Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Math Mammoth - Revisited

A few years ago, I was able to review a math program called Math Mammoth. At the time, I chose the full 3rd grade curriculum from their Light Blue Series. In a nutshell, my son did not like the way it was laid out. He is my little math kid, and was fighting me to do math.  So, when I was asked to review Math Mammoth again, I was not thrilled at the prospect. This time, though, I reviewed the Blue Series. The Blue Series is topic specific rather than a full grade curriculum. I am surprised to say that I love it.

My youngest son is now in 5th grade. We have found a math curriculum that we adore, but doesn't give a ton of practice problems. I chose the topics of division, fractions, and decimals for him. Those are really the last topics that he needs to master before we move into pre-algebra. We started with division. The e-book is about 80 pages long. The book is broken up really well. There are not a ton of problems in each lesson, which is fantastic. Yes, they do need practice, but too much practice just drives them to hate it, in my experience. I feel this is the happy medium. It is great the way it takes each step and builds on it. I also like the e-book format. I could choose to start in the middle and print off just the pages that I needed. I guess you could start in the middle of a regular workbook too, but you couldn't reprint pages that got messed up or need extra practice. They actually call their book a "worktext." It is like a workbook where you can write on the pages, but it is also like a textbook because it contains the explanations.

I'm really not sure what else I can say about it. The program is very self-explanatory. The topic specific books are a very affordable addition to any program. The prices range between $2.20 and $7.50 per book. If you want, you can order the whole set for $105. If you have a child just starting in math, I would maybe consider that. Otherwise, I would just order as needed. I may order another one for the more difficult multiplication, just to make sure he's got that down. If you're not sure where to start, they have placement tests on their website. I kind of wish they had these topic specific books for the upper levels, like algebra or geometry. My older one could definitely use some more practice in factoring.

I received these e-books in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation. You can read more reviews here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Education in Technology

When I was nine years old, my dad brought home a Commodore 64. We were one of the few to actually have a computer in our house. This helped me to be at the forefront of technology all through school. I took any and all classes I could that had to do with keyboarding and computer skills, including programming. I loved technology and anything to do with it. Then, I got married. At that point, though I still used a computer for work and other basic things. I let my husband handle all the technical stuff. Fast forward 16 years, and I am way behind in this full speed ahead field.

I was excited to get a chance to review the TeenCoder program from Homeschool Programming. It would be a great elective credit for my new high schooler, and maybe I could learn something at the same time.

A short time ago, we invested in a new computer, because all our computers were the age of Methuselah in computer years. We were having a difficult running any programs, and I knew to get my son through high school we would need to upgrade. Our new computer came with Windows 8. That alone was a bit of an adjustment for me.

There is a point to that interjection. I tried to load the TeenCoder program onto the new computer and I lost it. I am not sure what happened. At this point, my husband had to step in and save the day. He was able to find the files, but couldn't figure out how to get them to run. His suggestion was to try it on the old computer. I am very thankful for his assistance on this project. He was able to get everything loaded and working on our old Windows XP laptop.

That is when the teen got involved. He opened Chapter 1 of the Windows Programming to learn C# programming skills. He started to read, and then his brain shut off. He was completely overwhelmed and confused. I need to say that he loves the computer, and probably has more technical skills than I do at this point. He does struggle a bit with reading and following directions, though. I thought, now how am I going to review this program? Insert helpful husband back into the picture. His job is in a technical field, therefore I figured he would be very useful in trying to figure out the directions.

He opened Chapter 1 of the Windows programming and attempted to follow the directions. He could not figure it out either. He said it seemed like there was some information missing. He even cheated and went to the solution manual and still couldn't figure it out. He thought maybe the Game Programming went first. I told him no, that is listed for the second semester. He tried it anyway. Still no success. I tried to look at the chapter, and really it could have been written in Greek and made as much sense to me.

Usually, I can come up with something positive to say about most everything I review. Unfortunately, this one stumped three of us. So unless you have a kid that is really into programming, I'm not sure I would spend $130 on the complete package. However, please don't take my word for it. Go read some more reviews here. I'm sure there are other Mosaic Reviewers who had a better experience and were able to get it to work. You will also find some reviews of the KidCoder version for upper elementary/middle school.

I received this program for free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Classical Historian - Modern American History

What is Classical Education?

Classical educators believe that a student's learning is divided into three stages. The early years are called the Grammar Stage. At this stage, children are sponges. They absorb information from everywhere. It is important to focus on learning facts and rules. Around age 11 or 12, students begin to express themselves more and form more of their own opinions. This is called the Dialectic or Logic Stage. This is when students should start to learn the tools of learning. They learn things like paragraph construction. They can learn WHY people fought a war as opposed to just memorizing dates and details. The final stage is called the Rhetoric Stage. This is when students really learn to dig into research, form, and defend their opinions.

The Classical Historian uses a five step program to teach history in a Classical style of education.
  1. The Grammar of History
  2. The Tools of the Historian
  3. Research
  4. The Socratic Discussion
  5. Analytical Essays
What is the Socratic Discussion?

"Socrates noted that the best teacher and most intelligent philosopher is one who knows what he does not know." At the Dialectic and Rhetoric Stages, it is still important to cover the basic Who, What, When, Where, Why, How questions. However, now we must also ask the students "What evidence do you have that supports this?" Our job is to point them to the documents and research. This opens up a whole new level of thinking and discussion. To learn more, click here.

I really like the idea of Classical Education and the Socratic Discussion. Up to this point, we have had a very relaxed style of homeschooling. That actually fits, in my opinion, with the Grammar Stage. However, my oldest is now 14 (almost 15) and well beyond the Grammar Stage. Looking at The Classical Historian has helped me to see how I can direct him as we begin our high school journey.

This is the package I received here. The DVD is very thorough and really explains the program very well. I got three books along with the DVD. "The Classical Historian: The Socratic Discussion in History" is basically the nuts and bolts of the program. It covers in more detail the specifics of how to teach in the classical style. It also covers grading and the basics of writing an essay and more. The second book is the 32-week guide for Modern American History. This is your lesson plans and answer key. The third book is "Take a Stand! Modern American History, Reading, Discussing, and Writing." This is basically the student assignment book, including some mechanics on writing. It teaches students how to be historians. What this does not include is a history textbook. It encourages students to use textbooks and source documents to research and find evidence on their own. It does not tell them what facts need to be memorized, rather teaches them how to think. In the short time I had to review this, I am not able to judge whether or not this will work for us, however I am looking forward to digging into it more. I will definitely be incorporating it in with our history and literature program for the year.

But wait, there's more:
So my little one wouldn't be left out of the fun, we also got to play one of the history games from The Classical Historian. Ancient History Go Fish was the most fun we've had with school in a long time. My 10yo was so excited we were playing and learning on a Saturday. They have Go Fish and Memory games for Ancient, Medieval, and American History. I'm thinking I may order more of them. At $11.95 for the Go Fish games and $14.95 for the Memory games, they are certainly affordable.

I received these products for review in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no other compensation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Home School Grades - A Review

My Home School Grades is an online grade tracking program. Let me tell you, this product could not have fallen into my lap at a better time. We have been homeschooling for about 8 years. I have never really "graded" my children's work. Yes, I corrected their work and helped them learn from their mistakes. However, I didn't really see a need to track grades. We have reached the point in our homeschool life where we need to rethink that philosophy. My oldest is starting high school. I had been trying to figure out the best way to record and track his grades.

This program could not be simpler. Step one: Create an account. Step two: Add a student. Step three: Add classes, lessons, grades, activities and create your transcripts. OK, so step three may be really more than one step, but it really is not complicated. For me, the best part about this is that it is all saved online. I am not the most organized when it comes to paperwork. Trying to track my son's grades on paper, I would be sure to lose something. My other thought would be to create a spreadsheet. However, our computer technology is more than a little antiquated. I worry on a daily basis that one or both of our computers will crash and we will lose everything. Even with my tech troubles, I am able to access the website with no problems. I also know that I can go use a computer at the library if needed. No wait, on second though, I can access it right from my smart phone. If you have an Ipad or other tablet, it will work on there too. There is no app to install.

My Home School Grades is much more organized and easier to read than a spreadsheet. The bonus is that it also does all the calculating of grades and GPA's for you. Then, you can print out complete transcripts.

I could try to go into all the details of how to use the program, but they have laid out some great videos for you on the My Home School Grades website. Go check them out. While there, you can also sign up for a free 14 day trial. If you decide you love the program, the cost of $49.99 is for a lifetime membership. For me, I have 8 years until my littlest graduates. That breaks down to just over $6 per year. Not really, though. Many times, transcripts will be needed long after graduation. I'd call that well worth the price.

I received a membership in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waterproof Bible

Of all the things in the world to be waterproof, who ever would've thought of a Bible? On the flip side, of all the things in the world to be waterproof, what could be more important than the Bible? We really had fun with this review. My first thought when I saw I would be review it was, "What use would I have for a Waterproof Bible?" Then it arrived on my doorstep. I opened the box and found a pretty pink Bible. In my house when there is anything pink, that automatically means it's all mine. That is one of the benefits of being the only female in the house. At that point, I started listing all the places where it would be useful to have a Waterproof Bible.

One of my favorite places in the world is the beach. When I was in college, there was a local singing group that had a song about water and how it illustrated the Trinity. Ever since then, being near water makes me feel even closer to God. The vast ocean is even a more powerful testament of His creation. I would love to take my waterproof Bible to the beach.

However, that was not the first place I thought to test the Bible out. They wanted to me to thoroughly review this product. I was very excited to test it out. You see, my husband and I like to run in mud runs/obstacle races. We had a race scheduled in the review time frame. I really wanted to find a way to carry it with me on the race, but couldn't come up with a good way to do that. The boys were just spectators at the race. There were times when they couldn't really see anything. That was the perfect opportunity to give them the assignment to do what they could to the Bible. They also had the camera.

It got a little dirty, but not really bad enough that it would show up on the camera. The pages did not get damaged at all. It is truly amazing.

Don't worry, even though the pages are waterproof, you are still able to take notes and highlight. Regular ball point pens work, as well as pencil and dry highlighters. Gel pens and markers are not recommended as they need to absorb.

I got the NIV version of the New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs. I want to order one of the full version ones.The Bibles range in price from $24.95 to $44.95. What's really great is that they offer so many different versions. You can choose from NIV, ESV, King James, New King James, or NLT. The cover designs are pink, blue or camo. There's also an option for personalization. My only complaint is that the print is really small. I finally got my new glasses and can read it as long as I have them. I would love to see a large print version, as that is much easier on my far-sighted eyes. All in all though, I really think it's a great concept.

I received this Bible in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no other compensation.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ooka Island - A Review and A Coupon

Ooka Island Adventure is a learn to read game for kids ages 3 - 7.  This was a challenging yet fun product for me to review. It was challenging due to technical difficulties. Our computers are just a little bit...shall we say...outdated. I had to try on both my laptop and desktop and couldn't get it to work properly. I finally got it to work on the laptop, albeit very slowly. The other challenge was that my kids are 10 and 14. They already know how to read. The funny thing is, I never actually taught them. My 14yo learned in a preschool program and then attended the government school for Kindergarten and 1st grade. My 10yo was at home, but just kind of taught himself. The fun part, was that I got to borrow a 5yo from one of my friends.

The website claims that five year olds will begin to read after about 8 hours of using the program. Unfortunately, since I was borrowing a child, I didn't get to fully test that out. What I was able to see of the program, however, I really liked. The child had a lot of fun playing the games. Since I only could get the program to work on my laptop, he had a bit of a learning curve to use the mouse pad. Once we got past that issue, he did well. I could tell by playing around on it myself for a bit, that it's something my boys would have really enjoyed when they were that age. I encourage you to check out some of the other Mosaic Reviews to get a better picture of the program from those who were able to use it more fully than I could.

I received this program in exchange for my honest review. There was no other compensation. You, however, can take advantage of this 30% off link: http://offers.ookaisland.com/inblog?purl=etBlu
This code is valid through June 1, 2013 for 30% off any annual or monthly subscription. The annual family subscription is already 37% off the normal monthly subscription, and this gives you another 30% on top of that.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spanish for You!

I love Spanish. Actually, I love languages in general. I studied both Spanish and French. When my boys were little, I would take them to Spanish story time at our local library. I will often say things to them in Spanish. Not full conversations, just little snippets here and there. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I was asked to review the Spanish for You! program. This actually turned out to be a very difficult program for me to review.

Spanish for You! is a Spanish curriculum for grades 3-8. From their website: "Spanish for You! begins your child on the road to fluency. It is designed from years of experience by a Spanish teacher to effectively build speaking, reading, and writing skills as well as grammar knowledge. Students learn to creatively build sentences, ask and answer questions, and truly communicate in Spanish! And they have fun doing it!!"

I received the "Fiestas" package for grades 3-8. This included a hard copy book (but it is also available in e-format), mp3 audio downloads to help with pronunciation, lesson guides in PDF format, and self-checking worksheets also in PDF format, and PDF flash cards. The lesson guides are split into three different age groups. They are grades 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8. The higher grades are designed to take 24 weeks. Grades 3-4 are slowed down and stretched out to 30 weeks. This makes it a fantastic program for teaching multiple ages at the same time. This whole program sells for $64.95. However, if you only need one of the grade levels, you can choose which one you need and it is only $39.95. Here is a great blog post from the program creator about the flashcards. The "Fiestas" package focuses on words and phrases that have to do with celebrations. There are five lessons: birthday party, el dia de los muertos, Carnaval, Holy week, and April Fair (an event in Seville, Spain). The other full program available is called "Estaciones" (seasons). According to the website, they are working on more programs. One is set to be released in June.

I used the lesson guide for the 3-4 grade level with my 4th grader. My older son is just starting high school, so I decided not to use the program with him. The program is very well laid out. The lesson guides have very detailed step-by-step instructions. The audio files are a great addition. It makes it so that even if you know nothing about Spanish, you can do this program with your kids. Since I am semi-fluent, I did not actually use the audio files.  The main problem I ran into using this program, is that because I have exposed my kids to Spanish since they were very small, they already know much of what is covered. I ran into the problem of my son not wanting to participate because he thought it a waste of time. I would still definitely recommend the program to those who want a simple, well organized way to introduce Spanish to your kids. It is especially great if you have no or limited knowledge of Spanish yourself. I also love how the festivals give some insight into different cultures of Spanish speaking countries.

I received this curriculum free in exchange for an honest review. I received no other compensation. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To Plan...or Be Flexible?

I am a very organized person, in my own messy, chaotic, piles of paper everywhere kind of way. I have every single day planned out from sunrise to sunset with whatever seems to happen. Truth be told, I want to be organized and have everything planned out without actually having everything organized and planned out. Does that make any sense? I didn't think so. I go through phases of trying to plan and organize everything, but it usually falls by the wayside to a better offer. I really enjoy being spontaneous and going with the flow. How do I find that happy medium?

For starters, how about I review yet another planner? It seems that even if I don't want to be organized, God keeps sending things in my path to get me that way. I was excited to get the Apologia Planners to review. I really was hoping it would finally help me get at least the boys' schoolwork organized and planned out, especially since I have one ready to start high school. Here's what I received: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens, and The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students. Surprisingly, the boys got really excited about them too. They each had their own planner. That is, until I told them the purpose of them. They did still set out right away filling in the days on the monthly calendar pages and then adding the special days that are important to them.

My 10yo got the Student Planner and loved filling in the calendar and putting his stuff on there. He really loved the stickers that were included, like little birthday cakes and what not for important days. I just discovered that he found the reading list in the back and added his books he's been reading. He also really likes the resources like maps and multiplication tables in the back. He has not really used the daily planner part up to this point.

My 14yo, of course, got the Teen Planner. He also enjoyed filling in his special days on the calendar. For him, I am attempting to use the daily planning portion to write out his assignments for the week. We had the added joy of a conference call with planner creator Debra Bell. She talked to us about how she assigned her kids work. She suggested a meeting at the beginning of the week to discuss plans and one at the end of the week to go over the assignments. I really like the concept of that, and am trying hard to implement it for him. He is becoming more and more independent, but still requires a lot of constant supervision at this point. I am really trying to lead him to be more independent, though. I know we will get there, and I really think this planner is helping with that.

The student and teen planners are very similar in their layouts, but there are some minor differences. There is no reason the student planner couldn't be used by teens, but there are some added features in the teen planner that are great for high schoolers. The monthly calendar pages contain some inspiration and Bible verses. The daily planner pages contain SAT words for useful study. The resources in the back include a credit tracker, grades, reading list, activities log, grammar guides, periodic table of elements, algebra review, physics review, and more. The teen planner still contains the fun stickers to use on the calendar too, so they won't miss any of the fun. I would highly recommend the teen planner for the high school crew. Even if your students attend public, private, or other school setting, it could be a very useful tool for them.

I haven't even told you about my planner yet. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is what it's called. While the kids' planners are about 5x8", this one is a full 8.5x11". The monthly calendars are all in the front. Then, each week contains two full two page spreads for writing to do lists, jotting down memorable moments, and making plans. There isn't space specifically designated for meal planning, but there is plenty of space available to use it for that. This one also has plenty of resources in the back. There are spaces for grades, and reading lists for up to six students. It also has spaces to keep track of field trips or activities, a checklist for raising an independent learner (I need to go over that some more), tips for motivating the reluctant learner, and a place to map out high school, year end review notes. There is enough space that I can keep track of homeschooling stuff, meals, business items, and my blog reviews all in one place. Oh, and I even added some fitness things on there this month.

What I love best about all the planners, is that they are 12 month planners, but the months are blank. That means that if I start my school year in September, I can start my calendar in September. What if I start in August? That's ok too. These planners happened to start in February, because that's when I got them. It also happens to be around the same time that I promoted my son to 9th grade. Back up to the beginning of my wanting to have a plan, but not problem. This really is the perfect solution. I can have a plan, but have plenty of room for flexibility. All the reasons I love homeschooling.

I received these planners in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation.

Monday, April 1, 2013

We Choose Virtues

I truly believe that the most important thing that homeschool parents can teach their children is to have Godly character. Everything else we teach them is just icing on the cake. When I was asked to review a program called We Choose Virtues, I was very excited.

 You can see on the left the virtues that are covered. The items I received to review are following. First, I received in the mail, the Virtue Flash Cards. These are 13 full color double sided flash cards. One for each virtue. You can get them with or without Bible verses. If you choose to have the Bible verse, you can even choose NIV or KJV. I chose NIV. I received the rest of the items in e-format. Step one is the Family Character Assessment. I also received a Teacher's Handbook, Kids of VirtueVille Coloring Pages, Youth List of Memory Verses and Bible Heroes, and a printable award certificate to use when the program is completed. This handy product comparison chart can tell you how much everything costs individually vs. packages to help you decide what you want.

These products are recommended for preschool through elementary. I used this program with my 10 yo. The 56 page teacher handbook is very well laid out and explains everything step by step. I think ages 4 to 8 are really ideal for using this program. Some older kids may do very well with it. My 10yo is a very independent learner. He would rather hide in a corner and read a book or work on a worksheet. He happily colored the coloring pages (you can see a sample of his work below). He also took the flash cards and went and hid with those for a while. Bottom line is, I would recommend this program for the younger crowd, but not the older ones. It is fantastic that you can choose from 3 different versions. In addition to the homeschool program, they also have options for church classes or school classrooms.

I was given this product in exchange for an honest review. I received no other compensation. I can, however pass along some coupon codes to you. Coupon code HOME20 is good through the month of April and can be applied  to the Homeschool Kit giving you a 20% discount on the purchase of it. If you would prefer to order just a few products or any of the other kits, you can use coupon code VIRTUE15, to take 15% off your total purchase of any or all of their great products.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


About three years ago, I did a review of FamilyMint's free online resources. You can read all about that here. Today, I am revisiting them with the addition of their Money Management Certification Program. The cover of the workbook calls it, "A complete step-by-step program for learning money management."

The program is designed to take two months for kids ages 10 and up. I used this with my 14yo (8th grader). The workbook includes access to their online tools, and contains assignments that can utilize them. It is not required, however, and the workbook can be completely stand alone.

My son did not want to take 2 months to get it done. He completed the basic exercises in the workbook in about two weeks. The program is designed to be very realistic with goal setting and budgeting using their real finances. We do not really give our kids a regular allowance. We do sometimes pay them for odd jobs, but really the only time they get any real money is at birthdays or other holidays. For him, the program was much more abstract. I think that makes is much more difficult to make an impact. The workbook did still have some good exercises in check writing skills, figuring out interest, and writing a budget. The one thing I would prefer when talking about budgeting is at least a mention on the importance of tithing. That is something I never really understood until about 2 years ago. I really want to stress that importance to my kids now so they don't have to learn the hard way like I did. Otherwise, all the information contained in the workbook is very good.

Right now the workbook is selling for $29.99. That includes a lifetime membership to FamilyMint Premium which is normally $25/year. You can find out more about what that includes here. Again, I see the value in the online program for a child who regularly receives money. For mine, it is not really relevant and I always forget to use it when they actually do get money. You can also get additional workbooks at 50% off.

I received the program free in exchange for my honest review, but received no other compensation.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Seed Starting

When you overhaul your lifestyle and it becomes all about real food and eating organic, the next logical progression is gardening. You might assume, because of the name of my blog, that I am already a gardener. That is definitely not the case. I am super great at killing anything green. Yes, I've even killed cacti, which are supposed to be the easiest things in the world to grow. However, the cost of organic vegetables can be a budget buster. So, we really are trying to make an effort to grow our own food. I am very thankful that my husband is much better at growing things than I am. One of the best investments we made was a hydroponic tower garden. We are actually having quite a bit of success growing things in there. We also built three 4'x4' garden boxes. We aren't doing as well with those. They have been sitting empty for quite some time.

Up to this point, we have had a very difficult time starting anything growing from a seed. We have had much better success buying seedlings that are already started. However, I was recently asked if I'd like to review a book on seed starting. I immediately jumped at that opportunity. The book is called "Seed Starting - The First Step to Gardening" by Gary Emmett. It is available for Kindle for $2.99. If you are not aware, you don't have to have a Kindle to read the books. You can get a free e-reader for your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

The book is filled with great information. It talks very specifically about planning, seeds, soils, equipment, light, and transferring the sprouted seeds into the garden. I found the information very helpful and can't wait to implement it into our gardening. However, we are a little late getting started for our garden boxes again. The one thing that is the same problem I have with most gardening books, is that they are not written for my climate. The tips for timing and when to plant are not applicable for Florida. For the rest of you, that part will be very useful. I will just have to do a little more calculating to figure out when to start seeds here. Overall, I really like the content of the book and found it to be very useful.

I was given this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Yearly Blog Plan

I need to have a plan for my blog? That was a thought that never occurred to me until I was asked to review a blog planner. I had several blog planners to choose from, but decided on the "Yearly Blog Plan(her)" from Homeschool Creations. This is a free 60+ page printable organizer.

What is included in the 60+ pages? There is a year-at-a-glance for 2012 and 2013. There are 12 monthly calendar pages. These are completely blank and customizable. I love that! I don't always get right on buying a calendar in January, so it's great that I can start my calendar whenever I need it. Then, behind each month are two pages of weekly planning. Each page contains two weeks. However, again it is completely customizable, so if I don't use one page from February, I could move it to March where I need an extra. There is also the option to print out extras if needed. That's what is great about a printable. It also contains one page for each month for notes on reviews and giveaways. This is very helpful as I'm starting the reviewing process again. I can jot down all the information from the initial review request, then 6 weeks later when I go to write up the actual review, I don't have to go searching all over the place for it. At the end, there are some extras too. There is a tracking sheet for website analytics, a sheet to keep track of other blogs or websites you follow or need to reference, tracking for affiliate programs, hashtags, link-ups, income and expenses, mileage, and just general notes or ideas. If you are a serious blogger, I think this would be a very valuable tool.

How did I use it? Well, I've only had it for about a month, and I just started getting in some more reviews. I really like the pages that I can note all the review information though. That has been useful for keeping everything together. I printed the whole thing out, and put it in a 3-ring binder. I read other people actually had it professionally bound. I would consider that in the future, but this time I'm glad I used the binder option. I think I may end up rearranging some of the pages more to my liking. In fact, I may try a couple different ways of organizing it.

Overall, it is a very thorough planner. I'm not sure if I could think of anything I would add to it for the purpose of blog planning. However, I'm not sure I like the idea of having a separate planner just for my blog, another one for homeschooling, another one for business, and another for life in general. I have a feeling, that I will double book things and over commit. I am going to give it a try for a little longer though, to see how it goes. I may post an update in a couple months after I've finished some more reviews to see if it's truly going to be helpful. In the meantime, it is free, so go check it out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rising to the Challenge

I have never been a runner. Growing up, I was always told that I could not run due to my breathing problems. I always believed it, partly because I couldn't breathe when I ran. Had I only known. Part of the problem was dairy. In the last three years, I've learned that I am very sensitive to dairy. I've learned that dairy is mucus producing, and helped close up my airways. I've posted before about how about a year ago I was tricked into running a mile for the first time in my life. Now, I regularly run 3 to 5 miles at a time and am training for my first half marathon. I'm still really slow, though, or so I thought. My fastest mile time was just over 10 minutes

This week at my fitness class, the trainer issued a mile challenge. Every class begins with a timed mile run.  Monday, I was not feeling well and could not complete the mile challenge. My husband and 14yo ds did, though. DH did great at just under 9 minutes. DS did ok, but did not run the whole way. When he runs, he is fast, but he hasn't quite grasped the idea of pacing yet. He ran about the first half mile, then walked a lot, then ran a bit at the end. He still came in under 10 minutes. Yesterday (Tuesday), I was feeling better and set my goal to come in under 10 minutes. DS did not want to run again. I pushed harder than I ever imagined, and finished in 9:05. I was in shock. It took me a couple hours to catch my breath after that, but I was still really excited. In fact, I had to tutor math after that and started to lose my voice. I decided to try a teaspoon of honey to see if that would help. It did. I took the honey, and then a glass of water and instantly felt better.

Today, was a very different story. Today, I threw down a challenge to the 14yo to see if he would rise to the challenge and beat me. I knew very well that he was capable of it. He does not suffer from my breathing afflictions. I also set a goal to come in under 9 minutes. I started out a little slower than yesterday, because that's when I tend to have the most trouble breathing. Once I start having trouble, it's hard to get my breath back. It turned out to be a great strategy. I did rise to the challenge and finished in 8:43. The teenager also rose to the challenge. He ran the whole mile and came in well ahead of me. He was greatly rewarded for his efforts too. I also have to say, that today I felt so much better than yesterday too. I did not have any trouble catching my breath when I was finished. I'm even thinking that tomorrow I can give a bit more and get under 8:30.

Friday, January 4, 2013

An Important Reminder

I love the fact that we have a Christian radio station to listen to in the car. That really is the only time we listen to the radio. I love that I don't have to worry about the lyrics or what the DJ might say, or even the commercials. However, even more than that, is hearing God's voice when you least expect it at times. It might be a song, or one of their little inspirational snippets. This morning, it was a song.

This particular song got me to thinking about my goals and resolutions for the year. I think God was trying to remind me what is truly important.

"What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" Mark 8:36

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reflections and Resolutions

As I look at my life today, compared to where I was 3 years ago, I almost can't remember who I was then. I have come such a long way, and can't begin to describe how good I feel. This is the person God intended for me to be. I know I still have a long way to go. I will continue to trust God to lead my path.

What were my goals for 2012? I had two main goals. The first was to revamp our budget following the Dave Ramsey Plan. The second was to run a 5k (actually one per quarter). We made some progress with the financial goals, but ran into some challenges in that arena around September. As for the 5k, that was easy. I only did two actual 5k races, but I also did three 5k obstacle races. That was not something I ever dreamed that I would do. I had this phobia of dirt and mud. Not to mention how physically challenging it is. Not anymore. I did the first one in March. I had to overcome a ton of fears to do that. It helped that my family, and especially my husband, was there supporting me and cheering me on. The better part was that it inspired them. In October, when it was time for the second race, my husband and 14yo son ran with me. Then, in November, we did a different one that actually had a kids' race that my 10yo could run. Well, he mostly walked it because he was getting over being sick, but he still had fun. Overall, 2012 was a good year.

That brings me to today. The first of January, 2013. As I look ahead, I am excited for what this year holds. We have a couple things planned already. My husband and I have discussed our financial goals. I have one absolutely crazy thought in the back of my head that I am going to work on making a reality.

I think by far the biggest event this year will be my oldest starting high school. I'm not sure if I'm more or less stressed about homeschooling high school than I would be if he were in school. I think it would be stressful either way. He will also be eligible to take his permit test in September and start driving. EEEEK!! Maybe a job for him would be a good goal to throw in there too.

For my 10yo, the goal is to get his digestive issues under control. Some days it seems like we're making progress, and then others not so much. At this point, I am not worried one bit about his schooling. He is so far ahead in everything that whatever he does is fantastic. Yesterday, I order the GAPS Diet book to see if that will help.

On the fitness front this year, we are thinking beyond crazy. I am still attending my fitness classes, usually five days a week. In March or April, my husband started as well. He generally only gets 3 or 4 classes at the most due to work, but it is amazing the difference it has made in him. I'm sure you can guess my crazy goal after easily completing the 5k's last year. I am already registered for my first half marathon in March. I'm thinking a full in the fall. My husband has no desire to run 13 or 26 miles. That is far too boring for him. He loved doing the mud/obstacle races, though. His plan is for the Tough Mudder this spring. That is a crazy 11 or 12 mile obstacle race. Since I can't let him have all the fun, I will be doing that with him. That one is so insane that you have to be 18 to participate, so no kids for that. My goal is to get farther than the first rung on the monkey bars. DH has installed a chin up/pull up bar in the garage to aid in reaching that goal.

On the financial front, I think where we went wrong last year is that we didn't have a concrete goal. We broke down and attended Financial Peace University in September. This year we've set our concrete goal to finish baby step 3 by December 31. Now we just have to figure out how to make that happen. This will be like another obstacle race. We have to make it happen along with needing a new washer/dryer, a roof on the house, a fence for the back yard, and pay for all our races. We probably also need to think about a second car. Then, there's that other crazy idea in the back of my head. I'm going to leave you in suspense on that one for now. Oh, there's also talk about a trip to go visit family this summer. Why can't this be simple like the fitness goals? Maybe the side goal of chickens could help with this a bit. I did recently find out that I get to review homeschool curriculum again, so hopefully that can at least help in the spending department.