The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell {a review}

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner & The Ultimate Daily Planner for Studets {a review}

It is time for another review for Mosaic Reviews! I received both planners for free so that I could scrutinize, um, I mean review them. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention that I have seen these planners floating around the homeschool and blogging communities for a while now. I even checked them out a couple times online, but could never get past the cost. I tend to fall in the cheap, um, I mean frugal side of life. Want to know if I still feel the same? Keep reading.

We shall start with The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, a planning system designed by Debra Bell. My first impression was that my mailman needs to learn to read, “do not bend” does not in fact mean “bend in half”. Once I smoothed out the wrinkle in my cover (and attitude), I dove on in. First impressions of the actual planner, it’s purple. Purple, people. Purple just so happens to be my very favorite color. The cover is nicely designed and I love that it is plastic (easy to wipe off…) and has a pocket on the inside of both the front and the back cover.

The first pages of the planner are four years of year at a glance calendars (one, card-stock page…nice), an information page for you to fill out, general info about the planner and the other planners (like the student one we will discuss below), a welcome letter, and table of contents. Table of contents? Why would a planner need this? To label all the information that follows, of course. Things like what pages the user’s guide starts on and where your one-year planning grid, student goal setter, and family priorities pages are.

The planner walks you through how to plan your homeschool year. Step. By. Step. Debra tells you how often you need to do this, which seems ridiculous. I mean, come on, do I need you to tell me that I need to have a yearly, monthly, and weekly planning time, and what I need to do on those days? Apparently, the answer is yes. You see, I am a planner. I love, love, love, love to plan things. Love. This is all fine and dandy, but sometimes I spend more time planning than doing. I always feel like I might miss something.

Basically it goes like this, first you sketch the big picture, then you divide up what parts of the big picture you want to work on, and then you set the tasks that will walk you towards your goals.

Then! Then you get to map out what you have going on in your life for the next year. You fill out the year-at-a-glance calendar (slightly tedious since it is not numbered, which is really a good thing since you can use it for any school year) with dates that are permanent or semi-permanent (holidays, off days, regular field trips or co-ops…you get the picture). After that, you set some goals for your students. What I love about this is that it does not just cover the academic, but character goals you may have as well. Next come family priorities, resource lists and then the monthly calendars.

Best of all? There are examples of how to use these pages in the user’s guide section. As a visual person, I loved this. I loved seeing examples to get my mind going. There is space for up to six students in all of these pages.

And then we come to the meat of the planner, the weekly pages. These are just awesome. You break your week down on four pages. First page, you set your weekly Bible plan, Battle plan (explained in the user’s guide), Prayers, and Hospitality/Outreach. The top of the page includes an inspirational quote as well. Second page, you record your week’s memorable moments (achievements) and evidences of grace, where God showed you His goodness, mercy, faithfulness, provision, etc. The third and fourth pages are your actual lesson plan pages, you have six rows of six columns (excluding your label boxes) to use as you need (examples in the user’s guide). There is also a column of smaller boxes for notes, supplies, and appointments. Also, another inspirational quote.

After the weekly section, comes a small section for recording grades, reading lists (six), field trips/outside activities record, some encouragement for homeschooling moms, a chart for plotting homeschool high school (with an example), and a year-end review.

I love that this planner is essentially a homeschool lesson planner, gratitude journal, record keeper, and goal-setting journal…all in one!

Now, there are a couple things that I would love to see added to make it just perfect (well, for me anyways).

1. All the great information kind of gets lost in the shuffle. I used some Post-It tabs to mark the sections in mine, but they don’t match. Visually, this is annoying. I would love to see coordinating tabs available.

Tabs added to my Ultimate Homeschool planner

2. I would love to see coordinating curriculum planning sheets available. They would not necessarily have to come in the spiral bound book itself, but maybe an add-on pack that I could tuck in the back pocket. I used plain paper to do this, but it would be nice to have a guide to break down what curriculum I need to consider looking for by subject. (By the way, I know this is really picky…don’t hate me for it).

That’s it really. I love this planner and as of now, I will be buying one each year to help me plan our homeschool.

The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students {a review}

Now, a little about the student planner. This post is already over 900 words, so I will keep this short and to the bullet-point. 😉

  • Love the size, plastic cover, and colors (bummer about no pockets though)
  • LOVE the little journal like entries at the front to record what your student’s favorites are each year. A little time capsule.
  • Study-smart student toolkit = great information for students
  • Includes month-at-a-glance calendars that my daughter thinks are great (I like them, too.)
  • Weekly assignments pages? LOVE that they include a “quiet time” check box each day, also the columns to mark when an assignment was finished and approved are great (helps me keep track!)
  • I like that the student can track their grades, reading list, and activity log themselves as well
  • There is a section called Active Lifestyle Activity Log for the President’s Challenge that would be great for helping homeschoolers to remember physical education is needed, too!
  • The handy reference section includes a timeline of U.S. and world history; U.S. map with capitals, time zones, and population chart, world map with current political boundaries; a chart of the scientific method; multiplication and division chart; conversion and measurement equivalency charts; general grammar and good writing guides; recommended reading list for middle schoolers; greek and latin roots chart; and finally a notes section
  • A cardstock page with four years-at-a-glance (and pocket!) and stickers for marking events on the calendars round out this awesome planner!

I will also be using the student planners for my kids because I like how the end-goal is independent learners. I see how these will help train my students to take responsibility for their work over time (explained a little more in the homeschool planner).

Overall, I’m kind of in love with these planners. And it has nothing to do with getting them free, I actually need to get at least one more. I am debating whether I need one of the student planners for my soon-to-be second grader, but the almost fourth grader will definitely need one. They are worth every penny of the cost (if you use them, of course).

Blog Planning Planner – Review & Announcement

Blog Planner reviewIf you have been around for any length of time, you know I like to plan things. As a matter of fact, I was just discussing with a reader how I just might enjoy the planning of things even more than the doing of said things. Ahem. That doesn’t really get much accomplished, just so you know.

For my first task with Mosaic Reviews…what, did I not mention that I am now a reviewer with the awesome Mosaic Reviews team? Ok, wait a minute…

I have an announcement to make!

I am a member of the Mosaics Reviews team!

Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Anywho.

I have several things on the agenda to review with them starting in late March. I also have a few independent reviews coming up soon. You can look forward to reading my highly regarded opinion very soon. Speaking of which, the reason for this post!

Maybe I should take a moment to speak to those who are new around here. I enjoy humor. I do not think highly of myself. Seriously. You can check out my About Me page for more info on that.

Our first assignment was to review a blog planner. I chose to review the one created by Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations.


  • free
  • printable
  • 60 pages that cover a full year
  • includes pages for tracking mileage, income, expenses, hashtags and link-ups
  • map out weekly blog posts with reminders for social media promotion
  • year-at-a-glance, month-at-a-glance calendars
  • review/giveaway and affiliate program tracking
  • website analytics page
  • login and password page

How I Used It:

I fancy myself a creative, random person. I like to think I use this to my advantage, but I am also aware of the challenges this poses. I’m not good at following directions, whether it is a recipe or someone else’s planner…I have this insatiable desire to tweak things to make it my own. So, I did not print the whole thing out and have it bound like some of the other reviewers (look at me being all independent…).

You see, I already had spent a good chunk of time coming up with a blog binder using other free printables. I was already working well with that, but I was missing several of the pages Jolanthe included! So I printed out a couple weeks worth of the weekly post planners and a link-up tracking page for each category in my binder. Then I printed out the income/expense, mileage, and Twitter hashtag tracking pages.

What I Liked:

  • visually appealing, aka it’s purty
  • ease of printing out the pages I wanted after downloading the whole thing at once verses file by file
  • being able to see two weeks of posts and to do lists at a glance
  • the income/expense, mileage, Twitter hashtag, and blog link-up tracking pages
  • the social media reminders for each post
  • the ideas in my head page!
  • month-at-a-glance page with monthly focus section
  • I appreciate the flexibility of a planner that I can pick-and-choose from

What I Didn’t Like:

I got nothin’. In all honesty, this is one blog planner I could actually, probably see myself using as is. Gasp!

Do you use a blog planner for your blog? Would you be interested in seeing how I set my blog binder up?

Dearest Me {Healthy Habits Tuesday}


Today I’m talking to myself. You can listen, er, read along, if you would like.


Dear Vicki,

You’ve been at this for over a month now. You’ve mapped out your goals, plotted and planned for success, you’ve realized you need to change your inner voice, and thought about feeding your change and how to fail successfully.

And here you sit.

And there sits your bad habits, right in your lap. You might just stand a chance at getting rid of them, if you would just loosen your grip.

Let go.


I mean, really, what have you got to lose? Huh? You already know how much more you get done when you get up early, which, by the way, awesome job. You know how much better you feel when you don’t pig out and watch the scale climb. You KNOW this! So, come on.

Let’s do this!


Oops, not ready for the “wohoo”?

Ok, let’s pump you up. Let’s get excited. You like planning, so let’s plan a little more. Give you a little checklist to check off every day. Sound good?


You don’t need something else to do?

Well, aren’t you just a ray of sunshine today? Fine. Then let’s set some goals for February.

1. One serving at meals, excluding veggies, including dessert (stuff just got real).

2. Six, count ’em six, glasses of water every day.

3. Pray daily. Use the #PrayerDare cards and tweet often for accountability.

4. Move on purpose. Every. Day. Stretch, take a walk, climb stairs intentionally, exercise…what theget up off the floor…I don’t care what you do, just MOVE it.

5. Worship God daily. Count your blessings. Sing praises to your Lord. Read His Word. Find Him in everything. Invite Him into everything.

6. Write every day. The Word. Letters. Blog posts. Cards. To do lists. Prayers. Just write.

7. Stick to your routines, dang it! You like them, admit it. Or don’t, but stick with them.

8. Stay motivated. Read what you need to read. Visualize. Pin inspirational stuff. Just stick with it! You can do it! Push through the blah.

9. Take your vitamins. Seriously, dude.

Feeling better now? Ok. Time for that “wohoo”? No? Well, fine. Just do this thing.

With all my love, you (or me…or something)


There you have them. My February goals. Pray for me, please. I really do seem to be hitting a wall with myself internally. I need to burst through. Soon.

If you want to follow along on Twitter, I use #healthyhabs to tweet about my healthy habits and #PrayerDare to participate in Amanda’s Prayer Dare community. Join us!

Like writing about Healthy Habits? Join Dollie, Becky Marie, Amber and me by linking to this post and dropping your link into the linky below. Then spread some comment love around by visiting other bloggers linking up.

healthy-habits-250Linky Guidelines:
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How to Fail Successfully {Healthy Habits Tuesday}

how-to-fail-successfullyThis week was pretty bad as far as working towards my goals. I fought myself every step of the way. I was already struggling with my carb cravings when I stepped on the scale to see a number I haven’t seen since a year ago. I knew my weight had gone back up because my clothes were starting to feel snug again.

Funny thing is, seeing my suspicions confirmed by the scale didn’t inspire any motivation. Instead I wanted to shovel hot fudge in my mouth. That wouldn’t help anything. You see, my problem is, eating the right foods and exercising isn’t nearly as fun as getting fat. Being fat stinks, getting fat not-so-much.

Let me just stop here and say this: I’m not looking for a pity party or any motivation even. The funny thing about this all is, it happens in my head. My struggles are internal. You can’t change them and I don’t expect you to. I just have days where I struggle to remember WHY I want to do this so that I can WANT to do it. Sometimes I have a week of those days.

Before I tell you some tips I found helpful, I’ll give you a final update on my January goals:

  • Memorizing scripture. I did not memorize the ones listed, but I did achieve this. I memorized at least one scripture per week with my kids. We do this during our morning group-work session.
  • Pray daily. I did do this. I did pray daily. {psst, check out that link}
  • More water. Did great with this until this week. Funny thing is, if I would just stick with this, it would help with the food issues. I simply don’t have enough room to stuff myself with sweets if I am drinking enough water. I will continue to work on this.
  • More veggies. This isn’t going as well as I had hoped. I’ve struggled to include fresh anything in our diets.
  • Remove HFCS. Going well. Feels less strange to check labels.

The one thing that I’ve actually had the most success with this month was not even on my radar at first: getting up early. I’ve successfully gotten up by 6:30 every week day for the past two weeks. Now it’s my turn to be the crazy person and tell you that it really does get easier the longer you do it.

The hardest mornings follow the nights my 11 month old gets up to nurse. He’s very busy during the day and doesn’t want to sit still to nurse. So he makes up for it at night. Not an ideal situation for getting good sleep.

Now, some things I found helpful in motivating myself.healthy-habits-250

Interrupting the whine my inner voice will fall into (I’m just so tired, but I waaaant to, etc.) with a reminder that I have enough time to get my work done, that I WANT to do the things scheduled for my day, and WHY I want to do it. Sometimes I just repeat to myself, just do it. Corny? Yes. Helpful? Sometimes.

I do not mean this to replace the one change you must make, this is in addition to.

Drink a glass of water. Sometimes my fatigue is simply my body telling me I need water.

Pop a pill. No, I’m not talking about prescription drugs here. Sometimes with my glass of water, I’ll take a couple Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C. I’ve noticed a lot of this comes at me when there isn’t much sunshine. Ultimately, I aim to get outside and walk every day, but for now, this is where I am.

Letting go. It’s funny, in my rebellious self, sometimes the only motivation I need to get something done is to give myself permission to NOT do it. Oftentimes, that breaks this mental “gotta do it” weight on my shoulders and I find myself getting the task finished because I can think clearly enough to remember why I wanted to get it done in the first place.

Re-evaluate. Sometimes I’m not ready for a goal I’ve set. Sometimes there is more work to be done before I can work on a task. Reevaluating does not mean I’m giving up, it means I realize that I’m not perfect and sometimes it takes my optimistic, overachiever, loves-to-plan brain a while to realize that. Goals are flexible. Goals are personal. Just because it sounds like a good goal, doesn’t mean it is a good goal for me.

The point of this post is not to give any revolutionary ideas. Clearly. The point of this post is to show that sometimes, most of the time, little things matter much.

The most important thing to remember when reaching for a goal is this: Never give up. Fall, stumble, pity party if you need to, change directions, but get back up and KEEP GOING.

You can do this. After all, if God is for us, who can stop us?

If you wrote about healthy habits, consider linking up with us. We do request a link back to one of the four host blog’s current Healthy Habits post (like this post) so that we can all be encouraged in our healthy habits. You can use a text link or just save the Healthy Habits button above to your computer and upload to your blog post. Once you are all linked up, you get some extra promotion for your post, too. We are kind of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google+ fans…

Feeding Your Change {Healthy Habits Tuesday}


Last week I told you I was struggling with my sleep pattern. I’m glad to report that this week went much better. I did not get up early twice, but other than that I did it. Slowly this habit is being built. I’ve coupled it with my quiet time. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me as I read my Bible, read my Bible, and then pray again for my day.

My deepest prayer is for God to change me. I know myself well enough to know there are areas in my life that desperately need the touch of my Creator. I’m so thankful for the ways He has already touched my life, healed the hurt, and brought forth fruit I didn’t know I had in me.

My goals for this month are going pretty well.

  • Memorizing scripture is going well. I haven’t memorized the three I laid out at the beginning of the month, but I have memorized one a week so far.
  • God is answering my prayers to give me a desire to change that outweighs my desire to stay the same. This is very helpful to me.
  • More water. This is a perennial problem for me in the winter time. I have been doing better. The last few days, I haven’t done as well, but I’m still moving forward.
  • I don’t think I’ve done so well with the veggie adding. This will probably reappear on next month’s goal list with a little more specific wording to focus on.
  • I have done a decent job with the label reading. Since I only grocery shop once a week, this habit will probably take longer than the rest to get to stick.

One thing I am noticing that I need to do is to feed my change. Actually, that’s misleading. I’ve known this for a while. It is why I wrote last week’s post. I know I need to feed the voice inside me a different diet before I can get any change to stick. I still say that scripture and prayer are the best way to accomplish this. This week, though, I’m taking it a step further.

Read books

Find some new reading material. Read material that focuses on practical help for your habit. Read books and ebooks that educate, inspire, and motivate you in your desire to change. I recently read Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews. I can not say enough about this ebook, but I will try to explain in a review here soon. I plan to read either Mindset for Moms or 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life next.

Read magazines

There is a magazine for every topic under the sun. Most of my favorites don’t really relate to my current goals (think Organic Gardening), but I have picked up a couple Fitness, Self, and Shape magazines because reading the success stories in them pumps me up. I also found Eating Well to be interesting, I’ll probably pick up some more of those from my library.

Read blogs

Find someone on a similar journey as you and be encouraged along the way that you are not alone. Find someone who is where you want to be and read how they got there. This is probably the best aspect of blogging, the chance to connect with others.

For more reading list inspiration, check out the list I made for the One Word series.

New this week, now you can link up here! If you want to write about your Healthy Habits, follow the instructions below and drop your link below! Then take a minute to check out what others are writing about and be an encouragement by commenting. Be sure to say hi at Teachers of Good Things and For This Season, my co-hosts for this link-up.




Grab one of the buttons above or use a simple text link. And be sure to join in the conversation on Twitter with the #healthyhabs hashtag.

Healthy Habits Facebook Party Details


You may have never heard of a Facebook party, so let me explain it. Basically it is where a bunch of people get together at a set time to chat on Facebook about a common theme. It’s like a Twitter party without the hashtags.

Dollie has hosted two Facebook parties for Healthy Habits Tuesday the last two Mondays. She has now partnered with Becky of For This Season and little ol’ (not old, mind you…ol’) me. We are changing the format up a bit. This is how it works.

A question will be posted every hour today starting at 10 a.m. EST. The first three questions will be on the Vicki Arnold blog’s Facebook page, the next three at For This Season’s, and the final three will be on Teachers of Good Things. We will be doing this the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month. Got it?

So, head on over to Facebook and like each page so you can follow along:

We will be covering goals, fitness, and nutrition. Three important topics for Healthy Habits. Be sure to check in tomorrow to see my update on my healthy habits and for some encouragement for your own.

If you are on Twitter, be sure to tweet along with us! We use #healthyhabs to keep the conversations connected. Join us!

My One Word for 2013 {10 Days of One Word}

10 Days of One Word mine

I had a completely different word when I started this series. And then I felt a tug. I was going to use Home. Home felt nice. It tied my to do lists, goals, life’s purpose all up in a neat little package. I was going to break it down, really dive in. Then, God dropped a word on my heart that changed it all.

See, I was going to re-name the blog in December. I was slightly uncomfortable about the blog being named after me when I had determined the focus of this blog was to proclaim the glory of God as He worked in my life. I was tossing around a couple ideas which I loved. And then I googled them. Apparently they were good because lots of other bloggers had chosen them. Well.

I finally came to grips with the fact that this blog bears my name as my life bears it. And that is doesn’t diminish the work of God in my life. And so it is still the Vicki Arnold blog. I did add a new tagline as the previous one no longer fit. It was “faith. family. food. fotography.” Actually, I’m not sure that it ever really did fit so much as it was what I wanted the blog to be. The new tagline is “Where P31 & Titus 2 meet Colossians 3:23.

Colossians 3:23 speaks to serving with the right heart attitude. And that is what my word is about. Serving in all the areas God has called me to with —


So simple, yet so easy to lose.

For me this will be a multi-faceted journey. Kind of like my life.

I will be purposing to:

Find joy in routine.

Rediscover joy in homeschooling.

Revel in the joy of my salvation.

Focus on the joy in the everyday.

My scriptures for my journey:

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11

“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:12

” My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:2-3


Now that we are at the end of our 10 post series, I want to know. Do you have a word for this year?

I’m linking up with Melanie at Only a Breath and others.

Other One Word Resources {10 Days of One Word}

10 Days of One Word resources

Today’s post is full of resources to get you maintain a focus on your One Word. I’ve included blog posts, websites, books, ebooks, and one online class. Not all of these are specific to One Word (actually most aren’t), they are geared to support your in your One Word journey.

Let’s get started.

One Word Resources:

Goal Setting Resources:

Change Resources:

God-Centered Resources:

Personal Character Resources:

Home-Life Resources:

Other Blogger’s One Word for 2013: