What To Learn When You Want To Grow

What To Learn When You Want To Grow

My own children have officially launched, leaving me wondering, questioning, considering how now to become the very best version of myself as I move into another phase, one without my children here to direct my time. It’s still important for me to learn and grow and progress.

I’ve done my best with my kids and now life is different, ready to teach me new lessons, I hope! But right now, I need to keep busy – actively trying to nurture my mind and develop as a person, or it’s highly likely I’ll just stagnate. This isn’t ideal when I really want to flourish in this next phase of life. This is why committing to pushing myself, going back to school, and taking up new interests and hobbies can be very much a benefit. But where to start? And what kinds of things should you be looking to learn when you want to grow? Let’s take a look at a few ideas I’m mulling over:

Learn A Language

One of the very first topics that can help you to grow and develop is languages. When you can acquire a new language, you’re really broadening your horizons and opening up your mind to new possibilities. If you’ve always wanted to be able to speak another language, then this is something that you really should look to do. But do it in a way that really works for you. Book an online course, get a tutor, or even head overseas to master the language in the native country. Just do what you feel is best for you to be able to really grow as a person and speak a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo to work on my Spanish!

Learn A Craft

Or perhaps you’re not that interested in languages, and you’d rather learn a craft? Why not take a look at these crafts to make with DIY Joy and see if you feel inspired. From knitting to baking to even things like makeup artistry, here you’ll be looking to discover something that can give you a new skill for your own personal enjoyment, or inspire a new business venture for you. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me, but now that there are no children at home to eat my treats I’m going to have to bring them to school…

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Learn Coding

Right now, the internet and technology are so huge. So why not be apart of that and learn to code? Last year I used some coding hyperdocs in my classroom – you can try them out here. If you do have an interest in this area, coding is a great skill to understand for your own personal internet use and if you want to go into business too.

Learn To Teach

Maya Angelou said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” Now, this can mean that you do want to go back to school and get your teacher’s credential, or maybe start by volunteering in a classroom – teachers always need help. When you love learning, it’s highly likely that you’ll be passionate about teaching too. So why not look to share your love of learning with children or seniors?

Learn Business Skills

Another skill area to consider involves business. Have you always wanted to launch your own company? Create a blog to showcase your creativity? Then why not try it out?

Blogging has turned into a big side job for me – it’s amazing how much I’ve had to learn about marketing, social media, and growing my professional networks. Read up on business skills online and with books. Find key business solutions that allow you to prevent fraud with Jumio’s Netverify or create a website with Wix. Scroll through blogs and even think about getting your MBA so that you could start off on your own.

If you’re an empty nester like me, consider investing in yourself. Learn and grow!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

Authenticity: When I Wonder If I Am Enough

I didn’t really set out to be a teacher – or a parent. I wasn’t a child who dreamed of my ‘perfect’ career or ‘perfect’ family. I didn’t have names picked out for my future children. I rarely thought about life too far in advance. I mostly did what I needed to do, took the side roads instead of the highway, and generally landed on my feet – often times a bit wobbly or off center, but not completely upside down.

At least not more than once or twice.

The fact that teaching and parenting have defined me for 27 years is really quite surprising.

I’m grateful for my teaching job. I’m told I’m good at it; I’ve stuck with teaching middle school, through three different districts, dozens of principals and multiple iterations of teaching kids. Yes, the content and class titles have changed, but not my focus: kids first, content second.

And I’m grateful for my parenting job. I’m thinking I’m pretty good at it; my oldest is graduating from college, my youngest from high school. Neither has been in ‘trouble’, they care about people and take their education seriously. They are good humans. And they still check in with mom and dad and put up with my innate tendency to worry and create elaborate ‘what if’ scenarios in my head.

And yet, still, those moments creep up on me, silent and stealthy and surprising with their intensity – moments when doubt creeps in, wraps like a tourniquet around my forehead and squeezes out my confidence. The moments that I’m learning to beat down, to thrash out at with a violence built up over half a century of battling self-doubt.

I’ve been rolling around this idea for awhile now, waiting for just the right inspiration – and today, the Universe responded with a quote from Coco Chanel in my “Year of Daily Joy” guided journal: “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but someone.”

authenticity

I honestly think that’s where I am right now: deciding to be someONE. I’m fairly certain it has to do with being 50+, with having a supportive husband who helps me along a path that just feels like the right one to take – even when I’ve got no other justification than that. I would bet that it has to do with feeling supported in my work – but administrators, colleagues, parents, and students who allow me to succeed and fail, who listen to my audacious ideas and trust me enough to join in.

Authenticity: loving fiercely

And I know for sure that my children, the two humans who have taught me the most in life, are at the core of my decision. Loving fiercely, parenting two spirits that aren’t afraid to call me out and show me their side of the story, enable me to look in the mirror every day and ask, “Am I enough by THEIR standards?”

authenticity

Knowing that if I walk my talk, if I believe in my power enough to show them they can believe in theirs, is flexing my authenticity muscle. With every risk I take, with every failure and stumble and crash I hope I’m showing them that I care. That I believe in searching for fulfillment for myself and being open to what the Universe has in mind…even when I want nothing more than to stay under the soft covers of my bed and listen to the birds chirping outside on a cloudy morning.

Martha Beck says, “Refusing to risk is like allowing a muscle to atrophy; it doesn’t hurt, but when the muscle isn’t fulfilling its purpose, it loses whatever strength it has.” 

I love thinking of these moments of wondering if I’m enough like a muscle I need to exercise. We all have authenticity inside, wrapping our bones and covering our hearts with abundance and love. Why have so many, like me, found it easier to refuse to risk, to scramble under the covers instead of undertaking the hard work of finding – and cultivating – it?

I have struggled most of my life with a paralysis of perfectionism. I don’t know where it comes from or why, and I honestly don’t care.

What I do care about, however, is how this paralysis impacts my ability to find authenticity-in my parenting, my teaching, my writing, and my daily interactions with strangers and friends. Part of that is recognizing that when the Universe sends me former students who remind me I was their ‘favorite’ teacher, or when my son responds with a hug to my request to spend more than an hour a day together, or when I connect with a stranger on Twitter who honors my work, I am making a difference.

Authenticity: Being enough

I care about authenticity. I also care deeply about being ‘enough’. So I’ll show up, I’ll puff out my chest when I’m feeling less than brave, and I’ll live. I’ll take the risk. I’ll flex the muscle. I’ll show the Universe more love. I’ll do things that I want to do, and I won’t let perfectionism paralyze me ever again.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Does Your Child Have These 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

Other than the first day of kindergarten, the first day of middle school may be one of the most anxiety-producing days for students and parents alike. The good news is that you and your child CAN and WILL survive this transition – especially if you help.  Just ask yourself: can your child do these 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

  1. Teach your child to pack their own lunch – and a good snack. When my kids were little, I always figured if they weren’t hungry or tired I had a chance of surviving the day. This didn’t change as they grew up; the basic needs just get a little more difficult to enforce. Middle school students expend a LOT of energy, and they are hungry all the time. I’m not kidding. If you can teach your child to pack their own lunch – or at least a healthy, energy sustaining snack, not only will your child’s teacher be happy, but you also have a good chance of having a stable child at the end of the day! Reusable water bottles, fruit, protein bars and whole grain crackers are great snacks that help keep students alert and on top of their game. And be sure they pack it themselves- teaching simple self-care techniques prepares them for taking control of their health and wellness and will reduce stress.4 skills before starting middle school
  2. Practice self-awareness. This skill tags along with self-care, and also helps develop an awareness of their emotions and feelings. Middle school students have rapidly changing views and experiences; teaching your child to reflect on life milestones, accomplishments, and successes and challenges from the previous school year helps them to learn about themselves as a learner, as a friend and develops a growth mindset. When school gets challenging, having self-awareness skills to fall back on helps develop confidence and a calm approach.
  3. Teach your child to write an email. Thanks to technology, today’s educators are much more accessible. If your school uses a management system, make sure you and your children understand how to log on and how to contact teachers. But parents – resist the urge to be the first point of contact with teachers. Have your child reach out with a simple, direct email that states their question and asks for help. I also advise middle school students to set up a professional email address that is used for college contacts; Gmail is an excellent service. Developing self-advocacy skills will ease the communication anxiety and provide valuable training for high school and college.
  4. Help create an organization system with specific weekly goals. To develop strong study skills and create a peaceful after school environment, your student should create an organization system that works for them. Binders, color coded and labeled folders, digital systems, and traditional paper calendars are all ways middle school students can stay organized. Setting measurable weekly goals, and reflecting on progress, are ways to teach your child about self-monitoring and problem-solving. Not every system works for every child, so it’s important to listen to your child’s ideas and give things a try, even if it isn’t YOUR way. Setting up a reward and logical consequence system alongside to weekly goals will offer a tangible reason for your child to work hardto meet their expectations.

Helping your child develop these 4 skills your child needs before starting middle school should ease the transition for everyone. Remember, your child is likely nervous and anxious about all the ‘newness’ they are experiencing, and while it may seem as if the last thing they want is your advice, just knowing you’re there and paying attention can open the door for supporting them through this exciting time.

Can Your Child Do These 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

*This post first appeared on The Educator’s Room – please visit The Educator’s Room website here for more about teaching and parenting.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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When Your Child Leaves For College

What To Say When Your Child Leaves For College

Three years ago, on this day in 2014, I was wondering what to say when I dropped my daughter off at college. It should have been simple, right? I write voraciously. I’m an educator. I’ve hundreds of kids leave the comfort of home and be absolutely fine. I’ve had good friends to mentor me through what to expect, just like during pregnancy. When your child leaves for college was most certainly a topic on the tip of my consciousness.

But on that day, when it was my 18-year-old baby girl launching off to another state, I was stuck.

I drafted and erased and revised and published getting ready for graduation essays, college tour recaps and leaving home for spending the summers at Mt. Hood. I’d survived a year with my 8th-grade son unexpectedly moving to the mountains to train for the Junior Olympics, yet I was a wreck figuring out how to handle his accident 10 days before her college move in day, a flooded kitchen and my own over-the-top anxiety. This definitely was not going according to plan.

When Your Child Leaves For College

And on this day, three years later, Facebook reminds me of our beautiful, bittersweet drive across the Utah Salt Flats, 10 hours of me and you and wondering how I would manage to say everything that I wanted/needed/should say in the next 24 hours.

I’m a Gen X parent. I grew up with a kind of free-range parenting, knowing I should be home before dark and feeling invincible. We hadn’t heard of HIV, or date-rape, or helicopter parenting. And here I am, the first generation of parents raising the i-kid, happily doling out dollars for the tech that would keep me connected – a part of my baby’s world 650 miles away.

Now I needed to figure out how to employ a kind of ‘stealth-parenting’ – finding the walk to back up my talk, if I could even figure out what that ‘talk’ was. After listening to her college president speak at the convocation, I scribbled out a letter to my college bound daughter. It’s been my most viewed post of all time – I guess I’m not alone in wondering what to say when your child leaves for college after all.

When Your Child Leaves For College

When Your Child Leaves For College

Two years ago – on this day – I became a shuttle driver, watching both my babies paddle out into a Utah river, scramble up a waterfall, and leaving me alone in a hotel room as they chose a campsite over room service. Thank you, Facebook, for reminding me that she could survive her first year of college, and so could I. Nervously relaxing in that hotel room, I struggled with my monkey-mind – what do I say when your child leaves for college the second time? What words does she need to hear – or do I? No longer was I dishing out advice about dorm rooms and ‘firsts’ – suddenly, adulting was more real than ever. My cyber-stealthing had helped somewhat; Instagram and Snapchat offered glimpses into the life I was sure she didn’t really want me to know much about, yet I was desperate to see.

The second year she was on her own, shopping at Costco and stocking up her apartment. She was cooking meals and going to classes and occasionally sharing a bit with me. Driving back, watching the sun rise over her city, the tears came. This time felt different, lonely, hopeful. I comforted myself by writing a letter to parents leaving their kids at college and didn’t look back-most of the time.

When Your Child Leaves For College

One year ago, summer started with her first study abroad, words only shared through sparse wifi connections along the Camino de Santiago. Adventuring is in her blood, and for the first time, I sank into the trust that things will be well, that she will be well, that I will be well. The power of prayer and hope and the knowledge that she would have to figure things out without my advice allowed for us to grow – mostly, for me, I admit. I couldn’t wait to see her, to hug her and note the changes that exploration had inked into her spirit. The third year leaving her at college was more about my transformation into wholeness; I was turning 50 and felt the crack widening. I learned to look at life as it is, to embrace change and hopefully anticipate the changes of motherhood in front of me.

When Your Child Leaves For College

This year I didn’t have to worry about what to say as I dropped her off because it didn’t actually happen. She’s officially adulting now, and never really came home. I traded my tech for travel and bought a ticket to visit her instead. I spent seven glorious days immersing myself in her life, discovering her city and the places she likes to buy her coffee and have special dinners out. I met her friends and bought her wine. We adulted together, no words needed, and then she dropped me off at the airport with a hug and a smile and a glint of a tear in her eye.

Now, her fourth year, I realize this: it’s not the words you say when you’re leaving your child at college, it’s the words you say when you’re not there. It’s how you find a way to be that safe place to fall back to, the warm demander from a distance. It’s the words you say when they fight with their roommate or fall in-or out-of love. It’s the words when you wish you were there to wrap yourself around her, to hold her close and smell the coconut shampoo in her hair and help her through.

It turns out, leaving her at college isn’t the hardest part; having her not come home is worse. This year, leaving her at college is more about leaving her childhood and welcoming her adulthood.

These are my words to help me through this one. Feel free to let me know if you have any advice.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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gardening shovel

Tired Of Gardening? You’re Doing It Wrong!

No surprise if you follow my Instagram – I love gardening.

gardening shovel

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Nothing better than gardening!

There’s nothing better in life than a warm summer’s evening in a beautiful garden that you have created yourself. But many people miss out on this incredible experience and opportunity because they feel that gardening is just too much hard work. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Sure, gardening takes a little sweat and elbow grease every now and again, but the truth is if you are slaving away in your garden, you are doing it all wrong. Here are my tips for making gardening an easier – and far more enjoyable – experience.

Feed Your Soil!

First of all, if you want to see your garden grow magnificently, you need to give it the right nutrients. So many people complain about never achieving the perfect lawn, or always experiencing plants die, but the truth is that by testing your soil’s pH levels you will be able to introduce the right minerals and nutrients. Then it’s a simple case of adding some compost every now and again. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that good-quality soil means you won’t have to add fertilizer every other week.

Go Slow Release

Of course, every garden could do with some fertilizer every now and again, but to make your life easier, try using slow release fertilizers. Just make sure that you use organic products, rather than synthetic fertilizers, which can impact the quality of your soil and kill off nutrients. Time released fertilizers, and water polymers are also easy to use, and you only need to lay them when you start planting shrubs, flowers, or grasses.

gardening swing

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Invest in the Right Equipment

It’s not much of a surprise that people hate gardening if the tools they use are not up to scratch. Blunt garden shears, poor quality lawnmowers, a broken wheelbarrow – they can all add up to a frustrating and tiring experience. My advice is to spend some time looking around for better tools and consider spending a little extra on high-quality garden gear. Garden There’s good lists of garden equipment from Mowers Online and other online websites, so do some research and head down to your local garden center with your checkbook. It will make a world of difference to your enjoyment of gardening, make it a lot easier for you, and, ultimately, will give you a better garden finish for less work.

Plan Your Garden

A few weekends of hard work will mean an easier experience in the future. So, put aside some time to sort out your yard, beginning with a good plan. Sketch out your ideal garden and think about what type of plants you want to have in it. It’s a good idea to educate yourself about the types of plant that thrive when together, and need similar maintenance. It will save you a lot of time when it comes to watering, feeding, and caring for your garden if you plan your plants, shrubs, and flowerbeds appropriately. Some plants will love being out in the sun, so target open areas of the backyard that have no cover for these, while others thrive in the shade. There will be an element of difference when it comes to caring for plants, of course, but the heavy maintenance chores like watering and deadheading should all be grouped together to make your life easier.

Install Raised Beds

Part of the problem with unruly gardens is that they have no defined borders. It means that plants will spread over the seasons, and you will end up losing control. Your best bet is to invest some time and energy to creating raised beds. Not only are they much easier to control, but by raising your beds up six inches or so, you will find the work is far less backbreaking than it was before.

gardening daisies

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Go For Perennials

Perennial plants are easy to look after and are hardy, robust, and keep coming back. If you want the most comfortable gardening experience while still retaining a nice look, ensure that the majority of your plants are perennial Consider plants like Sedums and Astilbes which look fantastic all through the flowering season, and need little attention no matter what the weather.

Lay Down Mulch

Putting mulch down is a cheap way of helping your soil retain moisture all through the warm seasons, as well as keeping your plant roots nice and cool – which is essential if you want to keep your plants from dying. Mulch is also a great way of providing a professional looking finish to your raised bed and bordered areas. Not only that, of course, but mulch helps you control weeds by blocking them from life-giving light, and acts as a natural soil fertilizer to give your plants the nutrients they need. In short, one day of laying down some mulch in the right areas can mean no more weeding, and much less fertilizing.

Employ the ‘No Dig’ Method

Want to know one of the best ways of looking after your plants? Fix your soil and leave it – permanently. When you think about how plants grow in the wild, it makes perfect sense. The soil in the wild is never tended to, and if the structure remains undisturbed plants of all kinds will still flourish. Excellent news for the lazy gardener, right? However, there is an important thing to consider if you want to use the no dig method. You won’t be able to bring in plants that don’t usually grow in your local area, and importing ‘foreign’ plants from other countries will certainly be a no go. That said, it’s a great chance to learn more about your location’s natural plant life and an easy way of looking after your garden without all the hard work!

OK, so there you have it – as you can see, gardening doesn’t have to be a tough grind. Pick up the right equipment, choose the right plants, and spend a few weekends laying some groundwork, and gardening becomes an easy – and enjoyable – activity. Getting started at this time of year is a perfect time, too, so no more excuses! Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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