I imagined that my newest review item from the TOS Crew would be a helpful and useful one.
But I had no idea just how deeply meaningful–and vital—it would be for me!
Apologia Educational Ministries‘ newest offering is not a curriculum, per se….although in a manner of speaking, maybe it is—just not for students, but for their moms! Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate is simply the most valuable, practical and life-giving book that I have ever read on personal and life organization. It has met me in my struggles, to give me techniques, routines and mindsets to enable me to successfully manage areas of my life, homeschool and parenting that have often (or always) been a challenge for me. And, it has even helped me to fine-tune (and celebrate) skills I already have a handle on. Flourish is, simply put, a wonderful read that can help you change the ways you do things for the better, increase your effectiveness and absolutely bless your life and family!
When I’ve thought about why this book is so helpful to me….and how it’s so different from its many companions on the life management shelves at the bookstore, I’ve come to this conclusion: Mary Jo Tate excels at taking the reader from an overall vision for her life and family, all the way down to the day-to-day tasks and duties that comprise a life….in such a way that the reader is never overwhelmed with what’s wrong or needs to change, but is always encouraged to make the changes that will improve her life.
I’ve been blessed with the ability to look at a task (whether it’s a fundraiser, an art lesson or a speech) and see the steps that need to happen…and I’ve also been blessed with the drive to work on those steps until the task is completed. And before you think, “wow, that sounds pretty arrogant,” let me continue! What I’ve always struggled with–on a very large scale–is vision and strategic planning. I have always had the hardest time not only coming up with a mission statement, but getting from that mission statement down to the day-to-day tasks that in the end will help complete the mission’s overall purpose. It has always seemed like there was this big gray area that hovered between the tasks I could see that I needed to do, and all the overarching vision above them….with no way for me to really connect the two. Finally, someone (thank you, Mary Jo Tate) has taught me how to do this…and it’s not nearly as difficult as I always believed it to be! In fact, it’s not difficult at all, but fun, exciting and empowering. I just needed someone to give me the tools to use…and a little push to use them!
In Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, Tate leads us through what our lives are along the path to what we’ve always imagined they could be….but never knew how to make them. And she covers a lot of ground, always encouraging us to do what she’s coaching us to do…all the way to the wonderful results she knows we can achieve! Here’s a sampling (not exhaustive, by any means) of topics covered in Flourish:
- Evaluate the circumstances of your life (and this is not painful, but encouraging)
- 7 Essential Planning Tools (including the “Big Dream” one that removed the dread I’ve always had of the Mission Statement) that take you from the big picture all the way down to the daily task list—-and they WORK!
- Moms and balance, boundaries and social media
- Mom-Care or the “Oxygen Mask”! Taking care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually
- Teaching your children responsibility, initiative, service and independence
- Home management, home businesses and homeschooling
- And even more!
Mary Jo Tate provides some wonderfully tangible tools to help get you from the Big Dream to the daily task list. First, at the end of each chapter she has a list of questions for you that enable to you to concretely apply all that she’s just taught…without judgment or shame. They just help you to see what you’re doing and how you can do it better. Second, she’s composed some worksheets, calendars and goal sheets to use as you work your way through the book and beyond. As a matter of fact, they’re available both on her website (you get access to them when you purchase the book) and at the back of Flourish.
With these great resources, I have been able to FINALLY craft a great vision (my Big Dream), weekly and monthly goals and daily tasks. (I’m still working on my yearly goals.) These don’t just cover my homeschooling, but also the important areas of home management, child training, a home business (well, that one’s still a twinkle in my eye) and my own health. It couldn’t have been simpler to work from the strategic….to the specific. Once I had instruction, that is! Tate takes us from the vision and large goals all the way down to what we do from day to day to achieve those goals. And each week, you review last week’s accomplishments, move any unmet tasks to this week’s list, and subtract anything that’s not working or add something new that maybe you’re just now seeing. It is truly simple, enjoyable and empowering. Like I said, this life management book is nothing like anything I’ve ever seen—or unsuccessfully tried. This one really works!
One of the quotes I love from Flourish is Tate’s repeated injunction to “Find peace in the space between the ideal and the reality.” What does that mean, exactly? It means that we have this lovely, lofty ideal in our minds….that may have little or nothing to do with the reality before us! This was especially meaningful and helpful to me because of my life circumstances over the past two years. I’ve always been very goal-oriented (this is my euphemistic way of saying I was DRIVEN) and busy serving in the community in a variety of roles. That life came to a screeching halt when I wound up in the ER in September of 2012, requiring immediate emergency surgery. In many ways, that event (and a follow-up surgery three months later) changed my life. To say that my recovery has been a long one would be something of an understatement. Truly, I HAVE gotten better….and I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for God’s healing and protection. I have improved little by little and month by month. But I can’t nearly do all the things I used to do….not yet, anyway.
So where has that left me, over this period of time? Mostly frustrated. Thankful, yes; God’s provision and the care of loving friends and family have been incredible. But for so many of these months I have focused on all the things I COULDN’T do, rather than on what I could, and on my gentle improvement every month. I did eventually notice that, actually; and have been in prayer that I could live my days in joy and thankfulness rather than in irritation or dissatisfaction. Of course, God has been faithful to answer that prayer, and my joy has been returning.
But that quote, and the mindset of Tate’s book, have been transformational for me. So what if I can’t do what I used to be able to do? God isn’t asking me to start with that, but rather with what I CAN do today. Sometimes I think we moms, and homeschool moms especially, can be so burdened with guilt. “I OUGHT to be doing this!” “I OUGHT to be doing that!” Why not approach each day…and each year, with the question, “What does God call me to do in this season…and what CAN I do?” What a difference a mindset like that can make, not only for me but in my influence on my family as well.
In the end, I can say that Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms has been an essential, timely and beloved new tool for me, my family and my life. Tate enables us to start with the truths of what our lives are; shows us the vision of what each one can be; and equips us for the journey to get there. If you don’t have or can’t afford a life coach, don’t despair. Mary Jo Tate’s amazing book can stand in that gap!
You can purchase the softcover version of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries for $15. It is worth every penny, and then some! If, as Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” then this book is definitely worth its weight in gold (and silver!). You can download Flourish‘s table of contents and a sample from the same website. If I could, I’d purchase this book for every homeschooler I know. (My budget won’t permit that at the moment.) So instead, I’ll recommend it to you with all my heart!