Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer camp!

Despite my best intentions, I've neglected all my blogs.  I can blame part of the reason on summer camp.

I'm working at 2 camps this summer, well.... technically volunteering at one and paid staff at the second.

I should have begun doing this years ago.

Okay, so I've been volunteering at Cub Scout day camp for 3 years.  As a volunteer my Cub Scout attends for a mere $25.  My daughter can attend with me as a tagalong for free.  Yes.... FREE!  2 kids at 1 week of camp with swimming, archery, etc...... for a mere $25.  It's the deal of a lifetime.  I am also outside with them all day.  I really enjoy it.  The past 2 years I have the tagalongs den which means I watch the children of all the parent volunteers.  So I have boys to young to be Cub Scouts and girls.  Our mixed age/mixed gender group always seem to get along really well and the kids are just plain awesome.

This year I took a paying staff position at Girl Scout camp.  Totally different than Cub Scout camp.... and just as fun!  I should have done this years ago.  My Girl Scout attends for half price, I'm getting paid - not a lot - but still it's an income. And I'm having super fun.  I just finished my first week and am finally learning how to use gimp since I am gimp-challenged.

The cool thing about working at camp is that I am outside all day long.  The kids are outside all day long.  No TV, no electronics, just doing amazingly fun things outside.  Friday I cooked our lunch over an open campfire with 5-7 year olds.   Okay, so I am probably cheating a small amount as the camp does have wifi so I can check messages on my phone as needed, but I don't have time to answer them until after dinner.

The challenging thing about working at camp is that I'm super behind on blogging, writing and keeping up with the office side of my businesses.  I'm teaching all day today, but am not offering any courses until camp and a small family vacation are over.  It also means if anyone calls me about courses it's going to take me a while to return their call as I can only do that first thing in the morning or in the evening.

Summer camp.... just as fun for the adults!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Valuing others time

This past weekend I attended mandatory camp training.  This is required every 2 years to review the staff guide, emergency procedures and health & safety info.

This could have been an awesome training opportunity.  Instead it turned into a colossal waste of time.

The training was scheduled for 5 hours.  In the first 3 hours we heard more inside stories of incidents that occurred over the previous years than we did actually covering the material that was provided to us.  2 hours into the training class I was irritated.  At 3 hours I was just sad. When it ended 4 hours later I just wanted to go home.

I was sad because this was an opportunity to learn and review some pretty important information.  But the rambling stories and “… several years ago we …” detracted from the small reviews of the printed material.  A good portion of the emergency information was glossed over or not covered at all.

I had to drive almost an hour to attend, and of course almost an hour home.  I learned more about the woman running training than I did about the camp material.  The training was for volunteers who would be helping at camps in different locations, but instead she primarily covered what she thought was important to volunteers at the main camp - where they have a trained paid staff.  That was not where I would be volunteering.  She skipped over pages of material telling us that was for the paid staff, except where I and some of the other volunteers would be running the program that was some pretty important stuff we needed to know.  Like what to do if a camper is missing or hurt.  Being told that her paid staff at a camp an hour away from us would handle emergencies at her camp.  This training was not a valuable use of my time – I learned more reading the material on my own when I returned home and then taking some online courses on camp.

I took this training 2 years ago with a different trainer and I learned a lot.  I really wish I could say this same this year.  The staff running the training seemed more interested in telling camp stories, feeling impressed with their knowledge and status, and not training the adults who had to attend to volunteer at camp.  And occasionally bashing the organization they were representing.   I’m sure I am not the only one attending who had to juggle things to attend.  Which made me realize they really did not value the time of those attending.

This is probably a  bit of a rant, but ask yourself - Why would anyone want to continue to volunteer for them if the organization or trainers did not value their time?  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How I schedule classes

Add the subtitle:  and how creating schedules in my house is like herding cats.

Image result for herding cats
My instructional business is part-time.  I don't teach full time.  I could try to, but I'm just not sure there is actually enough people out there wanting to take classes to have enough registered participants in each class.  I also like being part-time as I can teach around my family's schedule.

And this is where I should put "Cat Herding" on my resume.  Except, we don't own a cat.

I usually schedule my classes 3-4 months ahead of time.   Not this time.  Here it is June, and I'm finally posting the summer class schedule.  We were supposed to take a trip, which didn't end up happening.  Then we were signing the kids up for summer camps, looking at creating smaller vacations while college touring all while not knowing which colleges since my oldest has been so busy with school, softball and work that I only see her for short pockets of time - if at all.  (sigh)  It's like herding cats to nail down the who, what, where and when with my family.

It's not like I don't WANT to schedule classes; I just don't want to schedule something and then need to change the date of the class due to a conflict with my family schedule.

Because ultimately I am self-employed so that I have the flexibility to be present when my kids need me.   So I can volunteer and make quesadillas on demand at Seis de Mayo (because at our school we never do it on the 5th of May) or attend the Holiday luncheon or sell tickets at the Music in Our Schools concert.  It means I look at all the things my family is involved in, put them on a massive Google calendar, and then create a class schedule from what is left.  Except my family is not often as forthcoming with their schedule information.

It's like herding cats.  It takes forever, but it gets done eventually.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Online only certification programs, again.

I've previously written on online-only training programs (see Certification Mills vs. Blended Learning and What is Online Certification?).  I've been seeing this happening a lot more recently and took a peek at one of the online-only programs that is becoming more popular.  I'm not going to name them because I don't want to get into a huge debate with them, but I'd like to point out why I'm uncomfortable with their program.

This site is like a lot of others.  You pay them, you take an online course that includes an exam and you print your card at the end of the course on your printer.  For the low cost of $39.99 - $49.99 it seems like the easiest way to get certified, right?  Their website even states that the course meets AHA Guidelines.

So I've spent $40-$50 bucks, took a course and printed my card.

But the AHA and ILCOR Guidelines require a practical skill component.  I can't do that in an online course.  Again, see What is Online Certification?

So the next option - they'll give me a list of instructors who can provide a skills check off for me.  That can cost up to an additional $50.  So... $39.99 for layperson CPR or $49.99 for healthcare provider CPR we're up to .... $89.99 - $99.99 for our certification card.

Okay, so now I've spent almost $100 buck for my certification card.

But what if there is no affiliated instructor nearby?

They have the option of doing your skills check via Skype or something similar on a webcam with a mannequin you can order and they will send to you. For an additional $39.95-$49.95.  From the image I can see on their website the mannequin looks like a cardboard box with a head.  How can you compress that and show that you can provide ventilation to a cardboard box?  How do I breathe into the head?  It looks like it is styrofoam or plastic and has no openings to breathe into.  This is looking way too odd, even for me.

At this point I've spent almost $100, got to play with a cardboard box with a plastic (or styrofoam) head on my webcam all the while realizing in my rush I never deep cleaned my living room and the examiner can see Lego's under my sofa.  And probably some killer dust bunnes.

You could have a taken a local course for half that.  And not stressed over the cleanliness of your living room or waited for your expensive cardboard box to arrive in the mail.

There are a lot of CPR AED instructors out there.  You can find a reputable course through your local FD, hospital or from the American Heart Association's CPR Class Connector or the American Safety and Health Institute's Find a Class webpages.  I'm sure the American Red Cross, Emergency Care and Safety Institute, and National Safety Council have similar pages.  Most of these large reputable organizations have links to connect you with a local instructor or training center.

It can be super confusing to know what is a reputable course and what is not.  The Health and Safety Institute has put up a very informative website to help.

What prompted this post?  I had 2 students who took an online course from the above referenced online-only program.  I suggested they call the program, since the program stated it would give refunds if the card was not accepted by the students employer.  In both cases the card was not accepted.  Surprisingly enough - they both got a refund.  I guess that's the only positive out of their situation.  Both were duped; they took a course, turned the card into their employer - and it was rejected.  I cannot provide a skills check off for a program I am not affiliated with, nor will I affiliate with this program.  They wasted valuable time and resources and then had the added stress when their card was not accepted.  Fortunately for both they got a refund, took a hands-on classroom course and were able to turn a valid card in to their employer.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Today was a bittersweet day.  I’m excited to become pretty much a full time entrepreneur, but I’m sad to be giving up my regular part time job.

I am a librarian, or actually now I can say I was a librarian.  I only worked 8-10 hours a week.  I planned and ran children’s programs, shelved books, planned a move, cataloged books, moved books and in general did all the little things that helped to keep a small library running smoothly.  I loved what I did!  It didn't pay much, but it was a steady small paycheck.

So why did I leave?

My life just got busier.

I have 4 children, a small but growing business, a second business that is slowly growing. I’m a substitute teacher, road race organizer, and lead a Girl Scout troop.  I volunteer in my community and I don’t get a lot of sleep at night.  Originally I set up a part-time schedule that would allow me to have enough time to balance family and work.  It worked for a while, but lately it hasn't.

This was a really tough decision.  My primary business, Coastal CPR & First Aid, is kind of a feast or famine business.  I'm either really busy or I'm not.  That small paycheck carried me through when my community course registrations were down and no one was calling for on-site courses.  My secondary business, Some This & That, is slowly picking up.  Lately there are more things to do every day than there are hours in a day to do them.  Something had to give.... and that was my part-time library job.

So while I’m sad to leave a job I enjoyed, I’m excited to have more time for my family and to be able to focus on my businesses more.  I feel like I'm coming full-circle to where I was 4 or 5 years ago with 2 kids in school, 2 preschoolers and a small part-time business.  Except now I have 4 in school, I co-own a studio which gives me a permanent home for my courses and my business has moved from fledgling to thriving.  I'm nervous, scared, sad and excited all rolled into one!  

So today was a bittersweet day. I'm sad to close one door, but super excited to be opening another.