Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review of IEW Fix It!

Fix It! Grammar Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is one of those names that every homeschooler knows. What you may not know is that they do more than the straight-up writing courses for which they are justifiably famous. It was years before I knew that, to my detriment, because their other products are stellar. For example, Therese (13) has been using Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood [Book 2] (Student Book) while I have been using the companion Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood [Book 2] (Teacher Book), and this one is a real find. I'm sorry to say that she was not thrilled when I told her that I would be asking for this review, but she went along with it and she has been pleased ever since (Mother knows best!). Fix It! Grammar brings together everything that she has been learning over the past few years and allows her to use/test that knowledge in a few short minutes per day. Actually, although she took the placement test and ended up in Book 2, she should have started with Book 3. Book 2 is much too easy. Having said that, her time with Book 2 has not been at all wasted and she has really been enjoying using it.

As usual, though, I am getting ahead of myself! The Fix It Grammar: Robin Hood student book is 33 weeks of work, coming in at 69 pages of comb bound workbook pages, with three pages of removable card stock flashcards (grammar/usage helps), and a 45 page glossary. All told, then, the book is a slender 115 or so pages. The Teacher's Manual is 256 pages long and is JAM PACKED with information on how to teach the grammar concepts your student will be practicing in the student book. Naturally you have the mirror of the student book page, but you have so much more than that! You are told exactly how to convey each concept to the student. You are told how to discuss the corrections. You are even told how to adjust the pacing to your student's needs. If you don't know much about grammar yourself, this is absolutely the course for you! You will learn everything you need to about how to teach your student without worrying that you are not doing it right or not doing enough. You can see samples of the amazing Teacher's Manual here.

Essentially, what a student does each day is make editorial corrections to one sentence in an ongoing passage (in the case of this book - about Robin Hood). After making those editorial corrections, he rewrites the sentence correctly in a notebook so that at the end of the course he has the correct version of a story (again, in this case Robin Hood). The daily time investment in the course will definitely vary with how proficient your student already is in grammar, but it is not really much at all. For us, it amounted to about 10-15 minutes maximum.

Therese (13) and Fit It! Grammar: Robin Hood

In retrospect, I should have gone with my instincts and gotten Book 3 or even Book 4 for Therese. I have been very intensive with grammar with her from the time she was quite young. IEW recommends the Fix It! series for grades 3 and up and indicates that even older children can start with Book 1, but in Therese's case we definitely should have gone up a couple of levels. I was wary of starting at a level that was too high with a program format (IEW, that is) that was unfamiliar to her, therefore alienating her affections, so to speak. To that end, I am glad that she did Book 2. She does like the program, and I definitely think that we will be sticking around for the higher level books. It is an easy way to review concepts already learned and still be able to continue doing regular grammar work.

Therese's thoughts on Fix It! Grammar: Robin Hood: "The actual things I have to identify are kind of easy for me, but I really like the way it is segmented out, although I think it could be slightly longer - maybe two or three sentences at a time. I like that by the end of the book I will have a finished copy of the story. The idea of the flashcards is a good one, but for me the content is below my current grammar level."

Fix It! Grammar has six different levels. The level Therese and I reviewed (Level 2) costs $15 for the Student Book and $19 for the Teacher's Manual. Other Crew members reviewed levels both higher and younger, though, so be sure to click on the banner below to read about their experiences.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Etude House Shipping to the US!

Image Credit: Etude House
Etude House is one of Korea's premier skincare and makeup lines - I love it! There have always been ways to order it (Ebay usually), but their online store is now shipping to the US directly. This is exciting news since they have some really unique products that you just can't find dupes for in the US!

My Favorite Time Wasting/Money Spending Websites

Where do you go when you browse the Internet? For me, it used to all be about homeschooling curriculum. Now, though, I feel like I have tried everything (heck, I feel like I *own* everything) and I am pretty set on what we use. That's not to say that I don't keep up with all the new stuff (that's a technical term, people!). I do. But when I sit down to look at the 'net, because I'm too tired to do anything else, these are the places I go.

Nouveau Cheap - G finds the best deals on the Internet and reviews drugstore makeup.

Musings of a Muse - The Muse doesn't find good deals, but she reviews EVERYTHING and makes you wish you had an unlimited budget! She also posts, like, eight times per day.

Ravelry - knitting, oh how I wish I could bond with you all day every day. Sigh.

Kindle Unlimited - I'll do an updated post soon. They add more books every day - hundreds per month. I don't have words for how much I love this service and how many hours I spend browsing, to say nothing of reading!

Sephora - need I say more?

Ulta - see above

That's about it. I would love to hear your go-tos!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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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Monday, September 15, 2014

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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Monday, September 8, 2014

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:

Image Credit:

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:

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:

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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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 ;-)