I have always been fascinated by home/time management books and books that help me live in a more efficient and balanced way, so when Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms came up for review, I had high hopes. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was astounded. Written by Mary Jo Tate as part of the high-quality line of products at Apologia Educational Ministries, I should have known it would be a keeper.
I have read a number of books in this genre. In each, I pick up a few new tips and some inspiration, but often, the home management books I have read assume that I am sitting around all day spinning my wheels and doing little. They are often written as though all I have on my plate are a stack of kids, a stack of dishes, a stack of laundry and a stack of homeschool books. They aim to get me off the couch and get me moving.
In reality, I am always moving. I very rarely even take a moment to look out the window (Note to self: I must change this.) I have multiple roles (pastor's wife, church board officer, counselor, prayer school coordinator, blogger, homeschooler, mom of four, and homemaker with a need to make nearly everything frugally, from scratch.) Each role seems to interrupt the others. Somehow, I need to get everything done and get everything done with excellence. And with patience. And with graciousness.
Mary Jo Tate has been there. She was a regular homeschooling mom with four sons when her husband left her. After her divorce, she found herself needing to support her family as a single mom, but she still felt strongly that God had called her to homeschool her sons. With great courage and determination, she managed to navigate the almost impossible task of "doing it all". She used the skills she already had to start a successful home-based business and continue homeschooling her boys. She has been through it all and lived to tell the tale. This book tells how she learned to juggle heartache, financial struggles, raising her kids alone and more work to do than could be done. She learned, through all the hard knocks, how to achieve balance and masterfully teaches us how to do it, too.
This is the first home management book I have read that teaches not only how to manage the home and family, but how to manage a homeschool and business, too. Thank you, Mary Jo Tate!
So lets take a look at what you'll get with this book:
Each chapter ends with a "Take Action" section to help you put into practice the principles you learned as you read the chapter. I really enjoyed the interactive nature of the "Take Action" sections. When it comes to time management, being interactive is almost a necessity. It forced me to implement the strategies and take the principles Ms. Tate is teaching out of the realm of philosophy and into the realm of reality. And isn't that when we see changes for the better? Often, the "Take Action" utilizes fill-in the blank forms from the appendix to make things easier. When you purchase the book, you also gain access to downloadable files of those forms. I liked being able to print them, fill them out and file them. That way I can come back later and see my progress. She advocates yearly reviews of your goals, issues and action plans. Having it all written and organized will help me do that.
Ms. Tate starts asking hard questions right from the start. You will "Take Action" by answering questions that will help you identify the real issues that are holding you back, and begin to identify why. It can be a brutal look at reality, but it is crucial if you really want to see lasting change.
The Juggling Act
Ms. Tate speaks about struggling with too much to do as only someone who has lived it can. She writes, "When you're caught up in the juggling act, you tend to think in terms of crisis management, which results in a triage approach to life management." She goes on to write, "Operating in overdrive until you get past 'just one more deadline' and rushing frantically from one crisis to the next is simply not sustainable. You will burn out -- and that's not going to be good for anybody." Wait a minute. Has she been spying on me?... "cuz I've been living in the "Triage-Zone."
But don't worry if "triage" is the life management system you're using. Although Ms. Tate will convict you to the core, she is also a master teacher of the principles that will bring you out of crisis management and into freedom, balance and peace. In fact, she even uses the word FREEDOM as an acronym to help you remember some of her life management tools. (I'd tell you what the acronym means, but then you'd know too much and I'd have to kill you. Kidding. Really. Oh, never mind. Just get the book.)
Ms. Tate gives you a great deal of vision and hope. You really can get things done and you really don't have to live a stressed-out life while you do it. She puts you in the driver's seat of your life and time.
I was pleased to see that I passed one small test. A guru like Ms. Tate follows my philosophy of Routine Vs. Schedule. Maybe all these years of trying to learn balance and efficiency have yielded some results. Don't worry, I'm not going to get a big head. After reading this book I know I still have a long way to go.
For instance, one of the "Take Action" activities was a Time Log. I was supposed to write down everything I did for a solid week. Oh. My. Goodness. Are you kidding? I picked a slower week when I would be mostly around the house catching up on things here.
The Time Log Exercise put what I already knew about myself into stark black and ugly white: I don't sleep enough. I rarely give myself time to breathe. I spend an exorbitant amount of time making food for my very hungry family. I seem to have an "always do the next thing" mentality that won't let me rest until all the work is finished. Except that "a woman's work is never done", and neither is a pastor's wife's, or a home schooler's or a blogger's. I want a nap.
According to the Time Log Exercise, I seem to be very efficient with my time (Yay, me.) I packed so much work into each 30 minute time slot that I didn't have enough space to write everything down. My problem is that I don't seem to know when to stop working. I feel guilty if I do anything that doesn't seem like work. All work and no play makes for a drudging existence. But Ms. Tate isn't about just getting a lot done. She is about creating sustainable balance. Ms. Tate gives us a license to stop working and nurture ourselves -- something I am still trying to internalize. I will need to read some of these things again and again before I really "get" them.
Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms will release you to dream big and teach you to devise a realistic plan to turn those dreams into a reality. It will help you monitor and adjust your attitude, so you can live in joy. It will teach you how to manage interruptions (Oh. My. Goodness. My interruptions get interrupted.) This book will help you run an efficient homeschool. It will help you learn to delegate. This book, if you apply it's wisdom, will bring balance to your life and help you do more than you thought you could.
The book ends with two special chapters from someone who has truly been there. There is a chapter about how to flourish as a single mom. Mary Jo Tate knows you can do it, because she has done it. She will take you under her wing and help you. And if you have a home-business or want to start one, she offers a wealth of practical wisdom and knowledge to make your business profitable. I have too much going right now to add a home-business into the mix, but I'm filing away that knowledge in case I ever need it.
Many people need to learn some time-management skills. If that's you, no worries. This book is an excellent resource to train your non-existent time management skills. It will also help you tweak your existing time-management skills, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum.
I thought I would read this book fairly quickly. Instead, I found I needed to slow down and really process all the information. I needed to take time to reflect. I needed to take the time to evaluate my life -- to see what's working and admit what isn't. In fact, I am still in the process of that reflection. This book will be one I turn to again and again as I peel back the layers of my life and learn to achieve true balance. I am convinced that the reflection time is not wasted time. It is the path out of crisis management and into a flourishing life.
Although this book is written to homeschooling moms, I truly feel that Flourish: Balance for Homeschooling Moms should be available to ALL moms, whether you homeschool or not (you can just skip the homeschooling part, if you wish) or whether you have a business or not. There is so much more to this book. The wisdom in this book should be available to every woman who wants to reach her full potential and live a balanced life. If you want to grab you're own copy and see what I'm talking about, you can purchase Flourish: Balance for Homeschooling Moms for $15.00 at Apologia Educational Ministries. Or, you can click the graphic below to read more Flourish reviews -- just in case I haven't convinced you.
I'm off to go re-evaluate my life now. Again. Have a great day!
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