Flourish at Home

Flourish At Home – Making Memories

Making Memories 3

Ironically, when your family is together almost all the time, it can be challenging to pull away from the demands of homeschooling to just enjoy being together and have fun as a family. But taking a break is good for parents and children alike. In this episode, I’ll share some of my favorite ways to make special family memories, including building family traditions, spending one-on-one time with each child, exploring the world, and enjoying the journey as well as the destination.

I’d love to hear from you. What special family traditions do you enjoy?

Joyful Balance for Busy Moms

Are you exhausted? Overloaded? Teetering on the brink of burnout? Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, or homeschooling mom, it’s easy to be paralyzed by an overwhelming to-do list. False guilt only adds to the burden.

Mary Jo Tate—an international editor, book coach, and veteran homeschooling mom of four boys—wants to help you find peace in the space between the ideal and reality so you can stop struggling and start flourishing. Learn how to:

· Stop the juggling act and find a balance you can live with
· Minimize interruptions while being sensitive to real needs
· Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family
· Value and protect your time to do what matters most
· Establish a pace you can maintain for the marathon of life

Visit the show page for replays here

What Should We Read? How to Choose Good Books – FAH 24

How to Choose Good Books

How to Choose Good Books


There are millions of books available today. How on earth can you choose what’s best to read? In this episode, we’ll consider how to choose good books—both for yourself and for your children.

This is part 2 of a series on why, what, how, and when to read and why and how to build a home library.

Three Types of Books

To be able to choose good books, you need to understand the different types of books. Apart from the usual categories of fiction and nonfiction, there are three main types of books:

  1. Living Books – A living book is written by an author who loves the subject; it is challenging and inspiring. Focus on these!
  2. Reference Books – Atlas, dictionary, almanac, etc. These are useful to have on hand even if you also look things up online.
  3. Twaddle – This is Charlotte Mason’s term for dumbed-down, diluted, silly, easy-reading books with poor writing and sometimes tacked-on morals. Avoid these.

What Is a Good Book?

  1. In general, older books are likelier to be living books. New books are often politically correct and likelier to contain offensive material.
  2. Great books feature excellent writing and thought-provoking ideas. They often have an impact on other literature and culture.
  3. “Safe” does not equal “good.” All great literature involves conflict; otherwise there’s no plot. Literature can provide both positive examples to emulate and negative examples to avoid. Use books to teach your children discernment.
  4. It’s OK to read non-Christian authors (even ancient pagans). All truth is God’s truth.
  5. Include a mix of challenging books and easy books.
  6. Every person’s and family’s standards and tastes will differ. Choose good books in accordance with your own standards.

Guides to Help You Choose Good Books

Here are some of my favorite guides to help you choose good books:

For a longer list of my favorite books about how to choose good books, as well as my favorite books about homeschooling, visit my blog for booklovers at EclecticBibliophile.com. That will also put you on the list to be the first to find out about my new e-book about books, coming soon.

And if you wish you had more time to read, you’ll find encouragement and practical tips for time management in my book, Flourish.

Stay tuned for our next episode, when we’ll discuss HOW to read.

Other Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective by Leland Ryken

A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille


NOTE: This post includes affiliate links. I will make a small commission if you purchase books through my links. Just think of this as an opportunity to help me build MY home library while you build YOURS!

Why Should We Read? 12 Benefits of Reading – FAH 23

12 Benefits of Reading

12 Benefits of Reading

Why should we read? You probably already know some of the benefits, such as education and entertainment, but there are many more.

This is part 1 of a series on why, what, how, and when to read and why and how to build a home library. Why am I doing a series about reading on the “Flourish At Home” show? Because reading is an important part of a flourishing life! Education is one of my 7 FREEDOM tools that we discussed in episode 15, and reading is a great way to take care of yourself by destressing and relaxing.

So let’s dive in to 12 of the most important benefits of reading—for both children and adults!

Benefits of Reading

  1. Changes your life by building wisdom and growing your character.
  2. Helps you learn facts and builds your personal storehouse of knowledge.
  3. Develops and preserves your mind and your memory and helps prevent or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
  4. Improves your focus and concentration in a world that normally scatters your attention in a million different directions.
  5. Builds your vocabulary and improves your grammar skills—almost by osmosis!
  6. Helps you become a better writer.
  7. Inspires creativity and expands your imagination.
  8. Helps you learn by example—both positive and negative examples.
  9. Helps you develop empathy and understand real people’s feelings better.
  10. Lets you travel to new places—both real and imaginary.
  11. Reduces stress and promotes relaxation.
  12. Provides a relatively inexpensive source of entertainment. Put simply, reading is a pleasure.

What are YOUR favorite reasons to read? Be sure to leave a comment!

Visit my blog for booklovers, Eclectic Bibliophile, and sign up for a free report with my favorite books about choosing good books and my top ten recommendations for books about homeschooling. That will also put you on the list to be the first to find out about my new e-book about books, coming soon.

And if you wish you had more time to read, you’ll find encouragement and practical tips for time management in my book, Flourish.

Stay tuned for our next episode, when we’ll discuss WHAT to read.

New series on reading and building a home library coming soon!

An important part of living a flourishing life is continuing to learn and grow, so I’m developing an exciting new podcast series about books! I’ll be talking about why, what, how, and when to read, as well as why and how to build a home library. The first episode will air on November 17.

Meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy the story of how I became a bibliophile. It’s my grandmother’s fault!

Autobiography of a Bibliophile

When you read that story, be sure to sign up (in the top right corner of that blog) for a free report with my favorite books about choosing good books and my top ten recommendations for books about homeschooling. That will also put you on the list to be the first to find out about my new e-book about books, coming soon.


Just Say No to Interruptions, part 1 – FAH episode 21


It’s hard  to get anything done when you’re constantly being interrupted. You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? You’re desperately trying to accomplish some task, and the phone rings. The dryer buzzes. The baby cries. You hear a mysterious crash from the kitchen. The doorbell rings. Calgon can’t even take you away because it’s impossible to get 5 minutes alone in the bathroom.

No matter how well we manage our time, our best efforts are often undermined by interruptions. I’m defining interruptions broadly as anything that keeps us from doing what we need to do by distracting us from our priorities and making us lose our focus.

Interruptions can come from strangers, acquaintances, business associates, friends, family…and even from ourselves. They can involve bad or good news, illness, ordinary events, or enticing opportunities.

Whatever the source, they distract us from what we have planned to do, hinder our productivity, and upset our balance. They can trigger bad attitudes and make us frustrated or irritable. Even worse, they can confuse us about what is really important.

Today we’re going to look at ways to handle the interruptions and distractions that come from outside our homes, especially through technology.

Perception of Moms at Home

When you spend most of your time at home, some people assume that you are available anytime.  Homeschooling and working from home are so different from our society’s norms that many people don’t take them seriously. They may call you or drop by your house although they would never call or drop by if you worked in an office.

It’s important to show God’s love by serving people, but you simply can’t be available on demand for everyone all the time without neglecting your own family. It’s essential to establish some boundaries, or your true priorities will be completely undermined.

Telephone and Texting

What’s your most common interruption? For many people, it’s the telephone. Cell phones have made it even worse by creating an expectation that everyone should be instantly available all the time. Here are a few tips for making the phone your servant, not your master:

  • Ignore the phone.
  • Turn off the ringer.
  • Use caller ID.
  • Use an answering machine or voice mail.
  • Use call waiting.
  • Reply to phone messages by e-mail.


  • Just ignore it.
  • Put a note on the door.
  • Use the peephole like caller ID.
  • Answer the door with work in your hands.

E-mail and Social Media

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it can also be a hindrance. Discipline yourself ot use e-mail and social media wisely and intentionally.

  • Don’t go online first thing in the morning.
  • Create rules to automatically sort incoming e-mail messages into folders.
  • Act on most e-mails right away.
  • Create a folder for action items.
  • Minimize incoming messages.

Technology has made it possible to stay in touch with friends and family and make new acquaintances from all over the world. Used wisely, social media can be a tremendous tool for relaxation, fellowship, business networking, and ministering to others. Used carelessly, it can be a distraction and a hindrance to focusing on your family and other priorities. Remember the value of your time and use your time online with discretion and self-discipline.

On the next episode of the Flourish At Home show, we’ll continue talking about interruptions and what we can do about them. Meanwhile, I want to hear from YOU! What interruptions bug you the most? How do handle them? Be sure to leave a comment and share your best ideas with us!

Remember, you’ll find encouragement and practical tips for managing your busy life in my book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, available at FlourishAtHome.com.

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms

Learn about Writing, Interruptions, and Home Business

This week’s podcast didn’t happen because I was sick. I’m so sorry! (And I’m feeling much better now.)

I’ll be back in October with two episodes about how to handle all the annoying interruptions and distractions that so easily get us off track, trigger bad attitudes, and hinder our productivity. You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? Too many text messages, ringing doorbells, a mysterious crash from the kitchen, yet another phone call from a telemarketer or politician, friends and neighbors who think you can’t possibly be busy because you’re “just” a mom at home, a kid who thinks his urgent need to tell you he wants a Batman birthday party seven months from now (although he will, of course, change his mind 27 times between now and his actual birthday) constitutes an emergency that justifies interrupting you when you’ve finally found five relatively quiet minutes to think, being sick when you’re supposed to record a podcast—that kind of stuff.

Meanwhile, I wanted to let you know about some upcoming events where I’d love to meet you in person!

Sept. 24, 2015, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Writing Workshop at the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Montgomery, Alabama


  • The Composition of a Masterpiece: How F. Scott Fitzgerald Wrote and Revised The Great Gatsby
  • The 5 Ps of Publishing: How to Plan, Pen, Polish, Publish, and Promote Your Book
  • Getting it Right: How to Polish Your Writing
Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Montgomery, Alabama

Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Montgomery, Alabama

Sept. 24, 2015 – 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Workshop for Busy Moms, Montgomery, Alabama

Topic: Just Say No to Interruptions and Distractions

Oct. 16-17, 2015

2:1 Conference, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

Topic: Just Say No to Interruption and Distractions

Nov. 11, 2015 , 3:00 p.m. Eastern

National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE)

Teleclass (OK, we can’t actually meet in person at this one. But I think you’ll find it helpful anyway . . . and you can listen from the comfort of your own home, just like a podcast!)

Topic: How Do You Do It All? Balancing Family Life and Home Business in the Real World

For more information on all of these events, visit my blog at flourishathome.com/writing-interruptions-home-business-workshops/


To Co-Op or Not to Co-Op – FAH episode 20

To Co-Op or Not to Co-Op

Homeschooling is primarily a family endeavor. Even the name “homeschooling” has the word “home” in it! One of its greatest benefits is the ability to customize one-on-one instruction with your children instead of the less personal group instruction they’d get in an institutional school.

So would it be inconsistent to move some of your homeschooling back out of the home and into a homeschool co-op? Not at all! Co-ops aren’t a good fit for some families, but they’re a great blessing to others. Of course, participating in a co-op (a short form of “cooperative”) requires that you cooperate. You have to give up some flexibility in exchange for sharing the planning, activities, and teaching, but the trade-off can be worth it.

Co-ops can range from very informal to highly structured. Some co-ops focus on field trips, activities, and enrichment, while some cover a few academic subjects, and others cover all academic subjects, often with a full day of classes every week.

I’ve just begun my 19th year of homeschooling. Some years we homeschooled completely on our own, and some years we were in more casual co-ops for a few subjects. For the past 9 years we’ve been part of a formal classical co-op that was a huge blessing to our family, but this year we’re flying solo again. So I’ve had the opportunity to experience the many pros and cons of co-ops.

First, here are some of the many benefits of co-ops:

  • fellowship / community / socialization
  • accountability for both parents and students
  • structure
  • sharing the load of lesson planning and teaching
  • learning from other parent-teachers in a classroom setting (good preparation for college!)
  • delegating messy hands-on activities like oil painting or science labs
  • expert instruction in advanced subjects like chemistry or rhetoric
  • opportunities to make speeches and present projects to a group
  • group discussion

Of course, there are disadvantages too:

  • less flexible schedule
  • less customization of curriculum for individual students
  • may focus on co-op subjects and neglect at-home subjects
  • socialization may bring peer pressure
  • some instructors aren’t as good as others
  • cost—time and/or money
  • can over-delegate and become too dependent on co-op teachers

Participating in a co-op can be a help, a joy, and a blessing, OR it can become a hindrance, a crutch, and a burden. There is NO One Right Way to Homeschool. You have to decide what is best for your family. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, what kind of help you may need, what kind of schedule and commitment are a good fit, and what your local options are.

Whether or not you choose to join a co-op, I encourage you to be involved in some kind of local support group. It can be a wonderful source of fellowship, encouragement, and sharing ideas.

Have you participated in a homeschool co-op? How has that worked out for your family? I’d love for you to leave a comment and share your experience with us!

Remember, you’ll find encouragement and practical tips for managing your busy life as a homeschooling family in my book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, available at FlourishAtHome.com.

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms



Multitasking – FREEDOM Tools part 6 – FAH episode 19


Moms are masters of multitasking. We have to be in order to survive!

Multitasking is the final tool in my FREEDOM toolbox—7 tools for making the most of our time so we can live balanced, peaceful lives. Here’s a quick review of the tools:

Does it seem strange for the tools to begin with focusing and end with multitasking? Isn’t that contradictory? No, it’s not. The challenge is that you have to figure out when to focus and when to multitask.

Multitasking has gotten a bad rap for the past few years. Some people claim that if you can multitask while you’re doing something, it’s not worth your time to do it. That might apply in the context of running a business, where it could indicate something you should outsource. But in the daily life of a mom at home, somebody has to wash the dishes and match the socks, so multitasking is essential.

Another criticism of multitasking is that it undermines your focus and makes you less efficient, not more efficient. That’s a legitimate concern, but it applies primarily to mental multitasking—especially to digital distractions like computers and smartphones.

I’m not advocating mental multitasking. Rather, I’m suggesting that you look for ways to combine physical tasks with light mental tasks. This is the right kind of multitasking, and if you use it wisely, it can help you do more with your 24 hours a day. As organizing expert Eileen Roth says, “I sincerely believe that you can only do one thing at a time well, but how well do you need to wait in line?”

For example, you can quiz your child on multiplication facts or spelling words while you’re cooking dinner, or you can dust or fold laundry while you’re talking on the phone or listening to a podcast.

Closely related to multitasking is using small blocks of time wisely. In the podcast, I share over 40 things you can do in 5 to 15 minutes.

What are your favorite ways to multitask and use small blocks of time wisely? Please share them with us in the comments!

If you struggle with managing your time and organizing your life to focus on your priorities, you’ll find many more strategies in my book,Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, available at online retailers and through my website at www.FlourishAtHome.com.

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms



Organization – FREEDOM Tools part 5 – FAH episode 18


How do you respond to the word organization?

  • Does it make you cringe? Do you feel guilty because you’re hopelessly disorganized and wish you could be more organized?
  • Does it make you smile, with a happy sigh that all’s right with the world?
  • Do you think a certain amount of clutter is a sign of a happy home?
  • Do you resist the whole idea of organization—maybe because it reminds you of a neat-freak friend who labels everything in her household, uses color-coordinated storage containers, and alphabetizes her spices?

Whatever your reaction, this episode is for you.

Organization is the sixth tool in my FREEDOM toolbox—7 tools for making the most of our time so we can live balanced, peaceful lives. Here’s a quick review of the tools:

Organization is essentially self-discipline applied in an orderly way to free you to focus on what’s most important to you. Organizing your time, tasks, thoughts, and things helps you overcome and prevent obstacles to focusing on your priorities.

How organized you are has a powerful effect on the atmosphere in your home. Disorganization creates chaos, while organization promotes peace. Which do you prefer?

If one aspect of your life is unorganized, it spills over into every other aspect of your life. For example, if you can’t find your car keys, you’ll get flustered and be late for your appointment. If you’re sleep-deprived or running late, you’ll be much likelier to forget things and drop things, which will make you even later.

Organization even affects your relationships. If you’re running late and feeling frazzled, you may become irritated and impatient with your family.

It’s important to remember that there’s no one right way to organize. What helps you function effectively may be completely different from what helps your best friend or your mother-in-law function effectively. Isn’t that a relief?

Ironically, it’s possible to over-organize—to spend so much time on organization that it keeps you from focusing on your priorities instead of facilitating them.

Take some time to reflect on your life to identify areas that hinder you, and commit to becoming more organized if it would help your life run more smoothly.

If you struggle with managing your time and organizing your life to focus on your priorities, you’ll find many more strategies in my book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, available at online retailers and through my website at www.FlourishAtHome.com.

final cover

How to Make Hard Decisions

priorities and decisions

What do you do when you have so many commitments and priorities that you simply can’t take care of them all—at least not right now?

You have to make tough choices.

Several of the tools in my FREEDOM toolbox that we’ve been discussing in recent podcasts are especially helpful here:

You need to REFLECT to figure out your priorities . . . and to identify which of the competing priorities are the most important.

You need to FOCUS on those most important priorities.

You need to ELIMINATE other uses of your time so that you can focus on those highest priorities.

You need to DISCIPLINE yourself to take action on those top priorities.

The past few weeks have been even busier than usual for me in all 3 major planning areas: personal, family, and business. In the personal category, I’m dealing with some health issues, including a shoulder problem that requires time-consuming therapy. In the business category, I’m trying to catch up on multiple editing projects after traveling to speak at several homeschool conventions. And in the family category, we’re wrapping up our 18th year of homeschooling, celebrating my third son’s high school graduation (after homeschooling him for kindergarten through 12th grade!), and filling out a college application.

Something has to give.

This week, I made the hard decision to eliminate this week’s podcast. The “Flourish At Home” show is an important commitment for me because you, my listeners, have told me that it’s helpful to you. I intentionally keep each episode short (usually 15–30 minutes) by eliminating verbal clutter (chit-chat) and making all the content as relevant and useful as I can. But even a 15-minute podcast takes me about 4-5 hours to create, including time to plan, jot down some notes, record, tag, upload, write a blog post, create graphics, share on social media, and so on. As I reflected on all my current commitments, it was clear that this was the most appropriate thing to eliminate this week.

I originally planned to post just a couple of sentences about no new show this week, but then it occurred to me that this is a good example of how to implement the very time management principles that I’ve been teaching, so I thought it would be helpful to share how I reached that decision.

I’ll be back on Tuesday, May 19, to continue our FREEDOM series with a look at how to organize, and then on June 2 we’ll finish the series with a discussion of multitasking. See then!

Remember, you’ll find helpful strategies, along with encouragement and inspiration, in my book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. It’s available on my blog at www.FlourishAtHome.com.