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Blogging, Homelife

Choosing My Own Path

I recently left my position at the homeschool writing company, Brave Writer. This was a major life change and I wanted to record it on my blog.

While on staff at Brave Writer, I wrote 50 party school guides, full of amazing book club activities and ideas! As a fun exercise in creativity, I included over half of those book titles in the blog post below.

Dear Reader,

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to quit my job as part of the staff at Brave Writer. This was not an easy decision.

Trying to determine the best course of action made my brain felt a bit like the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. I loved working at Brave Writer but my Sense and Sensibility told me it was time to move on. 


Continue Reading

Blogging, Flashback Friday

Open Letter to my Children about the World of Text

FLASHBACK POST: This was originally published in 2014 on my former blog. My children were 11, 9, 7, and 5 years old at the time it was written. We continue to navigate the world of text together and it hasn’t been as scary as I thought.

Dear Children,

You are growing up so quickly. I have no doubt that I will blink and you will be teenagers, navigating the world of text.

Twitter. Facebook. Email. Blogs. SnapChat. Instagram. Text Messaging.

And everything else “they” come up with in the next few years.

Text is an important method of communication and we rely on it more and more every year. Somehow I have to help you navigate this world and I admit that aspects of guiding you in this new world of text frighten me.

Because text is dead. It lacks tone and emotion. You can see body language or facial expressions. Yet, it is a primary method of communication today.

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A Year in Review: 2016 Reader Favorites

Have you seen the Top 100 Billboard hits of 2016?

I can. not. believe. that Bieber took the number one spot.  Seriously?  Take a moment to let that one sink in.

And then get ready for more.

Because the number two spot is also a song by Beiber.  Oh yes.  He nabbed the top TWO spots for 2016.

In case you can’t tell, I am not a Belieber.   I would have picked a song by the other Justin.  Justin Timberlake.  His song, “Can’t stop the Feeling” was number 9, though I would have ranked it higher.  I have definite opinions when it comes to pop music.

In the end, whether or not I agree with them, I have always enjoyed reading the “Best of” lists that hit the internet at the end of a year.  It is so much fun to relive my own memories, debate the choices with family, and discover the names of top movies or top books that I missed.

So in the spirit of revisiting last year, I’d like to share the 2016 Reader Favorites from NotBefore7 according to the total page views.

The 2016 Reader Favorites from Not Before 7.

In the spirit of all good Top Ten lists, we’ll begin at the bottom… Continue Reading

Blogging, Homelife

How to Create a Seriously Simple Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling.  It is all the rage in the world of women.  Everyone is trying it and I am no exception.

Bullet Journal pages appear so pretty and organized. It’s a brilliant concept. There is no question about that.

I became convinced that one little moleskin journal held the key to daily, weekly and monthly organization in my home.  I would just have to draw the pretty squares. Continue Reading

Blogging, Brave Writer, Homeschooling

Giveaway: The Writers Jungle – ENDS SEPTEMBER 2, 2016

{The following giveaway post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for your support of Not Before 7.}

Once upon a time there was a homeschool mom who had not one but two copies of The Writers Jungle by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer.

Two binders.  Two fully printed copies of this incredible resource to equip homeschooling parents to teach their kids to write.

So what is that lucky homeschool mom to do?

PASS IT ON!  That’s what!

This week, I am going to pass on my former copy of The Writers Jungle (original value: $97) to one lucky reader.  My copy is the most recent edition, complete in the Brave Writer binder.  It is a USED copy, but I have cleaned it up for you.  The stray pencil marks have been erased and the binder is all nice and shiny for ya!

So you get the most recent version and I will be keeping the previous edition that was given to me.

It’s a win-win situation.

The Writers JungleThis guide is the centerpiece of the Brave Writer curriculum.  It is designed to teach the PARENT how to teach their child.  You will learn how to partner with your child as they find their writing voice, revise their thoughts, freewrite, and even construct the dreaded elementary school report!

In Julie’s own words, today on Facebook:

The missing ingredient in writing curricula isn’t how to structure a paragraph (information that can be readily found on the Internet). You don’t need more facts about topic sentences or how to use libraries. Grammar and spelling are not the key components in writing, either, much to the chagrin of some English teachers.

Writing is first and foremost about writers—people with ideas, thoughts, and insights they want to share. Readers are cultivated by risky writing—writing that hooks, fascinates, speaks, surprises, enlivens, and tells the truth. How do you help your kids reach inside and find those kinds of words? That’s what Brave Writer is all about and that’s what The Writer’s Jungle is designed to help you do.

But wait just a second.  That’s not all.  In addition to The Writers Jungle I’d like to include a few simple things to get your family started on their free writing journey.

Brave Writer Giveaway. The Writers Jungle.

Your prize pack will also include 5 spiral notebooks (1 for mom and up to four kids), a selection of stickers to decorate your notebooks, and this 10 pack of Ticonderoga pencils.

We have been free writing in our spiral notebooks for three years now.  And they are treasures.  Brilliant treasures.  I hope these few simple items, in addtion to The Writers Jungle will help you to get started on your journey!

Winning is easy.  Just enter here and I will select a winner at random after the contest closes on Friday, September 2 at noon.

The Writers Jungle and Freewriting Bonuses Giveaway

While I am an ambassador for Brave Writer, this contest is not in anyway offficially associated with  or sponsored by Brave Writer. I simply had two copies of The Writers Jungle and wanted to offer one up to my readers.  Good luck and thanks for entering!  And of course, spread the word so your friends can enter!

Periscope, Things I Love

Things I Love: Periscope Edition

My first periscope was done on a whim on September 18, 2015 after Julie Bogart’s periscope challenge to show our “enchanted spaces”.  I decided to take up her challenge and I grabbed my phone to show our mess enchanted space.

At the time, I had no idea what an amazing tool periscope would become for me.   It has changed the way I learn about science, the world, and homeschooling.  I continue to be very involved in the periscope community.  If you are interested, you can follow me there (or on your app @notbefore7) and join in the fun!

I admit that here have been a few purchases made in this house specifically because of my love of periscope.  Therefore, this edition of “Things I Love” is dedicated to the wonderful world of periscope.


1. Spiral Bound Notecard Set.

My first purchase was a set of basic spiral bound notecards to display important websites that I mention when talking on a periscope.

My own website is listed on the first card and then sites I mention frequently come next. Any site I mention can be included on the list quickly and will remain there for reference in the future.

2.  Tripod.

Eventually, I got tired of propping my iPhone against a stack of books. I didn’t invest in anything fancy, but I purchased a pretty basic tabletop tripod. It does the job and keeps my hands free and the phone steady.

3.  Burts Bees Lip Balm.

Let me be honest here.  It can be tough to stare at yourself on your iPhone for 20-30 minutes during a periscope.  You begin to notice things about yourself that you normally don’t notice.

Like your lips that suddenly seem so pale.

My first attempt to correct this issue were the Burts Bees Shimmer Lip Balms. I grabbed one in Fig and kept it downstairs where I often periscope. It worked perfectly.

Until I began to notice some of my friends going for bold lip colors on periscope and I decided to try a more bold lip approach, which brings me to my next purchase.

4.  Lancome Lip Crayon.

I was never much for bold lipstick in my everyday life, but boy does it make a difference on the screen!

So I went off to the local Ulta and bought a bold lipstick.  I selected this Lancome Lip Crayon and it is perfect.  It is slim and fits in my purse or in a bin with my other periscope equipment.

Best of all, I love the name: Only Wine Will Tell. Brilliant.

5. Rectangular Storage Bin.

I keep all of my periscope equipment together in a cabinet: lipstick, tripod, and notecards. The next purchase on my list is this bin. I am tired of the lipstick rolling around on the shelf. This bin will hold them all and fit nicely in my cabinet. When it is time to periscope, I can just grab it! Voila!

How about you? Do you periscope? Have you made any purchases for it?

(NotBefore7 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Games, Homelife, Things I Love

Favorite Family Card Games

Our family loves to play games. Card games. Board games. Video games. We are cool with all of it.

But times are a changin’ in this house and my teenagers have outgrown the entertaining games of the early years.  And I can’t say I miss most of them.

Yet, there is still a 7-year-old in the house and we don’t want to leave him out so we have to find games that work for everyone! Continue Reading