer planning the following year instead of cramming it all in just a few weeks before your scheduled start date.

6.  Purchase two workbooks.  It's cheaper financially and in regard to time spent making copies.  Seriously, just buy two workbooks!

7.  Just because September seems like a good time to start the new school year doesn't mean that it is.  Follow the crop schedule, put up food, and start school in October.

8.  Purchase extra erasers for use during planning.  You WILL do A LOT of erasing!

9.  Keep a running list of needed materials or resources that you discover as you actively plan your year.

10.  Trade childcare with a friend when you need large chunks of time to concentrate.  It's impressive, really impressive, what you can accomplish with five hours of uninterrupted time to work.  Really, it is VERY impressive.

11.  Notebooks are a beautiful thing.  Buy extra.

12.  Crayons disappear like magic.  Buy extra.

13.  It's worth it to buy a full case of copy paper.

14.  Be cautious when purchasing re-manufactured ink cartridges.

15.  It will never be a fully perfect plan.  Life will interrupt living.  Start on your planned start date, anyway.  There is no perfect time.

While my focus has been on planning the 2014-15 school year for my family and learning to live with a less than tidy home I have been afforded the opportunity to see life, my life, a little more clearly in the process.  Even when living seems overshadowed by tragedy and turmoil, blessings persist.  Where I choose to put my focus is up to me; another facet of free choice granted to me by my Creator.  

The Beginning of Knowledge
Proverbs 1:1-7

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 

To know wisdom and instruction, 
to understand words of insight, 
to receive instruction in wise dealing, 
in righteousness, justice, and equity; 
to give prudence to the simple, 
knowledge and discretion to the youth— 
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, 
and the one who understands obtain guidance, 
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Under Drakes Flag - An Heirloom Audio Review

Heirloom Audio Productions has created a lasting treasure in the telling of the story of Sir Francis Drake through the eyes of Ned Hawkshaw, a boy set out on an unimaginable adventure, in the audio theater production Under Drake's Flag.  Even though my little guy, 4.5 years, is under the target audience age of 6 and up the story made an impact on him as he has heard large parts of the story a couple of times.  As I was preparing for this review he came to show me one of his drawings and noticed I had the website up.  He said, "Hey!  We have that!"
Analytical Grammar Review
The tale of Sir Francis Drake is an inspiring story of grand adventure, Christian principals vividly lived, and the unfortunate events of the Spanish Inquisition.  It is a boy grows to man story told in a way that enraptures the listener with an unmatched dramatic telling that has captivated our family.  Over the past few years I have tried to no avail to interest the resident nine-year-old in audio dramas; high quality productions that I will leave unnamed because they are fabulous in their own right, but nothing captured her attention, ever.  Nothing, that is, until Under Drake's Flag - The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty landed in our laps through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  What a blessing!

The story of Ned Hawkshaw captured our attention from word one.  We have traveled aboard The Golden Hinde several times as we drove in our car, we have sailed the seas in our kitchen while washing dishes and cooking dinner.  We've eaten with Ned and his companions at our dining room table during our family meals.  I seriously have lost count on the number of times we have listened to this story, at the request of the previously uninterested nine-year-old, and it will surely continue to be enjoyed for years to come.

Included with the two CD set ($29.95) is a beautifully printed study guide companion.  There is also a more extensive PDF Download study guide available with product purchase.  (An MP3 download is available for just $20, and other CD packages are available on their website.)  Although we have not yet used either workbook we will certainly put it to good use in the future.  I love the way the study guide is divided into chapter sections of the story.  Questions are provided that encourage active listening and deeper thinking.  Words that are less commonly used or period based are highlighted for further definition increasing the listeners vocabulary and furthering their ability to really step into the story.  There are even a few short Bible Studies provided at the end of the workbook.

Listening to the telling of G.A. Henty's Under Drakes Flag with my children has been an amazing experience that has created such vivid pictures in my own mind that I almost feel as if I've traveled along with Ned and Sir Francis Drake as they fought sharks, survived shipwrecks, stood up to the Spaniards, and returned home to begin life anew with an amazing tale to tell of survival and courage.  To learn more about Heirloom Audio Productions and their telling of Under Drake's Flag visit them on Facebook, and explore the website.  This is sure to be a real living book that will stand the test of time for generations to come.  We look forward to more productions.  My family cannot get enough!

Under Drake's Flag Reviews
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday

I originally published this post on July 1, 2008.  That means it has been six years, and I find myself in a similar circumstance.  At least I've grown to the point that it makes me laugh instead of cry.

Lost and Found

Well, as you know if you've read much here, our family is big. Over half of our seven children are off and on their own. In January we had an influx of kids hanging their hats here, so to speak. We had the uncomfortable task of assisting them in transitioning from one place to another on their life journey.

Anyway, in all the accommodating and moving around of things we experienced a few side effects that are just beginning to heal themselves. We keep finding remnants of those that transitioned here. I have three bags sitting in the office of said remnants waiting to be returned to their rightful owners.

The largest side-effect was the consumption of our garage by items that just seem to have planted themselves there. My big project for this summer is to go through the garage, return what is wanted by non-residents, sort and price the remaining items, and have a garage sale. Of course, we are all about simple living, therefor all remaining items will be donated to charity.

By far the most frustrating and puzzling side-effect suffered was the misplacing of my pictures from the living room. See our first set of transitioning individuals found their way to our home New Year's Eve. This means that Christmas decorations were still up, which in turn means that normal wall hangings and such were put away to allow for seasonal decorating.

You do realize that it is now almost SEVEN MONTHS since decorations came down, right? I could remember where they were before we changed everything around to accommodate unexpected residents, but where they landed after that has been a real mystery. I have searched high and low for these personal treasures.

I just love hidden blessings! We had to pull everything out of the office closet today to allow access to the space under our house for and unexpected meter reading for the city. See, here we have a water meter outside, and we have a water meter inside. Ours just happens to be located under the house in the old Michigan Basement accessed via the crawl space through the bottom of the closet. What at first seemed like a minor inconvenience became an unexpected brightener of my day.

Guess what I found? The missing pictures!!! I was SO happy. Remember, I said this was a personal treasure, right? My husband came home for lunch, as he always does, and he didn't even notice, despite that the living room finally looks all put back together! :-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Imaginative Play - A Real Blessing

My children have been playing A LOT, it is a beautiful thing!  They wake up nearly every morning and launch right into some make believe play that they have orchestrated.  Sometimes they even wait an hour or more before expressing interest in breakfast.  This has been a welcome reprieve for me.

My schedule is such that I have found it challenging to find quiet time in order to plan our our new school year which I have slated to begin in less than three weeks.  I know the benefits of imaginative play for my children, but what I didn't anticipate was benefits for me.  Slowly, I am letting go and allowing this play to progress on its own.  I feel burdened with many tasks fighting for the top slot on my list, so I am really trying to set my priorities.  Since we are set to start our more rigorous school routine in such a short time I am forcing myself to block out all the other tasks calling for my attention, and I am gearing my mind to focus solely on the task of preparing our lessons for the 2014-15 school year.  It is a bit of a daunting task, and it is challenging to focus when I have huge projects just begging for my attention.  However, I am committed to the task at hand.

We do school year round.  Learning just takes different forms depending on the season.  In the summer months we pare back the academics and take a more laid back approach.  However, in the fall and winter months we intensify our efforts taking on a heftier academic load.  This year we will be exploring human biology and History from the Industrial Revolution through present times, among all of our other subjects.  These two require the most effort on my part in regard to planning.  So, they are my first priority.  Getting the most difficult out of the way seems the best approach for me.

I am SO fortunate to have such a supportive group of homeschool friends.  A few of us have found a way to help each other out in the planning process.  We are making a deal with each other to keep each other's children so that we have QUIET time, in a large enough block to actually accomplish something, to prepare our lessons or whatever else may be required for us to be prepared to effectively educate our children.  I am SO excited about this plan!  What a blessing to have such a wonderful network of friends.  Community is something I have been longing to have for many, many years, and God has richly blessed me in this area since our move.

For me, at the moment, the double blessing is that my children are so eagerly educating themselves through imaginative play and occupying themselves without ANY prompting from me.  I am thankful that I am able to SEE the blessing and allow their explorations to continue with very little interruption from me.  It is well established that imaginative play is a wonderful learning medium for children, and their most important business is playing.  Given our unique circumstances, less and less so as years go by, I am fully aware of just how far these precious wee ones have come in their healing to actually be off playing on their own.  This is huge, and I am SO thankful that it is happening.

I am choosing to accept the gift given me.  We will enjoy the next couple of weeks at an even more relaxed rate so that my children can learn, explore, and grow all on their own, and I will take moments of time for myself to commune with my Creator, to listen to the chatter of my children and the birds outside, and I will grab the moments as they present themselves to prepare for the coming year.  Right now we are enjoying the serious business of play.

A Child's Garden of Verses: Selected Poems
by Robert Louis Stevenson


When at home alone I sit
And am very tired of it,
I have just to shut my eyes
To go sailing through the skies—
To go sailing far away
To the pleasant Land of Play;
To the fairy land afar
Where the Little People are;
Where the clover-tops are trees,
And the rain-pools are the seas,
And the leaves, like little ships,
Sail about on tiny trips;
And above the Daisy tree
      Through the grasses,
High o’erhead the Bumble Bee
      Hums and passes.

In that forest to and fro
I can wander, I can go;
See the spider and the fly,
And the ants go marching by,
Carrying parcels with their feet
Down the green and grassy street.
I can in the sorrel sit
Where the ladybird alit.
I can climb the jointed grass
      And on high
See the greater swallows pass
      In the sky,
And the round sun rolling by
Heeding no such things as I.
Through that forest I can pass
Till, as in a looking-glass,
Humming fly and daisy tree
And my tiny self I see,
Painted very clear and neat
On the rain-pool at my feet.
Should a leaflet come to land
Drifting near to where I stand,
Straight I’ll board that tiny boat
Round the rain-pool sea to float.

Little thoughtful creatures sit
On the grassy coasts of it;
Little things with lovely eyes
See me sailing with surprise.
Some are clad in armour green—
(These have sure to battle been!)—
Some are pied with ev’ry hue,
Black and crimson, gold and blue;
Some have wings and swift are gone;—
But they all look kindly on.

When my eyes I once again
Open, and see all things plain:
High bare walls, great bare floor;
Great big knobs on drawer and door;
Great big people perched on chairs,
Stitching tucks and mending tears,
Each a hill that I could climb,
And talking nonsense all the time—
      O dear me,
      That I could be
A sailor on a the rain-pool sea,
A climber in the clover tree,
And just come back a sleepy-head,
Late at night to go to bed.


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