Where Am I and Is There a Straight Line?

Today, I’m combining two days of Brand Clarity into one since I started the challenge a day late!

Yesterday’s challenge was Where am I in my business?  I looked at the number of hours I’m working, what I spend my time doing, the biggest time sucks and distractions, and what am I not doing that I want/need to be doing.

Today’s challenge was to create the straightest path to where I want to go.

After evaluating everything about my business, I realized I’ve been treating it more as a hobby as opposed to a business. I’ve been focusing on the fun stuff – which using the Rock/Pebble/Sand analogy is also a Rock, but one that I think I’ve focused enough on to proceed to the nuts and bolts as I like to call them, or another Rock!

I posted regular work hours on my Facebook Business, but I haven’t been keeping them very well. I haven’t been keeping track of my hours at all, or what I’m doing for those hours. That is part of my organization goal for the year. I’m starting to really feel the need for organizing my days.

I looked for an organizer and kind of found one, but didn’t buy it…took time to think about it and decided I wanted it and they were all gone!  I didn’t take a picture or write down the company, so I’m back at square 1.  None of them really covered everything I wanted to cover anyway, so I think I’m going to create my own system.

I realized through the day 2 challenge, while I’m enjoying researching and visiting schools, that can’t go anywhere if I don’t start in on the nuts and bolts.

I feel like this part of my blog doesn’t have the same flow because I’m more or less floundering through all of this business stuff. Everything is brand new to me, and while I’m also helping my partner start his own paint and lawn care business, we are still very new at this.

So I have my business goals which are HUGE, and now I need to focus on the daily things to get there. I’ve already posted this months goals for getting the state and federal paperwork filed, but I need money. I’m hesitant to ask family and friends, but when I woke up this morning, I decided I would ask – what can it hurt and they see me working hard on this too, so might as well ask right?

Day 2’s challenge was hard to look at, it asked me questions like am I a registered business or licensed?  I had to answer no to most of the questions because I’ve been focused on the philosophy (still a rock, but totally different rock).

Day 3’s challenge is frustrating because I can’t answer honestly!  I have not been tracking how I spend my work hours and so I cannot answer how I’m spending my time and energy and if I need to make changes.

It all seems so simple, but when I’m in the thick of it, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. I’m dedicated to focusing and succeeding!

This challenge and Abigail’s Sweetspot Strategies are very helpful with direction and motivation. I highly recommend them to everyone and anyone on a business adventure!


What the Heck is Brand Clarity?

Marketing nightmares!! At first I thought, oh, this is interesting, then I just focused on other aspects of starting a school, and now I’m starting the new year with a building my business kickstarter. Abigail from Sweetspot Strategies has helped me through business boot camp, and now I’ve signed up for her Free Facebook Achieve Brand Clarity Challenge!

Now I have decisions to make and a business to build. When I said I wanted to open my own school, I knew there would be business aspects to it, but this stuff is CRAZY! There’s so much to do and think about, which is why I signed up for the Free Facebook Challenge Abigail created on Brand Clarity.

I’ve never really considered brands. Of course I like the brands I like – Arm & Hammer, Tide, and the like, but I didn’t consider how inundated we are as a society with brands. I want to go simple, but then again, I want to stand out, and what about colors, and who am I marketing to, and on and on…

Trying to narrow down the specifics is one aspect, but also understanding the feelings of those whom are prospective “good fit” families is extremely important.

I think schooling is one of the most emotionally charged subjects of all time

While I’m trying to break into the homeschooling culture (they are very guarded since people try to sell to them all the time), I’m not really getting anywhere with taking the pulse of the education community.

But do I want to?

I would much rather have families that are interested in self-directed education find me. I want to be visible yes, but I don’t want to have to constantly defend the educational philosophies we want to employ.

Informational talks yes, debates, no.

Is that a fair assessment of how this really works?

Not that I don’t want to have discussions, yes, by all means, discussions are good. No system is perfect. Can everyone take a different approach together? I think we can, and I think there are people out there that will hold the same beliefs about education that I do.

So the first assignment to brand clarity was to write a love my business letter. Describe a successful day in your vision. What does it look like? Feel like?

I wrote mine to my dad, because he planted the seed of democratic education years ago when I was in high school.

Here’s my letter:


There’s a Q and A at the bottom which comes from the challenge.

I didn’t realize peace was such a huge part of my vision. I want to be at peace with myself knowing I’m making a difference in education. And I want everyone involved to be at peace with themselves.

This is a big plan!  Building on what I’ve already done, I’m going to find direction and come up with a plan that will carry me through the rest of this month!

Prizes for Ringin’ in th’new year!

I’m not sure if my New Year traditions are really Japanese traditions, or if it’s just what my mom used to do, because I relate EVERYTHING my mom did as absolute Japanese tradition!

Pretty much every new year we stay up until midnight, and eat noodles and shrimp. Noodles for a long life and shrimp for taste! Then straight to bed, get a good night’s sleep. Get up on time new years day, and do nothing… no cleaning or taking out the trash, no cooking (although I vaguely remember my mom cooking Japanese food on New Years, sukiyaki maybe?), and no spending money. I’ve never been much for Japanese food, so I didn’t eat it. I’d stay inside and do quiet activities, like read.

It’s funny how the routines and concepts we’re exposed to as kids stick with us. My mom’s reasoning for not doing anything on new years day is you’ll do those things the rest of the year. Spending $$, I get it, you don’t want to spend $ all year, working? You don’t want to work all year. Unless you don’t have a job? Cleaning? No one wants to clean all year! Spending time with family, at home, doing quiet activities? Is this how I want my year to be?

Or do I want to be productive? Feel accomplished? Have balance? Be successful? What should my new year look like if this is what I want?

I’ve been struggling with the tradition vs. what exactly? Making up my own stuff I guess.

My goal for December was to post on Facebook and Blog every day for 30 days. I stopped one day short! What the heck! But I’m blogging today and posting today, so technically it’s still 30 days… so I think I did pretty well if not perfect this first month, and will reward myself with the prizes I already purchased anyway. I’m not sure what the short stop was for, self sabotage most likely, but here it is 11 pm on the 31st and I’m going to post!

This is not only about getting out of my comfort zone, but also about getting out of my own way!

On to 2019!

Heartwood: What Does All This Mean?

One amazing attribute about Heartwood I noticed was, not once did I hear a student tell another student that they weren’t welcome in the group. This happens often in traditional school settings, I’ve seen it myself many times in all the schools I’ve been in, no matter the age of the students, and I’m sure other educators at traditional schools can attest – the kids can be very mean. This statement is probably repeated by traditional educators the world over.

But here at Heartwood, no child was excluded, no child was told to go away. Older students do not just “tolerate” or “babysit” younger ones, they consider all the other students their friends and play with each other not paying any attention to age groups. It is normal to see a teen playing with a younger counterpart of 5-9 years old, and everyone is happy.

As adults, we don’t just have friends in our own cohort, we have older and younger friends, this is the natural progression of friendship. Yet we set up unnatural settings in which children are expected to function. It would be thought weird in a traditional setting that a middle or high schooler would want to be friends with a kindergartener. I think many brows would be raised, and questions asked about the problems of either or both of the children, but at Heartwood, it is natural, normal and accepted to have friends at all age levels.

No children chose to play and interact with the same children all day. Groups were natural and flowing, with students joining and leaving easily spending their chosen amount of time with the group doing the activity. Students respectfully asked or communicated questions, concerns and needs and no one was made to feel bad for wanting to join or leaving a group.

Where there is mutual respect, there are far fewer problems in the community, which is what Heartwood is all about.

The transition from public school to self-directed school is interesting and the students have different reactions to it. Public school is all about rules and order.  Students are discouraged from communicating with peers throughout the day as it is disruptive to standardized classes. Here, at Heartwood, students are encouraged to interact, and sometimes social deficits arise and students learn how to socialize with other children throughout the day. From the first minute to the last, students are working together in groups or if they take some time for themselves, it isn’t very long before they join a group of children again.

It was truly a joy spending the day with Heartwood ALC staff and students. I learned so much by seeing the self-directed model in action, and after I got over how different it is, I really want to have a school like this.

Every self-directed school is different, which is kind of the point, but there are similarities with the Agile Learning Centers brand, and they seem to have a pretty good handle on things.


Heartwood Community End of Day Clean Up!

All the students and staff clean their school!

No one has to say ANYTHING to keep the children cleaning – they just do it! Inside and out, they make sure everything is back in it’s place.

One of the agreements, (remember, agreements are made by all staff and students together) is to clean up after yourself, and some cleaning happens throughout the day, but at the end of the day, a cleaning frenzy starts and doesn’t stop until everything is cleaned and organized. It is a magical thing to see, although the staff and students don’t think anything of it, it is part of their community driven day.

Schools in Japan also employ this method, and research has shown that students are more respectful of their space with greater appreciation for their materials, and increased pride in their schools.

After working in the public school system, where students are more likely to not take care of their environment, seeing these students working to make their environment nice was refreshing.

I feel kind of bad that I took so many pictures of the kids cleaning – like it’s some stupendous feat! When in reality, this is how communities should work, everyone does their part, from the youngest to the oldest (even the guests, myself included, were inspired to help clean).

Some students have assigned tasks. They used to rotate jobs, but then during change up (remember, change up is the weekly meeting where students and staff decide what needs to change and they implement solutions one at a time until they find one that works), they decided some students would have the same jobs and some would rotate jobs. No one was confused as to what they were supposed to be doing, and there were no slackers – everyone worked on cleaning up until the job was done.

No one complained or tried to say it wasn’t their mess and ask why they should clean it, they just worked individually or in groups. They cleaned up after each other and worked together to get everything back in place.

I spent some time outside, and you can see a student outside working too. The students put everything away inside and out. The pillows that had been taken outside for pillow fights were now back inside and any outdoor toys were put away neatly in their places as well.

This is how I imagine a well functioning family working, and while I think these kids are exceptional in their own way, they are not unique as far as kids go. They are just every day average kids who function well in this learning environment and are happy to be a part of the Heartwood community.

Heartwood’s Social Activism

One Heartwood mom I spoke with told me she liked several things about the school, but what really drew her to Heartwood was the Social Activism topics they discuss.

I like this idea too. I once had a good friend say, during a heated discussion about teen pregnancy and welfare options, “Well, my family didn’t sit around the dinner table and talk about social issues!”

I responded, “Mine didn’t either!” but actually, we did. Not necessarily around the dinner table, but I grew up discussing social issues including race, religion, politics and the like. I believe, as a result, I have strong feelings toward social activism. I may not agree with how or why people are socially active, BUT, just like voting, I believe all people have a right to be heard when they feel injustice afoot.

Just like I support the troops without supporting the war, I support all those who are fighting against social injustice, and do my best to empathize by put myself in their shoes.

While I was at Heartwood, social activism in general was not discussed, but students and staff did discuss racism and interracial relationships in “Dear Martin” and “The hate U Give.”  Students were able to discuss difficult situations with ease.

Here are some pages posted on the wall, and the mother I spoke to said she really likes that her son can have conversations about different current social issues.

Social activism is part of the culture of Heartwood and I’m assuming the kids can talk about it with ease.


I liked this page about friendship. So important at this age, especially with cyber bullying issues.

I’ve been tending to shy away from these sensitive topics, not wanting to offend anyone, even going as far to think, “I can’t put the equality sticker on my car, what will people think? Will they still support my school?”

I wish I could say I want to just put the sticker on and let people know what I believe, but it’s scary, starting out. I’m not sure what the best “business” approach is, and I seem to be afraid to ask anyone! Except for here – tell me what you think!

I think the more we talk about these issues, the more we can see from the other person’s perspective, the more we can understand and appreciate each other. I do believe we have the option to agree to disagree, it’s a start anyway. I know with our society being so politically charged right now, it’s difficult to say if this is a good idea, but at the same time, our politically charged atmosphere has given more people their true voice than in the recent past. We’ve been humming along, pretending everything is OK, and it is soooo NOT OK.

I’ve always believed solving big problems starts with teaching our children. It takes a village, and they are much smarter then we give them credit!

Change is possible with each and every one of us, and I honestly believe the majority of people want to live in a better world. Our kids will be the ones making laws and decisions about our society. It’s better they are exposed to the social activism now. They’ll have more time to figure out what they really think after weighing all the options.


Heartwood Self-Directed Learning Time

With students working all around me on their own learning projects, I wandered around from room to room and outside to observe.

Students were outside playing Gaga Ball. One of the young men taught me how to play in the “snake pit” (the students in this intentional community have named several places around the building including the Gaga Ball pit, special names become part of the school culture).

I was surprised to find Gaga ball is a real game. I thought it was made up by the kids. The students do have variations on the game and one aspect of self-directed learning is to learn to change the rules to suit the situation. Knowing that rules are flexible and how to work together to transition them is an important element in effective personal and business adult life. Students learn to try new ideas and keep the ones that work well, while discarding the ones that don’t work. This can be applied simply to gaga ball and it’s rules, kind of like poker or monopoly may have different house rules.

Going inside I noticed a student sitting all by himself with a device. I asked him if I could talk to him for a few minutes. He said I could. I asked what he was working on, and he told me, “art.” I asked if I could see his work and he showed me what he was working on and previous pieces he had. We talked about his use of colors, but he didn’t seem interested in the conversation, so I left him alone to work.

He went right back to work on his art, and a little while later when kids came in to get the pillows off the bunk he was working on, it didn’t faze him one bit. I’m still amazed at how much work these kids can get done with everything going on around them. Truly, when students want to learn, the concentration is there.

On to another room and another set of students working on a science project. I had heard them asking Anthony about a project they had done with him before, and now they wanted to do it again. He told them they needed corn starch, and they went to look for some. When I came back around, I guess there wasn’t any corn starch, but they had found some items and after what I’m assuming was several trial and error attempts, they were very excited to have made their goo. All I could do was smile. It’s exciting when students are interested in science!

Students have arts and craft supplies available to them as well. When I asked these two what they were working on as they were getting out supplies, they said, “crafts.”

I just realized these simple one word answers may seem rude to some because each time, the child answered quickly without really looking at me or engaging with me. I didn’t feel it was rude at all though, because I could tell they were engrossed in the projects they were working on, which is the whole point. Self-direction in action is beautiful. The students are really engaged and not concerned about being judged or hindered, but just enjoying learning.

Students can spend as much or as little time on an activity as they choose.

I didn’t get any pictures, but at one point several students went out front to roll down the hill in bubble balls. If that isn’t a hands on lesson in physics, I don’t know what is. The kids blew up the bubble balls, and proceeded to take turns rolling down the hill, making adjustments as needed. It was amazing to see them exploring and learning about their physical world.

Several of the pictures I took that day didn’t show up on my phone. I’m not technology inclined and didn’t check the pictures, my last phone was so good to me and took great pictures, this one seems a little more picky so several of the shots I thought I had gotten, I hadn’t. Probably a problem between the phone and the chair. At any rate, I enjoyed spending time watching the children learn in the ways they chose.

Geometry, chemistry, physics, math, reading, creativity and soft skills like consideration, team work, group think and respect for others were observed throughout the day. These are the goals of every school and Heartwood is hitting the nail on the head!