Erin Condren Life Planner Vs. Plum Paper ME Planner

With six kids, homeschooling, church, volunteering, etc- a planner is a necessity in my life. I have tried a thousand apps, but putting pen to paper is THE BEST way for me to stay organized. In 2016, I had an Erin Condren Life Planner. In 2017, I decided to try the Plum Paper Planner because it was cheaper and more customizable. I had some initial thoughts that I shared on Instagram, but now that I am 75% done with the Plum Paper Planner, I figured it was time for a full review.

I really liked the Erin Condren Life Planner. I was skeptical about how the cover would hold up, but figured I could always buy a new one if the first didn’t make it. I was really surprised that the cover lasted all year. I even took the little ruler out to use in my Plum Paper Planner. Overall, the layout was really nice and usable. My pens and markers didn’t bleed through. Yes, my stickers made it thick and weird by the end of the year, but I’m not going to NOT use stickers, people. The coil, the whole thing really held up to my very hard use.

When it came time to buy a new planner, I strongly considered going back with Erin Condren. However, I had heard good things about Plum Paper and they were more customizable and cheaper. So, I opted to try the Plum Paper Planner out. The cover looked like it would hold up really well, however, it didn’t.

I had to completely remove the plastic from the front cover because a corner broke off and it attacked me in the middle of Hobby Lobby. I seriously had this huge gash down my forearm from a planner injury. I was seriously concerned about getting necrotizing fasciitis being in public with a fresh wound. It ended up healing fine, but the plastic cover on the front had to go. Then the back cover felt left out and decided to break, too. I’ll be removing the back cover as soon as I post this. The decorative covers are still in place, but both plastic covers are history.

They are showing signs of wear, too. But hopefully they can hold out for 3 more months. The coil is holding up well.

My next issue with Plum Paper is the layout. So, in my Erin Condren, I would see the month tab, open to the tab, and the month would be in front of me. In Plum Paper, a pre-planning page is there and then you turn the page to get to the month. It isn’t a huge deal, but a minor annoyance. Like, I’m standing in the doctor’s office scheduling my next appointment and she says, “What about October 3rd?” I quickly open to the October tab and see my goals for October (have a baby) and the birthdays for the month and my notes on what books I need to read that month instead of seeing October 3rd. Then I have to turn the page and see the month to see it is a Tuesday that, yes, is free. Again, minor, but annoying.

My next annoyance is with how the weeks are set up. You know you have those weeks where a few days fall in one month and a few days fall in another. I like those weeks to just go into whatever month the most days fall into. Plum Paper didn’t feel that way and DUPLICATES these weeks. Now, if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll double book yourself. It got me enough times in the beginning that I had to go in and put washi tape over all the duplicate days. Which did result in having partial weeks in this month and then a partial week in the next, but that was the best I could do given their design flaw.

It at least keeps me from double booking, although it doesn’t give me nice, full week at a glance views all the time. Again, it is a minor thing, but an annoyance.

I also found that my customized boxes were not really big enough for everything I needed to put in them. Some days, I would have a bunch of stuff crammed into the top two boxes and the rest empty. Or I would have the Kid’s box and The Pastor’s boxes completely full and then all this blank space. So, while being customizable seemed so nice, it wasn’t really as necessary as I thought it was.

And can I tell you they BOTH annoy me with having the monthly calendar done starting on Sunday (as it should) and the weekly stuff starting on Monday. So, I’m looking at the week of the 8th through the 14th, but in my planner, the weekly view starts the week on the 9th but the monthly view starts it on the 8th. I want the weeks to start on Sunday across the board. But hey, if you’re customizing something, how about have the start day of the week customizable? So people who want (to do it wrong) to start the week on Monday can do so. Or if I was a weirdo and wanted my weeks to start on Thursday, that could happen. Either way, pick a day and have that match across the weekly and monthly view.

So, what am I doing for 2018? Am I going back to Erin Condren? Sticking with Plum Paper again to get more fun planner related injuries? Neither. I’m transitioning to a bullet journal so I don’t have to deal with the inadequate layout issues. I don’t have to settle for either of the annoyances. Although, I’d choose Erin Condren over Plum Paper if I only had those two options.

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Homeschool Student Planners

One thing I implemented this year in our homeschool that has helped tremendously is the use of personal planners for each child. Originally, I had planned for only the older three to use the planners, but my Kindergartener has begged to get in on the system, as well. So he has a modified version, as well. I will absolutely continue this because it has worked so beautifully in helping my kids be more independent and responsible for their own schooling.  


I fill them out on a week by week basis. I look at my calendar and decide how heavy of a work week they are going to have. For example, my daughter does Meals on Wheels with The Pastor every other Monday. She has light work loads those days to accommodate her volunteer activities. They also volunteer once a month at a local Children’s Home, so those that are helping with that will be given a slightly lighter work load that day, as well. I find that looking at only a week at a time lets me set very reasonable expectations and they are able to achieve what is planned out for them. Planning further in advance always leads to me over planning and then they feel like they failed when they just can’t get it all done. I want them to succeed, so I make every opportunity for them to do so.


For each day of the week, I write a checklist in their planner. Several of the items are group activities, several are independent activities. I have to guide them a little more when introducing a new curriculum, but once they get the hang of something, they can really take over themselves. We do Bible, history, Science, and geography as a group. I actually have two groups running in my house right now. I have the older grammar school kids and the Kindergarteners. My Kindergarteners do Bible, Reading, and Phonics together. They have very little independent work, so I plan for that. 

I use the weekend spots to write in a weekly checklist. Now, I have been doing chores here, but if we had more computers and I didn’t have to schedule out their computer time so much, I would add much of their daily work into a weekly list. I don’t necessarily care when it is done, as long as they are doing the work. A weekly list would allow for more flexibility for them, but is really impossible with our current computer situation. (I have 4 kids sharing 1 computer.) Right now, I add their chores onto that list with the boxes for the number of times I expect them to do that chore. The chores rotate based on the week’s schedule and the season. They also rotate depending on the attitude of the kid or what they have been doing lately. (Boys that keep having “accidents” on the floor around the toilet get the chore of cleaning the bathroom floors and toilets.)


I have also been keeping their attendance in their own planners. I simply highlight the days on the monthly view that they had school. Yes, this means that I am keeping up with it in multiple places, but it has given them a sense of accomplishment and they can look and see when they had a heavy month and when they had a light month. Next year, I plan to get better planners to be able to expand this system. Right now, I just have the small, cheap, student planners from WalMart, and while they serve our purposes, they are small and there is more I think I could do with this system. (Keeping a log of books to read or books read, keeping a log of people they write letters to with addresses, habit tracking for them, etc.) A bullet journal might work well, but I think the planner format is easier for them to understand. I’m using a bullet journal style for my oldest Kindergartener right now. The simplicity is working for him, but I don’t have much to put in for him.

I’m really glad I decided to give this a try. I wasn’t too sure at first it would be something worth sticking to. Filling out 4 planners at the beginning of each week doesn’t sound like an easy task. But it really doesn’t take too much time. Just half an hour or so each Sunday looking at the week and plugging in their lists. And the time I save in their being independent is so much more. Emery (7) quickly saw how he could check off all his independent work before we even started school in the morning. He is routinely done with school before noon. Imogene (10) dawdles more and as a result, she is usually “doing school” until 4 or 5. She doesn’t complain about it, she can see what she needs to do. She just prefers a relaxed paced and is okay with it taking longer. And in the end, both of those approaches are fine. They are both learning and progressing and getting their work done. And they are happier having the freedom to do things their way in their time.

My Favorite Things in October

favorite-things-october

I had a surprisingly difficult time choosing my favorite things this month. It was hard because I couldn’t list something like a feeling. (That walking through the grass that is smattered with leaves in the fall while you are alone is one of my favorite feelings. It reminds me of college, because I walked to class across campus and rarely used the side walks.) I also had my share of things that just were not my favorite. Some, I thought were sure to be on the list and then they just weren’t.

  1. Pressing Pause by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk

 

pause

This book is lovely. It is a hardcover devotional book for moms. It is really geared toward moms with kids at home. It just takes a few minutes a day to read through each devotion and Scripture. They even include a prayer each day. No mom brain excuses for not getting your devotions done. There is also space to journal your thoughts to a few questions each day. I skip the journaling part, since I am usually feeding a baby while I do this devotion. I just think about the questions instead. This book is beautiful and would make a lovely gift. I’ve included this book in my Favorite Things Giveaway. It is just that good.

2. Majestic Bible Tabs

bible-tabs

I took on the task of adding Bible tabs to each of my kids’ Bibles. For homeschooling, we have pew Bibles, so everyone’s is the exact same. But for personal use, my kids who can read have their own Bible. They were talking about how it sometimes takes them a long time in church to find the passage and they can’t follow along because by the time they find it, Daddy is halfway through reading it. So, I bought tabs for each of their Bibles and put them in for them. I got the boys the rainbow kid version and Imo got the purple princess version. The majestic tabs come with a template, so you can easily line each tab up and not have to guess and they all end up pretty much even. The kids love them. They work really well. It did take me a few hours to tab all three Bibles, but the result is lasting and awesome. Now they can look up verses more quickly so they can follow along.

I’m including a set of tabs in my Favorite Things Giveaway basket!

3. Casemate Pocket Journals

Walmart carries these little 2 pack pocket journals and they are awesome. They are cheap. ($1.88 for a 2 pack) They are cute. (I love the periwinkle and pink pack.) They have satin bookmarks built in. Each journal has 80 lined pages. These are perfect for taking sermon notes, jotting yourself quick reminders, or whatever. I love them. I’m including a pack in my giveaway basket!

4. Recollections Divider Tabs

I get these at Michaels and they are really nice and super handy. Just a simple sticker that you put on a page to make it have a tab. They come in a rainbow of colors. I love using them in my Bible to mark things that are important. They are pretty permanent, so don’t use them for temporary page saving. They are great for journaling, bullet journaling, planning, organizing, etc. I’m including a pack of these in my giveaway basket!

5. Treat Yo Self Mug

treat-yo-self

I got this massive cup at Walmart for $2.88. It has provided so much amusement. Seriously. I put my coffee in this cup (or my Pumpkin Spice and Chill cup) every single day and it gets a little smile and laugh every single time. I just love it. I love the font choice, the color, the saying, the size. It is my little happy in every morning. I’m including one in my favorite things basket!

6. Glitter Nail Polish Technique

Just watch this video on YouTube. It shows you how to apply glitter nail polish so it looks stunning. And it works! I saw the video, had to try it. Imo and I were pretty impressed. Even super cheap polish looks high end with this technique. (Which was great because who spends good money on Halloween nail polish?)

7. Glitter Washi Tape

washi

I know I have already confessed this obsession many times, but it just has not ceased. Sure, glitter washi is a little thicker than regular washi and when you put it on every single page of your planner it will bulk up, but it is worth it. This month, I used it to disappear some mistakes I made in my planner. Next month, I’ll use it to fancy up my birth certificate. Just kidding. Maybe. I don’t know what it is about me and glitter all the sudden. I’m just into it like a 10 year old. I’m including some glitter washi tape in My Favorite Things basket. (And if you click on that link and think, but do I NEED 6 rolls of gold glitter washi tape, the answer is yes, yes you definitely do. But you can buy single rolls at Walmart.)

8. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink

This is a little bit of a weird one. I have been getting into hand lettering. It is so much fun and it is relaxing.

signI made this canvas at a local art place. (Project Studio, which is an amazing place, if you’re in the area.)  This along with the above linked book kind of got me started. However, at home, I wasn’t very happy with how my letters turned out with acrylic paint. I had to really water it down to get it to the consistency I wanted. Enter India Ink. The perfect consistency for hand lettering with a paint brush. You can add water or not. Either way, it is wonderfully smooth and perfect for this use. They also make a pretty big assortment of colors. Of course, black is my go to, but I am trying to branch out.

9. Spry Gum

This is weird, I know. But this has been a staple for me. For some reason, my teeth clenching has returned, so gum is a must. But I don’t want sugar gum. But I don’t want aspartame gum either. Spry is sweetened entirely with xylitol, which is good for your teeth. Boom! I’m really loving the spearmint flavor right now. And yes, I buy the big jars of it. I need it. Green Tea was my go to flavor, but I am apparently switching it up this month.

10. Kate Spade Live Colorfully Perfume

This is another weird one coming from me. I am not a perfume person. I never have been. I like smelling nice. But perfume has just never really been my thing. But this perfume, it makes me feel like a grown up. I feel together. I feel beautiful. It smells adult, but not too adult. I just love it. And I have enjoyed wearing it. Probably freaked some people out that I suddenly smelled like a grown woman. Such is life.

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