August 29th, 2014

Encourage Your Child’s Creativity With Destination Imagination

Encourage Your Child's Creativity With Destination Imagination

It’s the start of the school year, and my kids are talking about which clubs they want to join. My son does 100 Mile Club because he likes to be active. My oldest daughter does Destination Imagination, and it’s a club I really recommend if you want to help your child be more creative.

Every school year, Destination Imagination puts out a variety of challenges for teams of children to work on. There are regional and state competitions in many areas, and an annual world competition for teams that make it that far.

What’s really wonderful for the kids’ creativity is that the work must be entirely done by them. Adults shouldn’t even give them ideas for what to do. The kids sign a statement at competitions saying that all work is their own – having an adult help can disqualify the team. Adults can teach kids skills needed, but the kids have to figure out what they need to learn and ask for it.

The challenges the kids can choose from change from year to year. There are some basic types – fine arts, technical, scientific, structural, improvisational and service learning, as well as a challenge for younger elementary kids. Each challenge will require a variety of skills – the fine arts challenge may still involve building a device. The technical challenge may still involve storytelling.

The solutions the kids come up with are amazing. The kids not only have to present their solution to the challenge they picked, they have to solve an Instant Challenge as well. Teams practice for the Instant Challenges at team meetings, but you never know what challenge your team will face. There are penalties for revealing what happened at an Instant Challenge after you’ve taken it, and the revelation can impact more than your own team, so keeping the secret until after the World Competition is a huge deal, even if your team isn’t going that far.

There is an adult managing each team, but the job is to help them keep focused, not build, not give ideas, etc. I did that job for my daughter’s team last year, and I may or may not do it again this year – depends on if they need me. It’s quite the commitment. Interesting to do, and you get to see things the other parents won’t.

One thing I really have to emphasize is the need for parental involvement. Not in what the kids are doing, but in making competitions possible. Each team has to provide volunteers at competitions – how many depends on which competition. Destination Imagination runs on volunteers, so if you want your kids to do this, you need to step up as well. It’s sometimes hard to get enough parent volunteers per team, even though the competition volunteer requirements are just for the days of the competition, plus training days. Make sure your team gets volunteers as soon as possible.

Parent volunteers may be chosen to appraise challenges. My husband keeps ending up with this role. He’d like to just watch sometime, but as I said, it’s tough to get enough volunteers, so he keeps ending up with it, being less reluctant to help out than others. Not that appraising isn’t interesting – he really enjoys it – it’s just that he’d like to see our daughter’s team perform too some year. Only time he got out of it was when he developed a kidney stone a day or so before the competition and was in too much pain to help out. The DI folks were really understanding about that.

If you aren’t a team manager, your role as a parent with a child in DI probably isn’t all that difficult. You may need to help buy supplies – don’t worry, the budget is really reasonable so you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune. Some team managers handle buying all the supplies, but I preferred to encourage my team to be more resourceful so the costs didn’t all fall on me when I was a team manager. But most of the building will take place during team meetings, probably weekly after school until the competition gets close and the kids realize they’re way, way behind, then they suddenly need you to get them to meetings on weekends at the manager’s home, and they’re scrambling to get it all together. Somehow it usually works out just fine.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

August 26th, 2014

Back to School Can Make Working at Home Easier

Back to School Can Make Working at Home Easier

This year is a first for me. All my kids are in school at last. My youngest finally reached kindergarten age. She’s still a little unsure about being away from home so many hours, but we already knew her teacher, so my daughter isn’t entirely uncomfortable.

What’s great for me is how much more it lets me work at home. My youngest was my clingy one. She really didn’t like me being productive, and sometimes made it difficult to get much of anything done. Now I have hours of time with no kids in the house, just kittens underfoot, behind my back, on my lap, walking on my keyboard… fortunately, they’re a bit easier to ignore most of the day.

The shift in available work hours for at home parents is amazing once the kids are in school. I’ve always been one to avoid using daycare for my kids, even though I know I would have been much more productive. Used grandparents sometimes when we lived close enough and it was convenient to the grandparents, but that was about it.

What’s great about this is I’ve gone from needing to work some on weekends to not needing to worry about that most of the time. It means more family time, and that’s wonderful.

Plan Your Day

The key to making the most of back to school when you work at home is planning your days out. Really think about when you work and when you run errands.

My kids’ school is close enough to walk to, so my kids walk together with me a short distance behind most days. We’re working on responsibility for my youngest, which right now means behaving well enough to obey her siblings as they go to school, especially at street crossings, and the older ones are learning to remember she’s with them, so they have to slow down a little and pay attention to her. The street right in front of the school is the worst crossing, as too many parents don’t watch out for other kids as they rush to do their own drop off, and there are no crossing guards.

Once the kids are safely at school, I walk about a mile and a half to the gym. There are a variety of hills along the way, so walking there saves me cardio time, and it’s pleasant. I think making time for exercise is important for anyone who can do it, and first thing in the morning works best for me.

Then it’s back home for a quick shower, snack, kitten cuddle, then to work. Work until lunchtime, when I can turn on the TV for a show or do leisure reading on my computer, then back to work until it’s time to get the kids. The older kids pick up the youngest from her teacher and bring her to me near the front of the school, then back home. After school is making sure the kids get their homework done, helping if necessary, figuring out if I need more work time, cleaning, or maybe even just relaxing if by some chance things have gone that smoothly.

I hope to eventually drop the part with picking up and dropping off the kids at school – it’s a really short walk in a generally safe neighborhood, but that depends on when they show me that everyone is behaving.

My schedule isn’t like that every day. Wednesdays mornings are my volunteer time at the school – the kids attend a charter school and there’s a volunteer requirement for the families. I also use Wednesday for errands – my routine is already messed up that day, so why not finish the job?

I find having a routine really helps with productivity. It’s harder to lose track of time when you’re on some sort of schedule. When you don’t have a boss to tell you what to get done and when, it’s smart to do so yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself – your schedule should be something you can live with. Just make sure you give yourself enough work time to get things done.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

August 19th, 2014

4 Work at Home Scam Emails

4 Work at Home Scam Emails

Once in a while, I like to take a glance through my spam emails and see what kind of work at home scam emails are running around. For the most part, they’re pretty obvious, but it’s nice to review what real scams look like. Let’s take a look. Asterisks indicate where I’ve removed information such as names, email addresses or URLs.

——–
Email #1: Mystery shopper needed

Please a mystery shopper needed in your region, you can earn up to
$150-200 per week. To learn more, contact M**** D***** at
(****************) with your full name to proceed.

Thank you,
Task Coordinator

——-

This one is a really basic mystery shopping scam. The poor grammar is one indicator, as is the lack of information. Job title and possible pay really isn’t a lot of information. Who’s the employer? They’re smart enough to start with only asking very basic information – your full name, but you can be certain it will proceed from there.

All these opportunities, of course have one major red flag in common – they’re unsolicited. Such basic work at home opportunities don’t need to send out emails – legitimate opportunities of that sort get plenty of applicants on their own – they don’t need to spam.

——–

Email #2: new job

Dear Candidate!

We offer the responsibility of the extra money earing for everyone who has USA citizenship.
If you are a student; on maternity leave; in retirement; not big salary or you just have a free time,then this work is for you!
The work takes about 1-2 hours every day, without any investment from your side, daily payment of worked bonuses,
and of course the career prospects in logistics blue chip company.

If you think of our offering – send your contact information on our e-mail address
viz. name and surname, country and place of residence, contact telephone number and e-mail address.

Our e-mail:**************

Yours faithfully, Recruitment Department

——–

As you can see poor grammar is common to these emails. Spelling may may be an issue too.

——–

Email #3: Job Offer

We have an open position in our team as a secret consumer and we are looking for qualified individuals to apply.
You can find more information about the position and what this job involves, also the registration form if you open the attachment file.

——-

This one was particularly sneaky, as it claimed to come from Career Builder. The “job information” was indeed an attachment, which I didn’t open as you should never open an attachment from an unsolicited email. That’s a great way to get a virus. The run-on sentences are another clue that this is a scam. There is nothing in this to indicate that it could possibly be legitimate.

——-

Email #4: Permanent Position – Work at your home

US based online service is searching for Postal Assistants. This opening requires no professional knowledge besides basic computer skills and capacity to handle mail and parcels.

Perfectly fit for stay at home moms, retirees and also business owners who stay in their private office during working hours.

Responsibilities:

- Sign for deliveries from major carriers at your location
- Repackage mail
- Inspect the packages
- Read and assign appropriate USPS labels
- Distribute letters and parcels to the nearest USPS branches
- Stay in contact with your support department through email, and phone
- In due course send results via website

What’s needed:

- A resident of the United States with postal address
- Must possess communication and computer skills
- Must be able to demonstrate self motivation and knowledge of mailing services
- Be able to lift up to 35 pounds
- Valid driver’s license and available vehicle

This is a full-time job with a wage of up to $2,000 after tax per month.

If you are interested in this opening, go ahead and reply directly to this e-mail better with your resume, and we will contact you as soon as possible.

——-

The repackaging scam has been going on for some time. Don’t fall for it.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

August 4th, 2014

Persistence Pays Off

persistence pays off

One of the keys to success for any work at home mom or dad is persistence. You need it to find the right way to earn money, whether it’s a job or a business. You need it to work through all the distractions and frustrations. If you aren’t persistent, you probably aren’t going to make working at home work.

We had a fun reminder of that this past week. My kids were off with my sister and my mom. The day before they left, we had seen a pair of polydactyl (6-8 toes on the front paws) kittens at the shelter where we volunteer. The kids wanted them badly, which happens about every other week, but those times I’ve asked in the past, the landlord said no pets, unless they were outdoors only.

I decided to ask again while the kids were gone. I marshaled my arguments, especially on why we would not accept that the cats had to be outdoors only – we have a serious coyote problem here and know of at least 3 animals, probably pets, which have been killed by predators on our property. Outdoors only isn’t fair to the cats around here.

It finally paid off and the landlord agreed we could have the kittens. It was so much fun planning that kind of a surprise for the kids while they were gone. They even asked about about the kittens when we were driving home from my mom’s, and I was able to honestly say that I had checked on them at the shelter, and they were still there. Of course, they came home with me at that point, but I didn’t tell the kids that.

Sometimes working at home takes that kind of persistence. You seek out ways beyond the “no.” This kind of persistence can be overdone and annoying, of course – this was only our third attempt over the course of five years. If I had asked the landlord as often as the kids asked me, I think he would have been more annoyed than anything.

Persistence takes many forms beyond that, of course. A part of it is knowing what your goals are. It’s hard to get somewhere when you don’t know where you’re going. Don’t limit yourself strictly by dollar amounts, of course. You may need to earn a certain amount to make a living, but that’s probably not your only goal for your career. Choose goals that make it easier to be persistent.

You should also be persistent in any research you need to do for your work, whether it’s research about a potential employer or about the kind of business you’re running, or how to better market a home business.

There will be times when it’s harder to be persistent – no matter how much you love your work in general, sometimes motivation wears down. Still, you have to find your way to keep working toward your goals, even when it’s difficult. Giving up is the one sure way for something not to work.

And if anyone is wondering, the kittens are River Song and Melody Pond. Got some fair Whovians here.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

July 30th, 2014

Are Your Passwords Strong Enough?

Are Your Passwords Strong Enough?

When you work at home, online security should be a big deal to you. Your professional life can be badly damaged if your major accounts get hacked. Too many people use really easy passwords, or worse, use them over and over on a variety of sites, leaving themselves vulnerable on many sites if just one gets hacked. Having strong passwords for important accounts is vital.

There are a couple ways to go about creating strong passwords, and they don’t have to involve a lot of complicated rules. Some websites make strong passwords more difficult than others to make, often by limiting the number of characters to a number too small to provide true security. 8 characters, even if mixed in with numbers, capital and lowercase letters, and special characters, really isn’t all that secure.

Here are some ways you can create strong passwords for most sites without making your own life too difficult.

Use a Password Manager

I use LastPass for my passwords. It’s pretty secure – you have to use your master password to get into your account. There’s a simple browser addon to install, then it fills in your login data for various sites as you use them, once you’ve saved that data into LastPass. I find it really easy, and it works well with most websites. The basic level is free, but you can go to Premium if you want the mobile app or other features.

LastPass can generate those absurdly complex passwords for you, at whatever length you require. That’s really handy when you come across a site that limits the number of characters you must use. I keep them on the long side for most sites, only cutting it down when a website insists on something shorter. Banks in particular are often ridiculous about insisting on shorter passwords, which drives me up the wall!

LastPass encrypts your data, and it only decrypts locally on your computer, which keeps it safer. You can even add multifactor authentication so that just having your password is not enough for someone to get into your LastPass account.

The big thing people fear with a password manager is that it is a single point of failure. If something goes wrong with it, you have a big problem. I feel comfortable with how LastPass handles my data, so I don’t consider it to be a big problem.

Use a Passphrase

If you don’t want to use a password manager, a passphrase that you use is a good solution. You’ll still want to vary from site to site, but that’s just a matter of coming up with rules you can use for the variations on different sites. Many people use their phrase plus a couple of special characters, plus something to do with the website the password is for.

Think of a phrase that won’t be obvious to others. Inside jokes, a favorite quote that isn’t too long to type in, a memorable event, etc. Don’t be too picky about length if you can stand typing it in and the site allows – longer passwords are far more secure in general.

Don’t Reuse Passwords

Reusing passwords is one of the biggest security mistakes you can make. It’s one thing to reuse passwords on sites that won’t impact your finances or professional reputation; it’s another thing entirely if you reuse a password where those things matter.

Hackers can get passwords more easily from minor sites with weaker security, and all too often those passwords will give them access to other accounts that really matter. The more important the information your account on a site is to you, the stronger and more unique your password needs to be.

Lie

For those times you need to reset your passwords, you may have to answer a security question. The problem is that too many security questions are things someone could look up about you if they chose to do so. There’s a reason why banks no longer rely so much on the “mother’s maiden name” question on new accounts, although older accounts may still use that. My credit card company recently had me change to a new security question because that one is so out of date.

But many of the new questions are really only a little more secure. Come up with a standard answer for them, but don’t be honest. Have a little fun with your answer. You can even use password rules on it… not like any site checks to see if the answers you give mean anything. They’re for your personal use.

Be Sure You’re On The Right Website

The most secure password in the world isn’t secure if you just give it to the wrong website. If you get an email from a website telling you to log in for some reason, type the domain name in rather than click the link in the email. Phishing emails try really hard to look official, and sometimes even a careful person will fail to notice that the URL is wrong when they hover over the link.

These are some of the ways you can protect your important accounts with strong passwords. While there’s no guarantee that even a strong password will always keep your accounts safe, it’s a great place to start. Do you have any suggestions I’ve missed?

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

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Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also participate in other affiliate programs.

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