I'm so excited to introduce you to Pam from Keeping Life Creative! She is a mommy, home school teacher, blogger and creator! Check out her amazing resources HERE. Read on to see how Pam keeps life fun and creative!
I began blogging in 2008 as a personal way to keep myself accountable. My husband was spending long days and nights in graduate school, our budget was extremely tight, and I’d left the classroom to be at home full-time with our two little kids.
I was desperate for a creative outlet, and was also struggling to define myself in my role as a stay-at-home mom. And so in the midst of post-partum depression I began to write (purely for myself) about things I was finding to do each day to keep my everyday life of potty training, dishes, and penny pinching—creative. I’d share anything from a recipe I created using only beans and rice, to a fun project I’d done with my two-year old. My blog has morphed and become more public since then, but I still write about many of the same things and it remains my creative outlet.
Blogging in general as well as on my own blog has changed a lot since the early days of online journaling as blogs have become more curated and theme-based. But the shift has actually helped my teaching immensely because it’s pushed me to seek clarity in my teaching and parenting philosophies.
Ultimately though, I think blogging has helped and continues to help my teaching for the root reason I started a blog: it helps me be more intentional and accountable about making time among the everyday routine for creative learning—for myself and with my kids.
Oh, balance. It seems to be the thing we’re always searching for, isn’t it!? And in my season of life with five kids (ages 10-1), I’m not really sure there is such thing! But there are a few things I do to try to keep the chaos under control.
My husband and I are very opposite in that he loves routine and I love “creativity” (which is a nicer word to me than mess and chaos!). But research in the traditional classroom shows most behavior problems are a result of unclear routines and procedures, and I can definitely see this in my home as well. Our days run smoother with better established procedures, and routine can eliminate so many of the typical “home” battles (chore time, anyone?).
I say “flexible routine” because my creative spirit struggles with too many boundaries and while we do try to keep the same order of things each day we don’t always stick to a clock (unless we have a set appointment).
What does this have to do with balancing family and blogging? In our daily routine we’ve set aside “creative time.” It’s when the baby naps and the other kids have to entertain themselves because I’m working (blogging, creating teaching resources, etc.). It’s taken a lot of training, but the kids have learned unless they’re bleeding or dying, I’m unavailable and they’ll need to figure things out for themselves. I know it sounds mean, but it’s really been one of the best things I’ve done to allow myself some downtime and creative growth, as well as teach them to stretch their own independent and creative muscles.
I typically spend an hour or two each Sunday night planning out my week. It’s a habit I’ve tried to carry on from my classroom teaching days of writing Friday afternoon lesson plans!
I get out my planner and colored erasable Frixon pens, and then write out any scheduled appointments. Next I sketch out my projects and goals for the week in home and work responsibilities and plan when I’ll spend time accomplishing them. Part of the weekly planning session also includes a 15-minute check-in with my husband where we coordinate calendars and talk about the budget.
But in reality, it happens this way in the perfect week. As I type this on a Monday morning, my weekly planning is still waiting for me—being replaced by catching a virus from my kids and choosing to steal an early Sunday evening bedtime. I think balance is one of those things that you can feel good about if it’s happening most of the time. And the other times, you have to give yourself some grace!
Non-Negotiable Work Time
Another thing I do to strive for balance is schedule a non-negotiable work night. A couple of years ago I had a serious talk with my husband and shared how important it was to me as a wife, stay-at-home mom, homeschooler, blogger, and individual to get some non-negotiable time away from the house each week to be able to work, shop, craft (or anything else I wanted!) uninterrupted. I plead my case that I came home happier and more focused and better for the family if I could rely on a time to step away for a bit, and he fully supported that.
So for the past two years I’ve booked Tuesday evening as a non-negotiable work night, and it’s a standing rule that nothing else ever gets scheduled on that night. We have a routine where my husband comes home from work and takes over dinner, baths, and bedtime and I leave the house.
My non-negotiable work night varies a bit, but most Tuesdays I take myself out for dinner, set up somewhere with wi-fi, and spend the next several hours writing, or listening to my favorite creative- and business-related podcasts while drawing clip art or scheduling Pinterest. That’s also the night I meet with my mastermind group over Google Hangouts.
Just keep swimming.
Ha. Honestly, it’s hard for me to share any advice, because I feel like I’m constantly trying to figure it out myself and I’ve definitely been a slow growth blogger and teacherprenuer. But I guess one thing that keeps coming to my mind is to remember blogging and building a business is a marathon not a sprint.
I know it’s so cliché, but seriously, blogging is not a get rich quick idea, or something most people will be immediately successful with. It is, however, an incredible platform that’s worth a business’ investment because it gives you a place to establish yourself as an expert and build a relationship with your followers and fans.
I firmly believe inside of each of us is a spark of creativity and that we all have something important to say or share. So blogging your story (good and bad!) teaching ideas, and perspective, can be a soul-satisfying way of developing that spark while serving and connecting with your community of like-minded followers.
It’s so hard to say because I’m not sure you’re allowed to choose favorites among your babies! But I guess I’d say my printable storytelling props are probably my favorite because they were my first products and the reason I began creating teaching resources.
In my earliest mothering years I was searching for some ideas to make storytelling more interactive for my toddlers, and recalled object lessons, stories, and songs my mom had taught on a homemade flannel board.
My own childhood learning memories moved me to search for flannel board pieces I could use in teaching my own children, but flannel board stories seemed to be old-school and hard to find. And when I finally did find some, they were dull and outdated. I knew if I was bored with the images, my kids would be too.
They say invention often comes from necessity, and soon I began to spend my babies’ nap times with a stack of felt and pair of scissors–experimenting with shapes, and creating my own flannel board pieces.
I had no intention of sharing these creations, but friends began to ask for storytelling pieces for their kids, and I soon realized flannel board storytelling is a classic teaching method — not old-fashioned — and a really fun way to get kids involved in learning the stories!
Since then, I’ve created and shared many stories in printable formats, and have received overwhelming and humbling words from parents, teachers, and church leaders of encouragement, teaching success, and requests to continue creating these interactive props. These testimonials have pushed me to keep creating during my babies’ naptimes and are developing into one of my own favorite resources for teaching.