Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flourish by Mary Jo Tate - Apologia Book Review

Flourish Book Review
Honestly, I was nervous to take on this review.  I, a homeschool mom, struggle greatly with finding balance in my day, my week, my life, and reading had somehow gotten knocked near the bottom of my list of priorities.  I had been existing in survival mode.  However, when the opportunity to review Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms came to me through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew via Apologia Educational Ministries something in me told me to take on the challenge.  The big clincher for me was that Mary Jo Tate is a successful homeschool mom that works from home, and when I reviewed the chapters of the book I saw that she included one titled Home Business where she shares her personal experience and wisdom as a successful, SINGLE, work-from-home, homeschool mom.  Talk about some pretty big hats!  My attention had been peaked, and I accepted the challenge.

If I chose to focus on the perceived negative, I failed my challenge.  I have not finished the book.  However, I choose to focus on the positive.  There are 16 chapters in Flourish, and I am a mere five pages from completing Chapter 15, Home Business; the magic morsel that I had been searching for when I began this personal challenge.  I did get a little more than I bargained for.  Once I received my book in the mail from Apologia, and I read the first chapter, I was hooked.  What I didn't realize was that Mary Jo Tate would call on me to take some action on my own behalf.  At the end of each chapter Mary Jo a page titled Take Action!  I was a little nervous when I saw that first action step at the end of Chapter One.  However, I would not be so easily discouraged.  I grabbed a blank composition book from our homeschool cupboard and got to work.

The first Take Action! step was basically a review session for me.  See, I have been really working on self-reflection and have really been taking the time I need to evaluate where I am as an individual, where we are as a family, and where we stand as entrepreneurs.  I have been doing a bit of the dirty work already, so the first step didn't throw me any real curve balls.  The one glaring thing that did stand out to me though is that I do not have ANY written goals.  NONE!  I, the constant goal setter, had somehow allowed the waves of life to grab hold tight and beat me against the shore, over and over again.  Somehow, I have managed to lose my footing and stop doing something I consider completely essential to a successful life.  I have NO written goals for myself.  I have NO written goals for my family.  I have NO written goals for my homeschool.  I have NO written goals for our business.  ZIP.  ZERO.  ZILCH.  NADA.  This, thanks to Mary Jo Tate, will soon be remedied.

I have worked myself through each chapter so far diligently working on each and every Take Action! step at the end of each and every chapter.  I even completely read the chapter on single parents.  If you are not a single-parent this chapter is still for you.  Mary Jo does a wonderful job giving insight to both the single-parent that has made the commitment to homeschool her children as well as homeschoolers like me who have the benefit of a supportive husband.  She provides Take Action! steps for both groups of people as well.  I appreciate the wise quotes throughout the book as well as the personal input from real-life individuals in the trenches today, especially in this chapter.  The single-parent led homeschool family can easily slip through the social cracks, so to speak, and there is great advice given here that both empowers the single-parent as well as equips the traditional homeschool family to be both empathetic and supportive.

Flourish Book ReviewMary Jo Tate has provided a true blessing in the writing of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms.  I have been telling others about it since I read the first four chapters in one sitting.  (Your do remember what I said about my struggle to find time to read above, right?)  It's a breath of fresh air, and should hold a place on the shelves of all homeschoolers, both new and veteran.  It would make a wonderful gift for any occasion to any homeschool mom.  Flourish is loaded with practical advice given from personal experience.  It is real life lived successfully with bumps and bruises bared.  For me, this equates to wisdom, and wisdom shared is multiplied.  Mary Jo Tate has effectively shared with us wisdom worth sharing.  Reading Flourish has been a blessing to me, and I know it will continue to bless me and many others for years to come.  It may just be the best $15 investment you'll ever make in your self, your family, your homeschool, and your business; all in one fell swoop!



"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 
She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."
~Proverbs 3:13-18



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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Irish Princess - a novel

I have made a concerted effort to spend more time reading, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it.  I am a major bookworm, and I found myself swept up in the throws of life.  This left me with the perception that I just had no time to read.  Well, I missed it greatly.  It was like a longing in my heart.  I cannot imagine life without books.

Most of the books I read are educational in one way or another; not by preference, but by necessity.  Or, at least my perceived notion that I need to be reading books about teaching, parenting, home schooling, education, and on and on.  However, I love to read fiction, and every now and then I have to remind myself to read a novel.  I mentioned The Irish Princess by Mickey Clement in a previous post.  I finally finished it, and I am so glad I didn't give up on reading it.

I have a strong Irish heritage, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about The Malloy clan, an Irish-American family living in Troy, New York in the 1960's.  It didn't take me long to get into the flow of Mickey Clement's approach to the telling of their story.  After a while I rather enjoyed learning more about the happenings of the Malloy family from the perspective of each of the family members.  Toward the end I couldn't put the book down.  I was anxious to learn how the story ended.  It was invigorating.  I missed that feeling a lot.  Now, my radar is peaked looking for the next novel to read.  There's just something about summer and a good book.  What are you reading this summer?

Monday, July 07, 2014

Finally!

Country living hasn't worked out quite exactly as I had planned.  My ambitions out number my ambition by far.  As you well know, we've been flung a few curve balls since we moved.  It's caused me to take MUCH longer in accomplishing things around our so-called homestead.  Again, I almost threw the towel completely in on growing anything around here that resembled food for yet another summer.

When we moved here there was no real landscaping to speak of, so everything we do is completely new and has required a lot of manual labor on our part.  There was one existing flower bed around our front porch, and I had resigned myself to leaving it alone.  It wasn't planted the way I would do it, but it looked nice enough.  One less thing to worry about while we tackle the laundry list of things more pressing around here; chop wood to heat during winter, mow the grass, trim the trees, build a barn, build a chicken coop, build a hearth for a now needed new wood burner, etc.

Our home when we first purchased it with original plants.

A different plan came about, and I'm glad we are seeing it through.  Jack Frost bit real hard this winter here in SE Michigan.  We had numerous days with sustained 30-degrees BELOW ZERO temperatures.  I don't recall a winter that found me spending more time indoors ever in my life.  Well, the star attraction around our front porch was four lovely rosebushes that bloomed spring through fall.  The problem?  They are only cold-hardy to temperatures of 20-degrees below zero.  Yes.  They died.

My damaged trees and dead rose bushes this spring.

Once we determined the rose bushes were not coming back my husband cut them off at the base with his chainsaw.  We left it like that for a short while, but it was driving me crazy.  We're nearing the end of planting season, so vegetable plants are easily found for 99-cents here, and perennials can be picked up for Buy One, Get One FREE.  My kind of deals.

The kids and I stopped at a farm stand that we pass on our way back and forth to the chiropractor.  We found four heirloom tomato plants, 12 bell pepper, and four jalapeno peppers along with some daisies and a couple other flowers. I managed to keep them alive in their pots for about a week and was anxious to get them in the ground.  I kept trying to determine how it was I was going to get these plants into dirt, but be it pot on the porch or in the ground I really wanted to see them grow.

Fortunately, my hubby agreed to dig out the rosebush roots this past Sunday.  I decided to run out to a local feed store for rabbit food and bird seed.  Well, they have four greenhouses.  I found two kinds of lettuce totaling eight plants, four eggplant plants, two large basil plants, four slicing cucumber plants, and some more flowers.

The front bed along the porch replanted with flowers and vegetables.

The kids and I managed to get most everything in the ground right in the existing flower bed around the front porch.  We still have some peppers and lettuce to plant along with some flowers.  I am thinking the produce plants will go in big tubs on the porch, and we will add the flowers to a perennial bed we have been trying to establish the last couple of summers.  First, we need to pull a lot of weeds!

Seems funny to have moved from a postage stamp sized yard to nearly 11 acres and still be planting like I live in the city.  For now, this is a simple solution.  However, I still hold out hope for my cottage-style raised bed garden.  One day.  One day.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fun Times in St. Clair County

We've been here in the country for almost three years now, and I SO GLAD we finally left the city life behind us!  Our transition finds us getting to know a whole different county than we were used to.  Despite the fact that I grew up in St. Clair County, I am finding myself only vaguely familiar with the area.  A lot changes in 20 years!  Not to mention, I did grow up in the city of Port Huron, not the country surrounding it.  There is a lot to explore within the city of Port Huron as well as the outlying areas.

Country life suits us, and we're working more and more, ever slowly as it may seem, toward more of a homesteading lifestyle.  With this struggling effort comes acquaintances with interesting connections and fascinating lifestyles.  We are attracted more to farm related activities; things with a slower pace and more of a family feel.

With our reentry into the homeschool circuit, I have come to know some fascinating people, made some awesome friends, and established some valuable connections.  This past year I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Great Start Parent Coalition.  Each year they publish the most awesome free resource!  The 2014 Summer Fun Guide is an invaluable publication that lists events throughout the county that are either free or have a minimal expense.  Other resources can be found within the pages as well.  I have picked out a few of my favorite to share with you:

Fort Gratiot Beach, Fort Gratiot - This is our absolute favorite beach!  There is no charge for entry or parking.  It's located just off M-25 on Metcalf Road on Lake Huron.  It is a beautiful wooded area with a nice stretch of beach.  There are picnic areas, a playground, and paved walking trails.  Whenever we go to the beach, this is where we go.

KOA Port Huron & Sawmill City - A fun little area in Wadhams that is on our list to do in the future.  The two youngest are a little short for the water slide, but we do plan to visit the putt-putt golf area this summer.  There are bumper boats, go carts, train rides, bank-shot basketball, batting cages and water wars.  You do not have to be a camper to visit Sawmill City.  This is "just down the road" from  us, and we are sure to be visiting it a lot over the years.

Powder Puff Pacas - This alpaca farm in Lenox is such a nice place.  Although, we have not been to their new location yet.  My family first discovered this farm and the lovely lady that owns it several years ago when we were still city dwellers.  Thanks to a good friend we found out about a farm tour they were doing where you traveled the area visiting the different alpaca farms.  Unfortunately, I don't believe they do the traveling tours anymore, but you can visit Powder Puff Pacas any time by appointment.  They also host an annual open house that is free of charge and open to the public.

Family Center at St. Clair County RESA - What a WONDERFUL resource for parents of young children.  There are play groups available, a host of resources, and wonderful play bins that can be checked out for FREE.  They are located right on the corner of Range Road and Smiths Creek in Marysville.

All American Flames Gymnastix - Another fun place right in our neck of the woods that is on our list to check out.  I am thinking we will pay it a visit in the super hot days of the summer, or the super cold days of the winter.  I have heard nothing but good about this indoor gym from many people.  When the weather drives us inside, but we want to be out and active this is where we plan to head.

St. Clair County Library Main Branch - Imagine my surprise when I walked into the children's area and saw the same librarian that was there when I was a kid!  There are a lot of free activities that happen at the library; this location, and all the others.  There are also wonderful puzzles, games and sitting areas to occupy children of all ages, and there is even a fishing pole section that allows you to check out poles just like books!  We plan to visit Burtchville Township and Memphis over the summer just for fun.  They're all relatively the same distance from us, so why not?

Carnegie Center - Or, as I know it, Port Huron Museum.  It's hardly changed since I was a kid, but it remains just as fascinating.  There is a whole area that changes content and displays on a regular basis.  There is a lot of fun exploring to have here, and there are various events offered throughout the year.  We just participated in a Pioneer Days field trip through our local home school group there last moth.  It was wonderful!

Huron Lightship at Pinegrove Park - I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I've toured this lightship, and it never gets old.  This current batch of children have not had the experience yet.  If not this summer, then soon.  We're sure to visit several times over the coming years.

Fort Gratiot Light Station and Gift Shop - A lot has changed around here!  The light station has been reopened after years of being closed, and there are new buildings on the property.  I haven't climbed the lighthouse since grade school.  So, that's another one to add to my list of things to do with the kids over the next couple of years.  It is so beautiful there just to visit, even if you don't do the climb, and Lighthouse Beach is right next door for a picnic or some playground fun.  Watch out for the current on the beach.  It's a strong one!

Historical Village at Goodells Park -  We frequent Goodells Park A LOT, because it literally is right in our neighborhood.  When the kids get older they will for sure be riding their bikes there all the time.  We enjoy everything on the grounds, and it's fun to look in the windows of the buildings in the Historical Village.  There is also a splash pad, playground, farm museum, butterfly garden, and a host of events that happen there throughout the year including the St. Clair County 4-H Fair.  Our newest annual tradition.

Knowlton Ice Museum - I've wanted to visit here ever since we moved to the area.  We haven't made it there yet, but we will.  It's located right in Downtown Port Huron and would be a perfect fit for a day trip.  This is on our list!

SC4 Natural Science Museum - This is a new one to me.  I didn't even know it existed!  We will be watching to see what is going on there from this point forward.  We had to miss out on the 4-H field trip to the museum this month.  It overlapped with Harmony's week at camp.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll plan a field trip there for our home school group.

Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum - Yet another museum I was unaware of its existence.  This is on my list more for my husband than myself.  We're supposed to be doing a staycation this year, and it's within 20 minutes from our home, so why not?  The hubby and the son will surely enjoy it, and it won't be so big as to torture us females.  LOL

Pine River Nature Center - So many fun activities happen here!  It's right near Goodell's Park which is right in our neighborhood, so this is another local treasure we are sure to use countless times in the future.  Already, Harmony has taken art classes there, we've attended a really cool exotic animal petting zoo hosted by a local rescue facility, taken guided and unguided hikes on the trails, and attended a super fun Great Start even there.  Lots of fun for all ages!

Pine River Stables - Years and years ago I went horseback riding here, and one day I plan to visit here again with the kids.  All of my kids love horses, and they want to ride.  This is a nice place for those that like to ride the wooded trails.  Harmony can't wait to go!

Sanborn Nature Area - I cannot believe that I have never been to Sanborn Park, and I had no clue until this year that there was a nature area.  How crazy is that?  Our 4-H club participated in an even this past fall there, and that was the first I heard of it.  Now, I see that it is used by teachers and other organizations for nature instruction.  You know we have to check it out!

St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Trails - We live right near the train trestle on the Wadhams to Avoca Trail, and I cannot wait to visit the trestle.  I love to take pictures.  This is one outing that would make me personally happy to take on my own just so I could be free to linger and take as many photos as I like.  However, this is perfect for a family nature walk or even a couple's night out.  We have walked part of the trail, but not the trestle part.  St. Clair County also has Beards Hills Recreation Area, Bridge to Bay Trail, Woodsong Nature Area, and Columbus Township Park, our favorite sledding hill!

Sunny Fields Botanical Park - Here is another local treasure "just down the street" from us that I have intended to visit for the past two years, but I have failed to make it happen.  Like the train trestle, I would love to go here along, or with a friend that likes to linger, so I could take pictures galore.  The lilacs here reach their peak in mid-May, but they are open April through October by appointment.  I need to get around to making that appointment.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers - I love browsing a bookstore, and I love the clearance center at B&N.  In the summer they host a storytime for ages 2-5 on Fridays at 11 a.m. for FREE.  The local store has a nice children's area, too.  There are also great teacher events and other happenings throughout the year.

Blue Water YMCA - We've never taken advantage of the Y, but a lot of our home school friends participate in Home School Gym & Swim and other events that happen there.  The location is beautiful, and the building is always bustling with activity.  It's worth a look-see.

Here are a few more awesome resources:

Get Out and Play St. Clair County

Christian Home Educators of the Blue Water Area

City of Port Huron

St. Clair County

St. Clair County 4-H Fair

The Lake Bonisteel Music Association

Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce












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