Uncategorized Jen and John Speak

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Playground Basics (Tips on making friends and networking)

This e-book was created so that a parent and child can explore the concept of friendship and the process of networking. However, I encourage people of all ages to use these simple tips to improve their own social and networking skills.

My visual art e-book integrates images and concepts/ideas together to make them more playful, memorable, accessible, and user-friendly. I find that I intuitively mash the descriptive, sensorial, visual, and poetic things I experience into complete simple pictures that help me learn more effectively.

In many cases, my visual art e-books are very child-like because I’m trying to distill high level ideas into easy, quick, understandable chunks, so that I and everyone else can immediately apply what was just learned.

Being Head Class Parent

My most impressive 100% fruit juice gelatin jigglers from last year's class Halloween party

Last year John and I signed up as usual to be class parents, leaving the “Head class parent” box unchecked. We figured someone else would be much better suited for THAT role, and we were very happy to be worker-bees. Then we got the email that NO ONE had signed up for head. We looked at each other and figured that if we did it together, we could pull it off. So we signed up, and wound up having a great time doing it.

So this year, we checked the box for all 3 of our kids. And got put in charge of 2 of the classes!

As I am putting together stuff for this year, I am realizing that I’ve developed a pretty strong philosophy on being head class parent. Some of it has been learned by doing the job. And some of it has been learned by being the worker-bee, and not having all the info I needed.

See what you think of my list:

  • Agendas make meetings run better. Nothing is worse than sitting at a class parent meeting and people are just rambling on without a goal in mind. Maybe it’s because I’m a working parent, but I want to get in, get the job done, and move on. With a written agenda that is handed to everyone, they not only have a place to keep notes, but you also can keep folks focused on what needs to get done, and make sure all topics are covered.
  • Lists and charts help everyone. I put together a spreadsheet with what is needed for each class party we organize, with slots for people to sign up for activities, food, etc. Then I don’t have to remember what everyone said when we get home from the meeting. It’s all written down.
  • Parties need agendas too. Far too often as a worker-bee, I showed up at a class party to help, and had no idea who was supposed to do what, when. So we create a 1-sheeter for each party that lists who will be there, who is bringing what, how long the party lasts, what time to show up to set up, and a list of each activity. Next to each activity, there is the name of who is in charge, and the time frame that activity is supposed to last. And we bring a copy for all the parents volunteering at the party. That way you avoid the “What are we supposed to do now?” issue that leaves kids bouncing off the walls.
  • Include everyone. We always make sure that every class parent is invited to all the meetings, and has a copy of the lists, charts, and agendas. That way everyone has access to the information they need to do their part. It just makes it less stressful for everyone.

Do you serve as a class parent in your child’s classroom? What have you learned along the way? Would love to read your tips and advice in the comments!

3 Strikes and You Learn Rule

Lately, I started noticing that my kids were trying to get everything perfect. I think it’s great that they’re trying to master skills. For now not getting it perfect seems natural, and they’re still young, fun-loving and great happy kids. But what if they continue on this path of perfectionism, what kind of adults will they become?

Then fast forward to adulthood. I see stressed out, high-strung, extremely critical of themselves and others, difficult to work with, rigid, lonely and all-out unhappy adults, because they’re trying to be perfect all the time! I know I’m exaggerating a bit. But as a fairly successful business person I’ve met a lot of perfectionists.

At the same time I want my kids to be self-disciplined, have direction and high standards. How do I help them understand that there’s a balance, and the concept of excellence, not perfection?

Then I remembered my baseball conversation with my middle son. When my middle son was learning how to play baseball he was always fearless at the plate when it was time for him to bat. I was so impressed with that. One day, I asked him why he was so confident at the plate. He answered, “I have three strikes, three chances to hit the ball, and that makes it easy!”

He wasn’t worried about making mistakes, first because he had three chances to get it right, and he also knew intuitively that the more he tries, the better he’ll get. It taught him excellence and not perfection.

So here’s my 3 strike rule. I told my kids that they are allowed 3 mistakes, mess ups or misdeeds without consequences for each day. However, they must stop the behavior (especially if it’s dangerous, or if it hurts someone), but no punishment. Any mistakes or misdeeds counts as a strike. The strike itself is the consequence, which is more like a warning, and if they get three strikes, any mistakes thereafter will have a punishment. Each day we start fresh, with a clean slate.

At first my kids were confused and I had to explain to them about how mistakes are great learning opportunities and without mistakes we learn slower or less. This new rule also stimulated more conversations about right and wrong, and finding solutions on their own to problems. They work very hard to avoid getting 3 strikes each day without the stress of trying to be perfect all the time.

Do you think the three strike rule would work for your kids? How do you teach your kids about excellence? How do your kids see mistakes?

Starting is Hard

I’m really excited about this new blog project John and I are starting. Getting the URL, choosing the template, plugging in the widgets…all that was easy. But writing? What to say first? That’s hard.

There’s so much inside me that I’m looking forward to sharing here. But what goes first? What establishes the right tone? What do I write?

And so this blog has been sitting here for several days, beautiful and empty, because starting is hard.

But enough of this. It may not be perfect. It may not be the final “tone.”

But here it is. The start. Starting is hard. But not impossible.

Off we go.

Oh, and by the way? Today is End Malaria Day. Go make a difference. Learn more here: http://www.jenfongspeaks.com/your-chance-to-save-lives/