I love reading and I love organizational tips. So you can imagine how glad I was to read and review Flourish, Balance for Homeschool Moms, by Mary Jo Tate, published by Apologia Educational Ministries. This book contains everything a homeschooling mom needs to organize her life AND her way of thinking.
The most important thing in the book are not so much the forms and the organizational principles, as much as the philosophy underlying everything, i.e. that your goal should be balancing your many roles and tasks throughout the day and the years, not juggling them. The image you should have in your mind, as a homeschooling mom trying to do it all, is not that of a juggler, throwing things in the air so you can catch the urgent ones ready to hit the floor. Instead, you should imagine a tight-rope walker, carefully making small adjustments, as she advances to the other side.
This book is for moms and it was written specifically for homeschooling moms. If you have your own business while homeschooling, you will find it even more tailored to your needs. But, if you don’t, think as one of the ladies quoted in the book said, “my business is homeschooling.” You save the family thousands of dollars every year by homeschooling and not enrolling your children in private schools. So the principles given for your own business could also easily be applied to everything you do in homeschooling.
The author’s story is impressive: when her fourth son was only six months old, her husband left her. Life as she knew it came to an end. Can you imagine the heartache and the confusion for her and for her sons? She was determined to homeschool though. So she prayed and struggled and found a way to work from home as an editor, seminar creator, and writer so she could continue on with her calling.
You know, that really inspires and encourages me. All these moms out there rolling their eyes at me when they hear I homeschool and whispering, “I could not do that…” Well, here’s proof positive that homeschooling can be done even as a – gasp! – work-at-home single mom of four sons.
When I first read about this book, I expected some “Ra-Ra!” message for homeschooling moms, from the pen of a pampered stay-at-home homeschooling mom, whose husband is a doctor or lawyer. I thought, “Surely, the author will be quoting Scripture and tell us to not get weary in well-doing…” I am glad to tell you I was wrong. Ms. Tate does quote Scripture, but the book is not as predictable as I thought. Plus, I find it quite useful with all the tips and tricks for organizing time and home and homeschooling.
So yes, it’s inspirational because of Ms. Tate’s story, but it’s really a practical book. Most of the principles you may have heard before from Zig Ziglar and other motivational, organizational gurus. She quotes them herself. But Ms. Tate applies them to homeschooling moms and that’s the reason why you should buy the book. It’s a 289-page paperback filled with forms for your to use over and over again. Once you buy it, you will receive a code to access these forms online and print them out as you see fit. The books costs $15.
At the end of every chapter, there are assignments for you to do before you go on, under the heading, “Take Action!” Personally, I found out a lot about myself as I took the time to fill out the forms and think about the questions. The shocker for me was when I answered the question, “What is the one thing you would like to change about yourself?” My answer was so completely not related to the Big Dream I had described in previous questions. It came from the left field and taught me much about myself.
But then, when I stopped and thought about it, it made perfect sense. If I could just change this one thing about me, my self-confidence would grow and then I would be able to accomplish the Big Dream. For me, these exercises were crucial in getting any benefit from this book. It’s not a novel you read and get a few moments of pleasure from. It’s a workshop which requires active participation. The book came out of her workshop called “How Do You Do It All?”.
Throughout the book, there are inspirational quotes from famous people, as well as from homeschooling moms the author has counseled and coached over the years. Here’s one by Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” One of the moms in Ms. Tate’s “How Do You Do It All?” class says, “A big key to success for me is that the more I write down, the less I have in my brain. The less I have swirling around in my brain, the better I can focus on the task at hand without having to worry about what is next or if I’m forgetting anything. And I’m actually less irritable with my children.”
So if you are overwhelmed or just slightly unbalanced in your homeschooling experience, let Ms. Tate take you on this journey. First, she will invite you to flourish, then to change your mind about how you view your life (balancing, not juggling). In the third chapter, you will find the FREEDOM toolbox, an acronym for Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Discipline, Organize, Multitask, Use Your Tools Wisely, Take Action!
From Chapter 4, the real fun begins. You are to keep a time log for every 30-minute interval in your day. You know, kind of like people who are keeping track of the calories they ingest, so they can get a better picture of their diet. This exercise is brilliant. You will learn much about where you squander your minutes. Chapter 5 is all about setting goals, the why and the how. Chapter 6 will give you the seven essential planning tools.
This is where Ms. Tate allows you to skip one or two forms if it all seems like overkill in the beginning. I like her flexibility. She explains she experimented with dropping some of these forms but it all became a mess, so she added them back on. In all honesty, that’s where I’m at. It seems like busy work, but I have not tried it yet for my opinion to really matter. I do, however, plan to walk myself through the whole planning process the way she describes it for the next calendar year, and see what results I get.
The rest of the book I will not present here. You will have to get your own copy and enjoy it and let it organize your life and your way of thinking.
To connect with the book online, here are the Social Media Links: