July 22, 2014

Fresh from the Bookshelf ~ Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms (Book Review)

Flourish. What does this word mean? When I think of a garden flourishing, I envision a garden that is lush and green with fruits and blossoms everywhere. When I think of a person flourishing, I think of someone who has a handle on their life, knowing what they want to do and are doing it with zeal and passion. Does this describe you? Do you flourish? If you are a homeschooler and/or stay-at-home mom like me, you might laugh at this idea as being something ridiculous. Who has time to flourish? I'm just trying to survive! Right? It is for this very reason that I am excited to share a book review with you today of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries.

About the Book

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is a non-fiction book written by Mary Jo Tate (a homeschooler of 4 boys, published author, international editor and book coach) and published by Apologia Educational Ministries. Flourish is a book for moms. Especially moms who are trying to be homeschool teachers. Even more so, for moms who are trying to be homeschool teachers as well as working from home. Flourish addresses the issues that a lot of moms face--from time management to setting goals, to dealing with interruptions to managing your household to starting a home business or working from home...and much more! Each chapter tackles something that a mom might face and then analyzes it in detail.

Chapter Titles:
1. An Invitation to Flourish
2. Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
3. The FREEDOM Toolbox
4. Where Did My Time Go?
5. Aim High: Setting Goals
6. What Do I Do Next?: Seven Essential Planning Tools
7. We Interrupt This Program
8. It's Time for an Attitude Adjustment
9. Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days
10. Training Your Children
11. Making Memories
12. Managing Your Home
13. All of Life is Learning
14. Solo Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom
15. Home Business
16. Moving Ahead

Within each chapter, the author analyzes aspects of life as a mom under the umbrella topic. Flourish is rich with quotes--quotes from moms, quotes from famous people and authors as well as quotes from the Bible. At the end of each chapter is a section called "Take Action!" which includes questions for you to ask yourself relating to what you just read. Sometimes they are open ended and sometimes they just ask you to think. At the end of the book, you will find an Appendix A and Appendix B. Appendix A includes valuable resources for taking what you have learned further--mostly lists of books and websites. Appendix B contains all the of the worksheets and forms that the author mentions throughout her book--or that she asks you to fill out as part of the Take Action! portion.

Each of these forms will be available as customizable versions for anyone who purchases the book. Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is available from Apologia for just $15. There are samples of the Table of Contents and book for you to check out too.

My Thoughts On Flourish

Let me honest with you. Though I agreed to read this book, I really didn't think it was going to be "my style". I avoid "self-help" books. I just don't like them. I admit this just might be because I think I don't need them--which is probably a cry for help in itself. LOL! I put off reading this book for about week before I opened it. I got myself ready for it by printing off all the included forms before reading to have them ready. I looked at them and just got more skeptical. Time log? Goals? Lists? 


But I decided to keep an open mind(ish) attitude and just embrace the book and see what happens. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that unlike some books in this genre, the author wrote Flourish in more of a dialogue style. I felt like I was just reading a blog post that she was sharing with me. Would you believe that I was already changing my mind about the book by page 1? What did it? Oh I think it was the list of challenges she gave that moms face in their lives. I read them and started checking them off in my mind. Hmmm. Perhaps this book could be useful. By page 4, I was highlighting sentences and quotes. And I was hooked.

The first Take Action! is a Pre-Book Self Evaluation which then guides you and obtain the most out of the book that you can get. And it also gives you something to use to measure your progress. I was flying on a plane while reading this book and didn't have my printed forms...but it was easy to just copy my answers down into a notebook because there are copies of each form in the back of the book to reference.

As I continued each chapter of the book I made myself "keep it real" and discovered that there were many times it felt like the author had been peering in my windows and observing me. I even got...uncomfortable at some of the analysis and critique. Why? Because it was like she was laying out my character faults right on paper. Debunking all my excuses for why I do things the way I do and why I "can't" change.

An example of this was in completing the time log for a week. This was part of the chapter Where Did My Time Go? (chapter 4). The author urged me to fill out a time log for the week in 30 minute intervals. To note everything that I did within those minutes-whether folding laundry, fixing dinner, taking a shower or use Facebook.

This really gave me an honest peek at how much time I waste that could be used for something more valuable that I always claim "I don't have time for." I am going to be using this form several times over the coming months to see if I show any improvement and to keep myself accountable--there were some SERIOUS time wasters on there.

One of the chapters I thought would be "useless" was the one on goals. I never considered myself a real goal setter--so I sure didn't need to read a whole chapter on something I didn't do...right? Ha! I really learned how the process of setting daily/weekly/monthly/yearly goals can be valuable to a homeschooling mom--even outside of the school. The more I started thinking about it and the more in depth I wrote for the Take Action! the more excited I became. I do have goals for a LOT of things--and I WANT to achieve them! (That's going to be a whole other blog post!)

There was one chapter that I had to take a deep breath for before reading it--especially once I realized how much I needed this book. I knew that it was going to be the chapter of serious soul searching...Managing Your Home (Chapter 12). I am not the worlds best housekeeper. I love a clean house. I LOVE organization. But I HATE the process. Dust bunnies are our family pet. Dirt is a color I have grown use to--I mean I do live in a farm and have boys. Dirty dishes are a permanent decoration on my kitchen counter. Get the point? LOL! Anyways, I was leery but also excited about this chapter.

It didn't let me down, but it was this portion that REALLY was the "Aha!" moment.
Let me tell you. I drew great comfort from reading this section and plan on re-reading it again and again. The Take Action! portion was also very helpful.

There were two chapters that were geared specifically to single moms and working moms. Though neither of these pertained to me, I read them because I do have friends who fit both these categories. I found them still very useful--especially the list on page 219-22 titled What Single Moms Need. It shared things I never even considered and things I can remember.

Would I Recommend Flourish?

I would absolutely recommend Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. As I was reading it, I kept thinking of friends who "totally need to read this". Some of them aren't even homeschoolers! That's the beauty of this book; though primarily geared towards homeschool moms, I really think that you can find value in this book whether homeschooling or not. It's just a book for MOMS! There is something in there for every mom dealing with the burden of all the hats she wears. I think the author, Mary Jo Tate, touches moms because her own experience as a single, working, and homeschooling mom gives her credibility. She KNOWS what she's saying because she's lived it--and continues to live it. The way she shares HER struggles really helps tap into the heart of what the book is about.

The quotes alone are worth it...they are so inspirational and encouraging. This one by Sally Clarkson was one of my favorites in the book.

I have found the included forms (available in the Appendix B and as a download with purchase of book) to be very valuable--even though I dreaded the idea of using them at first. I am absolutely going to be keeping this book for reference and encouragement, and to loan out to friends. My next step is to complete the Post-Book Progress Check to see how things have changed in my thinking since completing the book. There is so much that I want to delve back into further--I see myself writing several blog posts about these subjects and my experiences with them as I endeavor to FLOURISH in my own life!

Want To Know More?

You can get your own copy of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate from Apologia Educational Ministries for just $15! Included with your purchase will be the downloadable forms that are mentioned in Appendix B of the book.

Did you know there is a Flourish Facebook Group? You can also follow the author Mary Jo Tate on Twitter!

You've only read my experience with this phenomenal book...how about you check out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it! Rumor has it this book touched many of us in ways beyond expectation!

Click to read Crew Reviews
I can't wait to really share some more posts about how this book has changed the way that I plan on doing things in this upcoming year--in this upcoming month--in this upcoming week. It will be exciting but downright scary to share my journey to Flourish...but I think that blogging about it will be my accountability. I hope you will continue to check back in with me to see how I'm doing!

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July 16, 2014

Fresh From the Bookshelf: A Match of Wits by Jen Turano (Book Review)

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing A Talent for Trouble by Jen Turano, book #3 in a series (Ladies of Distinction) that I fell in love with right after reading book #1 (A Change of Fortune). Needless to say I've been on pins and needles for the 4th book in the series to come out and was delighted to be offered a copy of A Match of Wits to review! 

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Each book in the Ladies of Distinction series by Jen Turano revolves around a set of friends in high society New York in the late 1800's. Book four finally gives the much awaited story of Agatha--a quirky, constantly in trouble, impetuous, adventures, gifted journalist, and kindhearted young lady. From near the beginning of the series, we the readers were privy of the fact that Agatha was in love with Zayne...brother of her dear friend Arabella (her story is in book #2). This book FINALLY tells Agatha and Zayne's story!

July 11, 2014

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch #147

Click here to add YOUR answers!
Patrice at Everyday Ruralty has another great collection of questions for our link up this week. I just love having the bits of randomness to share. 

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1. Do you like cucumbers? Is there a favorite way for you to prepare them?
No. I am not a cucumber fan unless in the form of sweet pickles. I do enjoy pickles and canning pickles. We lost our whole crop last year (as did most of the gardens in our area) due to a horrible blight, but this year they are looking lovely! 

I really enjoy using my re-usable canning lids when I can now. They work perfectly and eliminate the lid cost each year. I can get them in wide mouth and regular mouth which is perfect. I prefer using wide mouth jars for things just like pickles! Lots of hands go into those jars! LOL! When we are done using a jar, we just put the reusable lids in a ziplock bag in the pantry. 

2. How good a housekeeper are you?
Define good...I enjoy a clean and tidy house, but I am definitely not OCD about it. In fact I am rather...ahem...messy at times. My house looks lived in, but I do enjoy a sparkling clean kitchen and bathroom! :) Just ignore the cobwebs and dustbunnies everywhere else.

3. Please finish this: To spend a day____________would be amazing!
To spend a day....zip lining and/or white water rafting would be amazing! I love both of those things and haven't done them in awhile. I always wanted to do one of those really big ziplines where you go for a few miles over a rainforest or something. But I also love white water rafting and haven't been in about 12 years.

4. How do you handle times when you are "down" or "blue"( depressed )?
I have a few things I like to do:
*I put on some good music...usually the classic oldies. You can't help but get cheerful when "Splish Splash" comes on.
*I spend some time chatting with my friends. They always make me feel better.
*I open up the Psalms. King David can bring anyone out of the dumps!
And when I'm REALLY in the dumps--which like hardly ever happens--
*I get down on my knees and start counting my blessings and thanking God. I don't go very far before I realize I have nothing to be depressed about.

But I'm very much a glass half full kind of person so I hardly EVER get blue...

5. Have you started using essential oils, since they have become so popular?
Oh yes. If you are a regular reader you know that I totally love my essential oils. I've been using them regularly for about 2 years now. I own about 25 singles or blends and use them daily. I purchase oils from three companies that I am very very happy with: Mountain Rose Herbs, Aura Cacia and doTERRA. Most of my oils are from Mountain Rose Herbs and Aura Cacia--as they are singles. I have had great success with them both and believe they are each high quality--and I've heard and read that they are both ranked in the top 5 oils...side by side with Young Living and doTERRA. I use doTERRA exclusively for oil blends. My favorite blends have some expensive single oils in them, so it is far less expensive for me to buy them pre-blended instead of trying to blend them myself. My favorite blends are: Breathe, On Guard and Serenity. I don't sell oils--but I read and learn about them as much as possible to help my family and friends. We have had great success with them--especially for every day ailments like colds, fevers, wounds, stings and sore muscles. 
I am so thankful to be home from my whirlwind trip back to WA for my grandpa's memorial service. My boys are happy to have me back. I'm thankful to be back in the country away from the city. I'm happy to pick my green beans and lettuce. To hang my clothes out on the line. Sigh. I love this country life.
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