This review was originally posted on RealRefreshment.com, August 20, 2014.
After a leisurely summer, back to school plans seem solidly underway. Status updates on Facebook have moved from summer vacation pictures to great school supply finds and free shipping deals. In my own household, my Kindergartner is set with all her supplies and a new backpack, thermos, and lunchbox; my middle schooler has a new backpack but is waiting until after orientation before ordering specific supplies on Amazon, and my highschooler is waiting until possibly the night before school starts to admit that the day is rapidly approaching and he may need some supplies.
There is no better time to get in some last minute summer reading and get ready for the school year than now, and Mary Jo Tate’s Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms helps moms do both of those. While the tagline mentions homeschool moms, her advice and suggestions apply to all moms who would like to maintain some balance, organization, and peace during this upcoming school year.
Tate offers a number of strategies in this encouraging book and begins by introducing her FREEDOM toolbox, which stands for Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Discipline, Organize, and Multitask. One of the main ideas I appreciated was “educate,” because it offers a reminder that with all our to-do lists, checklists, and calendar synchronization, sometimes moms need to just sit and read a book or listen to an interesting podcast guilt-free.
Tate also leads moms through goal setting and making sure the goals are specific and measurable. She offers “seven essential planning tools” to help in achieving those goals, many of which are included in the back of the book. Tate is very clear that the planning tools shouldn’t overwhelm us – we can use what works or adjust them as necessary. She offers examples of how she’s used and filled out some of the sample forms. For instance, she provides a daily task list where she’s allocated everything by specific day, and also shows a more flexible version where tasks are listed by week. Seeing how she handles all her responsibilities for work, homeschooling, and getting her kids to their activities was helpful.
For homeschooling moms, there is a dedicated chapter that includes sound advice on setting realistic expectations, teaching children of different ages together, encouraging independent learning, and more. I enjoyed her honest reflections in “A Day in our Life,” where she offered a real-world glimpse into one day of her family’s life. I’ve done this exercise myself in the past in order to include it in our yearly scrapbook, and I recommend it! It’s interesting to see the twists and turns one day can take, and refreshing here to read about another family’s typical (or atypical) day.
Tate works from home as a freelance editor, author, and book coach, so I was drawn into her chapter regarding how she set up and grew her home-based business. This included sections on pricing, marketing, working with clients, finances, and more. Her advice would be helpful for anyone who is self-employed or who would like to learn more about starting a business on the side. She provides a number of examples and stories from freelancers in many fields.
It’s somewhat difficult to synthesize everything she covers in this helpful guidebook, but I would sum it up as “Life Management.” In addition to the chapters I’ve detailed, there is information on making memories with the kids, scheduling chores, nourishing your spiritual life, adjusting your attitude, and an additional chapter for encouraging the single mom. If you’re getting ready for the start of school, “Flourish” will give you the encouragement and tools you need to transition with hope and inspiration into this next year so you and your kids can learn, grow, and … flourish.