4 Ways to Advertise Effectively for Your Business

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Advertise Effectively

When it comes to making sure people know who you are, and more importantly, what your business is, the trick is getting your voice out there. This voice isn’t just what you’re telling and selling, but showing it, too.

Advertising is the name of the game here, and it’s the voice that you need to ensure that people are aware of who you are and what you represent. Here are just four effective ways to advertise that are sure to help promote your business.

1. Banners and graphics

While the Internet is dominating the control of content, it doesn’t mean that people have suddenly dropped physical ads from their consciousness. They are everywhere, but what’s the worst problem for a billboard? They are static. Banners and graphics are similar, and as the experts from Custom Vinyl Graphics | Custom Vinyl Printing | Craftsmen Industries make it apparent, it’s a useful advertising tactic regardless of the Internet. Showing people a physical example of your marketing is still key for a tangible approach to getting your name and business out there. 

2. Social media

On the subject of the Internet, the use of social media isn’t just advantageous for reaching out and making connections. The use of social media for advertising is expanding the capabilities of being able to reach more markets. With the user base of just about every conceivable demographic and more daily users than 1/2 of the world, it’s a no-brainer why a business should be using this. It’s cheaper and often free, and it’s easily shared, retweeted, liked, commented on, etc. Word of mouth has never been more expansive. 

3. Radio ads

What does the average person spend doing for at least five minutes a day on the way to work or the way home? They listen to the radio in their car. In between the minutes of music, there are ads peppered there at a generous rate, which is ripe for taking advantage of. All of that time spent commuting might be generous as some people average even longer daily trips, allowing for an almost uninterrupted window into someone’s life. Radio ads might seem old-fashioned, but people haven’t suddenly abandoned the car, so it only makes sense why it’s still useful.

4. Blog posts

Internet content, in a more tangible sense and not just relegated to social media, is an organic way to provide people with the good word on a product, service, or business. Blogs are a lot more complex than someone’s online journal. Some of the biggest websites on the Internet have dedicated blog sections to diversify their content, and they allow for advertising potential. Utilizing blog posts and guest blogging is an effective marketing tactic. 

 

While there are plenty of marketing possibilities, you only need a few to be successful. Putting your eggs in too many baskets just causes you to lose track of your goal. These are four examples of proven and purposeful methods to market a business.

4 Fun Ideas for Hot Cocoa with Kids

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As we head into the final countdown towards Christmas and the kiddos are on winter break, here are some fun ideas you can have with everyone’s favorite drink: hot cocoa!

4 Fun Ideas for Hot Cocoa with Kids1. Dress up your drink!

The latest trend is decadent milkshakes and drinks. Let your kids experiment with flavored whipped creams, colored marshmallows, sprinkles or drizzle chocolate or caramel sauce on top. BONUS TIP: Don’t leave Mommy out… She can dress up hers too with some Godiva Liqueur!

2. A Healthier Version (shhhh!)

If you’re looking for a healthy, yummy alternative for the kids, there are lots of recipes that don’t use a lot of sugar. Check out this healthy, easy recipe with almond milk.

3. Hot Cocoa Stand!

We may live in Florida, home of citrus, but this time of year, say goodbye to lemonade and hello to hot cocoa stands! Set the kids up with hot drink cups, hot cocoa mix, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and cute decor (you probably have a bunch out already for your holiday celebrations!). If your neighborhood has a lot of lights, this is a fun activity for the kids to do as people drive through to look at holiday light displays.

4. Hot Chocolate Bombs! (editor’s add!)

The latest craze it Hot Cocoa Bombs! They are so much fun and make great gifts! Place in a mug, pour hot milk into the mug and the chocolate melts and magically releases the marshmallows and cocoa hiding inside! We discovered a local company, S3 Creationz who makes yummy hot chocolate bombs! Check out our latest video on our IG Reels!

 

So as your fun cookie baking activities commence this week, don’t forget this other fun sweet, easy treat… hot chocolate!

Welcoming back the Elf on the Shelf

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Elf on the ShelfWe are a proud family of an Elf on the Shelf, and this year will be our third year having fun with him. My son affectionately named him “Mr. Elf” his first year, and the name has stuck ever since.

If your family has their own elf, or if you have thought about starting the tradition this year, I am sure you have seen the plethora of ideas across social media boards. Honestly, it can be overwhelming. We like to keep things fun and light-hearted in our house. That’s the bottom line when my hubby & I agreed to start the tradition. For us, it is more about finding the fun hiding spots each day and not so much that the elf is here watching my son or waiting to catch him misbehaving.

Most elves fly back from the North Pole between November 27th and December 4th, but each elf is different! A fun rule of thumb could be for your elf to return on the first night that your Christmas tree gets put up and/or decorated. That is what our family likes to do.

Last year, I wanted to make Mr. Elf’s return not only special, but also to make it more of a re-introduction, as my then 3 year old did not entirely remember him from the year before. Thus, I put together a letter from Santa that he brought with him. It basically told him why he sent Mr. Elf to hang out with us until Christmas, that he knew a few toys he wanted, and to remember the REAL reason for the season. We also left the Elf on the Shelf book on table, so we could read it together.

Mr Elf Arrival_OMB

If you like to be organized, like me, you can download this super cute and FREE printable planning calendar from Crystal and Co. HERE

Elf on the Shelf Calendar

We’ve put together 21 IDEAS FOR YOUR ELF ON THE SHELF, beginning with his arrival!

Arrival Ideas

  • Elf on the Shelf parachute (made from a coffee filter!)
  • Balloon arrival (think helium balloon from your local dollar type store!)
  • Arrive with a new Christmas ornament
  • Red carpet arrival (made from fabric or red wrapping paper!)
  • Arrives in Elf rocket ship
  • Arrives with a stack of new books to open each night before Christmas

More ideas for any day!

  • Write a message spelled out with candy.
  • Read a favorite Christmas book.
  • Hide in the Christmas tree.
  • Color in a coloring book.
  • Build a tower out of Legos or blocks.
  • Hang from a ceiling fan or lamp.
  • Fill sink or bowl with marshmallows for elf “bubble bath”.
  • Play with child’s toys.
  • Take a nap in box of tissues.
  • Play board game with stuffed animals.
  • Cover in pieces of ribbon, tape,  & wrapping paper from trying to help wrap presents.
  • Sit next to the cookie jar or package of cookies….and caught snacking!
  • Hide out in the silverware drawer.
  • Cover in stickers.
  • Hang from the cabinet doors.

Overall, our elf doesn’t get into too much mischief. Again, I like to keep it light-hearted and non-stressful for this mama! Oh, and yes, there are days when we forget to move him. I like to say that the elf is playing a trick on my son to see if he remembers if he was already in that spot. So far, he buys that, so we are lucky. Maybe when he gets a bit older, we will have to be more creative.

Murphy Elf On The Shelf_OMB

Occasionally, he may be known to give a small present. Those are always extra exciting mornings! One idea for something fun would be for your elf to bring the kiddos a gingerbread house to decorate or a Christmas movie to watch.

Murphy Elf On The Shelf 2 _OMB

We had such a great time with our elf last year! I can’t wait for him to bring some more smiles into our home this year. Does your family have an elf? When does he or she come back? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

Originally published Nov, 2018.
Updated Dec 1, 2020

Kristi’s Pumpkin Roll

Kristi’s Pumpkin Roll

I make this pumpkin roll every year, the night before Thanksgiving, and chill it overnight for our Thanksgiving morning brunch. It’s always a hit!

Pumpkin roll

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Powdered sugar

Filling:
1 cup powdered sugar
6 ounces cream cheese
4 Tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Beat eggs on high speed, gradually beat in sugar.
  2. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice.
  3. Add dry ingredients together then FOLD in pumpkin mixture.
  4. Spread on greased and floured pan 15x10x1/2. Do not use oil to grease pan.
  5. Top with nuts.
  6. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
  7. Turn on towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll towel and cake together. Cool.
  8. Unroll and spread with filling and re-roll.

(I make this the night before Thanksgiving and chill overnight. Otherwise, chill for a couple hours before eating.)

 

EVERYONE loves it, and always asks for the recipe! Share your pic! Tag us on social @orlandomomcollective

Fun Thanksgiving Crafts and Treats

originally posted 11/12/2019

One of the best things about being a mom is having my daughter help me bake and craft. I love that she’s always taking interest in what I’m doing and as a result she becomes a little more creative every time we start a new project. Each holiday, I try to make themed kid-friendly treats for her friends at daycare. Sometimes we make treats because I want her to learn that it doesn’t have to be a special occasion to show kindness to others. For the past week we have been going through all of our Thanksgiving ideas, trying to figure out what to do this year.

  1. Last year we made a mix of Cheerios, Gold Fish and Mini Marshmallows. We put the mix inside ice cream cones and they made very cute cornucopias for her daycare friends.

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2. We also made these cute turkey cookies out of chocolate covered Graham Cracker, Smarties and Candy Corn. We used only the white Smarties for the eyes and added a dot of black icing.

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3. For the teachers we wrapped some banana bread, pumpkin bread and apple caramel bread in Fall themed ribbon and attached a printable you can find here.

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We found so many other crafts and treats that are easy enough for you and your little helpers to make.

4. These little turkey boxes are a great alternative to treats. I just love these by Love The Day 

Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids:: DIY Turkey Boxes

5. These DIY Party Favors by I Heart Crafty Things are perfect for Thanksgiving guests.

6.Turkey Pudding Cups and Turkey Jello Cups by The Keeper of  the Cheerios are a great idea for daycare.

turkey treats

7. Who wouldn’t like a Turkey Pretzel? Miss Candyquik has a great tutorial.

Turkey Pretzels! @candiquik

8. If you want to completely theme out your Thanksgiving celebration, Amanda’s Parties To Go has these printables you can download for free!

9. This is such a creative way to remind our children what to be thankful for. Have them help you put together this Thanksgiving Art by Yesterday on Tuesday 

So how about you? What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving Crafts and Treats this year?

7 Productivity Hacks For The Remote CPA 

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tax season

With work-life changing and more people going into remote work, as a CPA, it becomes more apparent to you that remote flexibility has always been part of the job scope.   

In fact, there are more outsourced CPAs today than there were before. But just like reviewing budgets and taxes, you also need to take stock of how productive you are when working-from-home.

Here are seven hacks to help you get through tax season:  

  1. The To-Do List 

You probably realize how lists have a positive effect on how we do things. A list presents a visual presentation to help you get organized. So yes- make lists and paste them on your home office wall. Look at them every day and make sure to tick it off one by one.  

2. The Two Minute Rule 

What can you do in two minutes? This can be anything from making a phone call to a client or updating your business calendar, or even making quick tax calculations. Give yourself at least 10 to 15 minutes every day to do non-email related things, and once that’s out of the way, switch on your computer and proceed to emails.  

 3. The Five Minute Rule 

What can you do in five- minutes? Just like the two-minute rule, you need to look at your tasks and see which of these you can get done in 5 minutes. This not only allows you to accomplish quite a lot, but it will also feel like a gamified feeling to get the job done under 5! From going in for a quick Zoom meeting, balancing spreadsheets, sending your client an update, or downloading an accounting software- you’ve ceased the day!  

 4. Track Your Time 

Tracking your time works for people who want to increase productivity or for those who have no idea how productive they are or feel like they’re spending time on non-productive things. The point of this whole exercise is to see what wasteful activities you do on a daily basis that decreases your productivity. By tracking what you do for just one week, you can see what habits go against helping you stay focused. 

 5. Limit the variety 

As a remote CPA, you don’t need to dress up too much (unless you want to). The great thing about working remotely is not having to abide by corporate rules of how one should dress. Make simple, easy, yet polished choices for your remote work so you can focus your time on important things.  

 6. Block your distractions 

Social media, your smartphone are all daily distractions. If you find yourself getting distracted easily during work- then BLOCK it. Set a Do Not Disturb timer on your phone that can help you do this- it can block the apps that you want for a certain period of time.  

 7. Me time! 

A personal time only by yourself to do what you want? This is definitely a good thing because just a few minutes of having lunch by yourself, going for a run, reading a book can provide mental relief, enabling you to re-focus and re-align to accomplish the day’s tasks.   

 

5 COVID Safe Gift Ideas for the Holidays 2020

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The COVID-19 virus has turned everyone’s world upside down. There is no escaping it, and there is no point trying to play pretend as though everything is as it was pre-coronavirus.

But we here at the Mom Collective are not quitters.

Us moms are survivors!

So for the holidays this year, we are going all out to make sure our friends and family know just how much we love and care for them.

Now more than ever, it is so important to reach out and make or refresh connections with other people.

However, we still have an obligation to keep ourselves and others SAFE. This makes traditional retail shopping a questionable activity.

Don’t worry. We have got your gift giving needs covered.

Here are 5 COVID safe gift ideas for 2020.

Custom Hand Sanitizer

Everyone needs hand sanitizer these days. There are plenty of reasons to invest in hand sanitizer for the long haul, but you have a few ways to go about it.

You can buy customized, tiny bottles full of sanitizer, or buy the bottles and fill them yourself. The fun thing about these bottles is that you can print unique labels on them, make them as portable as you’d like, and even attach them to keychains for the user’s convenience. Buying hand sanitizer in bulk and filling the bottles yourself saves you money.

However, these tiny bottles can create a ton of unnecessary waste.

Instead, you can buy your loved ones bulk hand sanitizer with added scents and essential oils to make it unique to them! 

Everyone else has to deal with the noxious odor of alcohol-based hand sanitizers these days. Give your family and friends a little respite with some pleasant-smelling sanitizer.

Board Games

As the days get chillier and we are pushed further and further into the recesses of social isolation, it is easy to get sucked into the grey, unrelenting vortex of the internet.

But sometimes, you have to be the adult in the room and pry your children’s screen-strained eyeballs from the rube tube (and maybe even your spouse’s) to get in some real-world socializing, sans computer.

Board games are prepackaged fun that can be customized for your family’s needs. Is your clan a bunch of math nerds? Are you pop culture trivia buffs? Heck, do you like trains?

There is literally a board game out there for everyone! Even people that don’t like board games. 😉

Subscription Boxes

Subscription boxes existed long before COVID-19 hit, but there was nothing like the explosion of subscription boxes available today.

Coronavirus has been a natural breeding ground for businesses which fill the gaps left by social distancing. Services which can maximize the distance between distributors and consumers are going to flourish in this new retail market, which focuses entirely on convenience and safety for the end user.

Take, for example, kidpik, a kids clothing box which gives parents a full WEEK for their children to try on new clothing at home. With free delivery and returns.

Kids will have fun switching up their wardrobe regularly, and parents will appreciate the convenience of having a full, styled wardrobe delivered straight to their door whenever their kids hit a growth spurt.

Subscription boxes are truly tailored to the needs of the recipient, and, just like board games, there is sure to be one to fit every taste.

Personalized Masks

We all need to make peace with the reality that masks are here to stay.

Instead of mourning the death of maskless public selfies, we should focus on making new, happy memories in our masks (6 feet apart, of course!).

There are plenty of ways to customize masks for your friends and family:

  • Print inside jokes on the front
  • Buy novelty masks
  • Buy masks with images from children’s favorite shows
  • Make them yourself

The best masks have adjustable ear straps.

Be conscientious of the fact that people who wear glasses require different mask features to avoid fogging up their lenses. A metal wire in the nose helps keep the fabric flush to skin.

Food Delivery Services

The key to giving gifts amid coronavirus is finding a gift which helps solve a problem the gift recipient might have.

While no one wants yet another reminder of the ways in which coronavirus has eradicated our “old” normal, the best way to show others we care for them is by reminding them that we are thinking of them and considering their needs.

Delivering food to friends and family is a nice reminder that they are valued. If you know the person or family well enough, take it upon yourself to have some groceries delivered to their home. Parents of young children will be especially grateful.

Or, better yet, gift them a credit for grocery delivery or takeout services. Yum!

A REAL Christmas tradition

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This post is sponsored by the Christmas Tree Promotion Board. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As the holiday season comes upon us, you aren’t alone if you’re wondering if COVID-19 is going to mess with Christmas. I mean, just the thought that this intrusive virus would come in the way of our Christmas traditions is a little more than this mama can handle!

I believe I speak for every mama out there when I say,

Dear COVID-19,

There are some Christmas traditions you can’t mess with. Namely:  online shopping, eggnog, and a REAL Christmas tree.

Sincerely,
Every Mama Out There

Am I right? Do you have annual traditions you hold tightly to? Maybe matching family pajamas, or perhaps it’s driving around to see neighborhood lights? Or, maybe when it finally cools down to one of our rare chilly Florida mornings and you get to wear your favorite snowflake sweater. (Those are the only snowflakes we’ll be getting around here, so it’s a special sweater, right?!)

A Christmas tradition carried over from when I was a little girl

For me, our family has a special Christmas tradition that we’ve carried over from when I was a little girl. I grew up in Puerto Rico where, similar to Florida, palm trees are WAY more common than Christmas trees. But every year on the island, my parents took us to Old San Juan where barges would fill parking lots with ALL kinds of REAL Christmas trees! It was SO exciting to walk around and pick “the perfect one”. It always made Christmas special.

Continuing the REAL Christmas tree tradition

When I became a mom, my hubby and I both wondered what traditions we wanted to continue, especially around the holidays. Even before I became a mom, our first Christmas without kids, I just HAD to have a REAL Christmas Tree! It’s just what we did every year! And thankfully, my hubby shared that tradition, so it easily became our own.

Over the years, it became more fun to pick out a tree, as we let our then toddlers, now a tween & a teenager, help us pick “the perfect tree”. My son is 14 and my daughter is 10, and they have a special pact where they both have to agree as “official tree picker” and “official tree picker assistant” before we take it home. It’s been one of the rare occasions when, rather than sibling rivalry, they really work together to keep this “Real Christmas Tree” tradition going!

Could a REAL Christmas Tree help save 2020?

Actually, that’s not a far-fetched question. Real Christmas trees, other than being one of my favorite family traditions, have a few amazing things that can truly help make 2020 a little better for all of us.

When you buy and bring a Real Christmas Tree home … 

… you’re helping support local farmers.

… the trees are biodegradable, recyclable, reusable for mulch & better for the environment!

… they’re grown to be harvested, so there’s no harm in taking one home.

… for every REAL Christmas tree, at least one new tree gets planted (thanks, farmers!)

… plus, they smell like Christmas! (Is it too early to get one now???)

Speaking of 2020 … is it safe to get a REAL Christmas Tree?

YES! Some retailers even offer online sales and home delivery!

If you feel safe going out (with a mask and social distancing) and want to visit a Christmas Tree lot, farm or retail location, there’s a tool to help you find one near you! This tool has an interactive map to help you find your favorite type of tree (there are so many popular types to choose from)! Plus, sometimes the seasonal lots or shops set up photo ops which are perfect for Instagram! (Or, you know, just turn them into a photo gift for grandma & grandpa!)

FREE CHRISTMAS TREE INFO: Visit ItsChristmasKeepItReal.com for more!

2020 has been hard … let’s make this Christmas special

I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 has been hard. It’s been heart-wrenching to read posts on social media of friends who lost loved ones to Covid-19. So many of our local Central Florida friends lost their jobs, from Disney cast members to small business owners. Our collective hearts have been broken in many ways. Maybe this Christmas can help bring healing.

And maybe healing can start in our homes, with our kids.

Look to your kids for inspiration. They tend to get excited about the holiday season; the songs, the Santa cookies, the toys … everything! Let their happy dancing and prancing get you off the couch. Dream together about making this a wonderful Christmas. If we can, let’s share with others in need.

Christmas is a time for family. Plan that special outing to pick out your perfect REAL Christmas tree! Don’t let Covid-19 dampen your holiday spirits! Make new memories and hold tight to your favorite holiday traditions!

 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Same Day Tests (Flu & Covid-19) & more at AdventHealth Primary Care+

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I don’t like waiting, especially when it comes to my health and knowing the results to tests. So when we had the chance to sit down with Dr. Jessica Curry to talk about the convenient services and same day tests and more at AdventHealth Primary Care+, I was pleased to say the least!

If you are a busy mom and you would rather listen to our interview, we’ve attached a video link here.

https://www.facebook.com/OrlandoMomCollective/videos/362429664823417 

Here are the takeaway points, to help you when considering AdventHealth Primary Care+ as your primary care provider!

What makes AdventHealth Primary Care+ different than your typical PCP office?

Dr. Curry – “One of the key features is access to care and convenience! Their office is open seven days a week from 8am-8pm on weekdays, and 8am-2pm on weekends. The weekend days aren’t limited to acute care; you can schedule a regular visit on the weekends!

AdventHealth Primary Care+ also has 24/7 staff with access to your health records!

Same day labs are a huge benefit at their location! So you can get your blood counts, electrolytes, COVID-19 results, etc!

Same day visits for established patients gives AdventHealth Primary Care+ that extra charm, making them different than other PCP offices.

AdventHealth Primary Care+ is taking a highly personalized approach to your whole health and wellness. You receive virtual access to both mental health counseling and nutritional counseling.”

Why is it important to have a primary care doctor?

Dr. Curry – “Primary Care doctors can monitor and provide care for you in whole care for prevention on issues you can’t see, not just treating the symptoms you do see. Additionally you can see your PCP for issues that you might otherwise go to the Emergency Room for. Your PCP knows you intimately.”

What extra safety measures do you have in place?

Dr. Curry – “AdventHealth Primary Care+ has paperless pre-registration, temperature checks, universal face masks and regular room cleaning. All of these measures are taken to make sure their facility is a safe environment.”

Will getting the flu shot lower my immune system?

Dr. Curry – “Absolutely not! We recommend the flu shot for everyone 6 months and older regardless if you have any medical conditions or not. Don’t wait until the peak season to get your flu shot! We recommend getting the flu shot in September, October and early November prior to the peak flu season. So RIGHT NOW! It’s good to get as much protections as you can for yourself and your loved ones.”

Are you prepared for COVID-19?

Dr. Curry – “Absolutely! We have the Rapid Antigen Test that gives you your test results within 10 minutes as opposed to other tests that can take 3 days! The benefit of the Rapid Antigen Test allows you to make immediate action for care, contact tracing, and quarantine. We also have the Rapid Flu Test as well!”

To watch the full interview, click on the link above. For more information visit: PrimaryCarePlusNow.com

Let’s Be Pen Pals: Reviving the Art of Letter Writing

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One of the biggest hardships we’ve all likely felt this year is not being able to see many of our loved ones. As an adult, I can understand the reasoning behind being socially distant, despite the emotional pain it causes me; however, it’s tough on kids who may not fully understand the gravity of the pandemic. My son is certainly missing his grandparents up north, and we’re going on over a year of not seeing each other. We’ve been video chatting and texting, but that’s not the same as seeing people in person. It hurts my heart to no end when my son asks me when he’ll be seeing Grammy Sue and Grampy Joe, not only because I know he misses them tremendously, but also because I don’t really have an answer to that question. There’s still a lot of uncertainty.

Then something arrived in the mail one day that immediately made the distance between us and family feel a bit easier: my eleven-year-old nephew in Connecticut sent my son a letter in the mail. It was a simple letter, just letting his cousin know that he misses him and looks forward to when we can visit again. These were things that could have been communicated via text or maybe on Facetime, but there was something magical and special about receiving a handwritten letter in the mail, addressed just to him. My son excitedly asked me to help him write a letter back.

It made me think: why not revive the art of letter writing?

I get the reluctance. Why return to the days of physical letters when we have email, text, social media, and video chat? We’re getting closer and closer to a world that only uses keyboards and touchscreens. Why would we encourage our kids to go back in time and start being pen pals with someone?

Pen Pals

It’s simple. Letters mean more. And in a world that feels increasingly cynical, don’t we want to embrace things that have meaning and worth? Not to mention, in the socially distanced world in which we’re living, isn’t letter writing a lovely solution to reconnecting to our distant family members in a meaningful way?

Letter writing and our current reality seem like the perfect pair to me.

Yes, I know it takes more effort, but our kids live in a world of instant gratification. I’m constantly looking for ways to teach my son that things don’t just happen with a click of a button, but those opportunities are rare these days. When my son exchanged a few letters with his cousin, he realized that it would take a couple weeks to get a response, yet it didn’t diminish his excitement about the letters. What it did do was make him take pause and consider what goes into the pen pal process. Someone had to sit down with pen and paper and take the time to thoughtfully handwrite a message to a person, then carefully package it in an envelope and find a stamp to stick on it. All that effort creates a bond. And it just means more.

Pen Pals

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this before. I knew from experience how pen pals can leave a lasting, wonderful memory. I, myself, had pen pals as a child. When I was in elementary school I had the privilege of having two pen pals, one local and one in Tanzania. I’ll never forget the excitement of receiving a new letter in the mail and then anxiously grabbing a fresh new paper to respond. I’m sure my teachers were counting these letters as grades or participation points, but that wasn’t even a thought in my mind as I responded to my pen pal’s questions and asked them some more. Twenty-five years later, those memories are fresher than ever, as they clearly made an imprint on my heart and mind.

Do you have to be a certain age to have a pen pal?

Wondering if your child is too young to be someone’s pen pal? No fear! Being a pen pal insinuates that your child needs to be an independent writer, but on the contrary, that’s not really necessary. Grandma can write a letter that you can read to your child, and then your child draws a picture for them in response. There is still that special bond happening when a letter arrives in the mail for your child, and the urge to respond to their special letter buddy is just as exciting in picture form. Also, I don’t care what age your child is, there is always delight in packing a paper in an envelope and getting to stick a stamp on it. Before my son could write, he loved getting to put the “sticker” on the letter and then enjoyed walking it out to the mailbox to put up the little red flag to alert the mailman.

Now, let’s flip our perspective for a moment. When my son sends a letter to his cousin or grandparents, it’s not just about him. Let’s not forget that letter writing brings joy to both sides of the equation. I think my long-distance family members get just as much joy – maybe even more! – when they receive a letter in the mail from my son. In a time and age where there’s plenty to be sad about, let there be light where we can give it. Letter writing is a way for your child to feel the wonderful joy of being the person who can cheer up a loved one’s day. Indeed, getting an envelope in the mail with your name handwritten on it never gets old, no matter your age.

Here are 5 benefits to your child becoming pen pals with a relative:

  1. Letter writing is a bonding experience that is suitable for children of all ages, and especially perfect for our socially-distanced world in which we’re living.
  2. Again, these are strange times, so having physical letters to remember what we were thinking and talking about can serve as almost a time capsule into our lives from this year. I know it seems like we want to get the heck out of 2020 as fast as possible, but we are living in a historic moment, one that will be talked about for decades upon decades, if not longer. Even in the most desperate of times, written documents from important eras are often cherished decades later.
  3. Letter writing is a great opportunity to practice language skills with our kids. We sound out the words together when my son receives a letter, and he works on sounding out letter sounds when he’s spelling words in his response.
  4. Letter writing is an opportunity for your child to see how it feels to bring happiness to someone else. It can be empowering and a total mood booster for everyone involved.
  5. Letter writing is simply the act of spreading a little joy in a world that feels a little joyless at times.

Pen Pals

And, of course, I can’t end this post without urging moms out there to take up a pen, as well. Write a letter to your mom in California or your sister in Arizona, or whoever you’re wanting to reconnect with, even if they’re in the next town over. If you’re lucky, maybe you have a parent or grandparent with that beautiful cursive handwriting that seems to be going extinct. Each time we get a card or letter from grandparents, I always feel the need to save it, just to let me take in as much of that artform as possible. Heck, use this opportunity to brush up on your own cursive  handwriting skills. And as I’ve said so many times, modeling the behavior you wish your children to have works way better than words alone.

I plan to save any letters that my son or I exchange with relatives during this year (and beyond – who knows). Sometimes my son writes a few sentences, when other times he simply draws pictures of something and sends them off. Either way, it’s a handwritten, heartfelt part of my son visiting his long-distance family members through a simple piece of paper.

Writing letters won’t end this pandemic. It won’t make the pain of not seeing our loved ones all go away. But what it will do is help nurture the bond between two people who love each other but cannot be together. It will create those special little moments when someone opens up their mailbox and is surprised by an envelope, addressed just to them. It does produce an actual, physical thing, full of words of hope and love, which can never be deleted or archived in your inbox somewhere. It is unequivocally an opportunity to put a smile on a loved one’s face.

I can’t think of a more perfect time to revive the art of letter writing — in our kids, in our selves, and in anyone who needs a little cheer. Let’s embrace what we can during one of the toughest years of all of our lives.

Let’s be pen pals.

Are you prepped for another shutdown?

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When rumors of a shutdown due to Covid-19 started to spread and people began panic-shopping, I thought to myself, “No big deal; we’re Floridians; we know how to do this. We are adept at being prepared for hurricanes and know exactly which party food to stock up on to get us through.”  I specifically remember the day I decided to buy 3 packages of toilet paper. We were on our way to the beach; everyone unloaded and went into Walmart to pick their favorite beach snack. The aisles were jammed packed with cases and cases of toilet paper and people were rushing around stuffing packages into their carts, reminiscent of a Black Friday scene! In my head I was thinking, “Come on Florida, we’re better than this. But fine, I’ll buy some toilet paper.” Little did I know that was the last time I would find toilet paper on the shelf for months. 

After months of shut down, and watching behavior, here are a few takeaways on being prepared for something perhaps a bit more than our typical hurricane party.

Food & Emergency Essentials

Each family’s emergency needs are different, so pause and think about what your family cannot live without (and I’m not referring to mommy-juice!) in the event of a shutdown. Do you have a child with special dietary needs? Or maybe medicine? How many days worth of diapers do you have? And in the worst-case scenario, do you have cloth diapers, just in case? How about formula?

A few grocery items we have added to our stockpile:

  • rice
  • black beans
  • pancake mix & syrup
  • pumpkin puree
  • peanut butter & jelly
  • chocolate 🙂
  • oil
  • flour & other baking needs for bread
  • tuna
  • coffee (pre-ground…. I normally grind my own beans, so in the event we don’t have power and I HAVE to have coffee!)

Don’t waste: It’s never too early or too late to learn and teach this to all members of the family.

During our first shutdown when toilet paper was scarce, I made sure that my kiddos weren’t wrapping the toilet paper around their hand 1,000 times. I didn’t enforce an “only use 5 squares” rules, but it may have come to that eventually. Regardless of whether or not we are in an emergency situation or not, throwing gobs of toilet paper down the drain is a waste, literally.

Down the drain. Again, literally. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gone into the kitchen to find a bowl full of milk left from the morning’s cereal that just got poured down the drain. Not only is that a waste of money, but a waste of what could be a precious commodity. 

Shutdown Lessons: Learn new things now

Begin to learn how to make as many things from scratch as possible. And by scratch, I don’t mean you bought Hamburger Helper and just added the meat. Purchase a decent cookbook that has all the basics; nothing too fancy. Try and learn a couple of new things a month. That way if you totally fail on a recipe, you can still run down and grab a frozen pizza without the stress of wasting precious groceries. 

Get a good list of substitutions. Print it out in case you don’t have internet. For instance, did you know 1/2 tsp cream of tartar + 1 tsp 1/4 tsp of baking soda equal a 1 tsp of baking powder? Having a list of substitutions may come in handy when things aren’t available at the grocery store.

PRINTABLE BAKING SUBSTITUTIONS!

shutdown essentials
PRINTABLE!

Shopping: A mindset change

I took a preparedness class years ago and one of the presenters used this phrase, “One is none; two is one.” This is a change in mindset. Don’t think of your full container of baking powder, vanilla, bandaids, as having a full container and don’t need anymore; one is none.  As you do your regular shopping for groceries, household items, medical supplies, anything you use on a regular basis, be sure you are shopping not when you run out of something, but when you are down to one or two of something. There is a learning curve to shopping this way. But if you keep in mind that phrase, you will begin to realize how little you actually have on hand if something were to happen. 

Emergency bags:

Each member of our household has an emergency bag, no matter if we are facing another shutdown, or emergency in general. These are bags that are truly used in case of an emergency. Each bag contains a few medical supplies, water filtration, fire starting kits, and an emergency blanket. Depending on the age of those in your house, each bag will look a little different. Perhaps a new, small stuffed animal or a container of playdough for a young child. Perhaps a solar charger for a device for your older child. 

Prepper

The purpose of this post isn’t meant to scare you or have a doom-and-gloom mindset. While we NEVER wish for another shutdown or natural disaster to come upon us, we’ve learned from 2020 that a grocery store can clear out within a matter of days (or hours). Make a plan and be prepared for whatever comes our way. We’re moms… we’ve got this!

What would you add to our list? Share in the comments section below.

Written in collaboration by Julie Coombs & Kristi Corley

Follow up: Our baby had a lip tie and we had no idea

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It has been 2 years since our littlest had lip tie surgery and his 4 front teeth fixed. The experience was traumatic, for me. I was terrified of him being put to sleep for this, but, there was not other way. We had to go forward with the procedure or his teeth would have rotted out of his head and down the line, the lip tie could have caused some issues. 

In my previous post, I explained how we got to this point. I never expected it or even really knew the issue with his teeth was possible. Lip ties, I’ve heard of…the teeth problem- not so much (especially with a breast fed child).

After the procedure, he woke from anesthesia faster than they were expecting…and that shocked me. We (hubby and I) were still in the waiting room. The doctor had just come out to explain everything to us and tell us what to do when we got home. She explained that his lip tie was worse than she had originally thought. It was very wide and deep. But, it was easily fixed – only thing was that the swelling was definitely worse than she expected.

With in moments of her leaving, they rushed out to get me because he was unexpectedly awake and crying for me. I literally panicked and it’s kind of a blur going back there. I was so scared and my heart was pounding. When I got to him, he was acting erratic and the nurses were trying to control him. I grabbed him and tried to calm him down, but to no avail. He screamed and screamed and never even opened his eyes. His top lip was HUGE. The doctor said it was more swollen than she expected, but that it would go down.

Anderson's swollen lip

We sat in a recovery room for over an hour. He screamed and screamed. They finally gave me the green light to nurse him. That is what finally calmed him down. I just sat there and nursed him in the rocking chair. He still had tears streaming down his face, but never once opened his eyes.

Eventually, they said we could leave. Longest ride home ever. We had to stop once so that I could hold him. 

On the way home from the procedure

The instructions we were given were super simple. Lift his top lip several times a day for a few days to prevent the tie from reattaching. WHAT?! That’s a thing?! Anyway, we did it. It looked gross, but they said the stitches would dissolve, which they did. His teeth were cleaned up and capped with crowns – the 4 in the front and the 2 molars in the back.

Six months later we went for a cleaning and his teeth looked good. But in the following few months, I noticed a dark spot on the back of his front tooth. When we went for the next cleaning 6 months later, I mentioned it. The nurse said that the crowns are silver with a white coating, so maybe that was it. This is not my area of expertise; I let it be and didn’t think anything of it. We were instructed to “watch” his teeth and that they would do the same for his six-month check up.

Fast forward to February 2020, at his six-month cleaning; I mentioned it again to the dentist and she had x-rays done. Sure enough, there was decay under the crown. I was pissed. Super pissed. We brush his teeth and do all the right things, BUT I was still nursing. We (the dentist included) don’t know the cause of his issue.

Then the dentist told me that we are going to need to re-do his front teeth. Again, pissed. Actually, that didn’t even scratch the surface. I left in tears and was so upset at that fact that we had to do this again. Not only because he has to be put to sleep, but also because it costs a small fortune. And guess what?! Still no answer as to what is causing it.

We were scheduled for the procedure on March 17th, but then COVID. This was considered “medically necessary” but we have an asthmatic in our house and I was freaked out. We put it off for a few months and decided to do it in June. During the month of May, I officially weaned him from nursing.

On June 4th, we went in for the procedure. I was the only one allowed in and had to wait in the waiting room, with my mask on. The anesthesiologist was amazing and she came out to meet Anderson and talk to me about what to expect. Then our dentist came out to go over what was going to happen.

Anderson before the 2nd dental procedure

Anderson happily went back with them and then the wait began. After about 45 minutes our dentist came out to tell me about what she found. The first tooth was salvageable and she redid the crown. Then she came back to tell me that tooth 2 was really bad but tooth 3 looked ok and tooth 4 also looked bad. I cried.

Basically, his 4 front teeth to decaying under the crowns. I cried some more. Our only options were to re-do the crowns or pull his teeth. If we re-did the crowns, there is no way to guarantee that this issue would not happen again.

I cried and cried and went to the car to discuss it with my husband. We were both in shock and had to make an on-the-fly decision that we never thought was even an option.

We decided to just pull the 3 teeth that were not done yet. I went back in to the office and sat in the waiting room, alone, again. The ladies in the office did their best to console me from a distance. They offered me tissues and we talked about “after”. I asked a ton of questions and cried some more.

About 25 minutes later the dentist came out to tell me that it was done and that he did great. They took me back and I just sat there and held him and rocked. I was so upset.

As he was waking he cried and fidgeted a bit and he was rubbing his face. His mouth looked awful – it was bloody.

We got in the car and the dentist came out with us to explain what to expect and what to do. She was amazing through all of this.

We were instructed to make him wait for food, but this boy likes to eat. As soon as he was acting more like himself (literally within 45 minutes) he was demanding food (mind you, he couldn’t eat for the past 12 hours because of the anesthesia).

lip tieI called the anesthesiologist on her cell and told her what was going on and she said “feed the boy!”. So, he ate pasta. And he ate a lot of it. By the time the afternoon rolled around, he was totally fine. Within a few days, he noticed his teeth were gone. He never got upset about it, and adjusted to eating without them just fine.

The tooth fairy bought him some cars to play with and he loved that.

I think I was more upset because he is so little with no front teeth, but he is doing great. Now he just says “my teeth are gone” and “the tooth fairy bring me cars”.

It’s crazy how they adjust so well. He is all toothless smiles and a happy 3 and half year old! He eats like a champ and talks up a storm, just with a slight lisp with some words.

Smiley toothless boy

When a Routine Pregnancy Stops Being Routine, See an MFM

Maternal-Fetal Medicine

When Jennifer and her husband Tyler decided they were ready to start a family, everything seemed to fall into place easily. They wept tears of joy when the home pregnancy test revealed a positive symbol, and Jennifer got through her first trimester without much of the morning sickness that had bothered her friends. Seeing the baby’s heartbeat on the first ultrasound was a reassuring sign there really was a baby, even if Jennifer could not yet feel her child kicking.

But at the second ultrasound appointment, something seemed different. This time, the tech spent a lot of time clicking and taking measurements. The next day, Jennifer got a call from her OB, who said she had reviewed the images and had a concern about the structure of the baby’s heart. She referred Jennifer to a Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctor for follow up. 

Jennifer had never heard of a Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctor… if she needed one, did that mean there was a serious problem? Her OB gently assured Jennifer there was no reason to panic… a number of her patients were seen by a Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctor, also known as an MFM doctor. 

What is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist?

A Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist is a doctor who has received special training in caring for women with high-risk pregnancies and women whose baby is likely to be born with a health problem. The Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist doesn’t take over the care of the mother-to-be, but instead becomes part of the care team, along with the obstetrician. While the obstetrician focuses on the health of the mother, the MFM doctor focuses on the health of both the mother and the fetus. The MFM doctor works with the mother’s doctors to co-manage care before, during and after a baby’s birth. Women who are referred to an MFM doctor include:

  • Women who have a pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Women who had a complication with a previous pregnancy
  • Women whose fetus may have a complication or birth defect, such as
    – digestive tract or intestinal problems
    – heart disease or heart rhythm disorders
    – infections
    – neurologic disorders
    – orthopedic conditions
    – urologic disorders
    – kidney disorders
  • Women who are carrying more than one fetus  

Jennifer’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist arranged for fetal echocardiography that provided detailed images of the baby’s heart structure, function and rhythm, even though the baby still hadn’t been born. After confirming there was a problem, the MFM doctor continued to monitor Jennifer and worked with her on a plan for delivering the baby and arranging the baby’s follow up care. The MFM specialist was part of a network of specialists and was able to bring in a pediatric cardiologist who answered all of Jennifer and Tyler’s questions and educated them on what they were dealing with and what care their baby would need in the months to come. While immediate surgery was not needed in this case, having the specialists involved early ensured that if care was needed at the moment of birth, it would be arranged.

Thanks to the involvement of Jennifer’s MFM specialist and the pediatric cardiologist, what had started as scary and unexpected news, became manageable. While no expecting mother wants to hear that there could be a problem with their pregnancy or with their baby’s health, having a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist on the care team can help to avoid surprises and ensure that moms and delivery teams are prepared to give the baby the best possible start in life.

 

To learn more about Maternal-Fetal Medicine services at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, visit us online.   

 

Fall Kids Craft: Magical Leaves From Melted Crayons

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Originally posted November 12, 2019
Updated Nov 1, 2020

As soon as I flipped the calendar to November, I got that warm feeling: it is really fall! Yes, it has been fall for a while now, but here in Orlando it doesn’t quite feel like fall when you are sweating while setting out your pumpkin decor. When the weather drops a few degrees is when I really feel like cranking up all the seasonal fun. Of course that includes some baking, pumpkin pureeing, and fall kids crafts so we can all share in the excitement together.

The first craft we are making together are these beautiful leaves that we strung on yarn to create a garland. Doesn’t the sun shine through just perfectly?

Fall Kids Craft

It has really added a festive touch to the room! And it was so simple even the two year old helped. Here are the super easy supplies and steps.

Supplies

  • Wax paper
  • Crayons in fall colors
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Pencil or crayon sharpener
  • Thin cotton cloth (optional, to use between iron and wax paper)
  • Hole punch

Steps

  1. Cut two sheets of wax paper in the same size. You will be layering these sheets, so two pieces of paper will make one finished product to cut leaves out of. My pieces were about 24” long, but it depends on how many leaves you want to create.
  2. Sharpen your crayons and capture the shavings. This is a great part for the kiddos to help complete! My five year old sharpened directly onto the waxy side of one of the wax paper sheets. My two year old sharpened into a little bowl and then he helped sprinkle the shavings onto the wax paper. Try to cover all the space so that there are no blank areas (you can see ours have some blank spaces, which is totally fine but will have different results). You can mix all the colors together or play with different patterns. Fall Kids Craft
  3. Carefully lay the other wax paper sheet on top with the waxy side facing down. Use your iron set on the lowest setting to gently melt the shavings between the two sheets. If you are worried about using the iron directly on the wax paper, you can use a thin cloth between. Move quickly, it doesn’t take much to melt them! I found that short soft presses worked better than trying to glide across.
  4. When all of the wax is melted, let it dry for a minute and harden. Trace leaf designs on the wax paper, cut them out, punch a hole, and string them up!

Fall Kids Craft

The effect that these leaves make in front of a window is truly lovely. This is one fall kids craft that you won’t be afraid to display for months to come!

Fall Kids Craft

Bonus: Learning Questions!

I found this activity to be a great opportunity to discuss how matter changes forms. These questions will work best for kids in elementary school, but you can stretch them to meet older kids’ levels as well.

  1. When we sharpen these crayons, how is it changing them? Are the shavings still made from crayon, or are they something new?
  2. What do you think will happen when we iron over the crayon shavings?
  3. When we cut the leaves out of the wax paper, is something new being created, or is it the same wax paper with crayon? Is this a physical or a chemical change?

How to earn money online teaching English while guiding your children

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Why teach English? Market and demand 

Among the top most gratifying jobs to do from home, teaching English as a second language might be your inclination. Being the international business language, means of communication whether travelling for work or pleasure, the key to access larger amounts of information on the web, and pre-requisite for academic studies abroad, the English language has become fundamental for millions of foreign youngsters and adults across the globe

Over the past thirty years, worldwide Education Departments or Ministries have understood the importance of including English in their students’ curriculum in order to empower them to become more skillful and competitive. There has therefore been increased interest from Central/South American, European and Asian primary and secondary school students and adults. 

Qualified native or proficient English language teachers have been chosen to help students of all ages improve their competences, especially their reading comprehension, writing, conversation and listening skills. There is an amazing number of English language schools where you can hold face-to-face individual or group lessons yet, due to employers’ remote hiring preference or pandemic obstacles, numerous online teaching opportunities have opened. 

Which skills are needed to become an online English language teacher?

Use your talents and be creative! Let’s see if you have what it takes. There are basic requirements that need to be met in order to commence your career or access the certification process. Employers may require a degree and/or a teaching English certificate. Training courses are held all year round whether in person or online with commitment options to suit your availability.

Are you a native English speaker or are you fluent and talented enough to teach the language? Test your grammar. Although you might be using the Present Perfect Simple in your daily conversations correctly, you might not know why, how, and when it is used. Be curious: brush up on English grammar, make a good number of familiar examples, ask yourself questions, and anticipate doubts.

The same importance must be given to phonology. Your future students might be interested in a British, American or Australian English accent so make sure you learn the differences among them, consonant, short and long vowel sounds, and diphthongs. Put your IT skills to work! Online teaching also entails excellent computer skills because you will have to use a good education software which enables you to interact with your students, share files, chat and monitor them. Many teachers use Zoom, Google or Skype but there are many free options where account registration is unnecessary. Updated and reliable support is what you need including a high-speed internet connection with stable bandwidth, a webcam and good headphones with a microphone (or you can use your computer’s integrated tools).

Last but not least, use your creativity and imagination to add art and culture to your lessons. Whether using flashcards, playing Taboo, drawing, showing extracts from a TV series episode, or suggesting a song to analyse, students appreciate teachers who have initiative, create inspiring contexts and use their artistic talents to engage them.

English language teachers who want to start earning money

Employers normally offer fixed rate contracts with a set number of hours per week, or positions as a freelancer where you set your availability according to your family’s commitments, activity schedule, and lifestyle. You could also consider starting your own business as a freelancer and market your lessons autonomously. Keep in mind that, depending on the students’ location, time zone differences mean adapting your schedule accordingly. Be confident, plan ahead and get started!

Teach online while guiding your children! 

 

Working from home can be challenging yet very gratifying if you plan ahead. Planning is key if you wish to conciliate work and family. If you have children who are at home because home-schooled, absent from school or in distance-learning while you are teaching, do not despair! Remember when the Political Science Professor Robert E. Kelly was video-called by BBC and his daughter bursted inside the room? The funny video became viral and caused much laughter among smart-working parents. Children are obviously not used to having their parents at home all day and they could expect them to be available at all times. They generally need to be motivated and receive insights on what’s going to happen next. Teachers and parents therefore need to organize the children’s day to keep them busy while looking forward to later activities. Empower your children to efficiently exploit time while you are working. Follow these few pieces of advice and your household will also benefit from your remote employment. 

teaching English

  1. Plan your own activities: job and household tasks;
  2. Plan your children’s daily routine, according to their age, with them! Make it a fun activity by creating a colourful and decorated timetable poster (include chores, homework, hobbies like reading or playing educational games, having snacks and/or naps);
  3. Educate your children to respect your working space and your time while teaching. They need to know when you are holding your role as their mother or father, and when as a worker.
  4. If your children interrupt your live lesson, simply apologize to your interlocutors with a smile, quickly respond to your child’s request and move on. If your children demand for longer attention, kindly reschedule the lesson. 

Advice on constructive online interaction 

Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs, especially if your mission is to share your knowledge and experience. Smile! Yes, smiling is a priority. Be professional but let your students know you have a positive personality. Engage them through fun activities aiming at an amazing learning experience. Follow a routine: greet your students, check that the audio and video devices are working properly and take attendance.

How do you keep your students’ attention level high? Easy! Firstly, you need to know your audience. During your first “Get to Know You” lesson, make sure you find out what your students are interested in and use that information as a key to their heart. If you don’t know much about football or the latest music trends, do your research and connect with your students. Both young learners and adults love connecting with their teacher by feeling free to express their likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests without judgement. They will surely enjoy their lessons with you knowing you are not only interested in their use of English but their production skills on familiar and popular topics. Students are demanding and knowledgeable. You do not want to be found unprepared so plan your lessons carefully, read or listen to the news and become aware of current events and, depending on the level you are teaching, weather and crime news, scientific and medical innovations. Break up your lesson into stages so that you give yourself and the students enough time to express opinions and ideas. Do activities while monitoring their production and end your lesson by playing an engaging constructive game on the topic of the day. Include and involve all students for fair interaction and demand respectful behaviour amongst them. Set realistic short and long-term goals for yourself and your students and results will be guaranteed.

 

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Guide To Orlando

Moving to Orlando

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Moving to Orlando? We’ve compiled some posts to help you navigate the City Beautiful. From neighborhoods, to favorite restaurants, coffee shops, parks and more!