A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman (Updated and Revised) by Lane P. Jordan

The book 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman (Practical Tips for Managing Your Home and Your Family) by Lane P. Jordan is the type of book you keep on the bookshelf to read and re-read regularly. To say it plainly - I really like this book! Lane is genuine and she is very skilled at offering solid advice that is do-able, aligns with God's Word, and covers pretty much every area of a woman's life.

This updated edition deals with things in our lives that really were not an issue in the early '90's. Smart phones? Facebook? Twitter? All things I use daily (even when writing this book review) but unheard of not so long ago...unless you attended Harvard, then you know what Facebook really is.

In many ways the need to be more organized is more important for women today than ever before. We're tempted with time consumers all day long, every single day. And where our time goes, our days go, our relationships go, our homes go, our lives go. Organizing your life is what this book is really about. And I am thankful for it's timely message.

Rather than chapters, each section is referred to as a "Step".  Each step opens with a verse from the Bible. Lane begins where a woman who loves the Lord should begin - her daily walk with God. We can't live the lives He has planned for us on our own. We have to rely on Him from the time we arise until each day has ended. The author offers advice about how to make God's priorities our priorities. Each step ends with a "Bringing It Home" segment, including another verse, questions for reflection, and a short paragraph on practical application. The reader is given tools to make her life more organized for real, not simply on paper.

Topics discussed include:  marriage, outreach, time, career, health, children, emotions, and more. The author of 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman is frank, but never pushy. Honest, open and warm in her frankness - something of a Titus 2 mentor in between the front and back cover of this book. Don't just read Lane's book - apply it. The new year is a great time to start living a more organized life.

Lane P. Jordan's book is available on Amazon HERE.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 5.

I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Day 296 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Perfumed Letters by Robin T. Smith

The book Perfumed Letters (written by Robin T. Smith) came wrapped in a gift bag, with a hand-written note from the author. That was a pleasant surprise - not the way a book usually arrives in my mailbox! 

Perfumed Letters isn't a terribly long book, and is very easy to read. The author's writing style is genuine, as if she's talking to a close friend. Robin truly knows God's Word and is able to apply it to different life situations with seeming ease. Her analogy of a variety of perfumes is a good way to compare and contrast Godly attributes in a woman to those that are worldly in nature. 

Perfumed Letters, to me, is a book aimed at moving women toward maturity in Christ. Moving beyond simply being content with salvation (sometimes referred to as fire insurance). An example of the kind of things the author challenges her readers with include a question posed on page 18 that reads, "Do you still handle conflict and problems the same way you did as a seventeen-year-old girl?"  What a great question! And when answered honestly, the reader could be spurred to move toward a spiritually mature way of dealing with conflict. She also ends each chapter with a "Reflection", which is essentially a wrap-up paragraph aimed at getting the reader to apply God's Word to their life before moving ahead to the next chapter. I liked this addition to each chapter very much.

My blog's name is Encouraging Moms Who Homeschool and I aim to do exactly that. As a part of my commitment to post things that encourage homeschooling mothers, I feel I must share that this book has quite a bit of content that is not suitable for my blogging audience. I work hard to stick with my clear and intended purpose of encouraging women, and even though I do not like to be harsh when reviewing some one's work, I do have to be honest with my readers. There really is no way I would ever allow my daughters to read this book, and I could not ever see myself recommending it to a homeschooler. But that's not to say that many women would not be blessed by Perfumed Letters. It just isn't a good fit for me, my family, or my blog audience. There is a strong sexual "tone" to this book that is disconcerting to me - the wording is the type that goes against the Biblical principle I follow to not even allow a hint of in my home, or in my heart (see Ephesians 5:3-5).

Thank you for taking the time to read my review of this book, and please note that if you would like to read it, it is available at Amazon HERE.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 2.

I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

 Day 295 done :)

Jan L. Burt

The Perfect Score Project - Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Stier

The Perfect Score Project by Debbie Stier is a fascinating book (borne out of a fascinating plan!) - 281 pages, 20 chapters of SAT prep information wrapped in the true story of a mom who took the SAT seven times while working to encourage her son to do his best rather then settling for mediocrity. Is that novel, or what?!? You don't have the opportunity to read about this type of undertaking every day; needless to say, I was very interested in Debbie's story.

The Perfect Score Project is an informative, well-written book that makes the reader feel right at home as soon as you turn to page 1. Each chapter has "info boxes" that contain valuable tidbits to help your student get the most from their SAT preparation ~ so no worries that this book just tells Debbie Stier's tale of taking a difficult standardized test over and over again. Nope, the book doesn't just tell her tale, it gives loads of excellent information that moms of high-school students can use.

Here is an example of the type of advice you'll find in The Perfect Score:

                Characteristics of a Great Test Location
                         ~ classrooms, rather than gymnasiums or cafeterias ,are used for testing
                         ~ full-size desks & chairs (versus chairs with attached tablet desks)
                         ~ a visible clock in the testing room
                         ~ proctors who abide by official test rules

As a homeschooling mom with two kids in college and three still at home, I can tell you that tips like these really do make a big difference in the score your student gets on the SAT. (And in case you're wondering, "How on earth do I find a great test location?" no worries; she tells you how in the book!) She was tackling this project in 2011, and there may be a few changes that have taken place since then. My oldest graduated in 2011, so I have experience with the SAT in the same frame of time that Debbie's book relates. My second oldest graduated in 2013, and there were some changes to the College Board website and the admission ticket (specifically it now requires a photo of the student on the ticket itself - so have a pic your teen likes saved to your desktop...because they WILL gripe if you use a picture they don't find flattering!)

As a mother who was asked to participate in a Q&A session/private interview with College Board representatives, and one who has perused the site fairly extensively, I feel somewhat qualified to say that this book is a good resource to have on hand if you have a child considering college. And why take a chance with a test score that could save tens of thousands of dollars in student loans? A good score = money for college. Resources that lead to a good score = a great investment.

I do, however, have to share a disclaimer. I'm a homeschooling mother, and the official name of my blog is "Encouraging Moms Who Homeschool". That is why I write - to encourage homeschooling mothers. And I'm not quiet about my faith in Jesus Christ on my blog. So it won't come as any surprise when I say that this book, as it is written to an audience that is much broader than the audience my blog is written for, is not what I'd call "clean". There is language that I do not approve of ~ curse words and misuse of God's name. Not on every page, and maybe it's mild as compared to other non-Christian books. But I cannot post a review of this book to my specific audience and leave out those details. It bothered me when reading the book, and I assume it would also bother others.

The book as a whole is really a gem, a treasure-trove of insight and an honest look at a mom's concern for her son's future. Overall I loved it. And overall I highly recommend it. (And I don't really ever recommend books that have any foul language in them - so my recommendation says a whole lot about the value of the subject matter covered in The Perfect Score Project.)

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 5.

To learn more about the book, visit  or read more @ Random House online.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Day 294 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

A Fair Warning...

This brief post is to inform my blog followers that I'm about to post several book reviews in a row. I'm hammering them out, as I've had time to do some reading during our Christmas break and I'm going to post the reviews while the content is fresh in my mind.

That was my PSA regarding the coming onslaught of book reviews...consider yourselves warned!

Day 293 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Samson ~ A Savior Will Rise by Shawn Hoffman

Have you ever glanced over a book's cover, quickly read it's description, and thought you understood what the book was about? But then as you read the book, you found it contained much more than you ever imagined? That's basically what happened to me with the book Samson ~ A Savior Will Rise by Shawn Hoffman.

The book is based on true events that took place in Auschwitz during WWII. In great, heart-breaking detail Samson describes life in the camp for a Jewish boxer who was "recruited" to participate in weekly entertainment for the officers at Auschwitz, including Rudolf Hoss and Josef Mengele. While the book contains facts about many different people who endured life (and death) at Auschwitz, the author compiles multiple true events into the life of one man, Samson Abrams, and his family. It is a riveting read, one of the best books I have ever read...but it is in no way an easy read. Think you know all about the Nazis? You don't. Certain you have a complete grasp on the extent of their evil? Think again. If you read this book, you will read about real events that happened to real people, many of them young children, that will haunt you. That's a warning, but it's also the reason Samson is such an important book. It's dangerous for us to forget what took place at the hands of crazed Germans. It's dangerous for us to simply look away when things are "too much" for us. It's dangerous to squeeze our eyes tightly shut, cover our ears with our hands, and say, "I don't want to know..." 

Shawn Hoffman is an author who paints a picture with words that draws you in. You can see the events play out in your mind as you read. As far as writer's go, he excels at his craft. I will keep an eye out for his books in the future, and look forward to seeing more of his words in print.

Carefully consider whether or not you will read this book - don't take the decision lightly. You won't be sorry if you choose to read it, and there's no shame in skim-reading or skipping chapter 14 entirely....but know that if you do read Samson, your eyes will be open to things that will break your heart. I am thankful the author wrote this book, and I am horribly saddened that it ever had need to be written at all.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 5.

Disclaimer ~ I received this book free of charge for review purposes from BookSneeze. All opinions shared here are solely my own.

Day 292 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Friday, December 20, 2013

Be a Homeschooling Mother Who Enjoys Christmas

Here we are, a few short days away from Christmas. In all likelihood, you have already finished your lessons and are in the midst of your Christmas break. And perhaps you are also struggling to enjoy the blessings of the season.

For many of us, and for a variety of reasons, Christmas can be overwhelming and stressful. In light of all the Facebook posts, Tweets, and blogs that have already addressed the need to slow down and relax and enjoy this time of year, I'll keep this short and sweet.

Here's my one piece of advice for you this Christmas ~

          I have absolutely no advice...I'll simply encourage you to give yourself permission to enjoy yourself right where you're at this Christmas. 

That's it - there's my profound wisdom for all who are having a rough go of things this December. Give yourself permission to ENJOY your life.  You might just be surprised at the way God blesses you when you let yourself be fully at rest in Him.

Lord bless you this Christmas!

Day 291 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

P.S. ~   If you are looking for a way to focus more on Jesus in 2014, or are considering doing something new and different to kick off the New Year, my book The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study is one affordable option. See my website for more details or leave a comment & I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ministering to Problem People in Your Church (What to Do With Well-Intentioned Dragons) by Marshall Shelley

The book Ministering to Problem People in Your Church by Marshall Shelley was written primarily for pastors and others in full-time ministry. It's filled with real life stories of struggles that happen within the church, and aims to help those in ministry cope with difficult situations in a manner that leaves no room for bitterness.

At least, that's what I choose to believe this book is aiming to accomplish. Of course I knew from the title alone that this was not going to be an easy read. The subject matter is heart-breaking and could even be discouraging - but I expected that. What I didn't expect was to feel so "at-odds" with the author's demeanor toward the "problem people" whose "problems" are shared in the book. I do not think that they ought to be referred to as "dragons".  Um, excuse me? Dragons? I thought it was a name that might fit those who were attempting to cause a church split or who weren't believers in Jesus Christ as Lord (those people do end up in our congregations, you know). But when I began to understand that the author lumped so many people into the "dragon" category, I found this book leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Don't get me wrong - as someone who has been involved in ministry through the years, I understand that some people can be a bit "dragon-ish". But as I read this book, I seemed to be continually waiting for the other shoe to drop...and it really never did. One example cited tells the story of a pastor dealing with a church member who brought lots of "church issues" to his attention. Sure, she was wearying and a bit exaggerating, but when she came to him with facts this his own adult, married daughter was involved in a relationship with another married church member, and he still considered this woman a "dragon", well I just could not wrap my heart or head around this authors logic. That is outright, undeniable sin and the attitude in this book that somehow the person bringing the sin into the light was the bad person, the "dragon", just does not fit with the Word of God. The adultery is barely addressed; the difficult person who called out the sin was the focus. Pardon me for being so frank, but I'm thinking that the pastor should have been a whole lot more concerned about his daughter's spiritual state and the collateral damage inflicted upon two marriages and a whole lot less annoyed by this "dragon".

Can you tell how much I dislike the constant use of the term "dragon" in this book???

The gist of my review is based on more than that which was cited above. But I'll stop beating a dead horse. I tried to find some encouragement, some wise counsel, something to apply to the difficult situations those in ministry must face head-on...but anything of that nature was so overshadowed by stories like the one I referenced, it was just not possible for me to find any real use for this book. Maybe someone reading this review can use the book to help their ministry; I'm just one person sharing one opinion.

Here's a link to find it on Amazon.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 1.  And that may be too generous.

Disclaimer ~ I received this book for free from Bethany House for review purposes.All opinions shared here are solely my own.

Day 290 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Can A Little Change Make A Big Difference?

So I recently went to see my eye doctor. Praise the Lord, all the news was good and my prescription had only changed a little teeny bit. My 17-year-old daughter also had her eye exam at the same time, and I let her lead the charge on picking out our new frames. She choose red Ray-Bans and they are adorable on her! And she helped me settle on a pair of deep purple Oakleys. Let me just say, deep purple + Oakley =  me a bit outside my comfort zone.

Well most people who know me well have told me they like the Oakleys. And I really like them, too. They're fun and as I'm not getting any younger, I figure my days of young eye wear are numbered. May as well enjoy fun glasses while I still can, right?!?

Turns out I've noticed a little something weird now that I have these deep purple Oakleys stuck on my face all day long. Something I really did not expect. People treat me differently now. Not people that I know ~ but people at the grocery store or the bank or the drive-thru and so on. People that do not know me at all treat me very, very differently than they did before I got my new eye duds.

Before you scoff and say, "Nah...that's ridiculous!" let me say that I spent a lot of time figuring out exactly why I was getting a different vibe when I'm out running errands and doing mom-type-stuff. Was I being rude in some way? Hmm, nope - just being as polite as I normally was. Maybe this person was just having a bad day. Well that idea went out the window when I realized not everyone could be having a bad day! And it really went out the window when the "niceness" factor to people before me and after me in line was exponentially greater as compared to my treatment!

I'm used to people saying, "Thank you, sweetie - have a wonderful day!" and things of that nature. (Yes, I am too old to be referred to as "sweetie" but I actually got that a lot...before the Oakleys!) So imagine how strange it was for me to get absolutely no response to my "Thank you! Have a blessed day!" Seriously, some people will not even look me in the eye or reply to my is really bizarre!

So I may end up doing a completely non-scientific experiment (non-scientific because I cannot gauge people's mood and disposition in such uncontrolled settings as retail outlets during the month of December) and wear my last pair of glasses to see if people are any nicer to me.

And in case you think I'm the only person who has ever pondered something like this (a total waste of time and brain energy to most people...) I can say that the book blink by Malcolm Gladwell contains compelling evidence that many of our decisions are made without any cognitive thought on our part, especially those immediate, first-impressions. (Great book, if you're looking for a new read.)

Maybe I will post a follow-up if I find my old glasses get me more "Thank you, sweetie" type of comments. Or maybe I'll just keep wondering about this weirdness occurring in my life as of late!

Have a terrific day, whether the checkout lady or bank teller acknowledges your presence or not! The Lord knows you and His love for you is what really matters.

Day 289 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Friday, December 6, 2013

Knowing God By Name ~ A Girlfriends In God Faith Adventure (Sharon Jaynes, Gwen Smith, Mary Southerland)

You may have heard of Girlfriends In God (GIG). The 3 women who make up the GIG team write devotions, speak at conferences, and generally encourage women to walk closely with the Lord.The book Knowing God By Name ~ A Girlfirends In God Faith Adventure draws from the hearts of Sharon, Gwen and Mary to form an 8-week devotional & Bible study resource.

I hate to admit this...but when I first began reading Knowing God by Name, I did not really like it. Don't get me wrong - I was excited to do a book review on a devotional with a focus on the Names of God. But the first several pages just didn't jump out at me...and I kind of figured I'd finish reading the book for the review, not for my own spiritual growth. Uh-hum, well, uh, yeah...I was completely wrong. Knowing God By Name is not only a terrific devotional that I will read and re-read throughout the coming years; it is also an excellent Bible study and would be a great addition to any small group.

The difficulty in writing this review comes as I attempt to choose which devotions are my "favorites". In the end I decided I cannot really choose which ones are best; many of them spoke to me in beautiful, powerful ways about God's nature and His great love. Likewise I cannot choose which of the authors is my "favorite". They each have a unique style, and each style carries it's own unique brand of blessing. Knowing God By Name is put together in such a way that's it appears seamless as it moves from one author to another.

Despite my initial misgivings, I am so glad I read this book. It has revealed much to me about the heart and character of our Lord by studying the meaning of His many names. I highly recommend this book for women who love the Lord and want to grow in their walk; I also believe it could be used as a resource for those who home educate.

To learn more about GIG, click HERE.  For information on Knowing God By Name, go HERE. For other details about the book, click HERE. And to read a sneak peek excerpt, go HERE.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I gave this book a 5.

If you happen to be looking for an excellent Christmas gift for women you know, consider Knowing God By Name. You won't regret it, and neither will the recipient!

Disclaimer ~ I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Lord bless!

Day 288 done :)

Jan L. Burt
author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study

Monday, December 2, 2013

Take a DEEP Breath...It Is, Indeed, December

It sounds so cliche to say something along the lines of, "Can you believe how quickly this year has flown by?" or "How can it be December already?"  And yet here I am wondering how on earth the year 2013 could possibly be drawing to a close.

Maybe because we have temperatures in the 50s today here in Kansas, or perhaps because Thanksgiving fell later on the calender than it usually does (leaving fewer days before Christmas), or maybe it's just that I'm in my forties and I life moves faster than it used to. Whatever the reason, I feel like this Christmas season could come and go before I even have a chance to worship the Lord who was born in order that He might die for us. I do not want that to happen. So I'm doing things a bit differently this year.

We do not have our tree up yet. Or our outdoor decorations. That's kind of a rarity for our house. But we traded the time we would have normally spent decorating for time spent with our entire family while our two oldest were home from college for Thanksgiving. And that was a smart trade. In fact, I am pretty sure we will utilize that smart trade all month long. We're putting up fewer decorations inside, kind of keeping things simple this year. And we're choosing how we'll spend our time carefully.

One difference in our homeschool this December stands out, because it's really not normal for me at all. I usually have a plan for this month's homeschooling ~ either we work ridiculously hard and try to get a whole lot done up until a few days before Christmas and then we break until after the New Year; or we work hard through November so we can take it slower during December, and then we hit the ground running in January. But this year I'm not applying either of those methods. I'm simply enjoying the pace of life that the Lord sets for me each week...each day. And you know what? I really, really like it.

Who knows, maybe my high-strung self has flown the coop and the "new me" is here to stay. Life is too short, time with family too precious, keeping a focus on my Lord too vital, for me to be anything but fully relaxed, fully trusting and fully yielded to His will for me and my family.

Yup, it's December. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly...and choose not to panic but instead to rest in Him and let Him be your delight.

Lord bless you this Christmas!

Day 287 done :)

Jan L. Burt

author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study