In years past, back to school was always a little hectic, but as a work from home monster making mom, it made it a little easier to get out the door in the mornings. We had our system – clothes laid out the night before, breakfast items on the counter, lunches packed & in the fridge ready to be grabbed on the way out the door.
This year, like all other routines & just life in general since our move, is totally different. My son hated the public school he went to here in WNC last winter/spring. Here’s a quick example of just one of DOZENS of examples of my son’s horrendous short time in Haywood County schools last year: during a science discussion, the teacher told the class the Milky Way is NOT a galaxy, galaxies don’t exist. She told them there’s just one universe, and that’s the Milky Way. When my son tried to correct her by telling her, actually the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, one of at least one hundred billion of potential galaxies in outer space, he was reprimanded and given a silent lunch for “lying” & I received a note about how disrespectful he was. Oh, and first week of school, when I tried to ask for more challenging work for him because he had already learned what they were covering in first grade, she told me right in front of Gauge that he wasn’t as smart as I think he is, even though right before we moved from Missouri he was testing at 8-9th grade level in almost every subject in 4th grade… so it didn’t take much convincing when he asked me if he could be home schooled this year rather than go back to school in this district.
So, we officially “started” home schooling July 1st. We started in the middle of summer because when the new baby gets here, we’ll be taking a week or two off to bond & adjust as a family. A little over two months “into” home schooling, we are finally starting to find a little balance & normalcy – though with this pregnancy nearing it’s end, it’s been a lot more difficult to balance this new life style, home schooling, running Lu & Ed, and growing a tiny human all at once. But we have found a few things that work really well and for any other maker mamas out there considering home schooling while running their biz, cheers! You can do it! Here’s what has helped me balance lessons & making monsters!
wake up before the kid(s)
Usually way, way easier said that done. But thanks to baby brewing in my belly, most mornings I am up between 4-5am. It’s rough. And I won’t lie, a lot of times in the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to muster the energy to get out of bed and do productive things. But some mornings I somehow find the spunk to roll out of bed, brew some coffee, soak up a few minutes of me time while I set intentions for the day, and then get some work done before Gauge wakes up (like right now! 6am & I’m up blogging! Go me!!!). You can read my previous post about making the most of summer mornings as a maker mama here – a lot of it is still applicable as a home schooling mom, too!
create lots of opportunity for independent studies
This will vary based on the age of your child, but for us, after we work together through math, vocabulary words & science, my son has the rest of the day to work on reading, creative writing or studying history/social studies independently (right now we are covering Early American History, from the discovery of America to the Industrial Age, and I let him pick which time period to study in the evenings that week – right now he’s obsessed with the Revolutionary War!), which is usually done through reading historical stories/biographies, work books, or watching documentaries. While he is doing his independent studies, I get in some sewing! If he finishes up daily lessons while I’m still working, or before his dad gets home/dinner time, his options are educational programs, reading, art projects or outside play. This gives me about 4-6 hours a day to dedicate directly to my business. There’s a ton of ways to provide resources for independent study that allows you time to balance your handmade business – from work sheets to iPad apps, nature documentaries to free play with creative toys (Legos, blocks, fort building, marble mazes, obstacle courses, creating Rube Goldberg contraptions) or “recess” outside if you can work from a place where you can supervise your children!
make your creative business a priority
Home schooling while running a creative business from home means your kids are around you 24/7. It can be a little overwhelming at first adjusting to the new schedule and constant contact if in previous years, you’re child went to school outside the home. This is why it’s so important to set boundaries for you, your partner, and your child(ren). I made sure before we started my son knew that just because he was going to be home, didn’t mean he would 1) play video games all day & 2) have my undivided attention all day long, because I do have a business to run. So he knows during independent study time, to work through problems on his own, research & try to find the answers himself & we’ll review materials/lessons the next morning – so there’s no need to bust into my room while I’m sewing eleventy billion times to ask me questions about his current lessons. (Note: providing age appropriate study material with clear directions is essential to making independent study time, and therefore time for mama to make things, a success!)
get creative: utilize activities & classes
As moms, and makers, and creative business owners, we often feel as we have to do it all alone. You don’t! There’s so many amazing resources, both conventional and more creative, to utilize to make home schooling easier & more enjoyable.
Find your tribe. This was hard for me, because we couldn’t afford a co-op this year, but even if it’s just one other home schooling parent you can meet to have coffee with, chat about your day, share lesson time with or swap kids with for a day for a few hours to get some work done, find those people, love them, give them coffee and chocolate, and schedule a bunch of play dates! Finding a few great home schooling buddies (for both my son & I!) has proven to be the greatest home school aid. Taking time for social gatherings is essential for mental health, plus getting out of the house regularly keeps the creative juices flowing.
Consider outside specialized classes & use community resources. Not only does this take a load off of you if say, you aren’t feeling on par with current math or science standards, or your child wants to learn something you have no clue how to teach (like coding, sign language, Spanish or theater), there are many community resources that offer once a week classes for 1-6 hours a day that your child can participate in – which gives you a little more time to invest in your creative business! If you are in the WNC area near me, check out Elevate’s class list – they have a huge list of interests and subjects, from history & science to dance & parkour! Local zoos, museums & nature centers often have programs for home school students as well. And don’t forget to check your local library’s list of activities – most libraries have “after school” clubs for 1-3 hours a day, once a week. Ours has a Lego club that meets every Tuesday from 4-5:30, a Minecraft club, and a few other specialized interests clubs. Not only does specialized classes & community resources like these give your child a chance to socialize & explore new interests, you can bring your laptop & get some computer work done, or bring along your current hand sewing/crocheting/knitting projects to work on, while your kid enjoys their classes/clubs! This winter, my son is taking coding & Spanish classes. 🙂
teach your child(ren) about entrepreneurship
Having your kids home with you while you run a creative business is a great opportunity to teach them about commerce, budgeting, consumer math, graphs & charts, conversion rates, scheduling, money management, ROI (return on investment, AKA measurable data for an action & it’s corresponding reactions, like purchasing an ad on a blog & tracking traffic/sales that it generates to gauge how much value that action garnered) and most importantly – the value in hard work & dedication to making your dreams come true! Involve them in the process. Give them simple, age appropriate tasks to do to help make the functions of your creative business run more smoothly – my son helps me a bit each day with things like stuffing monster bits, pairing fabrics, sewing, cutting things out, packing orders, and doing postal runs. He also has learned a lot about conversion rates, profit/loss charts, income projections, marketing, photography, public relations & more. He’s always been an active part of my business, but this year I’m really showing him more of the functionalities & processes that go into running an ecommerce business & how he can apply those skills to other parts of his life.
accept that some days, you aren’t going to get it all done
At first I was completely, totally overwhelmed, and between trying to find a good rhythm for lessons & try to find time to sew while dealing with third trimester exhaustion, there was a lot of bad days. For instance, I like to sew first thing in the mornings – Gauge does better with his math first thing in the mornings, and it’s one subject he does need more supervision & guidance on. So I have had to sacrifice my most creative time to do my least favorite thing ever (ugh, math), which sometimes ruined an entire day for me creatively because it just saps my juju; but after a few weeks of this, settling into a new routine of sewing after lunch (while not as creatively charged) is still a routine capable of productivity. It just requires a bit more effort!
I know here in a few weeks when Baby Z gets here, that’s going to throw our entire system out the window and we’ll be starting from scratch again. And that’s okay, because I also know we’ll find our rhythm again (eventually). If you are considering embarking on a home school journey as a maker mama, stay flexible, don’t be afraid of adjusting your schedule time & again, and know that once you find what works for you & your child(ren), it gets easier to balance productivity for your business & lessons for your kids!
Any other maker mamas out there home schooling their kids?
I would love to hear your advice, opinions & thoughts on balancing it all, what works for you, and what concerns you may have about running a creative business while educating your child. Let’s discuss in the comments!
This isn’t a happy-go-lucky how to find success in difficult times story. This is me being raw with the world about the realities of being a small business owner, and how making a life choice can have a detrimental impact on your business.
It all started last year, and when my ex-husband and I agreed to separate in October of 2015. It probably seemed sudden to pretty much everyone, but it wasn’t. There wasn’t any infidelity. There was no big, messy divorce. It was a simple matter of an inability to compromise, on both our parts, and failure to handle life changing events in an understanding way, on both our parts, over the course of several years. There’s no single person at fault, we just weren’t the right people for one another. I can say this with confidence, because he’s moved on, I’ve moved on, and mutual friends who were actively there during our seven year relationship and marriage openly tell me that we are both so much happier and better off without one another. We tried to make it work, and it didn’t, for the simple fact we just weren’t right for one another. And that’s okay.
Shortly after filing for divorce and moving half way across the country to NC, I deleted over a hundred people from my personal Facebook page. Old friends from KC, some random crafters I had added but never spoke to, my old hair stylist (who I loved and miss very much!), obviously my ex-husband and his entire extended family. No hard feelings against any of them, I just needed time to heal, and privacy. I kept only my close friends and family in the loop through that transitional period. I valued Facebook as this weird, sort of sacred space as a place to share my journey into my new life with only those I felt intimately able to open up to. I figured there were so many other channels to connect on, Twitter, Instagram, email, phone calls and text, that I could still keep in touch with anyone else I removed from my personal Facebook page during this time. What I was going through was very personal though, and my logic was if anyone was concerned about me during that period, they would reach out and ask me how I was doing, or if I wanted to talk about it. And I would have! Because reaching out to someone is personal, and my preferred method of discussing personal business is one on one, heart to heart conversations.
Perhaps severing those connections wounded some. That wasn’t my intention. I was simply taking the time & space I needed to heal. My business felt the almost immediate throat punch of my transition though, more than I did at the time. Upon my move, I lost my support network I had built in KC over 6 years. Some to bitterness from being removed from Facebook, I’m sure (if they had asked I would gladly have explained why!), some perhaps simply to the fact I wasn’t a local business anymore. Either way, I was fully unprepared for the next 8 month stint in which online sales slowed almost to a halt right when I needed them the most, as I was fully reliant on my monster making income for the first time in the history of being a small business owner.
I struggled with feeling deflated & depressed about my business during those months; After years of successfully growing Lu & Ed, suddenly, the silence was overwhelming. The lack of income was terrifying. I attempted to find a job locally but was turned down for every position I applied for because my work history – having owned my own company for seven years & the list of skills that went along with that “overqualified” me for every position I tried to apply for, even when I dumbed it down. Tax season helped a bit; I was able to use money from my return to secure my own place, where I thought if I had more room to produce more inventory, sales would increase. Unfortunately, not the case. And now I had rent and utilities to worry about it. And the cost of living in WNC is much, much higher than I anticipated.
It was a very scary point in my life for me.
Thankfully, my family & support network here helped me as much as they could – my brother let me live with him for the first five months free of rent so I could save money. My mom and dad pitched in when I couldn’t make ends meet after I moved into my place in March and had the slowest month for sales ever recorded in the history of Lu & Ed. They all encouraged me to keep working my dream, to keep making monsters. They split foods in bulk from SAMS Club to offset food expenses for me in April, which enabled me to finally able to write my first rent check completely on my own for the month of May.
From there, things began to look up. My new partner, Kris, moved in with me to help alleviate living expenses & help raise our son. I was able to relax a little about bills & reinvest a small portion of my income into doing local shows to help establish my little business here. While the shows were hit or miss, and I had to back out of a few for time issues or health reasons, I have had several good stockings in my shop since then, and sales are steadily picking back up. I secured a seasonal wholesale account with Scout & Timber Co in Colorado, a consignment deal with The Littlest Birds here in Asheville, and will be meeting with another children’s store locally this month to discuss another wholesale opportunity.
I also started babysitting a few kiddos during the week, which has greatly helped while I work to become established here in WNC with my monster biz, and it’s also super helping me with making connections & building my mama tribe here!
So slowly, things are coming together. True to my word of the year, the first half of 2016 was all about grinding off the jagged edges to expose the loveliness underneath. I couldn’t have gotten through these last few months without my family, and Kris. I am so thankful to have them, and to be so very close to my parents, my siblings, all my nieces and nephews. It’s such a beautiful life here, even when things are scary, volatile and uncertain.
I have a good feeling about the second half of 2016. Still got some grinding to do, but I feel like things are going to start smoothing out soon – I am stronger than I was before, and more eager than ever to embrace this brave new life, no matter what it throws at me!
Here’s to a beautiful second half of the year!
Summer break can make being a maker mom exceptionally difficult, especially if one or more of your kids are school aged and you have gotten adjusted to having several kid-free hours a day to get things done for your little handmade biz. I’m far from a list making, future planning, staying on schedule mama/maker (I’m actually REALLY FAR from even being remotely organized in any way, ha!) but I do have a few things I’ve implemented over the years that really boost summer productivity for your life on the maker end of things, while allowing lots of time for summer fun with your kids, too!
wake up early
I opt to wake up early, since my son stays up fairly late in the summer some times to use his telescope or watch a movie together or something. Plus, night time is my time – it’s time I invest in my partner, and myself. I watch some TV, color, read, have a sweet snack or just sit and stare at the wall. Gotta get that me time in! Self care is so important. Some mornings “early” is 7am, some mornings (like this morning) it’s 5:30, when my partner’s alarm goes off and my eyes pop open and I immediately know there’s no way I’m going back to sleep. This gives me between one and four hours of kid free time center myself & tackle some projects.
drink some water
Seriously, before your coffee, drink a glass of water. It really does wonders to wake up your body through hydration instead of caffeine. For me, I feel more focused, less achey, and more awake after drinking water than I ever did when I drank a cup of coffee right after waking up! Add in some lemon for some extra health benefits while you’re at it!
Eat something nutritious for breakfast to give yourself an extra boost of energy & get your gut moving. I don’t know why, but eating first thing in the morning helps set a good foundation for the day and helps to keep my energy levels up through the day, while helping wake my body up naturally.
I put quotations around mediate because I feel like it’s different for everyone. I don’t expect you to pop into lotus position and “ommmm” your way to peace – just find your inner zen, set some intentions. Maybe you do this in the form of stretching, doing some yoga, or just drinking some tea/cocoa/coffee while it’s still hot (you know, since you’re up early, before the kids, and are able to enjoy it all, right?). Whatever centers you – do that. For me, I drink my water, then I light some incense and make a cuppa cocoa. I sit for a while and just breathe and enjoy it, and think about what I’d like to accomplish today for a few moments. Usually this practice lasts about a minute, sometimes five minutes. Sometimes I take a little extra time and color a picture in one of my zen adult coloring books while I drink my cocoa and just let my mind wander for a bit before I get up and set to work.
get some sh*t done
After I’ve “meditated”, I use this quiet time before the kid(s) wake up to tackle some projects – whether that’s drafting some blog posts, scheduling social media content, cutting out monster bits, sewing, playing around with some design work, reordering business cards, packing up orders – I use it to do something, anything to move my business forward & keep up productivity. The more I can get done before my son wakes up, the more time I can spend with him! I still have to a bit of work while he’s awake, but there’s a lot less pressure to be working, checking social media, posting to social media, even thinking about my business if I am up early and getting things done before he’s awake. Sure, I’m a little more tired some days, but that’s just a reminder to go to bed a little bit earlier the next night (hello, back to the whole self care thing).
set up independent play in the mornings
For my son, whose 10, before he can play video games or we go out to do fun summer activities, there’s a list of things he has to do independently – all total it takes about two hours. I help with some of it (checking his work in his work books & math lessons) but the other stuff, like doing the dishes, tidying his room, reading, practicing Spanish, doing an art project – those are all things he can do independently and it gives me a little more time in the mornings to get some work done when I need to prep for shows or stockings or I’m rushing to finish a wholesale order. Depending on the age of your kids, this could be settling them in for a TV show or to color for a bit while you type up a blog post. They could have special toys they are only allowed to play with this during this time. It could be them running around the yard while you watch from your work space. This may not be feasible for you at all, and that’s okay – it’s just something we have found works really well for us during summer vacation because it provides my son with unplugged activities for a few hours, prevents boredom, promotes a healthy variety of interests & gives me a bit more time to dedicate to my monster biz. Whatever works for you, do that. It may be something completely different for you. Plus, having the “quiet” activities be the first activities of the morning is just so peaceful – after about ten, things get cray & noisy up in here.
take days off
Sometimes, throw work to the wind and just embrace being a mom. Take a day to go hiking, go swim in the rivers (or the pool if that’s more your thing), go to the art museum or science museum or something! Completely unplug for a while and just enjoy time with your kids. I bet being home with them is one of the driving forces in your mama maker business dream (I know it is for me), so live it.
And that’s how I do around here, to keep things running smoothly over summer break. Feel free to weigh in down in the comments – how do you keep up momentum when all you want to do is just sloooow it down & relax in the summer?
Do you struggle with productivity in the summer?
Hey guys. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve paid attention to my blog. Life has been consuming me lately, and honestly this just sort of got shoved to the back burner.
True to my “one little word” for 2016, I’ve been “Grind-ing” away. Not just in the studio making lots and lots of monsters (sitting at monster #238 of my 500 monsters in 2016 goal, so just slightly behind on my yearly goal) but also in life. Since my divorce & moving half way across the country in November, some time to reflect, absorb and find myself was expected. I didn’t expect it to be so rough though – or to run into one financial crisis after another, either. Ugh.
But like I said, true to my word of the year, I’ve been grinding. Grinding away each day, chipping away at the rough bits, breaking a little by little so that in the end, everything is smooth & soft. The first quarter of the year, when I was home sharing with my brother and sister in law who were gracious enough to open their home to me, I was pretty disappointed in myself, I won’t even lie. I went from home ownership and stability to a tiny bedroom shared with my son and dog. I ended up staying months longer than anticipated – and when I finally did move out into my own cute (but tiny, so tiny) home, I was hit with unexpected fees and deposits and ended up seriously strapped financially and no amount of hustle in the studio was equating to the amount of money I needed to make ends meet.
So the first half of this year was spent really getting to know myself, what this new life demands from me, how tough and dedicated I am, how much I value my independence and ability to provide for myself. After lots of self-pep talks, getting a room mate (which made our tiny house even more tiny but we’re making it work!), snagging some baby sitting jobs & lining up some clear goals and action plans for my little monster biz, I’m finally regaining my confidence and really appreciating how difficult it’s been to re-acclimate to life in WNC. I learned a lot about myself the past several months, and I am still so excited about all the amazing changes this year has had in store for me – even if the majority of them so far haven’t been easy, comfortable or even remotely anticipated.
All that aside though? This year is truly shaping up to exactly what I needed from it – rough discovery and soul exploration. Pushing me to my limits, breaking all the rough edges off and revealing the beauty beneath.
And while May was a hugely disappointing month sales wise for me, I know without a doubt June will be the best month yet this year! #optimistprime Mostly because I have tons of shows lined up (East West Market and West Asheville Art Walk in June, Big Crafty in July!) that will be helping me to get established as a maker here and spread the word about Lu & Ed, while also helping me make some awesome connections and get re-familiarized with the area again! 🙂 So if you are local, mark your calendars and come say hi – I’d love to meet you!
So yeah. That’s my mini update about my radio silence here on the blog and what’s been going on, as well as what I have coming up. I hope to get back to regular posting this month, I have tons of drafts saved on lots of businessy topics, but I also have some cool gift guides I’m working on and other goodness for the blog – stay tuned!
I have been brainstorming for weeks what my One Little Word for 2016 should be. Last year’s word, Quality, literally changed my life and brought me to where I am now.
I chose that word because I wanted to focus on the quality of my life. Invest more quality time with my son. Improve the quality of different aspects for my business – from photography to product descriptions to where I invest my business funds.
Business wise, I set to work right after the new year improving the quality of product photos, product descriptions and my social media campaigns – and within weeks was featured in Parents Magazine and many other online and print publications! Where I focused on improving quality, I saw immediate results. This was definitely the word I needed to focus on to take my business to the next level.
Through focusing on that word, it led me to realize my marriage was not healthy, and ultimately, after months of trying to improve the quality of it, months of trying to find some middle ground, deciding to petition for a divorce, which led to my choice to move home and be near my family, something I had wanted for the past five years that my husband had never been open to. If I hadn’t focused so intently on the word Quality & improving the quality of my life and all my relationships, I doubt I would have had the courage to acknowledge how unhealthy & unfair my marriage was & ask for a divorce. While it hurts, I know it was the best, healthiest choice for both of us.
The word Quality also led me to contact my son’s birth father for the first time since he was conceived when I was 19- and that resulted in the most unexpectedly wonderful relationship between my son, me & his dad. I knew introducing Gauge to him would improve the quality of his life, but I had no idea the positive impact it would have on my life. I was able to put so much anxiety & pent up emotions behind me and begin to heal after contacting Kris, Gauge’s biological father. Mending fences, becoming close friends with Kris and moving home has eliminated so much of my anxiety and depression. I no longer have panic attacks at the thought of leaving the house, yay! Contacting Kris & moving home was easily the best things that I did in 2015 to improve the quality of mine and my son’s life!
This year, I needed something equally monumental. Something to reflect this chapter in my life, this rough, coarse and gritty chapter. Something to focus on, to remind that though things can be difficult I will come out the other side okay. Because things are going to be tight & tough – I’ll be relying entirely on my monster making business to pay the rent, buy groceries, pay for water and electricity, gas & insurance. We’ll be starting from scratch when we move into our new apartment (hopefully in February or March!) & I’d be lying if I said this transitional period has been/will be easy for my son & I.
As I was meditating on what word I should chose to focus on this year, I kept coming back to Grind. It is reflective of what I feel like 2016 has in store for me – grinding away the rough bits, the jagged edges, breaking off the parts that catch & tear. By the end of 2016, I feel like my son & I feel be smooth, polished & fresh, moving easily through our new life.
My business has some rough edges I need to grind smooth, as well – from book keeping to social media campaigns, marketing habits to creating a look book & starting a brand rep campaign – so many little rough drafts, sloppy habits & ideas for my business that need to be tumbled & ground until they sparkle & shine. Plus, I meed to hustle and grind if I want to meet my production goals for 2016. 😉 But mostly, I feel like I was drawn to the word Grind because I do have a lot of rough edges in my business I need to smooth down in order for things to operate fluidly, with much less effort & higher return on investment.
And so I chose Grind. Even though it’s a little rough and raw. But that’s okay. Because that’s where I am right now. I’m refining myself, my life. I’m honing my business habits so I can run Lu & Ed more efficiently.
Do you chose a word, lyric, poem to focus on intentionally through the year? Or do you make a resolution to improve your life, instead? Let’s share our goals, dreams and plans for 2016 in the comments!
Things I want to do during my life:
Buy a house, make it a cozy home and paint it in rainbow stripes on the outside and rainbow rooms on the inside.
Host weekly dinners & game nights with family and friends in said glorious rainbow house.
Adopt a bunch of pibbles (pit bulls) and give them wonderfully ridiculous names like Ramona the Wretched, Fierce Freddy or Daria the Daring.
Foster and adopt children.
What are your #lifegoals?