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TechMama Talks: Work, Family, Education and Mobile Tech

TechMamas talkIt may have been a month since I last posted, but that gave me some time to think. During that time I decided to channel my dear Grandmother in my writing, who as she got older decided to share her authentic voice. Of course, that involved some embarrassing moments such as when she met a new boyfriend of mine for the first time and asked “I look forward to seeing you walk down the isle together”. I joked and said “you mean at the grocery store?”. But my Grandmother must of been reading our body language because we did end up walking down the isle and are a happily married couple running after our adorable but energetic three boys. I feel privileged to have met an amazing community of bloggers online and share my insights on technology. Now I want to go back to sharing my musings on life and important initiatives.

 

Parents and Work: I am excited to see women developing initiatives to empower and promote career advancement for women at work.  But from what I experienced as a parent, the job market is very tricky these days so finding work that offers a salary to cover the costs of childcare and extra incidental costs is a challenge. Many parents also need some sort of offer flexible work environments, which can add to the challenge. The job market has changed, there are new job skills required including technology and social media. In addition, while online networking has created multiple channels for career advancement, choosing the right channels to create real business opportunities is an important consideration.

 

The childcare challenge is not just a mom problem – it is a “parenting” challenge. I started a lively discussion on Facebook about this topic and I was thrilled to see responses of parents that are overcoming all types of challenges to work and also parents making the choice to stay home. I made a comment that we all value time with our children, that their happiness is the most important goal of whatever arrangements are made. I look forward to share stories on my blog of women that have found creative solutions to adapt to the modern workplace. Including women that have taken time off for kids then not only ramped back up to work years later – they BLASTED OFF!

 

Family Technology: We are at a time where you can stream, automate, use voice, consume content and entertainment in many ways and multiple devices. But families are struggling with helping their kids set screen time limits, stay safe online, learn social networking etiquette, decide what devices they really NEED and HOW TO use them. To make matters more complicated, kids now grow up surrounded with technology so it is second nature. For example, I have an Internet connected TV and my kids are the ones that signed up and are power users of Netflix compared to me. I feel so old school watching shows on TV networks. I know how to stream everything on my PC’s but at night I still like to turn on the TV and watch a show. My kids hardly watch traditional TV networks anymore.

 

Luckily because of my business, I also consume information and social network online which allows me to talk my kids’ language. At the same time I realize the online world is a dangerous place for kids that require a new type of education. I have been writing online for years about the concept I describe as “Internet safety is the new sex talk”. I remember years ago when I first said that at a social media conference in New York there was silence (shock) then lots of tweeting to share. Now that mostly all devices have a web browsers, it is hard to lock our kids away from the online world.

 

My perspective is that parents need to first educate themselves, then their kids, then create regular conversations and family rules about Internet Safety (and logical consequences if they are not followed). For example, sitting down with teens “together” to look at the privacy controls for all the platforms they are on and “discuss” which should be set to remain safe. But open conversations are key, and it should include cyber etiquette and consequences for inappropriate cyber etiquette (including going to jail!). In our family discussions, I also share age appropriate news stories as examples.  I want to spend more time covering all the online platforms kid spend time on. Of course, I find new platforms cropping up it seems like every day! Automated internet safety controls such as web filters, monitoring apps and privacy control settings are also an effective supplement, but they won’t keep kids safe everywhere they go because as I said web browsers are everywhere! So parents need to do the balancing act of setting “relevant” automated controls, communication and education. That balance is not easy!

 

No matter what strategy parents have, new challenges come up. Like how I tell a bunch of 10 year olds during baseball practice last year that they “HAVE NO REASON TO BE ON INSTAGRAM.. SERIOUSLY!”. Or how do I tell a lovely teen girl (family friend) that the number of LIKES she receives on her Facebook photo does NOT reflect her TRUE BEAUTY. Or how smartphones have become a tool that can get kids arrested if they take the wrong picture or participate in the wrong social media exchange. Or how dangerous the online world is, so much so that I need to have a SCARED STRAIGHT strategy constantly updating the teens I know of the mistakes I read about hoping that they can learn from them. At the same time, I am regularly amazed at some of the positive ways teens are creating support online. When our beloved hamster died recently my son said he received comfort from a Reddit Hamster sub directory (created to memorialize Hamsters that had passed away).  My son received sympathies from around the world when he posted a picture of our Hamster.

 

Education Tech: One of the challenges of our education system is that while more and more kids relate to visual, interactive and experiential learning, many curriculum’s are still based on inflexible models filled with worksheets. The shining stars are the Teachers and Schools trying to transition to experiential learning. Luckily, now there are so many ways to learn online that I could spend weeks covering all the websites and programs. After speaking at a few education tech events and meeting the edtech company founders, I decided that sharing the exciting opportunities that exist in digital learning is a passion of mine. I want to highlight the education tech innovators on my blog as a way to help support their important contributions they are making to the future of education.

 

Family Schedule Tech:  One of the main reasons I wrote the book “My Parent Plan” was to help families learn project planning skills. After years of professional project planning I know the concepts but at times still struggle with how to balance it all. With three boys now going THREE completely different directions, I decided to dive deeper into tech solutions to help me manage. Or at least keep my head above water..

 

Health Tech: Feeding my family a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges I have each week. While I like the concept of eating plant based foods I am also balancing understanding what is best for my family that has different nutritional needs. I will be covering some of online websites and apps that can help parents struggling with healthy eating solutions. I will also be covering my comic adventures trying to convince my sons why healthy eating is important. Including how my teen is “dreaming” of going to a local burger restaurant someday again as a reward. And how at times he sneaks out with his friends to get junk food for dinner after looking in the fridge filled with “green” foods.

 

So while I am far away from being a Grandmom myself, I honor her voice by speaking my own. Whats on your mind?

 

 

 

 

Taking on Family 2014 New Year’s Resolutions. Is it Possible?

*sponsored series

 

2014 Family New Year ResolutionsWhen it comes to annual New Years Resolutions, taking better care of myself and my family’s health  always tops the list. This year we are focusing on finding ways to fit regular exercise into our busy schedule, cooking more plant-based foods, practicing stress-management, spending more quality time together (unplugged!) and advancing my kids’ oral health. Assembling the list was the easy part. Actually doing the list, well, that’s the real challenge. So, following the rules in my book, The Parent Plan, we started putting together the family plan.

 

Exercise: Our family looked at our busy schedule and activities and determined that the best way to fit in regular exercise was to identify flexible exercise options. Was there a year round exercise class for my 11 year olds that focused on overall athletic conditioning? My boys enjoyed baseball, but it did not give them the overall conditioning they needed.  Their favorite gym had a great class and fortunately also offered a workout program for my 15 year old (one drop off).

 

Plant Based Foods: After examining the various medical challenges of our extended family and looking at our own diets needs, we decided to start making plant based foods the staple of our diet. But being a family of 5 healthy eaters, everyone had different tastes.  I found several great plant-based recipe websites, blogs, books and a holistic nutritionist and set out to identify different options that fit our family’s eating preferences. This goal especially overwhelmed me because I quickly discovered just how challenging it was to find recipes everyone liked. I also needed more tools to make cooking fresh plant based foods fit into our busy schedule, including a crock pot and blender. We decided to take one week at time, including new plant-based foods in our weekly meals but still cooking family favorites as well.  We also realized we needed to give our kids a chance to get use to the tastes of some new foods (to go from “yuck” to “yum”). One of those was almond milk and I am thrilled to say they are happy to drink it now, after only a few weeks of adjustment!

 

Stress: Let’s face it, the modern family schedule is so overscheduled that it is hard to dodge stress. With adults managing home and work, and kids balancing school, homework, sports, music lessons and more – even a scaled down schedule is like running a weekly marathon.  What happened to the innocent childhood of yesteryear when kids just played with their friends after school? We decided to prioritize school-week activities to only include high-priority items close to home. For example, instead of driving 30 minutes for music lessons we found a local teacher who was giving lessons to a neighbor and asked if he could stop by our house as well.

 

Family Time Unplugged: Now that our oldest is in high school, we realized that our time together as a family is limited and more family time activities were in order rather than just running past each other each day. Our first step was trying to have family game nights, with electronics turned off. OK, in reality we did accept that types of technology used for games would be acceptable, but checking email or anything else was off limits! Humorous games such as Apples to Apples (we play the “silly” version) and Catchphrase worked the best to enable great bouts of belly laughs, and belly laughs are not only great for bringing our family together – but also for relieving stress. When we feel “serious”, Battleship, Risk and chess fit the bill. But we are always on the lookout for new game.

 

Oral Health: My family moved around when I was of “braces age” so I somehow missed the chance. Because of that, my teeth have some crowding and I have experienced some dental problems. So proper oral health for my boys is a high personal priority. One of my twin sons used a pacifier as an infant while the other did not. He sucked his thumb. Years later it seems using fingers is better than a pacifier because that son does not need braces while the other one does.  My 15 year old has Invisalign, (Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board), as the final touch to wearing metal braces when he was 11. He is in the middle of his treatment and it has been so seamless. He just wears the Invisalign aligners, washes them, takes them out when eating and then gets new aligners to swap out on a regular basis. I was worried about how he would feel wearing Invisalign while also starting High School and we are thrilled it has not been an issue (they are pretty much “invisible”).  My 11 year old has asked repeatedly if he can just use Invisalign.  Although he will likely start with metal braces, we know that the is there will be Invisalign for him as well in the future.  Now if I can just get my kids to floss with their regular brushing without nagging from parents.

 

We want to keep doing family activities that give back (like our regular cooking for a homeless shelter during the holidays), spending time with extended family/friends and setting goals to achieve our own personal best. Maybe I will be brave enough to attempt our household to-do list which includes finding new ways to organize the large quantities of stuff from our three boys. No matter how hard I try I will never be one of those perky naturally organized people that create those beautiful images on Pinterest (even though I find them totally inspirational). Or maybe it is time to realize that achieving perfect household organization may be something not to include so we can at least achieve the family resolution of reducing stress?

 

Organized kitchen

 

What are your 2014 family resolutions? Please share yours and any tips on achieving them while juggling a busy family life!

 

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align. The opinions expressed are my own. Here is the link to the Invisalign Smile Assessment.

 

 

 

Tips For Winter Holiday Preparation And Organization

*This is a sponsored series.

Holiday PreparationThe Winter holidays are a time for family, friends, and co-workers to celebrate with food, gifts and social gatherings. Behind the scenes is lots of work that needs to be carried out with the utmost precision to make sure everything falls into place.  At the same time, kids are off school so planning activities and keeping them busy is key. Here is a system I used to organize the holidays, please share yours!

 

 

 

  1. Centralize gift and wish lists in the cloud: Gone are the times of separate handwritten notes for gift lists and wish lists. Having the cloud (i.e. storing online) gives us the ability to create a list that can be accessed across devices, whether it be your smartphone, tablet or laptop. Just choose a family digital note-taking app and make sure it is loaded both on the family PC’s and on the family smartphones for mobile access of lists.
  2. Digitize holiday receipts: While some stores now send email receipts, others still use paper receipts. It is important to take a picture of receipts or scan them and retain digital copies online.  For example, while I take pictures of receipts with my smartphone camera or tablet webcam and load to OneNote, my mother has a Neat Receipts Scanner and likes to load her receipts to the NeatCloud. Having digital receipts simplifies both household accounting and returns.
  3. Create central holiday recipe and shopping lists: With  so many recipe websites and apps to choose from, finding recipes to fit the various dietary need of family and holiday guests is easy.  By loading both family recipes and links to ones I find online onto my digital note taking app, I always have the recipes with me no matter where I am. I also maintain a digital list of my favorite local restaurants that offer take-out for those days where cooking is not an option.
  4. Organize travel information: My old habit when traveling was to print out flight and hotel information and carry in a folder, hoping I don’t lose or forget one of the sheets. Some of my friends started using one of the many websites/ apps that help organize trips (such as Expedia or TripIt). Now I use OneNote and load my travel documents in as digital travel “notebooks”. While we try to load all the entertainment in advance of our traveling, my mobile WiFi is really helpful to enable loading of last minute downloads or new entertainment on my kid’s tablets.
  5. Create activity lists for kids, whether on vacation or staycation:  Holidays may mean time out of school for kids, with plenty of time available for activities. With three boys, I research potential vacation activities online in advance (as well as what time they open/close) and create an activity list beyond the regular holiday events. We then sit down with our boys and discuss which activities interest them, which is usually anything outdoors. The weather or strong disagreement between the boys sometimes leads to a “Plan B” requiring more research online.  For example, while a family hike is always a great activity, on rainy days we like to check the schedules for local museums or indoor sports such as trampoline jump parks. If we are visiting relatives in colder climates, then playing in the snow and ice skating are perfect outdoor activities! In San Francisco Bay Area, we enjoy taking winter walks on the beach outdoors with layers of warm clothes. Or indoor activities such as the Exploratorium, ice skating rinks or climbing gyms.  It is also handy to have a list of sites that I can check for family activity ideas such as Red Tricycle, Alpha Mom, Red Rover, Traveling Mom, Parents.com, Rookie Moms and local activity resources such as Bay Area Parent.

 

What are your winter family activities? How do you prepare and organize your holiday fun?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite as part of my sponsorship, which keeps me connected on the move to mobile WiFi. My words are my own. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family  (@WiFiFamily) powered by Netgear.

 

 

 

 

Tips To Set Family Goals

Guest Post by Lisa Betts-LaCroix

I’ve had a love affair with goal setting all my life and planning the future has always given me a sense of possibility and hope.  Now that I’m a parent and a consultant supporting others to mentor life-long, self-directed learners (with or without school), I’ve come to realize that we just don’t build goal-setting skills early enough in our kids.  Perhaps, we think, kids don’t need goal-setting abilities since school will march them through necessary skills and content.  But if we want to empower our kids and encouraged them to take control of their learning (and later, their lives) it’s never too early to nurture self-trust and the skills needed to plan and execute on what THEY want.  And while you’re at it, maybe you have some of your own goals.  So why not work on this together?

 

Lots of families do sports together, travel together and share family meal times.  Here’s a chance to envision the future together.  To help each other design and create your lives–because it’s never too late to start.  Model the process, support each other and learn together as a family.  By doing so, you’ll find that deeper connections are forged and self-directed learners are made.

 

Family Meeting

 

In our family, we share a daily ritual simply called “Family Meeting”.  The focus of the meeting is to identify ONE goal per person for that day and to report back on the previous day’s task.  Family goals in our house must meet specific criteria. Our ideal goals:

 

  • Take more than 15 minutes but less than one hour.  If it’s a particularly busy day for someone in the family this may be adapted slightly to suit the situation.
  • Are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound)
  • Qualify as “Relevant” if they contribute to the goal-setter’s development or the well-being of someone else or are accomplishments that would give the achiever a great feeling of pride
  • Would not have been done anyway (ie. I’m going to get myself to work today)

 

We also use Family Meeting time to encourage a growth mindset, modeling learning from our “misses” in a positive and celebratory way.  I find this often works best by modeling instead of trying to get kids to explore their own failure modes.  It’s effective for me to wonder aloud why I’ve failed three days in a row and then to notice that I have a habit of underestimating how long a task will take.  By then resolving to be more self-aware or change my goal-setting approach or implementation, I’ve learned and modeled at the same time.

 

Finally, we track every family members goal in a simple spreadsheet and mark successes with green and missed accomplishments with red so we have an ongoing record and at-a-glance feedback loop.

 

The Goal List

 

Where do the goals come from?  An ongoing list is a great treasure and is useful for quickly identifying goals more quickly.  If you don’t have a goal list, consider starting one.  It can be a complex database or just a list on paper.  But have a list!

 

There may still be times when someone can’t think of a goal.  Here are some Goal Setting ideas and strategies for getting over the hump.  Help each other:

 

  • Brainstorm -How many possible goals can you list without censorship? Go for quantity not quality.
  • Turn complaints into goals – Notice complaints and wonder if the dissatisfaction could be reworked into a goal.
  • Turn self-reproach into goals – If you notice pain, guilt or self-reproach see if there’s a goal to be uncovered.
  • Mine the past – Recall old stories, wishes, fears and memories as ripe fodder for future goals.
  • Maintain what you love about your life – Goals don’t have to come from lack, limitation or need.  If you identify and share what you’re grateful for you might find a goal nearby related to celebrating, maintaining or deepening it.
  • Piggyback on someone else’s goal – Be inspired by each other and people outside of the family.   Doing this as a family allows everyone to be the catalyst and creates an environment for others to express, support and be inspired by each other.
  • Invite Guests – We also invite guests and anyone who is at our house during family meeting to join us in the process.

 

 The Mindset and Foundation

 

  • Keep it light: Make time and space for good laughs and jokes
  • Share
  • Be Curious and ask questions
  • Listen (don’t interrupt)
  • Acknowledge and Thank.

 

What kind of strategies does your family use to learn practice the Meta-Learning skill of Goal Work?  And what ideas have you discovered best support your family’s Goal follow-through?

 

 

Lisa Betts-LaCroix is a speaker, writer and outspoken advocate for radical alternatives to learning.  She’s been featured in 100+ television, radio and news pieces including CBS News, the Financial Times, MGM, Universal and 20th Century Fox.  She’s worked with household names like Norman Jewison, Angela Lansbury, Adam Beach, Kathy Bates and David Carradine, yet Lisa’s deepest passion is in supporting families and self-directed learners reclaim the vision, design and control of their education.

 

 

 

10 Tips To Get Your Household Ready For the School Year

*Sponsored series. See Disclosures Below.

 

With three kids and two busy working parents in our house, the beginning of each school year requires a family management system to simplify school year logistics. Here are some tips we use to get our household ready:

 

1. Create an online calendar: The first thing I do each year is gather all of the school and activity calendars together and create a color-coded online family calendar. Because our teen and twin sons are so busy this year, I made separate calendars for each child and assigned them unique colors (I grouped my twin sons together because they go to many of the same activities). There are many calendar options including Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar and Cozi.com.

 

2. Identify location friendly activities: With my busy work schedule, the only way to survive the school year is to find location-friendly afterschool activities. With some luck and lots of investigation, I discovered great programs close to home. For example, my kids are enjoying Karate lessons at the local dojo rather than the location two cities away attended by many of their friends.

 

3. Set up carpools: At the start of the school year it’s good to talk to other school parents as well as review class and afterschool activity directories to find other families close to your house for potential carpooling. This reduces my time spent on the road or my kids’ time spent on bikes traveling across town. For families requiring flexibility, it’s best to find carpool families who are similarly flexible.

 

4. Create weekly menus: For many families, of the most stressful things about the school year is meal planning.  Creating weekly menus can help streamline busy school weeks by using some weekend prep time to prepare ready to eat meals in the fridge. For nights when cooking or “re-heating” is out of the question, having a list of local restaurants that either have delivery or will carry out to curbside (such as California Pizza Kitchen) comes in handy .

 

Low on meal ideas? Luckily there are so many online recipe and food blogs that include recipes for every taste and level of cooking experience. I find it helpful to find a meal strategy that fits with our family schedule. For example, we like using a crockpot to cook food during the day that will be ready for mealtime.  Another option is finding budget friendly staples that we can bake in advance like beans & grains and then throw in difference ingredients to spice things up.

 

5. Develop digital shopping lists:  Once you have a weekly dinner and other meal requirement list (including kids’ lunch meals), the required food shopping can be greatly simplified by using a digital shopping list.  Tools such as One Note, EverNote and more can help you have your shopping list available on all the family devices.

 

6. Identify family chore lists: The start of the school year is a great time to review household chores and then identify those that are a good fit with your kid’s schedule.  For example, one of my 10 year old sons is a natural at moving laundry through the washer and dryer. Next step is to teach him to sort and fold clothing.

 

7. Establish well-stocked school work areas: The beginning of the school year is a great time to empty out the old, broken and worn down school supplies from last year and start fresh with new pencils, pens, paper and rulers  located near homework spaces. This will help to silence the “I can’t find a pencil” complaint!

 

8. Set up school year screen time limits: During the school year we have screen time limits to allow our kids to relax while prioritizing the completion of homework. Some families have no screen time during the week. We settled on somewhere in the middle, which means our kids get limited screen time only after they get their homework done.

 

9. Evaluate Assistive Tech: At the beginning of each year I talk with each of my kids to see if there is any ways we can help support their learning with technology. In the past this has included finding a dictation app to help with writing exercises or using other Assistive Learning Tools.

 

10. Update Household Technology:  Each year it seems we need to add some new technology or update our current computers to match our kid’s school needs. This year we needed to buy an extra printer to allow my teen access to print from his desk. We also realized that we needed the ability to do homework on the go, so having mobile WiFi has enabled us to complete assignments between activities on the road or work at the park on nice days and enjoy some fresh air.

 

What’s in your back to school preparation list?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite mobile hotspot as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own. I am happy to say that my AT&T Unite has enabled our family to have WiFi wherever we need to get work done. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family powered by Netgear.

 

 

 

3 Tips To Balance Work Time With Family Vacation Time

*Sponsored series. See Disclosures Below.

A vacation completely unplugged from technology and totally connected to family and friends is ideal, but not always possible. With today’s 24/7 jobs, sometimes a vacation requires keeping up with some work obligations while connecting with your kids and spouse. I have worked hard over the years to achieve the best work-family balance while away from home, avoiding those sideways glances at email while pretending to listen to the family conversation.  Not that I have ever done that.

 

1. Create Daily Quiet Time: When I am traveling with my family, we create a quiet time when each of us chooses a quiet activity. Active outside activities consume the morning and early afternoon and have quiet time when we return to the room. One of my twin 10 year old sons enjoys reading a book while the other listens to an audiobook. My teen enjoys learning how to play new songs on his guitar by watching Internet videos, playing along on his guitar. My husband and I use that time to check our emails and do some quick work. We then have family time the rest of the day. Because our quiet time is limited and follows some outdoor exercise, we allow technology as long as it is age appropriate and parent approved.

 

2. Time Swap: There are some moments during vacation when one adult needs quiet time during a group event. During our vacation a few weeks ago my kids and their cousins went bike riding. Because my kids are older, only one parent was required to keep the kids on the bike path and out of the street. While I took the kids on their adventure, my husband went on his morning run and managed a few work emails. Then we switched with we came home, my husband playing a board game with the boys while I checked email.

 

Some activities, like beach time, require the full attention of multiple adults. We call it “keep all eyes on the kids” time (no books or phones allowed!). It also helps to dress the kids in brightly colored swim shirts so we can tell them apart from all the other kids floating in the waves.

 

3. Prep Time:  During a recent trip back east, we spent a day in downtown Philadelphia, enjoying the historical sites before heading to the airport. After a full day of American history, my kids wanted to stop in a park, sit on the grass and close their eyes for a few minutes. I knew that the plane flight was coming up soon and that I needed to download a document on my computer in order to squeeze in some work time on the plane. While the kids rested on the grass of Washington Square next to the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, I used my mobile WiFi hotspot to log onto my email and cloud storage then downloaded the needed files to my desktop.

 

How do you fit in work (when needed) while on vacation?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite mobile hotspot as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own. I am happy to say that my AT&T Unite has enabled me to have WiFi wherever I was this summer. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family powered by Netgear.

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Preschool Tips by Tejal Shah, Founder & CEO KidAdmit

After pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, vaccinations and sleep training the next important milestone to get ready for the is the dreaded preschool application process. Those that have heard countless stories on what a nightmare this process probably think “Where do I start?”

 

Since my own experience was trial and error, I have learned firsthand how to successfully navigate this important milestone to find the perfect preschool by following these five steps:.

 

Step 1:  Determining what’s important

 

Start by thinking of what will work for your family.

1) Location:  Do you need something close to home? Work? Or in between?
2) Schedule: Do you need Part time (half days or full days couple days a week), Full time (everyday typically 9 am-3pm) and/or Extended care (before 9 am and after 3pm)?
3) Program type (Montessori, Spanish Immersion, play based, academic) All are great.  Which is most important to you?
4) Cost: This can range but make sure you add EVERYTHING up.  Some schools include everything while others have an ala carte menu.  To budget properly be sure to ask what’s included and what’s extra.  Extra costs could include: lunch, extended care, summer programs (not all schools are year round), potty training.

 

Step 1 Tips:  

  • “It’s the best school” is a relative statement.  What you think is the “best” may differ from your “know it all” neighbor’s opinion and when it comes to preschools, it can get philosophical, competitive and expensive.  My advice is keep it simple, remain open minded and concentrate on finding what’s best for your family.
  • If you think you need to hold a spot while waiting to hear from another preschool, factor in the non-refundable deposit into your budget.  This deposit can be expensive, anywhere from $200 to one month’s tuition to 10% of year’s tuition.

 

Step 2: Finding preschools that fit into your criteria

 

1) Recommendations and Referrals: An established community can help but keep in mind what works for your friends and family can be very different for your family.

2) Books, Seminars, Local Preschool Fairs

3) Online:  Community forums can help you find local preschools.  There is also SavvySource.com and Greatschools.org.  Google and Yelp are an option but do not have much depth when it comes to preschools.

 

Step 2 tips: 

 

Other online resources are popping up such as KidAdmit (in San Francisco) to help you search and manage the entire preschool admissions process.  Disclosure: I am the Founder & CEO and created the site based on my own frustrating experience of enrolling my son into preschool.  Our hope is to help all parents feel supported and confident through the important, but nerve-wracking, process of preschool enrollment.

 

Step 3: Visiting the preschools by yourself and with your child

 

Many preschools require that you attend a Parent tour or Open House as well as schedule a visit with your child (often called a Child Playdate). This is a great opportunity to meet the staff, learn more about their philosophy and most importantly, get a feel for the environment.  The Child Playdate is equally important.  It is a great way to introduce your child to the concept of preschool.

 

Step 3 Tips:

  • Make sure BOTH parents attend all preschool visits because they pay attention to this as part of their decision making.  Do not be on your phone during these visits.
  • Try scheduling Child Playdates in the morning so your child is rested and fed.  Be attentive to your child as the preschools are watching how you interact with your child.

 

Step 4:  Application

 

Submit each preschool’s application, along with a non-refundable application fee (varies by each preschool) by the specified deadline, which will commonly fall towards the end of the year (December). Many preschools take applications year round too.

 

Step 4 tip:  If you are really interested in a particular preschool, make sure they know this and stay in touch in case a spot opens up sooner.  Don’t spread the love too much as Preschool Directors talk and will know if you are not being genuine.

 

Step 5:  The Decision(s)

 

Preschools usually make their decisions as spots open up which can make the waiting process difficult.  It can be costly if you want to hold that spot (see Tejal’s special Tip above).  After preschools send out their decision letters, you will have to make the final decision on which preschool is the best fit for your child and family.  Be sure to let all the preschools know your decision quickly and professionally. Once you commit, you will being the enrollment process.  This requires a signed contract and a deposit to hold the spot for the beginning of the preschool year. Deposits are generally not refundable but may be applied towards the tuition. State regulated forms will follow with the enrollment packet.

 

My Final Tip:  Remember nothing is set in stone and change is always possible.  Once your child is enrolled and for some reason it’s not working out, don’t worry.  Just go ahead and reach out to the other preschools you were interested.  Just be honest about the situation and they will try to help.

 

What are you looking for in a Preschool?

 

 

 

Tejal is the Founder of KidAdmit, Inc. (www.kidadmit.com), a site dedicated to streamlining the preschool admissions process for parents and preschools.  KidAdmit is creating a better experience for parents and preschools so both can effectively communicate throughout the admissions process. Previously, she co-founded Peninsula Wealth, an independent wealth management firm.  Tejal has an engineering degree from University of rochester.

 

 

 

 

She has 10+ years of professional experience and has built successful businesses in engineering and finance. These experiences, along with the birth of her fun loving boys has led her to the startup life, which is both awesome and hectic!  Connect with Tejal: @KidAdmit and @tejaltshah and https://www.facebook.com/kidadmit. 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Life Hacks From Startup Co-Founder Vlada

Guest Post: If you are a parent and are thinking of starting a company, I have good news – you already have the world’s best entrepreneurial experience: you are running a family without any previous experience or a manual! Do you remember the endless questions you had when you (or your partner) were pregnant? Do you remember the anxiety you felt at your baby’s first doctor visit? Do you remember the pride you felt when your baby walked for the first time? Running a start up, in many ways, is very similar to running a family.  The hardest part is to figure out how to make time for both. The answer (unlike execution) is surprisingly simple, prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize.

 

 

Your first step was deciding to start a company, hopefully something that makes you leap out of bed every morning.  Your next step is to figure out your top few priorities, and deprioritize and potentially cut out almost everything else.

 

 

For example, one of my top priorities is to create a meaningful relationship between my kids and their family. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or the budget to plan many vacations.  My tricks for staying close to the family is to leverage technology.

  • I’m lucky that my car has Bluetooth so I make most of the calls on my way to dropping kids off at school. My daughters love being part of the conversation and my family adores hearing from them. I love that I get to feel close without it taking up additional time in the day. If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth, try putting your phone on speaker, it works surprisingly well.
  • In addition to regular calls, we use Joya (www.getjoya.com) to easily send videos of our kids to our closest family and friends.  Thanks to the power of video, our family can feel like they are there when my daughter is learning to ride a bike. Or when my little one is eagerly “eating” yogurt by spreading it all over her face J. My kids also LOVE getting videos from their cousins and friends.
  • I use kids’ art projects for packages to send to family. I typically have 1-2 hours every morning with my girls. During that time we will usually do some sort of creative project. I love www.tinkerlab.com for really simple art ideas.  On project days I ask the kids who they are creating it for. Then, when they are done, I put it in an envelope and send it off. My kids love thinking of various family members, putting the stamp on the envelope, and “writing” a special note (i.e. combination of letters and scribbles J). The best part is then getting a video back of the family opening up their special letter.

 

 

In my experience, running a company and a family require a deep commitment and attention to how I’m living my life, almost on a moment-by-moment basis.  To be clear, I don’t believe that living a balanced life is a goal. To me it’s about living a consciously unbalanced life, being careful that nothing gets dropped for too long. Much like when a baby is first born, when you first start a company, it needs extra care.  So, that means you have to find ways to simplify, cut or get help for other parts of your life, and then over time everything gets adjusted.

 

 

When I think back to when I was pregnant and talking to my Mommy friends, I felt so scared, so unsure of how I’ll manage being a working Mom. I was truly in awe of my friends who were doing it. And then I became a Mom and then I had my second kid. It was hard but life adjusted and now I can’t imagine it any other way. I think it’s same when making a decision to start a company. Yes, it is scary, and yes, it’s hard. And it’s also worth every precious minute.

 

Guest post by @vladab :

 

Vlada co-founded Joya (www.getjoya.com), a mobile app that makes it delightful and easy to share mobile videos. Previously, she co-founded and sold AdNectar, a VC-backed ad tech company.

Vlada majored in computer engineering and art at Northwestern University. She has 10+ years of professional experience as product manager, designer and entrepreneur, building mass-impact products including MSN Messenger and Hotmail.

Vlada is also a proud Mom of two little girls who are the inspiration behind Joya. They pushed Vlada to dream about making staying in touch with family feel magically effortless, and so Joya was born.

Connect with Vlada: @GetJoya and @vladab and https://www.facebook.com/getjoya. Photo Credit: DharmaComics .

 

 

 

Summer Plan: 5 Tips To Connect With Your Family

With July 4th coming up next week many families are going on vacation or to holiday social events. Summer may be a special time where families have less commitments (school is out, many sport leagues are over), but how can families make a plan to connect by living in the moment during summer family events?

 

Here are a few tips to engage with your family and live in the moment, but PLEASE share yours!

 

1.  Outdoor fun: Plan all types of outdoor fun events from simple family game of catch, family hikes, day trips to vacations. Use that time to put away technology and enjoy time together – maybe even keeping track of events in a “family” style Olympics.

 

2. Schedule Technology Time and Unplug Time: Either create a schedule or have daily discussions on when is screen time and when is family time. Before going to social events, discuss the family rules for using technology at the event. To help with unplugging, maybe bring a technology basket or bag that can hold devices during “unplug” time. In my book “My Parent Plan” I talk about rewarding kids for good behavior instead of punishing for bad. When it comes to unplugging, we try to reward our kids with positive words when they unplug. But they also know that they “earn” screen time by being present and unplugged during family or “outdoor” time. We also have our kids earn screen time by using educational apps before entertainment apps. Summer is a great time to plan for regular educational activities to prevent summer slide.

 

3. Plan For Facetime: During all the fun events going on during the summer, remind yourself and your family the importance of social time, which means actually looking someone in the face when they are talking. Facetime should not only be a term for video chatting! I have seen many other parents write about their techniques, including Maria Bailey who just recently shared during Disney Social Media Moms on the Road “I remind myself to make sure I can see the whites in their eyes when my kids are talking to me”. This is also an important skill to teach kids who live in a digital world where most of the communication exists on devices.

 

4. Summer Toys: Schedule time to talk with your family on what summer toys are needed. Local sports stores carry 5 in 1 sports sets with volleyball, badminton, frisbee and more. I just picked one up on sale for only $24. Slip and slides may not last past the summer, but those are also available on sale and can offer fun family moments to slide and laugh.  Check the family bikes and scooters to see if any repairs need to be made. Then try to walk, bike or scooter to events during the summer as a way to catch extra time together. Board and card games are great to take on family outings and vacations.  If any of your kids say “paper” board games are really “bored” games (like my tech obsessed 14 year old), show them it can be fun by having them pick out some games at the store. They may be surprised that Words With Friends is not only a game that can be played on devices, Hasbro and Zynga made a classic board game as well.

 

Family friendly game apps offer families a summer activity that can be taken on the road, but screen time should be limited overall. Yet in a pinch while waiting for a flight at the airport, a game of monopoly on a tablet is a great way to enjoy time together. Taking family videos and photos can be a fun family event if the end result is working on a summer family album(s). Digital pictures and videos can be loaded to a cloud site that offers the ability to turn the pictures into an online or paper photo album at the end of the summer.

 

5. Live In The Moment: Try your best to live in the moment. To do this, I try to push all my lists, todo’s, concerns out my head and just focus on my family. I tell myself that all of that can just wait, but enjoying time with my family can’t. I have to admit, living in the moment is one of my biggest challenges. So I just decided to take it “one moment” at a time.

 

 

 

June 4 Virtual Book Launch Party For My Parent Plan & Other Authors

Photo Credit: Emily Scheinman @BananaSeedBooks

Last week, I shared information on my trip to Book Expo America NYC to announce the revised version of my book “My Parent Plan: How to Create a Family Project Plan to Organize Your Life and Kids” . At the Book Expo book signing, I enjoyed discussing the concepts of my book with enthusiastic readers. This experience confirmed why I wrote the book in the first place: to help parents find a system to manage their family – one of the most complex and rewarding examples of project management. I talked to brave military moms who need to manage their family while their husbands are on deployment for long periods of time. I talked to single parents, educators and nannies who want to learn family project planning tips. And I talked to many parents who shared their family management struggles.

 

My Parent Plan explains that a plan is a journey, not a destination. My Parent Plan empowers parents to step back and think about their daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly activities. This gives families the time to find the right information, identify budget-friendly options, consider the needs of each family member and make informed choices to create the optimal family plan. The planning process also gives families the freedom to live in the moment and engage in family time.

 

 

To celebrate the launch of “My Parent Plan” I am joining in with the other authors in the Best Seller In A Weekend program with a Virtual Book Launch Party June 4 from 1-3pm PST.

 

First of all – HERE IS THE LINK to “MY PARENT PLAN” on Amazon available NOW (CLICK HERE to buy) on JUNE 4 2013. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is information about the Virtual Book Party:

 

 

Join me on June 4, 2013, for the long-awaited celebration of the (revised version) release of my book, My Parent Plan: How to Create a Family Project Plan to Organize Your Life and Kids. Organized  by Alicia Dunams, founder of Bestseller in a Weekend, we will hold a virtual book launch party and author spotlight for me and eight other amazing non-fiction authors ( (including Barb Gottesman of How to Slay A Pirate – Lessons on Success from Sailing the Pacific). You’ll get to be one of the first to order your copy of the books (my revised book), and you’ll get to hear all of the authors share their book-writing experiences! You’ll also get free information from every book featured, providing you with real solutions and tips you can use in your own life.

 

 

 

 

Those who attend the virtual book launch party between 1 pm and 3 pm PST on June 4th will be entered into drawings to receive their own autographed copies of the authors‘ books, as well as some special bonus prizes. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but I know the celebration won’t be the same without you. To attend, SIGN UP HERE: http://bestsellervirtualparty.com and you’ll be part of the fun. I can’t wait to see you there!