Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms {Schoolhouse Review Crew}

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Like many women, especially homeschooling moms, I have a TON on my plate.  This season of littles & technological escapism, short temper, lack of discipline & general overwhelm had me (and my poor family) in a state of survival.  Better than before, but still spilling into survival mode.  The opportunity to review Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms (published by homeschool curriculum provider Apologia Educational Ministries) could not have come at a better time.




Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms was written by Mary Jo Tate, a SINGLE mother who both homeschooled AND supported her family with an at home business.  My goodness!!  In Flourish, Ms. Tate covers every area of life that a mom could encounter, including not having a spouse, running a business and homeschooling.  There are 16 chapters covering areas like attitude, the FREEDOM toolbox, time management, goals, planning, interruptions, child training, making memories, home management, learning, and more.  Flourish retails for $15.00.

The First Pass

I graduated with a business degree.  We own a business.  I am a productivity junkie (oh the irony!).  Love GTD, 7 Habits and all those type of books.  I have read mom productivity books, homeschool productivity books and business productivity books.  A lot of times the book covers 1 or 2 of the big pieces of my life, but never all 3.  Flourish is unique because it covers ALL THREE areas.  That is fabulous!   Even more fabulous is the fact that she covers being a single mom, doing all these things.

I am not a single mom.  But!  We own our own business.  And we’ve been in a growth spurt for about 4 months and we thought we finally hired someone, but it didn’t work out.  During growth spurts, I am practically single.  He works 10-14 hour days.  We have no family that is willing to help us out.  I finally found a regular sitter a few years ago but she is leaving for college at the end of the year.

Plus, I’m a loner.  Seriously, I’d rather be alone with a book than out for a girl’s night, which pretty effectively limits getting a good support network :).  Plus, I’m not a “kid-person” and feel like I can barely relate to mine and I’m with them all day.  Reciprocating in kind would be a special kind of purgatory for me.  All that to say that I can relate to aspects of single motherhood.   It’s also a great resource for how to help people who are single.  Or like single; I have a few friends in that boat.  One friend calls herself a golf-widow in the summers because her hubs manages a golf course :).

Anyway, the first thing I did was read the first chapter & take the “pre-test” to get a baseline for where I was starting.  Then I read the whole book.  Overall, I was inspired by stories of how she managed homeschool and work.  My kids are too little to do it like her since the youngest is one and the oldest is only 6, but I’m on track to get them there some day.  I was also convicted to be better disciplined. Discipline is not my strong suit. But you cannot make progress when you sit around wasting time or avoiding things.  So I need to get better at that.

The toolbox was a new idea to me and the strategies for singles spoke to me, too.  Go figure ;).  And my last set of goals were 2 years old, repeats of previous years and obviously not good ones or I would have done them at least a few times in those 3 years.  They need to be revisited.  So how to proceed?  In order or by need?

The Action Pass

The second time around, I’ve been slowly digesting the material. While I hadn’t heard of the toolbox as it was presented, I must have heard the bits and pieces from other places because I was pretty good at many of them.  I’m always trying to improve and tend to read many books on the same topics.  I’m also a master of elimination — especially of crappy & time consuming jobs :).  Discipline is my big one to work on.

I decided to pass on the full time log for two reasons.  First, I analyzed how much time essentials REALLY take in the winter.  Second, I do too much in 30 minutes to write stuff down.  Unless, I only write down “deal with kid needs” and “laundry” or “feed children” and “second breakfast,” etc.  What I DID do was work on my time wasters, because really that was one of the points of the exercise–to see what you spend your time on and then analyze it for good, bad and just plain reality.  I know that I spend a lot of time on my phone and computer; I think most of my readers know that, too :).  I got diligent, again, about limiting them.  I also decided that I needed to make time to really connect with my kids and be available to them and so I’ve been making a lot of effort to replace tech time with kid time (and not more chore time).

I’m also percolating goals.  I know what *I* want, but it’s silly to make goals that may conflict with hubby’s goals and he has been working 16 hour days.  I’m hoping to come home refreshed & inspired and ready to dream big after a badly needed family vacation this fall.  Right now he is busy moving to a new office and trying to hire & train a new tech before we leave.  Lots of stress going on the business front :).

I’ve gotten stuck in the planning tools.  Sort of.   Big dreams & annual goals are still percolating, but I know that one is to travel more.  While I haven’t set a goal yet, I do have time scheduled for travel in September & October right now.  My monthly calendars are pretty good, but my weekly plan & daily tasks will need tweaking when the new school year starts soon.  I’m looking forward to finishing this section & revisiting the interruption and attitude chapters.  I’m sure I’ll need it when the school year starts!


Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is a fabulous book for homeschool moms, especially those who work for pay (in or outside the home).  Mary Jo Tate lays out all the best pieces of productivity and quality living and shares how they can make a difference in your life.  As a mom, with children of all ages, homeschooling, running businesses, and in your messy, unpredictable life.  Mary Jo doesn’t preach and doesn’t give orders but shares tips and how they have worked for her or others.  She encourages you that more & better is possible and inspires you to get off your duff & do it.  I’m so excited to be in a place of dreaming about — and taking action toward — the life I want to live.  And live NOW not when the kids are older, or we have more money, or we live somewhere else, or or or.  I’m so glad to have been able to review this inspiring read; it replaces nearly every other productivity book on my shelf because its tailored to my busy mom life.

Click here to read all reviews of the book Flourish by the other ladies in the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Jen S.


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2014-2015 Curriculum – Second Grade for Visual Learners



So this year, we are doing things a little different. We are still trying to find what works and she’s old enough to work a little harder. Also, she is a proficient reader which allows her to do a lot more because she can work independently. And if you aren’t familiar with our family, she is very visual and a bit auditory, as well. All that being said, here are our curriculum choices for Lil Bit (6.5) in second grade.

All Year Subjects

Bible / Religion

For bible/religious education, we are using 3 resources:

I really like the Faith & Life series for Catholic catechesis. She adores Bible Study for All Ages and so she will do F&L three days a week & BS4AA twice, just like last year. In addition, we get a monthly SaintMail package that she really likes (link goes to my review).


Language Arts

She is an incredibly proficient reader, practically overnight, so we are jumping straight to Logic of English Essentials. It will cover grammar, spelling, dictation and such.

We may add a few literature studies or some poetry recitation, but we’ll see how that shakes out.



We are in catch up mode due to picking the wrong Saxon curriculum (oops). She will be finishing first grade & hopefully second grade math, too, using CTC Math. Click here to see my CTC Math Review.

We are also going to play math games from a Math Games Kit we bought at the homeschool convention. We have been loving it so far! We also have a software program for math fact drills that we are reviewing this month (Ubersoft Math).   I found a Learning Wrap-Up Addition Set at a yard sale, too.  We will continue to work on them from all angles until they are mastered.




Exploring the Continents

We are using this Catholic geography program from CHC. It’s very simple, gentle & hands on.


Daily Geography 1 & 2

Why these too? We bought them & she LOVES geography. She will cruise through 2 weeks a week.



Building Good Character

Building Good Character was an add-on to the CHC grade 1 package, but because I am lousy at being consistent, I am hoping this will help us all.



Artistic Pursuits Book 1

She loves art and I hope to get her working through the Artistic Pursuits Book 1 once a week in addition to some other resources I have floating around.


Current Events

Scholastic News 2 + Science Spin

She loves these newspapers and so we will continue to do them. They are fun & short extras and we got to them all last year. That in itself is a feat!


Spring & Fall Terms



Behold & See 2 & Daily Science 2

We have decided to pause on Apologia until she is older. She just isn’t interested in it and it’s so detailed that she just spaces out. Instead we will do Behold & See 2 and Daily Science 2. Both are very gentle and easy. Since she’s very interested in people, I’ve purchased DK’s Great Scientists, at her request. We also have several months of Magic School Bus lab kits to do.


Winter Term



Veritas Press – Ancient Greece & Rome

You can see my review of the Veritas Press Self-Paced history Ancient Greece & Rome here. She is IN LOVE. We will actually work through this all year but during winter, we will step it up.


Composer Study

We bought the Music Appreciation study from Zeezok last year and went gangbusters for a month — until the weather got nice. We will bring it out & cover a few composers and do the rest next year.


Do you have second grade curriculum for your visual learner that you love? I’d love to hear about your favorites!

Jen S.


This post is linked to The Homeschool Curriculum Choices Homeschool Share @ Chestnut Grove Academy.


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3 Steps To Looking Put Together by Having A Signature Style — Jewelry

Disclaimer: I received a necklace in exchange for an honest review.


Life has changed since before I had kids. In fact, hubs just asked WHY I seem to care about fashion & clothes so much more now than before we had kids. The answer was simple.

  1.  I married an awesome guy and don’t want to be that frumpy, worn out, unhappy mom that makes childless people thankful for their contraception.
  2. We own a successful business and I can’t be caught schlepping around like a slob in case we run into clients or members of the business community while we are out.
  3. He works hard to run that business and make a good impression. I want him to be proud to introduce me to people we see.

Is it vanity? Not really. The reality is that your appearance helps make a first impression. Even the infamous Proverbs 31 woman clothed her family in purple and her husband was respected at the city gates.

One of my favorite ways to look put together is with accessories. No matter what my weight, pregnancy status or what have you, accessories like shoes, purses, scarves, hats & jewelry always fit. My favorite accessory is jewelry and my favorite jewelry is usually religious. It’s pretty and makes a statement about who I am, if you are paying attention.



Nativity Stone Jewelry

Recently, the folks at Nativity Stones sent me a beautiful necklace from their Nativity Stones jewelry collection. The Church of the Nativity is built over the cave where it is believed that Jesus was born. In 1963, workers removed a portion of the wall to allow visitors to exit the manger room. Stanley Slotkin noticed this and asked if he could have the pieces being removed. Many were given to charitable organizations and sick people in hospitals, but recently, they have begun to make jewelry with small pieces of the wall inside.

I was sent a beautiful piece of this jewelry–the Classic Nativity Stones Cross. The cross itself is coated in 18k gold and is designed to be worn by either sex, making it a wonderful graduation or confirmation gift. The classic cross is generously sized at 1-3/8″ x 2-1/4″ and includes a quality 22″ rope chain. If you prefer something a little smaller, they make a petite version that is only 7/8″ x 1-3/8″. In addition, they have a simpler Carpenter’s Cross that is coated in silver. It’s stunning to look at! Each piece of jewelry comes in a gift box with a certificate of authenticity and a pamphlet sharing the story behind Nativity Stones.

photo (1)

For the last few months, I have been wearing the Classic Nativity Stones Cross to Mass on Sunday’s. My baby loves to finger it while he nurses and its sturdy enough that I don’t worry about him snapping the chain. My girls love to look at it and hear the story. I’m sure that people have overheard me telling them the story because I’ve noticed people turning around to look.


3 Steps to a Signature Style – Jewelry

The Classic Nativity Stones cross has become a part of my Sunday uniform–I put it on as a matter of habit. Determining a signature style can help you look put together every single day in a matter of minutes.

1. Survey Your Stuff.

Take a few minutes and survey your jewelry box–the stuff you could wear every day, not the fancy ones.

What do you have the most of? What do you love the most?

Chances are you already have a favorite, you just didn’t know it. Or, you keep buying items that don’t actually work for your life.

2. Pick Your Signature Item.

Pick one or two types of jewelry that fit in your lifestyle. Necklaces & bracelets work best during this season of life, but maybe you prefer rings, earrings, pins/brooches or even cool & colorful watches. I used to be known for crazy dangly earrings in a past life ;). Once you pick a statement item, it’s freeing limit any new purchases to mostly those items and not worry that they will never be worn.

3. Pick a few favorites.

Grab 3 or 4 items to choose from and put them on a valet, fun tray or pretty china saucer near where you get dressed. Everyday when you get dressed, grab something from your tray.

Voila. Instant style!


Do you have a signature jewelry item?

Jen S.






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3 Ways to Fit Fun into Your Home {School} @ Only Passionate Curiosity

I wrote a guest post for Heather, a fellow crew mate at the Schoolhouse Review Crew this week.   I had to snicker when she said that my house sounded like a fun place to learn.  When I read it last night, we were in the midst of learning character, new rules and hard consequences.   It was not a fun night!

Even so, I guess, I do try to find ways to make learning fun.   Here is how I do it…




So I have younger kids and if school gets too boring for two long, they start to revolt.  Really, though, who doesn’t?  Even my husband & I revolt if it has been longer than a year without traveling somewhere.  I think it’s human nature :).

Anyway, while these are tips I use to plan for “fun school” for my smaller kids, they are absolutely adaptable for older kids.

Check out all three ways that I plan to incorporate fun into our homeschool year over at Only Passionate Curiousity.   These tips are great for just incorporating fun into your home, too.

Jen S.

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Math Apps for Early Learners — Eggy Numbers 1-10 & Eggy Add to 20

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of these iPhone apps in exchange for an honest review.


Math Apps for Early Learners

This has been a math kind of summer for both of our girls; it is one of the two subjects they are working on during summer school. Earlier, we were invited to review a few apps from the Reading Eggs folks. We have downloaded several of their apps and I was pretty sure that two of their iPhone apps, Eggy Add to 20 and Eggy Numbers 1-10, would give us a bit of a head start on the new school year.


Eggy Add to 20

My oldest daughter, age 6-1/2, is working on her number facts. Grudgingly. She is entirely unmotivated to learn them. She has, however, been loving the Eggy Add to 20 app. The Eggy Add to 20 app has 6 different games to play with 2 or 3 levels each. For each level you successfully complete you get a Mashie, a character in the app gallery.


All levels have you doing addition problems up to 20. In Balloons, you have to pick the balloon with the correct answer. The different stages use numbers, pictures of cubes representing 10′s & 1′s, number to word recognition & more.


Snowboarding is the hardest. You are snowboarding down a hill and you have to drag the snowboarder back & forth across the slope to avoid obstacles AND collect flags. Each successive stage gets faster and has more incorrect answers to avoid. If you mess up, you start the stage over.


In Teddy, a bear is hanging from a rope, you need to pair numbers that equal the total enough times to make him climb the rope. You can move the rows and columns to move numbers next to each other, if necessary.


Memory is pretty self explanatory except you are matching the problem to the answer.


Sheepdog was a pretty neat game. 4 rows of sheep are moving in alternate directions and you have to hop across the 4 rows by answering the questions at the top. If you hop wrong or get to the edge of the screen he falls off and you have to go back to the top. You have to go to the bottom and get a bone, then carry it to the top until you get all the bones. The sound effects on this one were particularly fun :).


Fishing was my daughters favorite, I think. You have to move the boat across the screen & then drop a line to catch a fish. Your goal is to catch 2 fish that equal the number at the top. The further you get, the more fish there are.


Overall, my daughter has really enjoyed playing all the games in Eggy Add to 20 and she is hooked on trying to earn all the Mashies. I was trying to get her to do math fact problems in a rapid-fire time-trial thing, but I don’t think she will ever hit that goal. I’m satisfied that she is making headway in knowing her addition problems quickly. And she’s having a blast doing it; I don’t mind giving her the screen time when I know she’s getting something out of it.


The app has not crashed my older smaller iPhone 4S, so yay for that! The sounds are not obnoxious and are actually quite fun. While you can pick your accent, I am partial to the Australian one :). Eggy Add to 20 had a bit of a game learning curve (we severely limit screen time), but it was super low compared to some things we’ve tried. It took a day or two (at 15 minutes/day) to really master the game play.


Eggy Numbers 1 to 10

We also downloaded a copy of Eggy Numbers 1-10 for my 3-3/4 year old. We haven’t spent a ton of time on number recognition and need a little work on 1:1 correspondence.


Eggy Numbers 1-10 has 2 sections. The first covers number writing & recognition and the second covers counting. You earn acorns for completed activities and like the Eggy Add to 20, Eggy Numbers 1-10 has little trophies you can collect. In this app, however, they are called critters and there are 18 to collect. You can earn critters for things like playing 30 minutes, using it for 4 days in a row, or earning 1 acorn on all activities.


In the number section of Eggy Numbers 1-10 there are 4 activities for each number from 1 to 10. The first is dot to dot, where the child draws the number by connecting the dots. This one was a little picky in my opinion. The screenshot above shows a failed 1. It looked pretty darn good to me! In Draw the Number, you draw it & it shows you what you should have done. You self compare in this one. In Copy the Number, you trace the shapes. In Number or Not, you say whether the number of items in the box is the number you are working on.


In the counting set of activities, there are 3 games with 2 levels each. The first game is called Counting With Buddy. The game gives you a number and an animal and you have to drag the correct number to the barnyard. The second is Number Ring. In Number Ring there is a circle in the center with a number of animals in it. Around the outside are circles with numbers 1-5 (or 1-10). You are to drag the animals to the correct number.


The Number Domino game is the hardest. You have to match up halves scrolling across the top with the ones at the bottom. And you have to drop it when it’s over where you want it to go. Sort of. Because the top box is smaller than the play area and its tough to drop it at the right time AND match top & bottom halves of acorns & such. It’s a lot for a 3 year old to get.  Heck, it took ME a minute :).

I’m surprised at how much my almost 4 year old knew without us sitting down and teaching her and she picked up on it really quickly. I wasn’t a fan of the writing portions, but perhaps she will grow into those. An electronic salt box, if you will :). She enjoyed the Number or Not activity and Counting with Buddy the most. When left to her own devices, though, she had so much fun pushing buttons & dragging animals around that she didn’t learn much :). When guided through, though, she got a ton out of it. She also did a great job with the Number Circle.


Overall, we liked Eggy Numbers 1-10, too. She asks to play her “math game” nearly every day and she’s really starting to understand the 1:1 correspondence. Her recognition of 1-5 is pretty well there now also. I also love the summary screen showing activities, time spent, etc.  I wish Eggy Add to 20 had a similar page.

The farm animal theme is fun & enjoyable for 3-4 year olds and cracking the eggs to hatch the critters is fun, too. Eggy Numbers 1-10 was also kind to my aging phone; not only is it a 4S, but I’m not running the new updated iOS (which isn’t so new anymore). It didn’t crash or hiccup and ran pretty well. Some activities were a little bumpy; my 3 year old is not known got her precision and an iPhone screen is small. Still the apps were well built for the small screen and everything was easy to read.


Overall, our family has really enjoyed using Eggy Add to 20 and Eggy Numbers 1-10. My kids have enjoyed being able to play fun games on my phone. I’ve enjoyed that their screen time is not a total brain drain. And hubby is grateful that they run well on my phone because he doesn’t want me to whine about needing an upgrade. He likes the content me, not the gadget-hungry one in need of a tech fix :). We’ve been really happy with the quality of all the iPhone apps we’ve tried from the Reading Eggs folks. I’m excited to see what they create next!


What math apps do your kids love?


Jen S.

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