During the summer, a homeschool Mom grows reflective. They think about what worked the year before and spend too much time worrying over what didn’t work. So, while I was in a more reflective mode, I had an opportunity to review a new book of encouragement and advice from Apologia Educational Ministries.
I received Mary Jo Tate’s Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. It’s a new release from Apologia that is meant to be a source of encouragement and help for homeschool moms who are trying to balance homeschooling, managing a household and often working or running their own home business. You can purchase this book from Apologia for $15.00.
The author, Mary Jo Tate, is someone who has been homeschooling her four sons since 1997. Not only is she a homeschooler, however, but she is a single mom who runs her own successful business. In order to successfully navigate both her home business and the education of her sons, she has had to be structured and learn how to set goals and assess whether or not she’s meeting those goals. I knew as soon as I picked up the book and began reading her story that she would be a great mentor for homeschool moms who were looking for help in “getting it all done.”
In fact, one of Tate’s first pieces of advice to tell you that nobody gets it all done. Instead, she urges us as Moms to focus on three areas. First, you have life situations that you can’t change. Everything that you are going to accomplish might be around the fact that you are taking care of a sick parent or that you are a single mom. There’s no point in whining about those facts. You just have to remember as you plan to work around those things. For example, I have four children and two of them are preschoolers. That brings a completely different dynamic to our home than a home with one middle schooler.
Second, there are facts that you refuse to change. For example, homeschooling my children is a fact that will not change (at least until God tells me to change that). I am not going to be working outside the home. Those are facts that might be fluid in some peoples’ lives, but are static facts that must be considered as I make goals and priorities.
The third area of life are preferences. These are things that you would prefer, but you’re willing to make some compromises in these areas in order to achieve balance. For example, I would prefer a living book history program with lots of hands-on activities. However, we’re not getting history done when we attempt to do it that way. Instead, the children are learning a lot and having fun using a computer based history program. It’s okay if not everyone of your preferences is set in stone.
As you read the book, you’ll discover what these are in your life because it’s one of the exercises that Tate asks for you to do as you finish the second chapter. As you finish each chapter of the book, Tate has exercises for you to do related to the material in the chapter so that you can get the maximum benefit from the book. After all, how can you know what is a preference what is non-negotiable until you actually sit down and figure it out? How can you use your time more wisely until you figure out where all your time is going?
Once you go through early chapters of the book and figure out your important things and figure out where your time is going, then you can more effectively set goals and make schedules. This is where Tate kind of lost me because I can’t even imagine having the kind of detailed daily and weekly goals that she demonstrates in her book. However, I remembered how much I’ve been able to relax into my days since I began following a detailed daily cleaning schedule (even if I never get it all done) and how much less I worry about food now that I plan my meals out, and I realized that planning the things that you have to do frees you up to be more spontaneous in the things that you want to do. While I don’t think I’m the type of person to plan as extensively as Tate, I don’t have as much on my “must-dos” as she does as she balances her business, homeschooling and her house.
These ideas naturally lead into the rest of the book. If you’re a homeschooling mom, you have to protect that time and not let other people impose on you because they don’t realize that at home doesn’t mean “nothing to do.” Tate spends the remainder of the book giving homeschool moms practical tips for taking care of themselves (because you need to be in the best shape you can realistically be in with your children depending on you), training you children and making memories with them, and homeschooling. She also has a special chapter on single moms and one for families running a home business.
When I initially began reading this book, I wasn’t sure that the author had anything that I would take away from it. After all, I’m not a big planner and I don’t run a business, so just being at home with the children in our relaxed mode of homeschooling, I initially thought this wasn’t going to a book that I would learn a lot from. I was wrong.
I have highlights and underlined sentences in almost every chapter of the book. I have really started to consider the value of our time at home and think about opportunity costs. What am I saying no to when I say yes to something else? How we spend our time is a picture of what our priorities truly are, and I don’t want to waste that time.
I also discovered as I was reading this book that sometimes my feelings of failure are coming from having a perfectionist attitude that I didn’t need to have. Instead of doing my best and counting on God to handle the rest, I was discouraged by anything that didn’t live up to my ideal. My biggest lightbulb moment reading this book came when I read: Find peace in the space between ideal and reality. If you’re not sacrificing your principles or ignoring the things that you prioritize, there is space between the ideal and the reality to compromise on how your priorities come to pass.
This book is definitely worth your time. I believe that most homeschool moms will find this book to have valuable advice for making sure that your actions are truly aligning with the goals that you have for your children as well as the dreams that you have for your own life.