Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms

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Finding balance in our daily lives and doing more than just getting by is a challenge that most of us face, so I was very glad to have a chance to review a new book on the subject especially for homeschool moms. I received Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate, from Apologia Educational Ministries a few weeks ago and eagerly started reading.
Flourish Book Review
Homeschoolers have long been familiar with Apologia Educational Ministries as a curriculum publisher, and more recently we have been enjoying their many helpful books and resources geared towards parenting and homeschool helps for parents as well. Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate is the newest such book, and it is written for and to all kinds of homeschooling moms, whether they are married or single, at-home or working. Mary Jo Tate has been homeschooling her four sons since 1997 and has had the experience of homeschooling as a single mom, and homeschooling while operating her own business, so she can speak knowledgeably to mothers in many different situations. This book encourages moms in any stage or situation of homeschooling life to "stop enduring the journey - and start enjoying it!" The book is full of suggestions and advice on setting goals and priorities; focusing on what's important and getting it done; valuing, protecting, and managing time; and enjoying the homeschool journey.
Flourish Book Review   Flourish Book Review
Each of the sixteen chapters ends with a challenge and a checklist to help you Take Action! and apply what you've learned; and there are several worksheets to help provided in the back of the book. In addition, you can access the customizable forms and worksheets, and many other resources at Mary Jo's website.

After telling some of her own story and background, Mary Jo encourages the reader to evaluate their own circumstances and move towards finding peace between the ideal and the reality of life. One of the early chapters explains the FREEDOM Toolbox, which is her strategy for meeting the challenges of life and maintaining balance.
The intent of some of those, such as Discipline and Organize, seem obvious, but others required a little more thought. Focus, for example, is about prioritizing the things that only I can or should do, and being willing to lower the priority level of tasks that could just as well be done by someone else. Getting that straight gives me the freedom to not have to do everything!

Other chapters are devoted to managing time wisely; setting goals; making plans; dealing with interruptions, attitudes, and home management; and the importance of taking good care of ourselves. Although not intended as a complete resource for parenting, homeschooling or running a home business, Mary Jo offers chapters dedicated to each of those topics, and gives some timely wisdom and advice. She also includes a chapter on Making Memories with your family, which I was delighted to see. That chapter in particular, emphasized that one of the most important motivations for running our homes and businesses efficiently, and for prioritizing home education, is our desire for strong relationships within our family. The Making Memories chapter talks about the importance of building traditions, spending dedicated time with our children, and giving the relationships priority over the to-do list.

I found the chapter titled "Where Did My Time Go?" to be the most challenging. Mary Jo advises keeping a time log for a week or so, noting how every half hour is spent, and using that to figure out how we are really spending our time and where we need to make changes. She even provides a log in the back of the book, or a printable log at her website. This was definitely an eye-opener as to just how much time I waste during an average day. Ugh. Granted, we are on summer schedule with school, so our days are intentionally "lazier" but still. I wasn't very impressed with the black-and-white evidence of where my time had gone on several of the days I logged. No wonder I felt like I'd been on the go all day, yet hadn't really accomplished much! I'm making some adjustments now, but it's an exercise I plan to do again right at the beginning of our school year, and see if I can fine-tune my daily routine so there are fewer minutes and hours squandered. Speaking of routine, I also liked that the book explained the difference between a schedule and a routine, and that we need to use the one that works better for us. In our family, routine is the way to go! (A schedule has designated time-slots for specific activities, while a routine establishes a specific order for the activities but doesn't lock in a time.)

The planning tools presented in the book work from the Big Dream (long-term vision; what you'd do if nothing stood in your way) and Yearly Goals down through the monthly calendar, weekly plan, and daily tasks and to-do lists. Again, there are worksheets provided to help you answer the questions about your dreams and goals, as well as templates for a calendars and lists. Although I totally agree that more long-term visions and goals are essential to prioritizing and planning for smaller chunks of time, I am still struggling with defining and writing down my own Big Dream. A couple things I found extremely helpful and freeing in this chapter were related to the To-Do Lists. Mary Jo suggested having a Running To-Do List to write down all the things you think of that need doing (I like doing this to free up space in my brain for other things!) but may not have specific appointment times on your calendar or a deadline by which they must be done. She makes some suggestions for keeping this list useful and preventing it from becoming unwieldy. But another rather unusual list caught my attention - the Stop-Doing List! These are the things that you realize you need to edit from your schedule. Mary Jo didn't offer a specific way of doing this, other than writing down the things that you decide need to go. I think that writing it down is a useful reminder that I've evaluated that item and made a conscious decision that it isn't something I need to do. I immediately thought of some "obligations" that come up in my life from time to time that I'd rather not do but somehow wind up involved with anyway. My Stop-Doing List is my reminder that I can say NO when something on it comes up, and I am using it to plan how to graciously find my way to the Exit from some of those activities that I'm involved with now, but need to put an end to.

There are specific chapters directed to single moms and to moms running a home business, which I skimmed, but they are recommended reading for all. For instance, the chapter for single moms included info for helping, understanding, and including single moms in our homeschool circles.
Flourish Book Review
Would you like to find balance and flourish? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
Pricing: $15.00 for the paperback

Recommended Ages: For all homeschool moms!

You can follow Mary Jo Tate on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews. 
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