Midweek Mix-Up — Pride and Prejudice and a Free High School Biology Curriculum

Welcome to another round of midweek mix-up! I’ve been doing a lot of reading this past week, beyond a few breaks to do other necessary work and spending some quality sibling time.

Books I’ve been reading this week:

 

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea
Progress: 45% (last week: 24%)

This story has grown more interesting, and the romance thread has grown stronger, too. I’m taking the opportunity to study how romance books work, and will find it interesting to see how the story ends.

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, by David M. Shapard

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, by David M. Shapard
Progress: Finished.

I’m not a big fan of romance, but I loved reading Pride and Prejudice. Probably part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was because it’s an older book—I’m finding that classical literature has a glory all its own, even though it is hard to get into. I’ve also watched a movie based on the book before, and listened to a version of the story on LibriVox, as well, so it was interesting to compare the original story with my memories of the audiobook and the differences with the movie. The annotations for the story were very in-depth, providing a lots of interesting tidbits from Jane Austen’s life and letters, explanations of the social structure of the times, and many other fascinating facts and quotes about the story and the time period it was set in.

This isn’t a book for the faint of heart, though. At close to 800 pages long (the spine is just over 1 ½ in. thick), I highly doubt I ever would have gotten through it but for the fact that I had to read it as part of my school curriculum. In the end it was highly interesting, and all the notes make a study of the time period very informative.

Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems, by Janet & Geoff Benge

Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems, by Janet & Geoff Benge
Progress: 89% (last week: 55%)

I am loving Amy Carmichael. We have a Trailblazer book about her, but that only tells about her time in India. I’m really enjoying this glimpse into her life as a whole, and seeing how God worked through her to touch so many lives. Her life story is certainly a challenge to me!

Useful posts this week:

  • 24 Ways to Develop Your Muse — I’ve used a lot of these methods before—most of them unconsciously. But they are some of the best methods out there for ideas. I especially like #3—something that has proved very true for me!
  • Writing Out of an Era — So many tips in here for learning more about the historical period you are writing about! I am definitely going to try some of these next time I’m writing a historical novel—they sound so fun!
  • Discovering rare and interesting instruments — I’ve only heard of one of these six rare instruments before, so I found this post fascinating. This post would be very useful in teaching your children about different musical instruments, especially if they enjoy music. I think my favorite one here would be the Nyckelharpa—it has a beautiful sound!
  • Goal Setting for Beginners [Podcast] — This podcast (This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt) is always inspiring to me whenever I take time to listen to it. I enjoyed this quick refresh on Michael Hyatt’s goal-setting principles, and immediately after listening, I typed up this year’s goals into Evernote. I’m now planning to add a few “due-by” dates to some of them.

Resource of the week:

Otter’s Christian High School Biology Curriculum

Otter’s Christian High School Biology Curriculum

From the website:

Otter’s Biology is a FREE Christian biology curriculum that incorporates a free high-quality textbook, videos, tons of labs to choose from with a multitude of budget and interest options, living books, a free workbook & answer key, incorporated Greek & Latin roots vocabulary, an independent study schedule, and more! If you are a secular family or a family that believes in evolution, the schedule and labs will still work for you, too (more instructions concerning that are included below)!

This looks like a wonderful (free!) resource for high schoolers who want to study biology! The woman who put this together has a daughter who is a RN student, and she has consulted with her quite a bit as to what was helpful for her prep work, and what wasn’t so helpful. I will be looking into this further, because I believe it could be helpful to me in pursuing nursing as well, but you might find it useful too.

Midweek Mix-Up: A Full Week, and Scripture Memorization

Hello everyone! Welcome to this week’s version of midweek mix-up! I’ve had several full days of work this past week, so I haven’t had as much time to read as I had last week. That’s okay, though, because it’s good to learn that sometimes life just happens. This way, I have the chance to really appreciate the time I do have to work and read—even if it is less than I would ideally like.

Books I’m reading this week:

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea
Progress: 24% (last week: 15%)

The tension is rising. There is definitely going to be a romantic element in the story, but what proportion it takes is yet to be determined. So far, Gwyn has narrowly escaped death, had her worst fear realized, and is now hoping that a lie will get her across the channel to a semi-safe country.

Winterdance, by Gary Paulsen

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, by Gary Paulsen
Progress: Just finished.

Grandma read this onto mp3 for my brothers, and I just finished listening to it today. Technically, no, I didn’t read it—but it was close enough I think I can count it as actually having read it.

Winterdance is very well written. The story is about a man who ran the Iditarod—the huge dog race in Alaska. It tells of him starting with hardly any knowledge at all about dogs, or the race, or anything—and how he somehow blundered his way to Alaska and ran the race. Fascinating adventures, and apparently it actually is a true account.

There were a few words I wouldn’t use through the story, and Grandma said she did leave one paragraph out because of its content—the story was fine without it.

If I can get this book in print, I’ll definitely be reviewing it—it is a beautiful story of dogs, the relationships you can have with them, and a very humorous account of a rookie running the Iditarod for the first time.

Useful posts this week:

  • Conflict Vs. Tension – A Guest Post by Melissa Tagg! — Very encouraging! I love how she explained conflict vs. tension, and applied that to life as well as to writing. That note at the end was also very encouraging—somehow, involving God in everything we do really does add a lot of depth to our lives.
  • Submission – a Heart Matter — I especially loved this note near the end of the post: “…Personally, I know that my father doesn’t like us to wear the color black. He has never said ‘thou shalt not wear black’ but because that is his desire, we try to honor him in that.” I love seeing some of the small ways I, as a young woman, can learn to submit!
  • The Go Teen Writers Summer Writing Challenge and a Giveaway — This is partly a guest post, partly a challenge. The guest post part is pretty interesting—Lydia Howe (aka Aidyl Ewoh) is telling how she wrote 100 words every day for 1,000 days, and how we can do the same. In that time, she traveled to three different continents, published three books, and fought Lyme’s disease, along with other adventures. The challenge is designed to help you get some work done in the next three months. I’m seriously considering joining—I always find the Go Teen Writers challenges extremely helpful.

Resource of the week:

Ever wanted an easier way to teach your child memory verses? Say hello to FreeBibleMusic.com! The songs on here are free to download and use. There are three different artists that helped create this “Scripture song bank”—Abigail Miller (I love her music!), Buddy Davis, and Kirk Gable/the Kirk Gable Band.

FreeBibleMusic_screenshot

Out of the sixty-six books of the Bible, there are only twelve books that there are no scripture songs for: Ruth, 2 Kings, Ezra, Esther, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Haggai, Philemon, and 2 John.

Also of interest—there is a small section of stories for children on this site. These stories were apparently written and then acted out by Lydia Howe—the same girl who just passed the 1,000 day mark above—and her family. The twelve stories are roughly five minutes long each, and are fun adventures your children will enjoy.

Writers: What was the last writing challenge you participated in?

(For me, this would be Camp NaNoWriMo in April—I failed horribly.)

Midweek Mix-Up: Two Books I’m Currently Reading, and Queen’s Birthday

Books I’ve read this week:

Completed books:

Here We Come, by Chautona Havig

Here We Come, by Chautona Havig

This book turned out to be just as exciting as the synopsis promised. For a while—probably getting close to half-way through—I was wondering if the story would ever deliver on the promise that “she’s faced with her worst nightmare”, when suddenly BANG it happened. I had been mulling over all the possible ways the worst could happen, and had come up with this scenario (except with a different person) so it wasn’t entirely a surprise. Even so, it was quite shocking and really made the story fun—although full of tension for a while there!

I also found it interesting to see how Chautona crafted the ending of the story, bringing the whole plot together in the end. It was also interesting to think about the fact that the first two books would have acted as the first and second acts, while this last would be the third act, which means in the end that this last book would be kind of like one HUGE climax. That would take some work to write, because having a several-chapter climax is one thing, whereas in this case it would be a one-book climax.

It was also fun to try to figure out the three acts in the individual books—and seeing how they fit into the overall plot. For me, this reinforced the fact that no matter what you write, no matter what part of the story it is—whether it’s a scene, a couple of chapters, or a whole act—everything can have three acts to it (set up, confrontation, resolution). Now, to apply that to my writings….

Books I’m currently reading:

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea
Progress: 15%

This story has proved to be very interesting so far! So far, I’ve met Lady Gwyneth, a short-sighted eighteen-year-old who’s trying to hide from the man who killed her parents. Then there’s Dirk, the man she knows killed her parents—although he says he didn’t. Add in an Iconoclastic raid on the small Catholic convent where she’s been hiding—the year is 1566—and Dirk trying to convince her to trust him enough to help her get out of the building alive, and that’s basically the premise of the story so far. I’ve really enjoyed the story so far, and look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, by David M. Shapard

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, by David M. Shapard
Progress: 224 pages read out of 755 (roughly 30%)

I started reading this as part of my school work—one aspect of my school is a literature course, and I’ve been reading some old classics through that. The book I read before this was a semi-annotated version of Oliver Twist that I loved!

I’ve heard a “dramatic” audio version of this story before from LibriVox, and possibly also a dramatized version we got somewhere for free, so this isn’t all new to me. Which is rather fun, because since I know the general direction of where the plot is headed it’s fun to see all the foreshadowing. This annotated version is also pretty helpful in that respect.

I have had lots of fun laughing at the bumbling, pompous Mr. Collins—who always seems to be talking about humility and money. It’s also interesting to see how Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth of his past, skirting around some points that will be revealed later in the story. All in all, I’m enjoying the story again, and am looking forward to reading more.

Happening of the week:

Last Monday, Dad had the day off because of Queen’s Birthday—a public holiday here. Part of the work he tackled was to fix up a huge set of shelves Mom found, and get it into our garage so we can store our squash and pumpkins in a dry place—hopefully they’ll stay good longer this way.

Midweek Mix-Up Picture #1

“Before” picture—as things were being cleaned up. (Note to self: Do not attempt to take pictures while holding a wriggly baby. The result does not look very good.)

Before he could put the shelves in the garage, though, he had to clean out all the rubbish that somehow tends to collect there. We also had quite a few totes full of clothing being stored there, and those had to be taken out to the shipping container to make room.

Midweek Mix-Up Picture #3

The shelves must be around nine feet tall, and they’re HEAVY! Thankfully, Dad and my brothers were able to get them in without much trouble. I was babysitting little sis, and she wanted to eat my camera, so I had a hard time getting pictures as things happened.

Midweek Mix-Up Picture #2

Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of her with her mouth open.

The finished product, after the pumpkins were transferred onto the shelves.

Midweek Mix-Up Picture #4

“After” picture.

Useful posts this week:

  • The Free Planners for June 2015 Are Available — I’ve been using these planners for over three months now, and they’ve proved to be very helpful. With them, I can see my time blocks—how much time I have, how much I want to get done in that time, and how long I expect each task to take. I don’t use one of these every day, but I definitely use them 3 – 4 days a week.
  • Midweek Music XIV: To celebrate summer — I’ve been following this series for quite a while now, and I always enjoy seeing what Rebekah comes up with. This week was no exception. I love the classical style this piece has, even though it was written so recently. I think my favorite of the two videos would be the first, and I love the little part there at the end where the young man’s helpers pull out the stops—I’ve been curious to see how that’s done, ever since reading about it in A Murder for Her Majesty.
  • Season 4, Episode 2: Setting Up Camp in the Discomfort Zone [Podcast] — I enjoy listening to helpful podcasts when I can, and Michael Hyatt’s is always at the top of the list in the order of what I listen to first. His are the most helpful that I’ve come across so far. I especially found this episode encouraging—because I’m often in the position of the “discomfort zone”, and learning to enjoy it is a challenge.
  • A Year of Reading Challenges for Kids — Since I don’t have many articles this week, Mom sent this to me to include. Looks interesting—something I’d like to try one year!

Resource of the week:

Smallpdf

Smallpdf Screenshot

Smallpdf Screenshot

I use this free online tool a LOT. Most of the time, I use it to merge files, but I also have used the PDF to Word tool—which worked very well. This is very fast as far as upload time, and also converts quickly. I also like the fact that I don’t have to enter my email address in order to get my things converted. Overall, this is a very nifty tool, one that I highly recommend for all your PDF needs.

New book reviews this week:

What books have you been reading lately? Have you read Pride and Prejudice before?

Have a great week!
Esther

Midweek Mix-Up: 2 Books I’m Reading Now, and Horse Rides

Welcome to today’s version of midweek mix-up! I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I do compiling them! Now, on to . . .

Books of the week:

Completed books:

Ready or Not, by Chautona Havig

Ready or Not, by Chautona Havig

This book ended up being just as good as Mom had told me. I really enjoyed the story, and when William finally told Aggie his secret, I was relieved. I’ll be putting up Mom’s review of the book soon—since she reviewed it already, I won’t repeat her.

For Keeps, by Chautona Havig

For Keeps, by Chautona Havig

After finishing Ready or Not, I had to read this second book in the series. Aggie’s struggles in learning to be a homeschooler and her fight against chicken pox were rather amusing to read about. The romance (very clean romance, but definitely romance) was fun to watch as well. I’m planning to post Mom’s review of this book soon too.

Books currently in progress:

Here We Come, by Chautona Havig

Here We Come, by Chautona Havig
Progress: 57% read

After finishing Ready or Not and For Keeps, I was especially glad to know we have the third and final book in the series. As a writer, I’m looking forward to seeing how the climax works to finish off the series. As a reader, I’m looking forward to seeing how Aggie’s fiance and she get along—and if the children start behaving. Currently, Aggie has been on a huge emotional roller-coaster, and is feeling pretty burned out. I still haven’t decided if the tension is stronger in this book than in the last two, or if it’s just different—I’ll probably have to finish the book to decide.

More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell

More Than a Carpenter, by Josh and Sean McDowell
Progress: 6% read

I did get a bit further in this this week. Right now I’m reading about why Jesus is different from other famous prophets—and what the name “Jesus Christ” means. Fascinating book.

Next on the to-read list:

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea

This is Rachelle’s debut novel, so I don’t have any experience with knowing what her style is like. I’ve heard about this book for several months now, and recently she offered advanced reader copies, so I asked if I could be an advanced reader. I’m looking forward to reading this book—and knowing what she reads, I’m hoping it won’t have too much romance in it!

Memory of the week:

I helped give my baby sister her first “horsey-ride” the other day. She seemed to enjoy it—and her brothers loved being the horses for her!

Playing horseback riding

Useful posts this week:

  • These Books Are Free On Kindle! — Some fascinating books here—ones that I want to read soon. I need to learn to get into more classics—I love them, but it takes some determination to start reading them.
  • Which Copy is Best For Your Home Page? — Very helpful information about home pages, and what length and content makes the best conversion rate. Now, to put this information to use!
  • 100 Books for 1st Graders to Read — This one was recommended by Mom. She said that some of the books here are ones she wouldn’t tend to like, but others are very good.
  • 5 Ideas for Author Newsletter Content — A fun, inspiring post for creating a good newsletter. I have a feeling I’ll be referring back to this next time I’m writing the LRD Newsletter.
  • For The Sake of Research — A very humorous post on the things an author has to go through to ensure they have the setting right. What happens if you video the interior of a bank?
  • Yielded or Tossed? — An encouraging devotional—the perfect start to my day. Katie’s words are always so challenging to me, and yet so true. Much to think about from this post.
  • The Weekend Edition — Seekerville, a daily blog for writers, always has these fun “weekend” posts. They’re just about my most favorite posts of the week! If you’re a writer who wants encouragement, I’d recommend checking this blog out. It is mostly geared toward romance writers, but many of the tips they share are really helpful no matter what form of fiction you write.
  • The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People: INFOGRAPHIC — Fascinating infographic, and I highly recommend checking out the interactive version on podio.com. I especially found it interesting that out of twenty-six people, only eight did any actual work between 12 am and 5 am—almost everyone else was asleep during that time.

Resource of the week:

A post, resurrected from the archives of my bookmarks: 9 Best Tools to Make Writers More Successful, Organized, and Effective. Who knew that gem was there? I completely forgot! But those tools look very useful. There are several programs mentioned in the comments as well that look handy. I’m planning on checking out SquareSpaceNote and The Timeline Project as soon as I’m done here.

What did you come across this week that you found particularly inspiring or helpful?

How to Create Effective Incentives for School Work

Sometimes, it is hard to get school done. Almost as hard as pulling hen’s teeth. This is where incentives for school work are needed—with simple rewards, your students can learn to work faster and harder.

Near the beginning of the school year, for a week or so anyway, it’s fairly easy to get the work done fast. Past the first month or so, the momentum starts to slow down—until it’s only a fraction of the original speed, and we’re all tired of how long it’s taking to get anything done.

How to Create Effective Incentives for School Work

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Hebi65 | License: CC0 1.0

A few years ago, after seeing how slow we were going, Mom decided to implement a rewards system where if we got a prescribed amount of work done by lunch time then we could get a treat. It worked—and we used the system for several months, before we all got tired of eating the same reward every day.

Three Ways to Create Incentives:

  1. Find simple rewards. They don’t have to be very fancy—they just have to be effective. For a while, we were using simple peanut butter balls (see recipe below). Everyone who got done in time received a peanut butter ball, and those who didn’t just missed out.
  2. Find simple consequences. Sometimes, a child does not get his work done no matter how many rewarding incentives you give them. For example, say a child is way behind on his math. Since he is so far behind, and not catching up—even though he could have easily finished within an hour or two—a simple consequence could be digging a bucket of potatoes the next day for Mom if he doesn’t get done by a certain time. This is an easy enough chore, usually done in fifteen minutes or so.
    (Note: I am not encouraging enforced labor simply because a chore is not done in time. This kind of incentive is only used when there is an ongoing problem, and when the student can easily catch up by applying himself.)
  3. Create heavier-duty rewards for habits. Recently, Mom has been trying to teach my brothers some life-long habits. Instead of just telling them to work on them, she decided to help them keep track of how they’re doing. Each day they successfully complete a job associated with the habit, they earn 5¢. Every day they miss, they lose 5¢.

Consistency is a key to making incentives work. For busy Mothers, though, it is hard to remember who gets what reward.

One way Mom has combated this problem is by giving a universal reward to everyone. She also has a set consequence for those who particularly struggle. For example, one of my brothers loves to sleep outside. He is normally allowed to sleep outside, but on the days he doesn’t finish his school work in time he has to sleep inside. This is a very simple consequence, but most of the time it does the job—his work gets done early.

Peanut Butter Balls RecipePeanut Butter Balls Recipe

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup dessicated coconut (+ some to coat balls in)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp. honey (or other sweetener)

Mix well, roll into roughly 1″ balls, roll in coconut.

For variations: I’ve sometimes added cocoa powder, or cinnamon and cloves, to give different flavors. It is also possible to add vanilla, almond, caramel, or other essences to give different tastes. Chocolate chips and dried mixed fruit are good replacements for the raisins. Feel free to experiment—this is just the base recipe!

Even though the rewards for school work well done can be very small, they are effective. Mid-school blues are hard to push away, but by being creative, the work can become more fun again.

How have you used incentives before? Did they work?

Midweek Mix-Up: 4 Books I’m Reading Right Now, and Useful Randomness

I love fun, not-always-stiffly-serious blog posts. And yet, at the same time, I want to make sure you have something helpful to take away from every post. Hopefully, I can find a balance of that today.

4 books I’m reading right now . . .
Give Me This Mountain, an autobiography by Helen Roseveare

Give Me This Mountain, an autobiography by Helen Roseveare

I’m roughly half way through this story. Helen is very transparent when it comes to sharing her spiritual life at different stages, and I’ve found that very encouraging because often I see myself in her shoes. Knowing someone has been there before really gives a new perspective on things.

The Eagle, by Rosemary Sutcliff

I don’t like this cover. Underneath, it is a great story—I just hope they haven’t changed it to go along with the movie. Our version is the previous edition of this one.

The Eagle (previously Eagle of the Ninth), by Rosemary Sutcliff

This was first introduced to me as part of our school curriculum. Mom recently read it to the boys again, and I heard bits and piece—enough to make me want to read it again, but not enough to hear the whole thing! She’s been reading the two sequels to the boys lately, and they are loving them, as well. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but hope to get back to it soon!

More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell

More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell

Another “school” book. This small volume is both incredibly challenging, and incredibly reaffirming. Josh presents the facts without any apology, and seeing the pure truths of who Jesus really is—in all their beautiful glory—is very encouraging. This book is a great devotional, and even just reading one or two pages before bedtime is enough to give you much food for thought.

Ready or Not, by Chautona Havig

Ready or Not, by Chautona Havig

This is by far the most favorite book I’ve been reading lately. Mom finally convinced me to read it after all her ranting, and I’ve got to say I’ve fallen in love with the story too. Aggie, mother of eight inherited children, is so real in all her struggles of learning to be a mother—let alone learning to deal with her inherited mother-in-law! Even though Ready or Not is a long story, I’m enjoying every word—and glad to know there are two more books in the series waiting for me to read them! Oh, and did I mention I love the humor in the story?

Most exciting event this past week . . .

We had this big brush pile out back, and now that the fire ban has finally been lifted (we’ve had a bad drought all summer, so we were not allowed to burn fires for quite a while) the boys finally were allowed to burn it. Did they ever have fun, too!

Fire 01

From the yard, just after they lit it.

I got a few pictures of the proceedings, but soon had to get back to work—leaving it under the watchful eye of the firefighters.

Fire 02

I didn’t get any very good pictures of the main firefighter, because he was almost always running to put out small patches of grass that caught. This was the best—he was working very hard!

Most useful posts this week . . .

A random collection of posts I’ve found interesting and helpful this past week.

This week’s resource . . .

I’ve been using this little calendar for three months now, and it has proved to be the most effective tool so far for tracking work chains—I can see at a glance what days I was very productive, and what days I was . . . shall we say, not so productive.

2015 Work Chain Tracker

Seeing how well (or badly!) I did last week is encouraging, and challenges me to do even better this week. It is also a great way to keep a quick record of what I’ve been doing. At the end of each month, I tally up how many hours I’ve done on a particular project all together, and sometimes average that to each day I’ve worked, to see how many hours minimum I should try to do per day to beat that. (Side note: Time Calculator is very helpful for the calculation side of things—just input your times, and it will do the rest for you.)

I’ve been using this tracking system for almost three months now—tracking three different projects—and it’s still proving to be very helpful.

If you’d like to try it out for yourself, see the links below. I usually print it four-up (four pages per page) and just one-sided, so it’s a handy pocket-sized calendar that fits easily on my pin board. Do whatever works for you—I’d love to hear if it helps!

Download the free printable:

  • Unmarked Version
  • Marked Version (basically the first version, but with phases of the moon and a few select holidays—I like this one best, mostly because I like seeing what’s coming up next)

The idea for using a calendar like this was inspired by a passing mention in a blog post by Raychel Rose, so all credit goes to her. 🙂

Have you found any easy hacks for tracking the time you spend? Also, what’s the most useful post you’ve come across this week? Feel free to share below—I love hearing from you!

Why You Need a Simple Atmosphere for Writing (+ free program!)

A year and a half ago, I wrote my first novel. Along with many other writers, I had taken the NaNoWriMo challenge, an incentive program designed to help you break through your writers block and simply get words out on the page. During the month of November, I challenged myself to write 50k words.

That was completed within three weeks, and one program that helped me immensely to get the words out on the page was FocusWriter. FocusWriter provided a superbly simple atmosphere for writing — and I was able to focus much better on content creation, rather than being distracted by fancy formatting.

Why You Need a Simple Atmosphere for Writing (+ free program!)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Unsplash | License: CC0 1.0

Today, I’d like to introduce you to FocusWriter.

But first . . . .

What Happens When You Have a Simple Atmosphere

  • Your productivity soars. When you work in a clutter-free environment, your targets for the project are clearer. You also will have a happier attitude because you can’t see the other—perhaps not as important—work you need to attend to.
  • Perfection becomes a non-issue. When you can forget about having it just perfect, you can focus on the content instead of the container. (P.S.—Simple often also equals elegant, even though we may not realize it right away.)
  • The process becomes more important that the end goal. When this happens, you can enjoy it more. Yes, you do want to keep the end goal in mind. But if you can focus more on getting words on the page than on what you want the polished masterpiece to look like, you’ll make more progress than you do dreaming about the end goal.

I’ve been using FocusWriter for several years now, on and off. At times, I prefer other writing environments better, but as far as a simple atmosphere I can’t beat this program. If you’re looking for a distraction-free writing environment, check FocusWriter out—it may just be the tool you need to get your work done well.

(Disclaimer: I recieve nothing from recommending FocusWriter. I have just found this tool very useful in my own writing life, so I’m sharing it in the hopes that you will find it helpful, too.)

3 Resources to Help You Work More Productively

I don’t think there’s anything I like better than a free program that helps me work more productively. And, being somewhat of a program maniac—I usually end up trying out just about every free one I hear of—this is the kind of post I love the most. If you’re interested in free, time-saving resources, then this post will fit you as well.

3 Resources to Help You Work More Productively

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/condesign | License: CC0 1.0

Today, I’d like to share three valuable l tools I use to work more productively. Two of the resources below were ones I mentioned in the two previous posts in this series—How to Prepare for a Productive Day and 7 Effective Ways to Get Unstuck Now. The other is one I’ve come across in the last month or so, and it’s been so helpful to me in this area that it deserves its place as well.

Let’s get started.

1. Workflowy—“Organize Your Brain.” WorkFlowy is a notebook for lists. Use it to be more creative and productive.

A few months ago, I was feeling pretty stressed out over the sheer amount of work I had to do yet, so I sat down and had a brain-clearing session that was (at most) 30 minutes long. In that one session I wrote down over 50 things I needed to do. As soon as they were all written down it was much easier to focus on the project at hand and finish it. Workflowy is perfect for jobs like this—you can nest tasks as deeply as you like, and you can view them all together as one good-sized to-do list. Below is an example of how it looks:

WorkFlowy Screenshot

WorkFlowy Screenshot

(Note: If you sign up to use this task-management site, use my referral code here or above. By using my link, you will get 2x the amount of free space (500 monthly items instead of 250), and you will also be giving me an extra 250 per month. Thank you!)


2Action Item Catcher—A place to capture action items for processing or doing later. (Scroll almost to the bottom of the page to get it.)

I find this simple “catcher” extremely helpful. It takes less than a minute to write something down, and is also very handy when I’m trying to remember what I need to do and/or figuring out what I should be doing the next day or week.


3Momentum, Browser Extension for Chrome—Daily motivation and focus on your new tab page.

Momentum is a free extension that controls what your New Tab page looks like. Some of its main features include:

  • A beautiful new picture each day
  • To-do list
  • Main focus of the day
  • Daily inspiring quotes
  • Current time (helpful if you tend to lose track of time like I do)
Momentum Screenshot

Momentum Screenshot

I love this extension. It’s basically a personal daily dashboard. It is simple, yet elegant, in design, and instead of distracting from what I want to do each day it constantly reminds me of the next step I need to take. This is one of my main to-do list programs. I love the motivation it gives each day—whether the beautiful picture, or the quote, or both—it makes getting jobs done that much more fun.

Extra: I just found out that this extension is also available for Safari—check it out here in the Apple store.

A Firefox extension is planned, but not produced yet.

For Opera—I’ve heard you can use Chrome extensions on Opera. If you install an add-on named Download Chrome Extension, you can install Chrome extensions as well as Opera extensions. This means that if you use Opera instead of Chrome, there is a chance you might be able to use Momentum. I haven’t personally tested this, so I can’t tell you about results, but it may be an option for you.


I hope you’ll be able to find something to help you work more productively. I also hope you won’t feel obligated to try anything that I recommend, simply because it works for me. If something is helpful, great! If it doesn’t help–maybe you’re already doing as well as you can, or perhaps there’s something else out there that would be better.

Whatever you do in the end–stay productive, don’t give up, and glorify God!

What are some of your favorite programs for making your workload easier to manage?

Using Charts to Stay on Track All Week

Note: A quick shout-out to the winners of the launch giveaway! Join me in congratulating Jessica S and Clare! Congratulations, girls! Jessica, you have won God King, and Clare, you will be receiving the Grandma’s Attic Treasury. I’ll be in touch with both of you shortly.

Over the years, our family has changed the way we do school in different ways. We’ve switched curriculum several times, finding the perfect combination for our particular needs and learning styles. Currently, my siblings are using over four different curiculums, and keeping track of the progress in all of them can sometimes be a bit difficult to manage.

Stay-on-Track

Over three years ago, Mom made a chart up for each of us children, and that has helped to stay on track immensely. As I’ve worked through highschool, I ended up making my own to suit my needs, but the basic principles are the same.

We found that one of the major problems with not having a game plan is that it doesn’t get done. When you know where you’re headed, you can focus your attention there, and worry less about the path it takes to get there.

Here are five ways to keep your curriculums together and moving forward all at once.

  1. Have a weekly plan. Some curriculums are great at making this up for you, for some you have to make it yourself. Figure out what you want to get done so you’ll still be on track at the end of the week, and divide that work by day accordingly.
  2. Decide on your major subjects. Your children can’t do everything all the time. Figure out what’s most important, and put that at the top of the list. For us, this includes math, reading and spelling, Bible, history, and english. Other extras that we do include learning touch typing and handwriting.
  3. Figure out what each child can and can’t do on their own. This varies depending on the child, their age level, and reading ability. By the time I was eleven, I could mostly do everything by myself—whereas some of my brothers reached that stage at thirteen or later. Once you know what your child can do by himself, you’ll have an easier time assigning his work to him.
  4. Put all the work you expect to get done in the week onto a chart. You’ll need to have assignments per day for some things, but other things (such as piano practice) would have a certain amount of time or work per day, and that would stay mostly the same for the whole week. Mom makes a simple table in a document for all of this. Here’s an example:
    Chart Example

    An example of what a chart for the week could look like.

    Math fact practice and typing are a certain amount of time per day, as opposed to math or handwriting where there is a certain amount of work that has to be done per day. Each day, my brothers go through their lists and check everything off as they get it done. It works as motivation for them—most of the time—because they know that as soon as they have everything checked off they can be done for the day. It also helps Mom, because she can easily see who’s gotten what done—especially since she is currently teaching five children!

  5. Offer rewards or consequences for achieving or missing assignments. This also helps as incentive to get things done. When you know you’ll miss a privilege if you don’t get your math finished in time, you tend to work faster. We also use rewards for people who get all their work done before a designated time (12:00, lunch time, etc.). Over the years, the rewards have changed—from a peanut butter ball, to 5¢ per day when finished in time, and several other variations along the way. Sometimes, we don’t have any reward at all.

One thing to keep in mind when considering making a chart is that you only want to list the essentials. Too far beyond that will make the work look overwhelming. If you want to do something extra, you could consider slipping that in to the afternoon instead of trying to fit it in the morning’s schedule. Less stress over a big workload makes a happier family.

Finding the right method for your family to stay on track can be difficult—but the end result is very rewarding. When you know what you expect yourself and your children to do each day, you can get a lot more done.

Question: Do you have problems staying on track and making sure everything runs together smoothly? What is one way you make the process easier? Share your thoughts in the comments below–I’d love to hear what you think about the subject!