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Review of My Student Logbook



My Student Logbook Review
Sometimes the simplest ideas have the greatest impact. There is nothing flashy about My Student Logbook - it's basically a group of pages where you can list what you want your child to do on a given day...and yet, it is the best daily student planner I have ever seen. It is tailor made for Nicholas (11) and for all children 2nd grade and up.





At first, I was a little confused as to how to set up the Logbook. I knew that it was a basically a checklist, and I knew that the premise was simple, but I also knew that there was a little cutting and folding involved. Cutting and folding scare me (as most people well know). All I can tell you is that it is brilliantly simple and brilliantly flexible. If I can do it, anyone can do it. The best way to understand how to use the Logbook is to watch this video. Even if you figure that it's easy (and it is), watch it anyway. 






Basically, you create your checklist, fold it over onto the date page (you can choose a dated or undated planner), and let your child check off his tasks (school, chores, both, or whatever you choose) as he completes them. If your child is task-completion oriented like mine is, it's perfect. The planner also includes extra sheets in the back for listing prayers and goals, memorized Bible verses, field trips, and more. It really is a comprehensive student planner. It's just done a little differently than most other planners you may have seen before!

The planner costs $15.00 for the printed version, which is comb bound, or $10-$20 as a PDF download (depending on whether you are purchasing a single use or family license). You can choose dated or undated versions (I prefer undated). If you choose the printed version, you can select from nine different cover designs.



If I decide to repurchase My Student Logbook, I will definitely choose the family license download. Since I have a great binding machine, I can just design a cover and print one for each of my kids, bind it, and give them each their own. That $20 price tag is a wonderful bargain. Already Michael and Mary-Catherine (9) really want a Logbook just like Nicky's.

Nicholas and My Student Logbook

Nicholas has always loved it when I have made lists for him. He is legendary for saying, "I didn't know," and "I forgot," and "You never told me." Lists fix all of those problems. I can go straight to the source and point to where I wrote down exactly what he was supposed to do...and that's fine with him! He likes being able to see in print what he is supposed to do at any given time. In the past, my primary failing with a list has been my seeming inability to make a new one for him each day. Even if it is only printing up a new copy of the same list, I fail to do it. Even if it's printing up a list and laminating it so he can check off the same things each day, we have failed because he has lost the list. 

My Student Logbook has found a way around all of Nicky's and my foibles. It allows for the use of a repeating list without making me rewrite the list each week. It won't let Nicky lose it because it is bound and not a single sheet of paper. It has a pretty design on the front (Nicky loves patriotic things!), so he loves keeping it with his school stuff and he values it enough not to leave it lying around to get lost. He has always been a fan of the list, so he enjoys seeing what he needs to do and checking it off. Win, win, win, win!

I use the list for three different types of things: personal hygiene (I can't for the life of me understand how an 11 year-old can't remember to brush his teeth), chores, and school subjects). Because we don't do the same subjects every day, on days when we don't do, for instance, science, Nicky puts a dash, rather than a check. That way, there is no empty box to rattle his OCD brain. This system has been working so well. Both Nicky and I have really enjoyed it, and unlike all other systems I have used with him, I have no doubt that we will be sticking with this one. Like I said before, it is genius in its simplicity. For an ADHD kid with OCD, it is just what the doctor (or the Mama) ordered!

Many other different types of kids of all ages have been using My Student Logbook, so be sure to click the banner below to read about their experiences!




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Review of the 7 Minute Life


Do you want a catchy name for a planner? Put a deadline on it. When you hear the name The 7 Minute Life, you want to know more about it. Does it mean that you can live your best life in 7 minutes? That you can get everything important in your day done in 7 minutes? That you can plan your day in 7 minutes? That you have 7 minutes left to live (I jest!)? The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner is a very different kind of planner. You can tell that just by looking at it. The color scheme, the simplicity, and the layout are all clues (along with the name) that this isn't your favorite presidentially named planner.

So what is The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner? The best way to introduce the planner is to watch this video. It does clock in at 12 minutes (which is ironic, given that the creator of the planner begins the video by explaining that her research found that the average adult has an attention span of only seven minutes, but oh, well!), but it is what made me know that I had to make this planner part of my life. It also made me realize that the $24.95 price tag is a bargain.




Essentially, the 7 Minute Life is about setting 90-day goals and prioritizing your life. Both of these are accomplished primarily through the "5 before 11" method. This methodology entails identifying and completing 5 "high value" tasks before 11 o'clock each day. I have to confess that this is the part of the plan that appealed to me immediately. When I have written about time management and accomplishing goals, my number one piece of advice has been to "front-load" your day. In other words, get the most done in the morning, especially focusing on your more important tasks. This planner is designed to help you accomplish just this purpose!

Now, for me, new planners are extremely intimidating. That's because I am a perfectionist and I want to get them right. They are new and unwritten in and I don't love my handwriting and I am afraid of messing them up (punctuation, or lack thereof, intentional). To that end, I *truly* appreciated this video on using this planner. I hope it is helpful to you as well. A huge bonus is that you can see exactly what this planner looks like. You can feel free to start the video at 1:08 - it's where the relevant part starts.





Finally, the planner itself has no less than about 15 pages of instructions and front matter (I stopped counting the front matter with the start of the monthly calendars) to get you started and to help you with the goal-planning and goal-setting processes, the tracking of mental clutter, and the identification of your priorities and purposes. This is one planner that really wants to make sure that you are able to use it to its fullest!

My Experience with the 7 Minute Life

Le sigh. I love this planner. I really do. My problem is that it is not a homeschool planner; it is a planner for people who work (outside the home I mean!). In fact, when I showed it to Henry, he was really intrigued - he loved it. Having said that, I am learning to make it work for me; I just don't think that I am done tweaking it yet.





The daily contacts is a major part of the is planner. In fact, there is a points value assignment process associated with them and everything. Unfortunately, making contacts is not a big deal in my line of work (homeschooling and working for edHelper). So, I have turned this part of the planner into a homeschool log. I have my homeschool planner elsewhere; here I am logging what we actually get done (which is generally what I prefer to do anyway). But I hate the fact that I have so much blank space left over.

The 5 Before 11 feature is perfect. I love it. It's what I like to do anyway! I'm not sure if the "7 Minute Life" Connections is as trivial as I make it out to be, but I use this feature to remind myself of people I want to call or text. The days go by so quickly, and I have such hermit tendencies, that I find that the week is gone before I know it. I can think about calling my sister all day long, but then I find that several days have gone by and I still haven't done it. Also, there is a wonderful, wonderful older couple at church with whom I like to keep in touch...but I often only remember that I wanted to call or email them when I see them on Sunday. I *need* a section like this to remind me to get in touch on a given day.

The Unfinished Tasks section I use to record...unfinished tasks. Those things that I worked on the previous day that I need to continue today. A "to do" list of sorts. 

The tracking section at the bottom is a work in progress. I am never good at tracking water (and I tend to do it on my Fitbit anyway). Writing down what I eat is also something I do on my Fitbit, as is my sleep tracking, but I am trying to also keep the written record here. Tracking my reading time is a little alarming as I see how much time I spend reading, but since most of it is done late at night, I don't stress too much.

It's the other page in the planner that is eating my lunch. The schedule portion is great - keeping track of appointments/classes, etc. is crucial. I wish there were half-hour demarcations, though. The place to write thank-you notes has me befuddled. I don't write three thank-yous a day. I need to re-purpose that spot. I don't leave or receive voice mails, so I am using that spot to track emails that I need to respond to - that's working quite well. I am using the large blank spot at the bottom for thoughts on my goals and the day (N.B. It's because of the nature of the content on this page - the emails and reflections - that I didn't take a picture).

I have to say that I really do love this planner, but I can't think of it as a planner. I am thinking of it as more of a journal. I still use my other planner for planning and scheduling purposes, but there is definitely room in my life for this product, too. It focuses my thinking and makes me think about things every day that I otherwise find it much easier to put off thinking about. As I said, I am not done tweaking it, but I can see myself buying it again when I finish this one. It definitely has a place in every mom's planning/journaling toolbox!

There are as many ways to use the The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner as there are people using it, so be sure to click the link below to see how other Crew moms have fit it into their lives.

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Korean Skincare Haul

If you read beauty blogs at all, you know that Korean skincare is where it's at. With my sensitive skin and, yes, large pores, I'm always looking for the next best thing that will make my foundation look flawless. Especially since I have very dry skin (thank you, thyroid gland!), if my skin is not very well pampered and exfoliated, foundation will end up looking patchy and awful on me.

To that end, I hauled a few things from Korea this week:


Image Credit: Newegg.com

Image Credit: Newegg.com


Too cute for words, yes? I actually bought all three of the adorable eggs in this skincare "series." Touted for being good for pores (and containing the known skin-tightening ingredient egg whites), these TonyMoly products have great reviews (and this primer is especially well received). I can't tell if it is any different from any other silicon-y seeming primer, but I'm anxious to try it.

Image Credit: Urban Outfitters

I know! The packaging! TonyMoly's Tomatox Brightening Mask is another product with great reviews. I can't say whether or not it whitens, as it claims, but I can definitely attest to the soft and supple claims. My skin was super soft after using this as a mask for 10 minutes. Again, as a dry skinned person, I am always on the lookout for anything that softens my skin. Whitening would be great, but I am not holding my breath. I think that a tomato product whitening the skin of someone with rosacea is just too much to ask! Urban Outfitters actually carries this (and Sephora is carrying a few TonyMoly products - I'm not sure which ones), and at $15 for almost 3 oz., it's a pretty great deal.

Image Credit: Amazon.com

Skinfood is a very well-known company, and I was anxious to try this Black Sugar Mask. Again, this one left my face SO soft. It didn't aggravate my rosacea (a huge accomplishment for a sugar scrub). It smelled good enough to eat (I resisted). My skin seems well exfoliated. The big test will be when I use my beloved BareSkin from BareMinerals later today. The last couple of times I have worn it, I have had some patchiness due to my dry skin. Hopefully, that is gone now!

Image Credit: Amazon.com

Finally, I got a couple of things from Etude House. I'm really surprised that I have never tried this brand before, but I'm remedying that now. So far, I love the Wonder Pore toner, and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Goodbye Pore-Ever Primer (which has been compared to Benefit's Pore-fessional, which I won't pay for). 

There is so much out there in the world of Korean skincare and beauty that it's tempting to want to buy everything! Sadly, my budget can't handle that, but these are a few things that I have really had my eye on lately. If anyone is curious, I'll let you know how they perform.


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Wordless Wednesday

What happened to be on the board when the high school youth coordinator called to apprise me of St. John Vianney's requirements for Therese vis-a-vis Confirmation and CCE and sacrament prep:


Imagine my joy at finding out:

  1. Therese is considered as attending a Catholic school (yay!)
  2. She is not required to attend CCE at all (double yay!)
  3. She is only required to attend one year of sacrament prep (14 weeks instead of 28) because she goes to a Catholic school (triple yay!)

There are so many reasons I love my parish. The fact that they are reasonable about Confirmation prep is just one more.

N.B. - the notes on the board above are for the twins - Therese is beyond that. It was fortuitous timing, though ;-)


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Review of Essential Skills Advantage

Essential Skills Advantage Review
Essential Skills Advantage is one of those reviews that I saw upcoming and I started praying to get it. For such an official sounding name it's kind of hard to figure out what this program is until you go to the website and start looking around. Once you do, though, I can guarantee that you'll find something you want to do with your kids!

Officially, Essential Skills Advantage (ESA) is for grades K-6, but there is a ton of material on the site that can easily be used with kids both younger and older, depending on where your child is academically. The best way to see what is available on ESA is to look at the page where the Learning Modules are broken down by grade. For example, clicking on Grade 4 will show you all of the Reading and Language skills for that grade. As you can see, there are over 1,000 in the areas of vocabulary, reading comprehension, spelling, grammar, and creative writing. Best of all, learning the skills is so fun that kids don't even feel like they are working or doing school. In fact, ever since we received our subscription, this is how I have seen my twins (9):



They don't want to do anything except work on ESA!

When you as a parent sign on to ESA, your child chooses his activity. Best of all, one child's subscription gives him access to all of the activities, so if he is more advanced in reading comprehension than spelling, that's okay! He can do whichever level works best for him.



After selecting the activity, the child is prompted with his own sign-in screen. This is the only part of the process that I find slightly onerous, but I understand why it is necessary, as the program keeps meticulous track of each child's progress (as seen by the stars in the screenshot below): 


This screen shot shows the overall progress of Mary-Catherine through the silent letters portion of Spell Master 5 (see the stars under each section). It's a great way for me to see at a glance how far along she is.






Here's a typical example of a grammar activity (the adjectives are listed on the right side - they didn't make it into the picture):


In terms of parental oversight, ESA has you covered. On the parent screen, you can see every activity your child has done, right down to how long it has taken her to complete each activity. This is just a small sample:




When Mary-Catherine saw that I was writing this review, she spontaneously burst out with, "ESA is so fun!" Hence, I figured I would let her have her say.

Mary-Catherine (9) on ESA: "ESA is the best! It's really fun, but you also learn. I like the new spelling lists that they give you. I couldn't spell atmosphere, but now I can. After you learn the spelling words, they stay drilled in your head."

She was not exaggerating - she (and Michael, too) does love the spelling. It is where she has spent the majority of her time, although both twins have also delved into Reading Comprehension. At some point, I will want them to spend more time with Reading Comprehension, but for now I am happy to have both of them focus on spelling. We don't have a regular spelling program for them currently, and ESA fits the bill perfectly.

ESA is a great deal regularly at $9.99, but it just recently became an unbeatable deal. For a limited time, you can use the code TOS50 to knock that price down to just $4.99/month per student for premium access (what I reviewed) to Essential Skills Advantage. THAT PRICE WILL BE GOOD FOR THE LIFE OF YOUR SUBSCRIPTION! If you don't want to commit to spending the money, I have even more great news. You can still subscribe to ESA -- FOR FREE (please forgive all the caps, but this is a great program, and I'm so glad that it is affordable for everyone on some level!)! By going to this website http://www.esalearning.com/, you can sign up for the free version of ESA. Rest assured, your kids will see no advertising. It is only the parent portal that is different in this version. You have nothing to lose (I know I sound like a commercial, but my twins have been using this program almost every day, and if you could hear them, they are the ones who really sound like a commercial!).

I had two 9 year-olds using this program. To read about kids of other ages who used it, be sure to click the banner below!

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Review of UberSmart Software

UberSmart Math Facts Review


Math facts. They're not all that glamorous, but boy are they necessary! If you don't master them, every bit of math you do becomes overly laborious for the rest of your life. The problem is that they are not always that easy for kids to master. When it comes right down to it, though, the key is always going to be repetition, repetition, repetition. While there are many different types of websites and software available to help kids learn their math facts, I have found that it is usually the simple approach that is the most effective. Enter UberSmart Math Facts from UberSmart Software.




UberSmart Math Facts is the epitome of "Just the facts, ma'am." It delivers what you need to know in a simple and effective manner without any bells and whistles (otherwise known as pointless distractions), and it does all that for the very reasonable price of $24.95 (best of all, the price allows you to download the software on all of the computers in your home!).

There are several parts to this software. First, just like the screen shots demonstrate, UberSmart Math Facts is essentially digital flash cards. It works the same as flash cards, even allowing you to focus only on the facts you need to learn. The first stage lets you learn the facts. You select several options:
  • +, -, x, or ÷
  • facts 0-12 (only one family or mixed)
  • shuffled or in order 
Once you make the selections, you see flash cards one at a time. You get a chance to look at the card with the fact.


When you're ready, you hit "Show" and the answer appears!


As you learn more facts, the progress bar across the bottom turns green. 

When you've had enough practice, you can choose to test. As you test, you will always see 3 flash cards (after the initial 2): the one you just answered, the one you are on, and the one upcoming (the test is shown in the first picture in the composite graphic above). The green line shows overall progress, while the red line shows the elapsed time for the current card.

Parents have the ability to set several parameters, including the time allowed for each card. 

While I have thus far described the Intermediate features of the software, there are Beginner counting features as well featuring pictures like dominos for adding dots. Thus, the software is appropriate for even the youngest learners. Officially, it is for grades K-6, but it has one more neat feature that made it wonderful for Therese (13) as well: 10 key! The software showed a number and Therese used the keypad on the computer (in 10 key fashion) to key it in. What a neat little bonus feature!

How We Used UberSmart Math Facts

As much as it chagrins me to admit it, Mary-Catherine (9) has had the darndest time learning her multiplication facts. Maybe it would be more correct to say that she has had the hardest time retaining them. We have tried a few programs, and some have worked pretty well, but she tends to forget them after she stops using the program. It is no exaggeration, though, to say that this program has absolutely had the greatest retention value. For the first month that we had it, Mary-Catherine used it to practice her multiplication facts for about 15 minutes every day. I didn't have to ask her to do it; she wanted to. She really loved the flash card formula, and she loved being able to decide which facts she wanted to work on that day. She truly felt that she attained mastery over most of the facts. 

Michael (9) has been much more on top of his multiplication than Mary-Catherine, but he, too, has been using and enjoying UberSmart Math Facts. For him, I set the time allowed for each fact to be shorter, plus he has been doing more division, while she has been focusing on multiplication. I think for the first time, Michael has been understanding the idea of multiplication and division as fact families because of the repetition of the UberSmart Software.

Finally, as I indicated, Therese has fully learned 10 Key because of this software. It took only an hour or so of practice before she became fully proficient. I learned 10 Key on the job one day as a temp, but because of this simple little add-on to this flash card program, she learned it much younger, much more quickly, and much less painfully! I was delighted by that!

*Especially* if you have kids of multiple ages or if you have young kids who can grow with this program, but even if yours, like mine, would be starting with multiplication, I think this program is well worth its reasonable price. To see what other Crew members think, click the banner below.



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Kindle Unlimited and Homeschooling

Last week, I wrote about the new book subscription service Kindle Unlimited. In that post I mentioned that I had not had much time yet to explore whether or not there were a lot of books that would benefit homeschoolers. I just wanted to write a quick update to my previous post to let you know that I have spent a lot more time (as in *many* hours) browsing the Kindle Unlimited offerings since that post and I am happy to report that there are HUNDREDS (and probably thousands - I'll let you know) of books that would enhance any homeschool!

So far I have only browsed the history offerings (not gonna lie - I started with what I loved). I went ahead and made a wishlist (and made it public) just to keep track of some of what I was finding. I am not going to vouch for the worthiness of any of these books. Some I briefly downloaded to check out, but most I didn't. If you're interested, you can see that list here. I will keep adding to it regularly (adding books to a wishlist is like compulsive shopping, yes? It's just cheaper!).

Just as a sample, a publisher called Charles River Editors has hundreds of books, most of which are available on Kindle Unlimited. Each is about 45-70 pages, and they cover many topics ranging from the history of various Native American tribes, to ancient cities and civilizations, to the history of Iraq, Syria, and ISIS. An example of one of the books is below.







Honestly, there are so many books available that the sky is the limit. Also, they seem to be adding new books every day. I think that Kindle Unlimited is the best deal around. No, there are no affiliate links in this post - I am just a bibilomaniac - er bibliophile - and I want to share that obsession (I mean love!) with everyone I can! 

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