I tried to choose one word to describe my life as a homeschooling mom—aspire, adapt, tweak, cope? On the really bad days it might be “worry” or “survive.” I’ve been challenged this past month with a book from Apologia Educational Ministries. Its author, Mary Jo Tate, suggests that I might “flourish.” In fact, that’s the title--Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. Don’t ignore the subtitle though—balance. There’s a lot to balance: school vs. household, kids vs. husband, dreams vs. reality.
Let’s face it, where can homeschool moms turn for tools and encouragement for our unique circumstances? Women who “work” for a living (read that “get paid for their labors”) think we must have all the time in the world to get things done and if we can’t it’s because we’re lounging and eating bon bons all day. Even other homeschool moms can turn on one of their own…I had one mom share how hurt she was by comments from others in our co-op when she shared that her son was going to try public school (he wanted to try out for sports). She was still homeschooling several younger kids, but was made out to be a traitor to “the cause.” And sometimes our harshest critic is that little voice in our own heads—my kid isn’t learning as fast as the others, what if I leave out something important?
Within the 289 pages of this softcover you’ll find action steps, affirmations, and advice that all moms can use – setting goals, dealing with interruptions, etc. and also some chapters for specific needs –single moms and those running a home business. Scattered throughout are shaded boxes with quotes by many people I already respect like Zig Ziglar and Elisabeth Elliott. The appendices contains a list other helpful books to read, pre- and post- reading evaluations, and several using planning forms (you can also download blank forms if you purchase the book).
I did not read the book straight from cover to cover but let my personal needs and interests guide me. I confess I was first drawn to a chapter titled “Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days” simply out of curiosity. It turns out Monkey Bread Days are those where everyone wants a piece of you and you’re being pulled in multiple directions. Having flown a lot I had an idea (and was right) that your must put your own oxygen mask on before you help anyone else – a great word picture that we moms must see to our own mental, physical, and spiritual needs if we want to be effective in meeting the same for our spouse and kids. After finishing the chapter I got over my guilt of spending a little money on myself and ordered a kit to brew my own kombucha. I had already started a “Couch to 5K” program before I got the book, but it certainly helped my resolve to keep jogging.
A second idea that intrigued me was to start keeping a “Stop-Doing” list. This is not necessarily focusing solely on time wasters. It may be a very good activity, but I need to be willing to give it up to pursue a really great activity (I used to work for a national organization that worked with Jim Collins and his Good to Great program, but I never thought of applying it to my personal life).
While the book is meant for moms, I did find a few things to share with my Schnickelfritz. He’s involved in Royal Rangers and is starting to prepare for his Frontier Adventure (which includes a series of skill tests like starting a fire with flint and steel). Although he’s been looking towards this for several years, he came to me the other day and said he wasn’t interested in it anymore. It turns out he’s afraid of his own reaction if he fails. I found some great stories and quotes in the attitude adjustment chapter dealing specifically with fear, perfectionism, and negativity that I shared with him. We even printed out a Mark Twain quote to “Sail away from the safe harbor…Explore. Dream. Discover.” to keep him motivated.
Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms retails for $15.00. You can find the Table of Contents and a sample chapter on the website. It probably wouldn’t be a book I’d lend to a parent just considering homeschooling, but it may now be my go-to choice for a mom half-way through the school year that finds herself floundering.