Monthly Archives: January 2016

On children and parents – more from the Contented Crafter

In a previous guest post Pauline King, The Contented Crafter shared her Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school. The richness of the discussion that ensued, including additional clarifying comments from Pauline, made for interesting reading. One thing I have found consistent throughout life is that everyone has an opinion about education and schools. However, there is great diversity in the opinions held. I love to hear them all for the opportunity they provide for clarifying my own thinking.

In this second guest post Pauline shares some of her wisdom about children and parenting. Pauline and I share much of the same philosophy and background knowledge and are aware that some statements may require clarification out of that shared context. We therefore welcome your responses and look forward to the discussion that these thoughts may instigate.

What do you think is the most important thing for parents to understand about their children? What advice would you love to give every new parent?

I seriously think every parent should read and study Khalil Gibran’s chapter about Children in his poem ‘The Prophet’.  Children are not just short adults; they are not there to fulfil a parents dreams [though they may]. 

Kahlil Gibran Children(Note: This is just a short extract of Gibran’s words about children. You can read them in full here)

Children need to be allowed to enjoy their childhood, let them play, let them dream, let them imagine.  Very little ones learn through imitation and play so be careful what you model for them. 

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Send them into formal learning when they reach their seventh year.  But let that learning proceed through imagination, through practical practise and first-hand experience.  Let the education content grow and deepen as the child matures.  Don’t just stuff stuff into their heads because you think it’s a good idea or something awful has happened in the world. 

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Don’t discuss adult issues with young children.  Keep them safe and secure while their bodies and brains mature.  Give them time to grow up. 

Parents study your child and all other children.  Raising children is not a competition.  It is not a case of keeping your child safe and clean and out of your way while you are busy.  Think more of ‘The Waltons’ and let each child have a task to perform to help the family.  Teach them all how to help prepare meals, set tables, make beds and other chores that need to be done. 

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Start to think less about how clever [or not] your child is, but what talents and attributes your child is exhibiting.  Don’t stream, let them all do everything and let everyone have something they are good at and see there is something that someone else is better at – because that is the way of the world and we all have contribution to make and our lessons to learn.  Understand that just as your child is special, all children are special. Understanding this is the first step in making a wholesome community.

Don’t be fearful of your child hurting themselves.  As a wise man recently said ‘the purpose of our lives is not to arrive safely at our death!’ 

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My personal opinion is that the increase in a society that reveres ‘health and safety’ has been responsible for the rise of lost teenagers, those aimless, disinterested kids who suffer from low self-esteem, drinking and drug taking and mindless vandalism.  Take your older kids camping, hiking, abseiling.  Do it with them and have lots of fun.  Give them physical challenges and the ability and skills to succeed in them.  It really is true that the family who plays together, stays together.

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But mostly love and respect your child.  Keep them safe when they are small and slowly teach and release them as they grow older.  Feed them good food, positivity and encouragement and watch them blossom into the people they were born to be.

Give them time and lots of your time.  They don’t need stuff and they don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.  They just need you.

In responding to a previous post you said that you could write a post-length comment about the wisdom of children. Could you share a few ideas about that here. We might come back to that longer post in the future, if you are willing.

Observe your children, listen to them, know they are their own little being and as such bring their own personality and gifts into the world.  Watch how they approach life and activities and you will see they have come with a wisdom about themselves and their purpose that we, the adults, may not be privy to.  This is the wisdom of childhood and we, as parents and teachers, are really beholden to respect this and not try to ‘change’ the child to suit us, society or anything else. 

Most teachers know that most children reach similar developmental points at around the same time.  There is a great wisdom in this and when we become aware of it, it can help us understand what they are ready for in terms of learning, activities and life in general. 

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All of this Norah, is part and parcel of the training of a Steiner Teacher – understanding child development is the open secret that drives the curriculum. 

Wow! Thank you, Pauline, for sharing your wisdom. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of my favourite books and his passage about children is never far from my mind. Your words in this post reflect very much the words and intent of his. You have given us much to think upon, and I appreciate it, as I’m sure the readers do too.

Connect with Pauline on Twitter or on her blog The Contented Crafter where you can also check out her delightful Gift Shop

 Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

How good is a pet dog?

The flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications this week is to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a boy and his dog, showing the value or benefit of such a relationship.

I have never really been a pet owner. I have had one or two goldfish and Siamese fighting fish over the years, but nothing for any length of time or anything that could be considered a pet in the real sense of the word. If required to, I could rattle off all the benefits of pet ownership for children and adults but none of these have ever been a strong enough inducement for me to take on the responsibility.

I don’t remember Son ever requesting a pet but maybe I’ve simply eradicated those memories. Or maybe we gave him a little sister when he was twelve instead. Bec, on the other hand did request pets and she had a few at various times. These ones were closer to real pets: guinea pigs, mice and rats; but not the puppy she so longed for. Fortunately, I was required to do little for them other than listen to her joyful stories of their antics and adventures.

I am more than happy for people to enjoy their pets but feel no envy of their special relationship nor any great desire for one of my own. I am happy to enjoy the wildlife that visits my garden: insects, birds, lizards and possums. They can look after themselves and require no effort on my part; a rather nice relationship, I think.

© Bec Colvin

© Bec Colvin

However sometimes I hear a story that indicates a value much greater than the companionship often described, and I view the role of a pet in a new way. One such story is that of Noah, a nine-year old boy who suffers from autism, and his need for a service dog. In order to help Noah get his dog Charli Mills has organised a flash fiction competition. This time the stories may be told in greater length, from 100 to 500 words. While I might struggle with the 99-word limit of most of Charli’s challenges, I am unable to enter the contest as I am on the panel of judges. There are just a few days left to get your entries in with January 31 2016 the closing date. Why not enter the contest, which has great prizes, as well as Charli’s 99-word challenge?

To find out more about Noah, his need for a service dog, and his family, visit The Honeyed Quill, the blog written by his mother Shawna Ayoub Ainslie. You can read about what things Shawna has been up to recently in this post.

Although I am not eligible to enter the contest, I am permitted to submit a 99-word response to Charli’s weekly challenge. Here goes.

The two young males sat on the step. They couldn’t see over the hedge to the park across the road but, from squeals and barks, they knew the neighbourhood children and their pets were at play. Each, with visions of their own participation, smiled as if the reality had come to be. Another life perhaps, but not this one, not now anyway. To an outsider both appeared damaged, confined more by mobility than garden walls. On the inside their hearts were filled with love, acceptance and compassion, happy with who they were, and with each other. Boy, dog; friends.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school

In a previous post I introduced you to Pauline King, The Contented Crafter. In comments on my blog, Pauline revealed that she was a teacher so passionate about education that she had attempted to establish an alternative school. I was excited to discover that we have these things in common and I immediately invited her to share some additional thoughts about children, learning, schools and education.

I am honoured that she has agreed, and delighted to welcome her here. In this post Pauline shares a little of her life journey, and her reflections on teaching and school. In a future post she will share her some of her wisdom about children and parenting.

Pauline, please tell us a little about yourself. What things are most important to you? What do you hope to achieve through blogging?

art of contentment

I was a Steiner School Teacher for some twenty years, here in NZ and in the UK briefly.  It was a demanding vocation that taught me more than I ever imparted to the students in my care.  I left teaching in 2003, spent a year or so recovering my health and eventually took up life coaching – a kind of a natural segue as I had spent a lot of my time in the school system mentoring young parents and teachers. I retired in 2014 and stepped full time into the art of contentment.  It’s what I think I spent my life looking for and in these later years what I taught to the women who came to me for life guidance. 

joy of blogging

In my personal life I have always been a creator – hand work, interior design and decorating, gardening and various crafting and artistic outlets that changed over the years.  I took up blogging almost three years ago simply to keep track of my creative work as I was notorious for making stuff, giving it away and not being able to remember what I made or the processes around it.  I soon started using my blog as an on-line diary, documenting the things that amused or dismayed me along with whatever I was playing around with at the time.  I don’t think I really expected anyone to read my blog and was quite surprised when I got comments and returned visitors and followers.  In a surprisingly short time I discovered a new world that was peopled by like-minded souls and fun people and I kept blogging for the joy found in the community that built up around my little blog.

I live alone in a tiny house with a Maine Coon called Olando and a Shi-Tzu X named Siddhartha [Siddy for short].

positivity

I live simply and contentedly, paying close attention to my own personal development and take responsibility for the events in my life.  I am not religious but view life and the planet from a spiritual outlook.  I study quantum physics, enjoy nature and believe in spreading positivity wherever I can.

I don’t write about education in my blog – even though it is an area I am passionate [and opinionated] about – I simply don’t want it to impinge into the simple creative life I lead nowadays.

Pauline, you were a teacher? What was it that attracted you to teaching in the first place?

teacher

I always wanted to be a teacher, from a very young age.  School was a safe place for me in a family that was damaged and dysfunctional, so I guess that may have been the genesis.  However, I was not allowed to stay in school and was put to work in a factory at the age of 14 [my mother lied about my age].  When I gained my freedom I set about continuing my education and have kept on learning formally and informally ever since.  I was 33, a wife and mother, before I finally achieved the goal I had as a child.

What things did you love about teaching?

art of teaching

I loved being in the classroom – working with the students and the Steiner curriculum [which is a wise and clever thing].  Later when I side-stepped into too much administration and other non-teaching roles I simply dried up and eventually became ill.  That made me really conscious that it was the art of teaching that I really loved.

You said that you spent many years attempting to establish an alternative school for your eldest daughter. Why was this important to you? What was lacking in schools available to you? How would your school differ?

bloom and blossom

My feeble attempts to start a school were short lived, I did not go as far as you did as there was little support or enthusiasm for my initiative.  Within two years I had discovered Steiner Education and serendipitously fallen head first into that with my two daughters.  Both began to bloom and blossom in ways they never had in the state system they were so briefly in and I soon transferred my interest and passion to that form of education.  I began an informal study under the auspices of a venerable old retired teacher and soon went on to study full time.  I think I was incredibly fortunate for throughout this time I was mentored and supported by several practising teachers, and one wonderful head lecturer who went out of his way to keep pouring his wisdom into my listening ears.

How wonderful to have the support and encouragement of a community so passionate about children and education. Do you have anything else to add?

it takes a village

Only that, from this vantage point I find I have become a person who would like schools scrapped and to see education in the true meaning of the word be given back to parents and the community.   My new mantra is ‘It takes a village to raise a child – and educate one too.’

I totally agree with your new mantra, Pauline! Thank you for your openness in responding to my questions. I could hear the passion in your words as you answered them. I appreciate the time you took out of your contented creative schedule to share your thoughts with us. I think there are many of us who could do with some contentment mentoring. I look forward to welcoming you back next week to share in your wisdom about children and parenting. I’d also love to know more about the Steiner curriculum. Another conversation …

Addendum: Since this post was published, in an attempt to add clarity to her statement referring to the scrapping of schools, Pauline has expressed some of her reasons for wishing to see changes to schools and the way children are educated. She has done so in a response to an observation made and query posed by Anne Goodwin which you can read here, and a little more clarification here. I apologise, Pauline, if the inclusion of that statement misrepresented your position and caused you concern. It made perfect sense to me! The differences I see between education and schooling feature regularly in my posts.

Connect with Pauline on Twitter or on her blog The Contented Crafter where you can also check out her delightful Gift Shop

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Once upon a time … the power of story

 

Alan Rickman

In stories we find our hopes, our dreams, our inspirations, and our fears.  In stories our imaginations take flight as we contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Stories help us figure out the world and our place in it. We come to understand the stories of others and develop compassion and empathy. We find ways of confronting our fears in safety. We escape the ordinariness of the everyday with dreams as much of the impossible as the possible.

The love of reading is gift

Stories can be shared orally, in print, or through a variety of media. All are valid and valuable sources, but sharing the stories presented in books is especially important to the development of young children, and anything that can put books into the hearts and hands of children is to be encouraged. The ability to read is empowering and the love of books is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. Not only can reading change the life of an individual, it can improve the lives of many through education.

This week I read a post by Paul Thomas  on his blog the becoming radical. In this post, entitled “Please—a little less love, and a little more common decency. Paul said,

“If we cannot change the world (and I suspect we can’t), we can provide all children the sorts of environments all children deserve in their school day—environments of kindness, compassion, safety, and challenges.”

I think Paul meant that we can’t change the whole world, that would be a rather daunting task, but the provisions mentioned are vital and change the lives of individuals in important ways, just as reading does. I like to think of changing the world with one thought, one word, one action at a time, or as Mem Fox says, also quoted in my post The magic effect – why children need books,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

malala

Another post I read this week was by Michelle Eastman Calling all Book Lovers and Authors to make a Difference to a Child in Need on her blog Michelle Eastman’s Books. In that post Michelle explains that, last year, she initiated a project “MARCHing books to Kids”. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness of and provide books for children of incarcerated parents. Michelle goes on to say,

“I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have picture books read to him/her and to own their very own books. “

I agree with her of course and consider her project to be very worthwhile. It reminds me of another very worthwhile program mentioned by Caroline Lodge, who blogs at Book Word, about providing books to prisoners. Both of these projects have the ability to change lives, to empower people and by so doing, change the world, not only their world.

As well as changing lives, stories influence our attitudes. If they encourage feelings of kindness and compassion, as Paul Thomas says, that may be a good thing.  But what of the stereotypes that seem so pervasive? How many stories have you read about princesses in dire circumstances waiting to be rescued by handsome princes or knights in shining armour who must slay a dragon in doing so? What effect do these stories have upon the developing self-image of a young girl or boy? It is important to teach children to think critically about the stories they read, and about the portrayal of characters and their attitudes, especially stereotypes.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

But that is in reading stories. What of writing stories? Writing stories, whether factual accounts or imagined events, is also empowering. In writing stories children, and adults, can express and explore their hopes, dreams, inspirations, and fears.  In writing stories their imaginations take flight as they contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Writing stories helps us figure out the world and our place in it.

In her post Storytelling as Personal Metaphor Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal raised the question of how much of the self is revealed in fiction.

Paula Reed Nancarrow, whose blog tagline is Essays, Stories, Ephemera, talked about working towards an understanding of contentment: what it is and how it is experienced; in her post Enough Already: Exploring the Art of Contentment,

Contentment is something that I too wonder about, and am especially perplexed by the need to push myself into new territory and new learning when others are content to sit back and watch the clouds pass by. Why are there so many things I feel I must do? Pretty soon I’ll be gone and it won’t matter a hoot. I have sometimes thought that if I were to write a fictionalised account of my life I would begin with the words She was an unremarkable woman”.

I have connected these thoughts: about the power of story to change lives, the revelation of self in fiction and the quest for contentment; to write my response to the one who initiated my thinking about stories this week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications with her flash fiction challenge to in 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with, “Once upon a time …”  I’d love to know what you think.

Contentment

Once upon a time there was an ordinary girl who lived an ordinary life with her ordinary family. She did all the ordinary things that others did and dreamed of nothing else. Each day followed one after the other with little difference. There was no magic. There were no fairies, and there were no dragons to slay. She just did what she had to do and took little notice of others doing the same. Strangely enough she was content for, from somewhere deep within, she knew that this ordinary life was but preparation for the extraordinariness of the next.

Monarch butterfly

Thank you

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Which school? I found one!

school cropped

Most parents want to provide what is best for their children. However, they don’t always know what that best is, where it is available or how to get it. This is just as true of schooling as it is of anything else. Fortunately, most children are adequately schooled locally, be it at a state or privately run facility.

I attended a Catholic school and have taught in both the Catholic and State systems. I see little real difference between what is offered in local private and local public schools as far as philosophy, pedagogy and quality of teaching goes. The differences, as I see them, are more due to the inequities in funding for facilities and resources, the restriction to accessibility by the imposition of fees, and the ability of privately run organisations to decline students as opposed to the state’s willingness to cater for all.

While I think most schools do an excellent job of schooling, there are aspects I don’t like.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Fortunately, most children survive school and graduate adequately prepared for life in the adult world. But the scarring carried by many, whether visible or hidden, emotional or intellectual, is a cost that should not be accepted.

In this TED talk Sir Ken Robinson asks “Do Schools Kill Creativity? He explains why he thinks they do and the manner in which they do it. He ends the talk saying,

“our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. … we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it. “

By the time Bec was born I had already decided that I wanted more than schooling for her. I had read voraciously about learning and education. I had observed the magic of learning as my son wondered, questioned, explored and reignited my own curiosity, during his before school years. I saw those same traits inhibited by uninspiring teachers. I have written about this before here and in an article published in a teachers’ magazine when Bec was of school starting age. At that time, it was necessary to make decisions about her ongoing education.

To school or not to school

I had already explored local (and not-so local) alternatives. I attended information sessions, read their publications (no Google back then), and visited schools to observe their practices and speak with teachers, children and parents. Disappointingly I found none that met all of my criteria.

Some “schools” provided little stimulus or input to extend or challenge children’s thinking. Some were very structured and without flexibility in their approach. Some that claimed to be alternative appeared to be not so with uniforms and strict rules and timetables. Some that claimed to be mainstream were more child-focused with an organic curriculum matched to children’s interests, but lacked other things I sought.

When the pluses and minuses of each were considered, there wasn’t one with a compelling scoresheet. There was nothing for it but to found my own, a possibility I had been contemplating for some time and a “dream” shared by many teachers. The Centre of Learning Opportunities was born. These are some of the original documents drawn up by the team back then.

Vision

Symbol

outside

COLO brochure inside

While working to establish this alternative to school, I began an MPhil research project “Educational Diversity: Why school? What school?” which, as well as exploring educational alternatives, was to record the first year of an (my) alternative school. As part of the project I conducted a survey of local alternative schools with the aim of recording the diversity of approaches available in order to demonstrate that there is more than one way to obtain a quality education.

Although the degree went down the same dead end path as the school, I was able to (self) publish and distribute the results of my research to participating schools in a document titled “Diversity in Schooling: Discovering educational alternatives in South-East Queensland.” (Surprise, surprise, I have just discovered it in a Google search. How weird is that!)

Diversity

I was reminded of my research and this document by a recent discussion with Pauline King, The Contented Crafter in response to my post Life — A “choose your own” adventure. When I alluded to the wisdom of young children and “our” efforts to obliterate it, Pauline agreed and suggested that she could do a post-long comment on the topic.  I jumped at the chance and immediately invited her to do so. Pauline again agreed but suggested I refine a set of questions as she could fill a book with her ideas. I”m working on it.

Responding to The Industrious Child Pauline wrote,

“Teachers need to be SO flexible in their ability to see their world, their work, their class as a whole and their individual students – it is never a one step process and different expectations and challenges can be laid down for different abilities. Almost every child will shine somewhere within the curriculum and many struggle somewhere else. After all, we all have our different talents and abilities. Schools are structured to meet the needs of a certain academic ability and those who fall above or below that parameter are, in my opinion, so often mis-educated.”

It is obvious that Pauline, Ken Robinson, and I, along with many others, are part of the same revolution.

In another comment on my post I found it first Pauline shared that she had spent many years trying to establish a school of her own but had found “an already working alternative system and never regretted it.”

I think I have questions enough for Pauline to fill a book’s worth of posts and look forward to sharing some of these in the future. If you have questions of your own, please pop them into a comment and we’ll see what we can do.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

I found it first!

Launching soon - readilearn2

In my previous post Not lost but found I discussed the notion of adopting the title “Founder” when describing my relationship to readilearn my soon-to-launch website of early childhood teaching resources. The title both bemused and amused me at first but I have now accepted its appropriateness. In fact, I realise that readilearn is not the first thing I have founded.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Create-a-Way was perhaps the first that I founded. It was a home-based business offering educational sessions for children of before school-age and their parents. The impetuses for founding Create-a-Way included:

  • The decision, made before Bec was born, that I would parent and educate her (The alternative to keep teaching the children of others while entrusting her education to another didn’t make sense to me.)
  • A dissatisfaction with playgroups that were simply bitch and coffee mornings for mums and squabble sessions for children left to their own devices
  • A realisation that parents didn’t stimulate or foster their children’s intellectual growth because they didn’t know how, not because they didn’t care

I saw a niche that would honour:

  • My passion for education and need to be doing something in that area
  • My firm belief in the importance of early years learning
  • My appreciation of children’s innate curiosity and need to learn coupled with the joy of sharing their sense of wonder and creativity
  • My certainty in the power of reading and education to improve the lives of individuals and society
  • A conviction that there are better ways of educating than simply accepting the status quo.

And best of all, I could do it with Bec! (Although she is not in this photo.)

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

I express this passion and these basic beliefs repeatedly. They are what make me. They are my driving force; the threads that weave their way through everything I do, holding them and me together. They were the basis for my attempt at founding an alternative school; they guided my classroom pedagogy and now the preparation of resources for readilearn.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

It’s funny looking back now at the documents I wrote, it seems almost a lifetime ago (well almost all of Bec’s lifetime and more than half of mine), on an Apple IIE computer. I’m still proud of what I offered and truly believe in the value of sessions such as these. However, I can see that, while there has been little change to my passion and beliefs over the years, if I were to do the same thing now I may update some statements to more closely match my current understanding of a growth mindset.

The thought of doing the same again now is not far from my imaginings. The format of Create-A-Way sessions forms the model of another project I would love to found The Early Learning Caravan. Maybe Steven’s suggestion of crowdfunding would be appropriate for getting it started, but that’s not a project for the immediate future.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I wonder if my inability to simply accept what is could be considered rebellion? What is a rebellion? I’m thinking of these terms as this week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a rebellion.

rebellion definition

The rebellions of which Charli writes are of a larger scale, more in keeping with the first definition.

In this TED Talk Ken Robinson urges us to Bring on the Learning Revolution making “the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish. I’m proud to be a rebel fighting in the same revolution as Sir Ken.

In addition to these larger scale rebellions and revolutions there are many that take place on an individual and daily basis in our families and classrooms, and on our streets. Some of the battles, such as  teenage rebellion are fought for justice, independence and identity, a natural and necessary part of growing up. But the need to establish one’s individuality, one’s separateness as a person begins years before that, as anyone who has ever had anything to do with a two-year old can testify.

Sometimes the same battles are played out over and over and parents wonder why the children just don’t accept that they need to clean their teeth, wash their hands, put on their shoes or whatever, rather than battle over it each and every time. It is this early childhood rebellion that has inspired my flash fiction response to Charli’s challenge this week. I hope you enjoy it.

crying

You’re not the boss of me!

Eyes blazed defiance, daring a struggle which could end only in tears and frustration, or a standoff with no real winner. She was ready to flee the moment there was a hint of movement. Our eyes met. I contemplated my options. Did we have to do this now?

Again the challenge: “You’re not the boss of me!

I pretended to read.

Another volley, quieter: “You’re not the boss of me.

No response.

Soon she was snuggling beside, pointing to pictures.

I read aloud.

We laughed at the antics.

As I closed the book I said, “Ready? Let’s do this.”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Not lost but found

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I am struggling with a writing task at the moment. Part of the reason is that is has been at the back, rather than the forefront, of my mind as I worked on other tasks, and part of the reason is that it involves self-promotion in a marketing kind of way. It confuses me a little, because haven’t I been self-promoting all the time I have been writing a blog? Surely putting my ideas out there is at least presentation, if not promotion, of said ideas.

With the goal of sharing original early childhood teaching resources and stories for children on a website of my own, I began writing a blog and engaging in social media about two and a half years ago. This was in responses to advice received from attending writing seminars and reading books about website development. Preparation of resources for my website took a back seat for a while as I engaged with other writers in the blogosphere.

Now it is time to turn the focus back onto the website, the launch of which is fast approaching. With an extra effort over the past couple of weeks, I now have sufficient resources to begin. Additional resources will be uploaded at relatively frequent, if irregular, intervals, not unlike adding to my blog.

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I have no issue with ideas for additional resources or blog posts. My stumbling block is the content for my bio and promotional information about the website. It should be easy, I know, but I am struggling to find the answers to these questions:

  • What do people want or need to know about me?
  • How can I promote my resources in an honest way that entices people to sign up to a paid subscription?
  • What is a fair price for subscription?
  • How can I persuade potential subscribers that they will get value for money?
  • How can I ensure that subscribers do not feel let down by the available resources or ripped off by misleading promotion?

These questions arise even before I begin to tackle the really difficult one:

  • How do I connect with my target audience: early childhood teachers?

I know I am not alone with these concerns.

Recently Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark, questioned the validity of her profile, enflaming my anxiety by stating that “It’s seen by far too many people who judge you by those 10 – 20 words.” The thought to change my blog’s About page, with far more than 10-20 words, hasn’t yet moved beyond that guilt-ridden thought. And while I know it is not suitable as is for my website, perhaps editing or rewriting it is a place to start.

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Throughout the year Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal, shared the process of stepping out from under the covers of introversion to promote her debut novel Sugar and Snails.  In her post One huge leap for Anne, one teeny tiny step for womankind, she questioned how to balance celebrating her achievement with the suspicion that many would be unimpressed. In another post on Book pricing: a cautionary tale Anne questioned pricing and value and shared the hope that people wouldn’t feel ripped off. I am fairly confident that Anne’s concern on each of these issues turned out to be unwarranted. Will mine be the same?

Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch Communications also frequently writes about marketing and the importance of finding one’s niche. In September she declared her position saying,

“My intention … (is) to write and publish novels. My intention is to be a successful author. Success to me is publishing books I want to write for readers who want to read them. My secondary goal is to market well enough to eat more than hand-picked dandelions from my yard. Many will say it’s a fool’s dream.”

Charli has expressed it well. Substitute “early childhood teaching resources and stories for children” for novels and it could be me. I hope that neither Charli nor I are dreaming the impossible. Charli at least has a long list of credentials.

I have spent some time looking at other websites which may be considered competitors and looking at bios on others. If there’s one thing I have discovered it is this:

compare - give up

There is a multitude of websites offering early childhood teaching resources. Some websites offer all resources free. Teachers love freebies. There are also many websites with resources available to subscribers. Why would anyone want mine?

However, I’m not going to give up now.

compare - none

I hope there are many early childhood teachers who will see sufficient value in my website to pay the annual subscription. As far as I explored, I have not found anyone offering interactive resources similar to mine. It is possible that they exist and I just haven’t found them. However, I am hoping that teachers see value enough in these alone, and consider the other resources a bonus. Time will tell. If it returns nothing but the pleasure of achievement, then I will consider it my jetski. If it does more than that I will be well pleased.

So, if I am not going to give up, maybe I just need to get on with the task of writing my bio and promotion paragraph. The other day I read a bio that described the website owner as its founder. Hmm. I thought. Maybe that’s a title I could use.

founder of readilearn

I was amused at the thought that I would found something that hadn’t been lost. It just hadn’t been before. I thought about other things, briefly mentioned in other posts, that I had founded:

Create-A-Way, educational sessions for children of before-school-age and their parents.

Centre of Learning Opportunities, envisioning an alternative way of educating.

Perhaps I can now add another to my list. I just need to get the bio written.

What advice do you have for me? What should I include? What should I leave out? What is the most important thing of which I need to be mindful?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.