VIPKID: “Do You Speak Mandarin?” And Other Common Questions About Teaching ESL Online

Hello, hello! Yes, it’s been a while since I have done a post on teaching with VIPKID. This post is very much overdue. It’s hard to believe I’m already quickly approaching the end of my first 6-month contract with VIPKID, and I’m happy to say that I’m planning on sticking around for a while.

My student-base continues to grow, and I’m also growing as a teacher throughout each interaction with my students. Like most teachers that start out, I was very skeptical as to what I was getting into, but I have to say I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised with VIPKID, and the company’s ability and willingness to continue to grow, develop, and change education for the benefit of all.

With that said, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to refer 3 other new teachers to VIKPKID during my first contract. VIPKID is continually hiring and seeking energetic, passionate, and adventurous teachers to step up and take on this opportunity to teach ESL online.

Below are some questions that I frequently get asked about my job. I thought it might be helpful just to break down each answer, and if you should have further questions about working for VIPKID, feel free to comment below this blog post, and I’ll be sure to respond to your question.

1) Do you have to know Mandarin Chinese to teach ESL for VIPKID?

A short and simple answer to this question is “no”. I wish I knew Mandarin- that would be awesome, but no, unfortunately I don’t. The good news is that you don’t have to know a single word of Mandarin Chinese in order to teach for VIPKID. Would it benefit you in the hiring process, and could you possibly get paid more for your qualifications? Absolutely! Also, VIPKID recently sent out information about trying to reach students in more rural areas of China, and they are specifically looking for English speakers who know and speak Mandarin. So, either way, if you know Mandarin or don’t know Mandarin, VIPKID could potentially hire you based on your education, background, and teaching experience.

2) If you don’t know Mandarin Chinese, how do the students understand what you’re saying?

This is a very good question! First off, I have a wide-range of students. Some start off knowing little or no English, while others have been taking English in school, they have had a private tutor, or their parents can speak English. With that said, there are several ways to help someone understand a language, even if you can’t translate it into their own. Most of the following information is talked about in the VIPKID initial training videos, but I’ll go into some detail about how teaching someone a different language can be fun and interesting without having knowledge of the student’s language.

TPR- Total Physical Response

Body language is key when learning a new language. As a teacher, I’m expected to use not only my mouth to speak, but my facial expressions, my arms, legs, and other parts of my body to help express a general idea across to my student.

In the above picture, you can clearly see that my hand is cupped over my ear. I also chose to stay silent, leaning in to the camera, so that my student would get the idea that I wanted him/her to respond. This is a simple example of TPR.

Props

Obviously, looking at a computer screen with a teacher speaking in a different language, especially for 25 minutes, could be a bit boring. That’s where props come in handy! Props can be a lot of fun in the classroom, and they can also help a student better understand the language. They are definitely a needed investment with VIPKID, but I have to say that most of my props I did not buy. They were gifts that my son received for birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays. So, if you have children, I’m sure that you will have plenty of props to incorporate into the classroom already. Different props and printables are also recommended for an additional reward system for the students. You can see an example of reward system and prop that I use in my classroom.

I have used this monkey prop for many lessons. Today, I was able to use him when showing a student different animal body parts.
This magnetic tin is a great reward system for building a face with the student when he/she is listening, following directions, and responding correctly throughout class. I also enjoy using this when explaining different parts of the face.

Speak Slowly, Speak Clearly, Be Patient, & Smile

Yes, there’s a lot compacted into speaking slowly, clearly, being patient, and smiling, but they are all important attributes for the job. Do I speak slowly with every student? No. Some students are more advanced, so I do adapt as needed with each class. Being patient can be more difficult, especially with a super chatty student that doesn’t want to listen, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that the class is only 25 minutes, and you do the best you can with the amount of time that you have.

A smile is pretty much plastered on my face throughout class. I learned this lesson the hard way after my first evaluation. My evaluator had mentioned that I looked bored and too serious throughout a lesson with an older student. As I went back to re-watch myself, I noticed that I smiled very infrequently throughout the lesson, and I seemed too intense.

Thankfully, I learned from that initial evaluation, and now a smile is on my face throughout almost all of class. This is so important because the student can’t see your whole body, they just see the upper half of your chest and then your face. Smiling is key to show that you want to be there, you’re excited about teaching, and having this interaction with the student. I find that I even tend to smile more throughout my day, and that’s not a joke, I really do! Obviously, each teacher has their own unique personality, and you’ll click with some students and maybe not some others, but you’re teaching style will shine through and students will be drawn to you when you’re passionate about what you’re doing.

3) Do you have to have ESL experience to teach with VIPKID? What are the qualifications?

In order to teach with VIPKID, you need a Bachelor’s degree, and teaching experience is highly recommended. I do have a friend who is still within her first month of teaching with VIPKID. She does not have a teaching background, but she does have experience being in a classroom as a teacher’s aide. I have not heard of anyone getting hired that does not have a Bachelor’s degree or higher education. This is a must. As for ESL experience, I did not have any as I entered the position, but there are training videos that everyone is required to watch and then take a short quiz over in order to be hired. There are also two teacher mock-classes that must take place before a teacher is hired. This all aides and assists each interviewee in understanding what it takes to not only teach ESL, but to teach ESL online.

As for higher education and continuing education, VIPKID is doing a wonderful job setting up workshops that are available for teachers to grow in their knowledge of teaching online. There’s also opportunities for teachers to gain an ESL certificate through higher education with VIPKID. I’m not a part of this program, so I can’t give much feedback on it, but I have heard some teachers say they are happy that VIPKID is providing them with this opportunity to grow in education as they work. I also appreciate that VIPKID has added videos and workshops discussing Chinese culture. This is really helpful to any teacher that is not a native of China. I’ve only watched one video on the education system. And I’m looking forward to watching more.

4) How do you sit that long in front of a computer?

Well, I only sit a maximum of 3 hours in front of my computer, and I do take breaks by standing up, running up the stairs really quickly between classes, and using the restroom if needed. But, some teachers teach standing up. I’ve also seen teachers sitting on fitness stability balls, so whatever floats your boat. And I would probably make these adjustments if I was teaching more than 3 hours as well. So, however you want to set up your online classroom is fine. I even saw a bike computer station on Amazon, so I’m sure if you wanted to go that route, you’d be able to as long as you could teach effectively.

5) Is VIPKID just a part-time job?

Yes, kind of. I work part time. The hours are early morning and/or in the evening. I choose to get up early and teach. I will rarely teach in the evenings. But, depending on where you live in the world, and your time zone, you may be able to teach during the day. Or, if your schedule permits, you could teach an 11-13 hour day/night if you should choose. I do know some people that have and still do this. There was an incentive that started last September 2016 for who could get the most classes taught in a 3-month time frame, so yes, some people did go nuts with that. With that said, some people do live in the same time zone as China, so they are able to teach during normal work hours.

VIPKID hires teachers on a 6-month contract. When I was hired, teachers were required to teach a minimum of 7.5 hours a week during peak hours, which is in the evening, Beijing time. This was never a problem for me, and I do usually easily exceed 7.5 hours a week. I haven’t read it in an update yet, but I have received a notification e-mail about a change stating that the 7.5 hour minimum is no longer required, but just recommended.

The beauty of the job is that I can set my own schedule and take days off as needed. VIPKID also allows for a 2-week unpaid vacation during the 6-month contract. These weeks are not supposed to be consecutive. I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about this; it seems completely reasonable to me, and if the minimum requirement per week is only 7.5 hours, then you could easily squeeze that in 2-3 days in one week during peak hours.

Does This Sound Like a Job For You?

If you’re interested in teaching for VIPKID or you’d like to know more information, please feel free to comment below.

YouTube Videos from my Channel

Click Here for My Other Blog Posts on VIPKID

3 Month Blog Post with VIPKID

1 Month Blog Post with VIPKID

Did this information help you? I’d be very honored and grateful if you used my link when applying for VIPKID. I do get a small kickback by you using the link provided.

Link to Submit Resume with VIPKID

This Lenten Season

When you discover that you are the unworthy recipient of God’s lavish grace, you cannot help but share it with others. -Gloria Furman

It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power- it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. -C.S. Lewis

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. -Matthew 16:16

 

Hello, March!

Yes, I can’t believe that it is March 2017, already! Time has truly flown by, and it’s hard to believe my son will be a year and half later this month. My husband and I are having lots of fun with this stage between years one and two.

I love that he calls me “mama” and my husband, “dada”. He waves and says “hi” and “bye-bye”. I also love that he reaches his little arms up to me anytime he wants help with his toys.

This little guy loves pots and pans, so we ordered him his own set.

He and our dog have established a special bond. My son finds it hilarious that my dog will follow him anytime he has food in his hand. He will now entice our dog and bait him into following him around the house until my dog licks him and nibbles at his hand to pry the food from it.

At first, I was deeply concerned that our dog would hurt our son as he tried to get the food from his hand, but they both find it so amusing and my dog has been so gentle with him, that it is quite hilarious to watch.

At 1.5 years old, there’s definitely more large and stinky diapers (if you catch my drift), and the temper tantrums come more often when he doesn’t get what he wants. Toys are literally strewn all across my floors daily.

This momma also ends up cleaning more messes at the hands of sticky fingers. From food thrown on the floor, to spilled milk flung across the room, and crushed puffs in the car seat and pack-n-play, it’s a daily adventure.

It’s an adventure I wouldn’t have any other way. We are beyond thankful to have this little guy in our life.

 

Fasting

This year, my husband and I have decided to take part in lent together by fasting and giving up sugar. Ahh! Yes, sugar!

To be more specific, we are choosing to give up desserts, pop (or as some strange people call it, soda, haha), and sugary snacks. I’m also choosing to eliminate sugar in my coffee; my husband doesn’t drink it, so this doesn’t apply to him.

 

Please note that as I go into detail about what my husband and I have chosen to give up for lent, it is not in an attempt to brag, and it’s not done in a prideful attempt for others to see “how sacrificial we are”. But rather, we choose to fast and participate in lent for a deeper reason- to have our hearts and minds re-directed back to Jesus.

 

My husband and I have never chosen to fast in the same way before. I’m looking forward to having an accountability partner who will be choosing to fast in the same area.

On a personal note, I have also decided to give up my phone and television each day until 9 AM. For some of you reading this, that may seem extremely easy, but my schedule is a little different now that I’m teaching ESL early in the mornings. I’m usually up at 3 or 4 AM teaching for 1.5-3 hours, and then taking care of my little guy.

It’s really easy for me to scan through e-mails early in the morning, have the television on the in the background of whatever task I’m doing around the house, and reach for my phone if I need to look something up, or respond to a message. Thankfully, this ‘quieter’ time in the morning is allowing me to start my day differently.

 

I’m sure some moms can relate with me on this one-  some days it seems like the clock will never hit 9AM. Giving up my phone and television for the morning hours have actually been more difficult for me these first few days over giving up sugar. And I’m a chocolate-fiend, so that’s saying a lot!

I already had an “oops” the other morning when I woke up, checked my teaching schedule, and then began to read through and respond to e-mails via my phone. But, it was a good reminder of what I had chosen to give up and why I had chosen to give up my phone during the morning hours.

It left me thinking about how I could start my day differently.

I’ve already noticed that I’m more in-tune with the need to start and continue the day in prayer, to stay in-tune with God throughout my day. This has helped me to re-direct my priorities for the day for my family.

 

Why We Choose to Fast

First off, we don’t choose to fast because of a religious obligation.

We also don’t choose to fast because of pressure from friends, family, our church, or elsewhere. I don’t ask my husband to fast, and he doesn’t ask me to fast. There’s no guilt-tripping.

We also don’t choose to fast from foods to “get skinny”, haha. While this could be a result of fasting, this is never the intention of why we choose to fast. Personally, giving up food during the day is not an option for me due to health reasons, but I can eliminate the not-so-good stuff from my diet.

My fasting is NOT about, “look-at-me, look-at-me sacrificing!”

And it’s not about gaining a reward from God for going 40 days without sugar. “Amber, you are amazing! You get a gold star for all your sacrifice and you advance to level 23.” Haha, please note the intended sarcasm in the previous sentence.

If these are the reasons for fasting, then it becomes a type of self-worship. It becomes an attempt to better ourselves without the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise Father and Creator. Fasting then becomes a prideful sacrifice rather than a willing sacrifice to point us back to a greater purpose.

 

My husband and I choose to fast because we strongly believe that by giving up something that takes up our time, and letting go of something that we enjoy, it will then give us greater opportunity to be pointed back to Jesus.

For anyone that has had a broken limb, you can fully understand that when you go about your day you’re easily reminded of all the areas where you’re unable to use this limb.

For example, if you were to break your arm, you can no longer drive a car, put on clothes easily, cook dinner, wash your hair, pick up your children, etc. The reminder of not having mobility in your arm and how important your arm is to your day-to-day life is everywhere.

This is why we fast. We want to be reminded of our needed dependence on our Lord and Savior. And in return, there is often a breakthrough in our own lives that will come about because of this fasting.

 

Our fasting reminds us what was already done on the cross for us, and where our attention should be directed as we go about our days.

When I take sugar out of my diet for 40 days, anytime I have a craving for sugar, anytime I see those chocolate chip cookies in the grocery store and almost pick them up to put them in the cart, I’m reminded of why I’m fasting. I’m reminded of Jesus.

It’s not about me proving that I’m worthy enough or good enough to be called a child of God. Because I’m not worthy enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not even close to good enough.

God didn’t leverage my character and my good deeds in order for me to have a relationship with Him. And thank you God for that!

He leveraged his character- His Son. I’m reconciled not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He’s already done for me.

Because of God’s grace, through the righteousness and blood of Jesus, I’m made good enough. And I’m only made good enough because of the faith placed in the One who saves. The precious lamb of God died and overcame death so that I could be reconciled with my Father in heaven.

I need this constant reminder to die to myself daily and live a life of servant-hood. Because we all know how easy it is to live for ourselves, to get caught up in what “we” want, to overlook loving others, rather than living in the light and love that we are called to as believers.

It’s easy to be selfish.

Fasting points me back to the cross. It reminds me of my dependence on my Lord and Savior. It reminds me of my brokenness. It reminds me that I’m flawed, sinful, and my heart continually craves to rebel against the very God that created me.

And nothing. Absolutely nothing that I can do of my own accord will ever make me good enough to be in relationship with the holy God.

God chose to intervene on my behalf.

He chose to intervene in love.

He chose to humble himself.

He chose to show love in the greatest way possible- by sending his Son to live among men, willfully die by the hands of men, and then rise from the dead so that our sins would be forever washed away. Our debt is paid for.

I choose to fast because I constantly need to be reminded that I am only fully living when my life is humbly put before the cross daily.

Anything good that comes from me is not to gain favor from God or because of my own will, but rather what pours forth in love is all a reflection and response to what God has so graciously done in and through me.

So as I go forward in this Lenten season, I’m reminded of the gracious gift that was given to me in love and pray to draw closer to my Father in heaven.

 

 

Strengthening Friendships in Love

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” -Proverbs 27:17

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” -Proverbs 27:9

“A friend loves at all times.” -Proverbs 17:17

“The best kind of friendships are fierce lady friendships where you aggressively believe in each other, defend each other, and think the other deserves the world.” -Unknown

 

I have been trying to write this post for a while now, but other priorities have gotten in the way of me being able to sit down, process, and write.

My hope was to get this posted in time for Galentine’s Day, February 13th, but now that day has come and gone.

Although, I am grateful that this post has been delayed because it’s given me the opportunity to put more thought into my writing, and I ended up changing what I was initially blogging about.

It’s funny how that happens.

 

Recently, my church hosted a wonderful Galentine’s Day event where around two-hundred women came together to talk, share, love, and celebrate friendships. We listened to a wonderful talk on how we can better love one another through our understanding of The 5 Love Languages.

If you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, I highly recommend the book. It’s a great read, and it gives wonderful insight on how we best receive love, and how we can better love those around us according their love language.

As I have read The 5 Love Languages in the past, I’ve solely thought about and applied it to the relationship I have with my husband. Surprisingly enough, I never thought of applying it to my friendships.

And with that idea in mind it got me thinking: How can I better love my friends? Am I good friend? Am I showing love to my friends?

 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been using the Women Living Well online resources to read through the Bible.

Reading through the Bible can be intimidating! But, I really appreciate how Courtney Joseph has broken down her studies by books of the Bible over a certain number of weeks, along with reading a chapter a day. It gives me time to process, reflect, and question what I’ve just read and how it applies to God’s love story.

I’m just finishing up my last week of reading the book of 1 Samuel. Many of us are familiar with the stories within this book: David defeating the giant Goliath, Saul’s unrepentant and jealous heart leading him away from the Lord, and David, a fierce warrior, and a man after God’s heart, who would become the King of Israel.

Within this book of the Bible it is written how David experienced some fierce trials in his life. For many years, he was on the run because his father-in-law, Saul, was trying to kill him. Saul knew David had been anointed as the future King of Israel, and he was so jealous of how much David was loved and adored by the people that his jealousy turned into action. He pursued David for many years in attempts to kill him.

While David was being pursued, his emotional well-being fluctuated, and at times he lost hope. David is continually shown to be a man that seeks the Lord, but in being human, he often struggled with seeing an end to Saul’s tirade, and feared he would never return home to the loved ones he’d left behind.

One of the loved ones that David left behind was his dear friend, and Saul’s son, Jonathan.

Jonathan could not rescue David from his trial, but rather he gave David encouragement. Jonathan strengthened his friend.

 

1 Samuel 23:16-18 reads, “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this. And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.”

 

What an amazing friend!

Jonathan rises to the occasion to come alongside David in the midst of his hardship. He seeks out David, and reminds him who he is, and what the Lord has promised him.

Jonathan wasn’t able to rescue David from Saul’s pursuit of him, but he strengthened his friend. He reminded David that he was with him, even though he couldn’t physically stay with David.

David is not left to face his trial alone.

Because of Jonathan’s faith, he trusts whatever God has in store for his future. . And he chooses to give his friend strength because of the faith that he dearly holds.

 

Friendships are an important investment. I can’t count the number of times friends have encouraged and strengthened me in different circumstances. Gratefulness isn’t a strong enough word to describe how friendships have been essential for me.

And in our crazy and busy world, it’s all too easy to write-off spending time with friends. I can think of a million and one excuses for why I can’t make time for friendships. Isn’t that sad?

It’s wonderful to have “fun events” with friends, but I know my heart craves for a deeper connection. My heart craves to have love poured into it, and I desire to pour love into others’ hearts as well.

As Gary Chapman of The 5 Love Languages would put it, “we need to fill each other’s love tanks”.

 

After reading and recognizing the significance of David and Jonathan’s friendship, it left me asking: How am I strengthening my friends? How am I encouraging? How am I loving? Or am I even strengthening or encouraging my friends at all?

I think there have definitely been times where I’ve failed in being a supportive friend. It’s easy to fall into the trap of not stepping up, not making the effort in a friendship.

There’s a vulnerability in sharing, in giving, and in revealing struggles and fears. There’s the possibility of not being accepted, feeling unloved, or misunderstood.

But in the sharing, giving, and revealing, it brings a new opportunity for growth, encouragement, and strength.  

It opens the door to give love and to be loved. Ultimately reminding us, we are never alone.

 

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” -Colossians 3:12-14

 

Reflection:

  • What is my friend’s love language?
  • How can I show love to my friend through his/her love language?
  • How can I plan my schedule so that I can spend time with my friends?
  • What conversations would I like to have with my friends? What can I share? What would I like to know?
  • How can I strengthen a friend in an inescapable trial?

 

Thank you to my dear friends, Amanda and Krystal for inspiring me to write this post. I’m grateful for our friendship.

Dating My Spouse & The February 14 Day Challenge

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” -Mother Theresa

“Love is friendship that has caught fire.” -Ann Landers

 

Dating My Spouse: Planning a Year of Date Nights

I love my husband.

And like many couples, we have had a difficult time planning date nights this past year because of our chaotic schedules.

Yes, there were a few occasions in the past year where we planned a small getaway or a date night. But, the date nights didn’t show up on our calendars very often. They were usually scheduled at random when we realized we had a day off together.

Reading over that, it sounds terrible to me that we didn’t put more emphasis on our quality time together this past year. Cringe!

My husband and I both value our marriage and the commitment that we’ve made before God, our family, and friends. In order for our relationship to continue to grow and flourish, we need to put in quality time and effort into it.

Thanks to watching Jordan Page’s vlog post on planning out their family’s entire year, we decided to follow suit. We sat down this past month with our calendars and planned out our year, including our date nights. Yes, date nights for a whole year!

Initially, it does sound a little crazy to actually plan date nights for a whole year. Schedules change all the time, including ours. BUT, we realized that if our date nights are on the calendar, we will value that time and make the effort to keep it in our schedules.

Our goal for this year is to plan two date nights a month.

When we initially agreed on two date nights a month, I thought it would be so easy to plan, no problem. And then as I looked at our calendar for each month, I realized just how crazy our work and family schedules can be.

Just to give you an idea of the craziness, usually when my husband is working, I’m at home with our son, and when I’m working, my husband is at home with our son.

There’s usually only a few hours within each day to where we see each other or are able to catch up. And sometimes that is nonexistent if my husband gets called in to work early, has to stay late, or there are other obligations for the day, like doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, errands, etc.

We don’t want our work schedules to get in the way of spending quality time together, and so we realized that putting these date nights on the calendar for two days a month is really needed in order for our marriage to thrive and grow.

Looking back at the month of January, I shutter realizing we didn’t have a single date night. This month flew by, and we did have some quality family time together, but the date nights were not on our schedule.

So, fittingly enough, we are starting our date nights in the month of love: February. And our goal is to continue these two date nights a month throughout 2017.

I’m looking forward to this opportunity, and I’m thankful for Jordan Page’s vlog post about this great date night-planning idea! You can check out her vlog post here.

 

14 Days of Remembering to Love

This next month, I’m going to remember to love my husband by taking on the “14 Days of Remembering to Love” challenge.

Marriagelaboratory.com has provided a unique way to share love with your spouse during the month of February by creating a list of “Love Prompts” that you can respond to about your relationship.

I’m hoping these “Love Prompts” will bring about some quality conversation between my husband and myself and also show him how much I appreciate who he is and what he does for our family.

If you’re interested in joining me for this 14-day challenge, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!

 

Thanks for reading and stopping by the Fish Full Life blog.

 

Thanks, Rachael Schirano photography for our wedding day photos.

Winter Favorites

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. -John Steinbeck

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. -Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Winter Favorites

It’s the middle of winter, and who couldn’t use some pick-me-ups with some winter favorites? Hot cocoa, fuzzy socks, a good book…gotta appreciate the little things!

I love when I come across a blog post or a YouTube video where someone shares their favorite things for the month or season. It’s a nice surprise to come across some new products, places, activities, books, technology, etc. that might be fun to try.

 

My favorites for the season include…

  • A great book for parents who have children in athletics
  • The wonderful FREE activities offered at the local library
  • A YouTuber who is so creative and helpful in her hair tips
  • An adorable video taken of a Snow Day at the Oregon Zoo

 

Some of my favorites are not specifically winter related, but they have definitely uplifted my spirits during these cold winter months. So, without further ado, here are my current favorites for the season…

 

Book: Overplayed: A Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports by David King and Margot Starbuck

Oh, my goodness, as a coach and a mom I was thrilled to not only hear about this book through Focus on the Family, but to have the opportunity to read it.

No, my child is not quite at the age where we are engaged in youth sports (On a side note, baby swim lessons are adorable), but youth sports have been and still are a big part of my life thanks to being a swim coach.

Since the young age of six, competitive swimming has been a part of my life. As a competitive swimmer, I had many ups and downs in my swimming career. There were both physical and emotional highs and lows in the sport. But I continued through college, and loved the challenge that it brought to my life every day.

And I now have the privilege of being on the pool deck, on the other side of the sport, as a coach.

It’s such a rewarding job, where I get to help develop not only the swimmers’ strokes in the pool, but more importantly, I’m helping teach valuable life lessons and character skills that will hopefully endure throughout my swimmers’ lives.

 

What I really enjoy about Overplayed is that it breaks down the myths that we (parents, coaches, well-meaning adults), often believe about what’s best for a child in athletics. It looks at what our culture is telling us about athletics, and how parents and children can easily lose sight of what sports and activities are really all about.

The book gives common sense answers and questions for families to consider when discussing what’s best for the child and for the family before signing up for that travel league, high-profile sports team, or shelling out the money for all that equipment.

One chapter that I enjoyed reading, breaks down the myth that “Good Parents Attend All Their Children’s Games”.  It discusses the mindset behind this thought, and how this idea is interpreted by the athlete and other family members.

One of my favorite quotes from this chapter is as follows,

When parents attend every game, family time is redefined because it becomes centered on the athlete. Children experience security when they know that the adults are the glue that holds the family together. A family that begins to revolve around an athlete, especially when there are other siblings, becomes lopsided. While we love our children, they should not rule our lives. Yes, we need to give them unconditional love and the time they deserve, but we are also responsible to take care of ourselves. It’s well known that during the child-rearing years, parents often focus their relationship on their children instead of each other. And in this season of life, when parents can’t afford to forsake their relationship, practices and games actually offer built-in time to nurture it! Skipping a practice or even a game to have coffee, go shopping, or visit a museum with your spouse will likely be more beneficial to your entire family than getting tense on the sidelines.

 

 

Another chapter I really enjoyed reading discussed the myth “My Child Should Specialize in One Sport”. A quote from this chapter that really impacted me and that I could identify with from seeing friends specialize in a sport early on in life is as follows:

 

Mark Messier (NHL alum and winner of 6 Stanley Cups) notes that .007 percent of kids who play hockey make it to the NHL. “If your kid is in hockey to become an NHL player, you’re missing what sports is really about. Sports is about the mental and physical and emotional well-being of the kids.” He adds, “Youth sports have got to be about the life lessons that you’re learning, the camaraderie… and the way you become good teammates.” Messier recognizes that early specialization is robbing children of what sports should be about. Age seven, he claims is not an appropriate age to begin one sport year-round. Nor is ten. He even claims that age twelve is “young”. Messier suggests age fourteen, offering, “At fourteen they’re old enough to realize themselves exactly where they want to go.”

 

 

Some of the other myths discussed in this book include, but are not limited to Because We Owe Our Children Every Opportunity, We Can’t Say No to Youth Sports, There’s No Harm in Participating in Youth Sports, and possibly my favorite, The Money We Are Investing into Youth Sports Will Pay Off.

The best part about this book is its emphasis on knowing your child. Each child is different and not every child thrives in an environment of competitive sports, leagues and tournaments where tons of money is being thrown into equipment, travel, etc.

This book emphasizes the importance of family and Christian values that should shape the decisions we make when putting our children in youth sports.

Do you have to be a Christian to read this book and find it beneficial? Absolutely not. I would find this information helpful to anyone looking at putting their child in youth sports or who have a child in youth sports.

 

Place: Our Local Library

The winter months definitely bring lots of challenges when it comes to finding things for a toddler to do, other than hang around the house.

Between my dog getting stir-crazy and my son getting fussy going through the house and playing with the same toys over and over again, this mom gets to a point of needing to leave the house for a bit!

Earlier in the summer, I had the opportunity to try out a wonderful KinderMusik class near our home. If you haven’t heard of KinderMusik, it’s a wonderful experience for children to get involved with music, song, and dance, and meet other babies, toddlers, and children, while in the process.

We had a wonderful experience. The instructor was great, and her education background was in teaching music. The other parents and their babies were wonderful as well, but the one problem I had with the class was the expense and the distance for us. The class takes place about forty minutes, one way, from our house. And that’s a lot of driving just for a little guy. Sorry, son, momma has other things to do.

The expense was also not too appealing. I love the idea of my son being around singing, dancing, and instruments, but I knew there had to be some other options.

Thankfully, we quickly discovered the Wee Read program through our local library. It’s free (well, I mean we pay taxes, so yes, I guess we do pay something), but I was surprisingly shocked with how similar it was to the KinderMusik class that cost so much.

Our librarian reads the babies and toddlers a book (please note, the babies and toddlers were welcome to move around during this time- yes, not that many sat still, unless they weren’t mobile yet). The librarian then offers a music and dance time for the kids with scarves and bubbles. And the class came to a close with a sensory-toy play time.

Each class is about thirty minutes in length, so it’s the perfect amount of time for the little ones to have some fun and wear themselves out a bit before a nap.

My little guy has gone several times, and I have to say it’s been a great opportunity to get out of the house, and for my toddler to enjoy some socialization time, and for mom to have some adult conversation.

The local library is such a great place, and I’m very thankful for librarians and the work they put into the children’s programs.

 

YouTuber: Kayley Melissa

I’ve briefly talked about Kayley Melissa in a previous blog post from the summer. I love watching her hair tutorials, even though it’s hard for this mom to find time to do her hair. But, I still enjoy seeing her creativity, positivity, and great ideas year-round.

Recently, Kayley posted a great video about taking care of your hair during the winter months. Did you know silk pillows help your hair have less static? Did you know a dryer sheet in a hair brush will help quickly get rid of static in your hair? Yep, neither did I.

Feel free to watch her winter hair tips video here.

 

Oregon Zoo Snow Day!

If you made it this far, congratulations! Sorry, there’s no prize, but there is a cute video.

Who doesn’t love a good snow day? At least, when we were kids, right? Check out this cute video taken at the Oregon Zoo of the animals enjoying the snow. Who knew animals could have so much fun in the snow.

 

Those are my four favorites of the season. Do you have any favorites that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them!