Word of the Month: Refine

•March 9, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Yes, it’s nine days into March and I am just getting this blog post up. February was an interesting month full of new opportunities and some serious challenges. The word of the month was “routine” and it was exactly what I worked towards. I spent most of February working from home and developing a rhythm to my daily schedule, which included working out every weekday. EVERY WEEKDAY. It was awesome!

February was also a time of professional opportunity. I was invited to be a speaker at the AMI-USA Refresher Course in Atlanta. The presentation was part of an exhilarating workshop and that appearance has led to significant subsequent opportunities. I also wrote my most read blog post ever! This was super exciting and increased traffic on my business website significantly, which lead to HACKERS! My website has been crashed for several weeks now and my girl is still working out the kinks. Thus, the nine-day-late blog post. Even with the setbacks, I met every one of my goals from last month.

Here is the two-hour workshop in full. You can see my part at 52:30.

Now, let us take a moment to explore the word for March:

REFINE

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For me March of 2015 will be a month of reflecting on my plan and adjusting it so that it works with my life. I have signed up for a Mastermind course specifically for Mama CEO‘s and I anticipate that this group will be a huge resource of support as I continue to refine my practice and take ownership of my new venture as an entrepreneur. This is an opportunity to make mindful decisions about the direction of my business as I grow. As I develop a plan for a podcast, I will know how to focus my efforts as I move forward.

March is also an opportunity to refine my practice of balancing working from home with school closures. My daughter has spring break and I intend to find ways to continue working regularly as well as spending special time with her while I’m still someone she wants to spend her free time with. I know that won’t last for much longer.

When things get tough, or aren’t going to plan, I will tell myself that the more authentic I am, the more people will connect with me. I plan to say yes more and enjoy this journey of refinement!

A special “thank you” to Do What You Love for Life for the prompts for this blog series.

Bad Outfits = Great Parents

•February 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“She looks so cute when I drop her off and she is a mess every day when I pick her up.”

“Here, I packed him individually coordinated outfits in gallon plastic bags. Will you please make sure that when he changes he gets changed into a fully matching outfit?”

“What happened to her pigtails and the pretty ribbons I put in?!”

“Um, his pants are on backwards.”


Above you see listed some of my favorite (and rather frequent) quotes from parents I have heard over the years when we discuss their child’s dressing and appearance. I get it. Our children are adorable and precious. We cannot help but see them as extensions of ourselves and we live in a society that puts a lot of emphasis on appearance as a means of communicating who we are to the world. Parents want their kids to looks as cute as possible because a sweet child in an adorable outfit with just-so hair tells the world “this child is loved and seen as worthwhile.”

We parents are so hard on ourselves and seem to be constantly judging or being judged for our choices in relation to other parents and their choices. This situation is what can propel us into feeling compelled to show the world how loved our child is by way of their appearance. Nobody can second-guess a clean child in a stylish outfit and, quite likely, adults will comment on your adorable child and his/her cute little getup thus fluffing your ego and leading to a perpetuating cycle of need for tidy “cuteness.”

I’m here today to make the argument that, as long as your child is dressed appropriately for the weather, it doesn’t matter what they wear. In fact, a child in a woefully mismatched outfit with barely brushed hair and peanut butter on her cheeks is one I see in public and think, “now there’s a parent that is getting it right.” Independence in self-care is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children for several reasons:

  • Children build serious gross motor and fine motor skills along with strengthening their problem-solving abilities as they negotiate choosing their clothing, figuring out the order in which to put it on, and then going through the rather complex act of dressing.
  • There is a natural ladder of independence that comes from self dressing. While we start out doing everything for them, eventually they can put their foot in the hole, then they start pulling their pants up, then they only need us to fasten a button, and finally they do it completely on their own.
  • We learn more by doing than by passive experience. You can say “three skirts will be too uncomfortable” until you’re blue in the face or you can let your toddler wear them for a few days and figure it out that it is REALLY uncomfortable. You can make them put their pants on with the zipper in the front or you can let them spend the day trying to use the toilet successfully with the zipper in the back and figure out that it actually works best to have the zipper in the front. They will keep doing it “wrong” until they have the proper natural motivation to do it “right.”
  • Letting them do it teaches them that we believe that they can do hard things. Grit isn’t something that someone has by nature, it is built slowly over many challenges and attempts to try again. When our child is old enough to do something and we still do it for them we send the message that the way they do it isn’t “good enough” and we can do it better. When we take over or “fix” problems that aren’t dangerous, we subconsciously tell our children that they shouldn’t try because they won’t do it well. Instead, we want them to have a growth mindset in which they believe that if they work hard and keep trying, they can get better at anything.
  • We can teach ourselves early on that our children aren’t really “ours” because they belong to themselves. This one is tough for a lot of parents, especially when their children are young. Think about it, though, do your parents “own” you? Haven’t you always felt like an individual separate from your family, even if you love them immensely? The same is true for your children. My daughter doesn’t choose outfits that I would choose for her. She hasn’t since she was two. As long as she is dressed for the weather, I don’t care. In fact, I’ve come to celebrate it. She is a brilliant dresser and her unique nature truly shines through in her self-expression through fashion. She isn’t mine. She is hers and that is beautiful.
  • Independent dressing is yet another tool available to us for sexual abuse prevention. When we allow our children to fully own their self and their bodies we also empower them with the understanding that no adult (or any person for that matter) should have control over them. We teach them early that they are in charge of  their bodies and their choices and predators are turned off by this. Child predators look for children who aren’t likely to tell on them and a confident and independent child is scary to them. Self-dressing is obviously only a tiny part of the work we parents need to do to prevent this tragedy. Click here for more information on this from Parenting Safe Children.
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This outfit would not have occurred to me.

Parents, please, be nice to yourselves. Your job is already exhausting and the toddler need for independence is very real and impossible to fight. (In fact, you should seek every opportunity to foster that need as it is the best thing you can do for their brilliant little brains.) Let go. If your children can do it themselves, let them. Have a few rules that teach them social norms: we dress up for church and weddings; we wear black and gray to funerals; we put shorts on under dresses. Whatever your short list of rules is, keep it short. Nobody thinks that the child in the cowboy boots, cape, and fedora has a bad mother. Everyone just thinks he’s cute. No matter what.

Just take this one thing off your plate. You and your child will both be better off because of it.

PS- If you are a parent who sends your child to preschool with coordinated outfits in gallon sized ziploc bags and requests that the teachers supervise them to make sure they always match. STOP. Stop now and never ask again. It is so disrespectful of their status as educators. You would never ask your child’s high school history teacher to make sure her clothes matched, don’t do it to the preschool teacher. You can’t control what happens during your child’s day when you aren’t  there. You probably picked a great school and your child is fine. Just relax…and stop it with the ziplocs. 

Spreading Your Message Through Social Media

•February 15, 2015 • 3 Comments

This year one of my professional goals is to ensure that I am using social media effectively as a tool for my consulting business, Bee Line Consulting, as well as for the advocacy efforts of the Colorado Montessori Association. There are so many opportunities to spread a message and share an idea through social media. One of the reasons using social media to promote your vision is because it allows people to hear the idea on their own time and terms. They don’t have to show up to a meeting or even agree to talk to anyone. An effective message is one that has a call to action that supports individuals in engaging in a way that works for them.

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We are so fortunate to not have to be in the same room with people in order for them to see us and hear our messages.

Facebook has been an incredibly valuable tool for the Colorado Montessori Association. Through the use of this site we have been able to share specifically about the work of the organization, but we are also able to share research and news coverage that is aligned with our advocacy mission. Each time we post to facebook we are able to reach a wide audience and help them become better informed citizens and advocates.

Twitter is a platform that I see as useful for making connections with specific individuals or organizations. Each and every time I tweet at another account, I gain new followers. This puts me in a position to spread any message, idea, or service I have to offer to a huge audience while also making personal connections with people and important organizations all over the world.

This week I had the amazing opportunity to present on Public Policy and Advocacy at the state level at the Association Montessori International, USA conference in Atlanta. It is always incredible to connect with people in person and hear their stories and learn from them. After these in person events, staying connected and continuing to support one another is made significantly easier with social media. One-to-one contact with people all over the world is a critical component of effective advocacy. Making change happen is often a result of who you know.

What do you do to connect with your community on social media?

Find me on social media!

Advocacy Messages

•February 7, 2015 • 2 Comments

Advocacy on behalf of children and families is central to my professional drive. Advertising is one of the most effective ways to influence public perceptions and behaviors. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the domestic violence prevention ads that ran during the NFL games this past season.  Today I share with you my favorite PSA’s created by the AdCouncil that have been impactful to children and families.

1.) Adoption

The AdCouncil reached out to families and gave them information and support to help them feel confident and comfortable that they can adopt a child and be successful parents, even if the child is older. As a person who was adopted at the age of 5, I feel so much compassion for adopted children and so much respect for those adults who have chosen to welcome children into their home and love them in a way that is no different from any other parental love.

 

2.) Learning & Attention

This clever ad helps parents understand the challenges their children face when learning and attention aren’t easy for them. Learning difficulties can be incredibly draining for children and their parents. The AdCouncil found a brilliant way to highlight this problem while providing parents with resources to address it.

 

3.) Getting Children Into Nature

This ad was specifically targeted to TV markets with high ratings amongst African-Americans. According to the AdCouncil, “only 37% of African-American children ages 6 to 12 participated in outdoor recreation in 2011, compared to 67% of Caucasian children in the same age range.” I believe firmly in the benefits to health, learning, and overall well-being that spending time in nature can provide for all humans. It is a worthwhile investment to encourage as many people as possible to get out and explore.

Word of the Month: Routine

•February 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

February is upon us, readers. This means that it is time for the second installment of the “Word of the Month” post I have promised you (and myself) for the year. But before we start in on the vision for February, let’s take a moment for a bit of accountability for January…

In January the WOM was “startup” and my efforts were focused on just that. As planned, it was a month of new beginnings and making plans and I took care of the things I needed to. I did the Betty Rocker 30-day Challenge and worked out every single day for 31 straight days, something I have NEVER done in my life! It not only felt good, but I can feel that I am fitter and stronger. I figured out the tax basics for my business but I did not make a move toward setting up a home office. I’m really struggling to amass the motivation to start another major renovation in our house. It is so exhausting and expensive. Motivation is missing from this one…

ROUTINE!

February 2015 will be a month of reinforcing established routines and developing a workable schedule. The three major steps I will take towards doing what I love in February are: setting up a Quickbooks account and learning how to use it; establishing an exercise routine that uses the home and the gym and is instigated by me instead of by a workout video arriving in my inbox every morning; and to develop and use a daily work schedule (I have been delving into the brilliance on Parrish Wilson’s website to figure this one out). The daily schedule is a big one for me. I am so good at daydreaming that days can slip away from me quickly. I must have a schedule with specific goals in order to get everything accomplished in a work day.

There are a few big things on the horizon for me this month. I will be speaking in Atlanta at the Association Montessori International annual conference in a forum on public policy and advocacy. Here on the home front I will be developing a blog content plan and learning all about Quickbooks as well as setting up a filing system for my business (the piles are just not working for me anymore). When things get tough, or aren’t going to plan, I will tell myself: “Routines become habits and good habits build success!”

Louisa May Alcott

If you want to learn more about how to put a structure to your dreams I encourage you to use the resources offered from the Do What You Love for Life team. They are brilliant!

My Role as an Advocate

•January 24, 2015 • 4 Comments

READERS: Advocating for Montessori, early childhood, and a balanced and mixed delivery system has been an amazing journey. As part of my journey I am earning an MS in Early Childhood Studies with an emphasis in Public Policy and Advocacy and I am required to blog as part of my program. Below is a list of questions about my advocacy work that I have been asked to answer. It’s like an interview with myself!

  • What motivated you to start advocating for very young children?
    • I was sort of thrown into advocacy out of necessity when Montessori schools in Colorado came up against sudden and swift regulatory enforcement that rendered us unable to authentically carry out our curriculum in our preschool classrooms. It was necessary for me to come together with other school leaders and get legislation passed that would carve out a waivers and appeals process for our programs. We were successful in our efforts and I found that I really enjoyed the work. It just kept going from there.

Hick

Governor Hickenlooper signing our waiver bill into law (that’s me in the back on the right) the pink tower in in his office at the state capitol!

  • Why is it essential to acknowledge and foster advocacy efforts at the micro as well as the macro level?
    • Advocacy requires unified voices from many people because politicians pay attention to how many voters and constituents are affected by an issue. It is kind of like “Horton Hears a Who” in that the collective voices is what makes the big guy pay attention and listen. However, when it is time for them to listen it is the individuals who have personal, meaningful stories to tell that make the biggest impact. We need big groups powered by the work of individuals in order to have the most successful advocacy efforts possible.
  • What does it take to be a community leader on early childhood issues?
    • More than anything, a willingness to be open to many perspectives and include many people in your process. barreling in with an idea that is set in stone and perfect in your mind is a good way to ensure you alienate the very people you need on your team. Consensus is the only way anything gets done in advocacy. It also takes a heavy dose of patience, especially when working with elected officials. There are incredibly disheartening moments when party politics are clearly at play and it is obvious everyone has already made up their mind and nobody is going to listen. You have to just pick yourself up, learn some lessons, and keep pressing the issue in a way that you think might get them to listen. Over and over.
  • What resources does it take to be a state leader on early childhood issues?
    • As with just about everything, the two main resources required are time and money. Advocacy is rarely a paying job. The majority of the advocates I know (myself included) have jobs they work and volunteer their time as an advocate because they care. Advocacy also requires financial resources. A strong advocacy effort or group will need a website, social media, printed materials, gathering space, and a plethora of resources and incidental supplies.
    • I’ve found that advocacy work is best done through a state advocacy organization. I volunteer my time at two state advocacy organizations. With small membership fees from many schools and/or individuals, a group can collect enough money to power advocacy efforts as they arise. One of the easiest ways that a busy early childhood professional can ensure that they are supporting early childhood advocacy is by joining a state or national organization that advocates for issues in a way that is aligned with their needs and beliefs.
  • What tactics or strategies do you use to mobilize others?
    • Sharing information through email and social media is the way to go these days. It is important to have a clear message that is crafted to help people see the reason why the issues at hand is meaningful to them and then provide them with simple ways to get involved.
  • What advice would you give to someone who was interested in taking a leadership role in advocating for young children and their families?
    • Start by joining up with local organizations that support issues that have meaning for you. Volunteer for an event or attend a community meeting offered via their membership emails. Also, take the time to go to www.votesmart.org and find your elected officials from city council on up through your US Senators and Representatives. Write to them and tell them about what you care about and what you think they can do to support young children and families. They will often respond personally, share a story, and invite you to attend a meeting or informational session about the issue if they know of one.

 

For more information on the state advocacy organizations I work with click here:

CMAlogo_FAweb2 www.ColoradoMontessoriAssociation.org 

 

ecea logo www.ColoradoECEA.org

Word of the Month

•January 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

2014 was a year of major change for me in both personal and professional capacities. One of the biggest changes for me was leaving my work as a Montessori school administrator and striking out on my own as a consultant for Montessori schools and education non-profits. (Learn more about that here.) So far, things are going pretty well and yet there is so much to do before my long game is in a place for me to really become truly successful as an entrepreneur. At the end of 2014 I made a commitment to myself that, now that I have an idea of what my business is and how to run it, I will set up infrastructure and up my game regarding how and what I offer.

Big ideas! There are SO many big ideas swirling in my mind and I can get caught up just enjoying the idea and never take action. This will not serve me. What I need is accountability. My first step was to look for resources to help me channel my big ideas into something that looked like a plan. What I landed on was the Do What You Love For Life team’s tool called the New Year’s Revolution. I used it to plan out a whole year’s worth of ideas with the realistic understanding of my finances and what will be happening in my personal life at different times of year.

Now, I am turning to my blog to hold myself accountable by sharing my plans for each month powered by the “Word of the Month” I selected in the NYR toolkit. This month’s word?

STARTUP!

Okay, I started my business in October but now is the time to really kick it into gear. January 2015 will be a month of new beginnings and making plans. I will take care of my business by starting the process of creating a financial structure. I will take care of my business by taking care of myself. I committed to a 30-day exercise challenge and I am doing it! Every. Single. Day. I will take care of my business by giving it a sense of place. Instead of working on my laptop on any available surface in the house I will start the process of converting the spare room so that I can have an office.

When things get tough, or aren’t going to plan, I will tell myself: “Setbacks are necessary for growth.”

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