Drako $1,000,000 Family Engagement Grant for Schools

LivingTree Executive Chairman Dean Drako Announces $1,000,000 Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools

AUSTIN, Texas. April 4, 2017 – Dean Drako, LivingTree owner and executive chairman, announced today that he has funded the Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools for up to $1M; individual schools and districts who are awarded the grant will receive their own private and secure, Tiered Social NetworkR — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for 1 year. Eligible schools include accredited private and public schools in the United States: elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

Schools Report Improved Family Engagement with Private Social Networks

A recent survey showed that that only one in five schools reported having greater than 50% of families engaged. Districts cite using more than 12 methodologies to engage families and frustration with results. One hundred percent of districts using private social networks report improvement in family engagement. The top reasons for increased family engagement are based on student achievement and include: higher literacy rates, better attendance, higher test scores, and increased graduation rates in addition to a culture of partnership for educators and families alike.

“We are funding this community and family engagement grant to make it easier for more schools to use the latest technology to build trust and partnership within their communities,” said Dean Drako, Executive Chairman, LivingTree. “LivingTree’s private and secure Tiered Social NetworkR offers many benefits to improve engagement and awareness, including two-way translation to 100+ languages, native mobile apps, media sharing, volunteer management, emergency alerts, and simple implementation.”

$1,000,000 Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools – Details

Grant winners will receive a grant for one full year of funding for their custom LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR and associated planning, implementation, and training. The solution includes SIS integration, emergency alerts, SMS texting, two-way translation, mobile apps, media sharing, all other LivingTree engagement features, and community partner networks. LivingTree also provides marketing and awareness materials as well as best practices for using technology to engage families and community. LivingTree social networks are private and secure and offer weekly analytics at the class, campus, and district level.

The Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools is appealing to help schools use the best technology to consolidate and simplify engagement efforts. Research shows that engaged families can offset as much as $1000 in needed funding per year for each student. Further, some states require objective measures of family engagement while the national Every Student Succeeds Act mandates two way conversation in native language.

LivingTree is a hosted service and requires no additional technology at the school sites. LivingTree is COPPA compliant, FERPA compliant, and a Student Data Privacy Signatory. At the end of the 12 months, if the school chooses to continue using the LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR, they would purchase the annual license and continue with uninterrupted service. The school / district also has the option to shut down their network, at no charge.

Grant applications will be accepted starting April 4, 2017.  Application deadline is June 1, 2017. Grant winners will be selected based on the merits and timeliness of their application.

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant

Case Studies on Family Engagement and LivingTree

Briargrove Elementary School: Houston, TX  

Briargrove Elementary serves ~900 students in the Houston School District. Nearly half the school’s population is Latino and Asian-Pacific, and 23% of students are in ESL programs. Prior to LivingTree, the school relied heavily on room parents and the PTO to relay information and volunteer opportunities to parents. Despite the combined use of flyers, email blasts, and newsletters, parents felt uninformed. Results from a 2011-2012 survey showed parents felt excluded and disconnected from the school. As of Fall 2016, 100% of classrooms were engaged on LivingTree and fully 60% of network members were contributing content, commentary, or appreciation! Briargrove has successfully resolved the disconnect parents originally felt with the school.

Briargrove’s Principal, Eden Hinds, shares: “Using the LivingTree platform, our school  was able to build a much tighter community and meaningful engagement with our families. It has truly changed our level of transparency with parents and how we converse, share, and coordinate in the context of educating our children.”

For the full case study, please visit 100% Participation = Real Results.

Irving Independent School District: Irving, TX

Irving ISD, a district serving approximately 35,000 students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, began using LivingTree in November 2014. The district has earned a number of accolades, including being named the 2015 national Advanced Placement District of the Year; an “amazing CTE program” in the U.S.; and having its high schools recognized among the top 10% of high schools nationwide by U.S. News and World Report. The district was looking for ways to share those success stories and continue its parent engagement efforts after opening Parent Centers in each of its schools. Like many school districts across the state, Irving ISD serves a diverse student population and wanted a way to reach ALL families, regardless of home language (54 languages are spoken in Irving ISD), the parent’s education level or socioeconomic status.

Irving ISD has strong belief in the benefits of parent and community engagement, and has a stated district goal of enabling and ensuring community engagement and collaboration. Based on the results of district wide surveys of teachers, parents, and students in spring 2014, Irving ISD sought to establish digital two-way dialogue accessible via mobile application. That’s when Irving ISD decided to implement LivingTree to meet their two-way dialogue, translation, mobile, and privacy needs. “In Irving ISD we started out with 13 campuses as early adopters of LivingTree. The feedback we received from parents, principals and teachers has been incredible. It’s helped solidify parents’ trust in our schools,” says Lesley Weaver, Irving ISD’s Director of Communications.

About LivingTree

Founded in 2012, LivingTree’s mission is to connect the people who raise, develop, and educate our children. LivingTree aims to include every member of the community regardless of preferred language or socio-economic status. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network® empowers leaders, organizations, educators and parents to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private network to help improve academic achievement. LivingTree has been recognized for this work by the Stevie® Awards for Women in Business as the 2016 Gold Community Involvement Program of the Year and 2016 Silver Smartphone App of the Year.  http://www.livingtree.com, 844.LIV.TREE, info@livingtree.combanner-980x550_c

 

Maria Cantu SHARES Her Classroom

Maria Cantu has been educating children for 12 years; 9 of those years at Daniel Ramírez Elementary School in Pharr, Texas.  She knew she wanted to become a teacher when she was volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club the summer of her 9th grade year. “I instantly fell in love with teaching.” In addition to teaching at the school, she is the CLF leader, is responsible for school PR and is the school’s sponsor for the Mighty Hawks soccer club!  “Go Hawks!

Ms. Cantu is also the proud mama of 5 kids: 3 girls and 2 boys (14, 13, 9, 8 & 7). WOW! The two youngest attend Ramírez Elementary where Ms. Cantu teaches. “My kids continue to exceed my expectations in all aspects of academics”.

MariaCantu

Describe how you communicated and shared information with your students’ parents prior to using LivingTree.  Before using LivingTree, communicating with parents was mostly all ‘business’; I put notes on the weekly homework sheet, made phone calls when needed, used memos periodically, and scheduled parent teacher conferences.  I wasn’t really sharing the day to day joys of student learning and achievement, nor was I establishing the close rapport with parents that I sought. With LivingTree I can truly SHARE with parents what is happening in the classroom daily.

What feature or aspects of LivingTree do you appreciate most? Our school has implemented LivingTree campus wide so we have a community of teachers who post [in LivingTree].  I love that we can share our classroom achievements with one another.  I get to see other teacher’s classrooms; it has brought about a sense of camaraderie throughout our school.

Being so busy, how has LivingTree helped YOU specifically? Every year the district requires us to complete an evaluation for McREL.  To complete the evaluation, we are to provide ‘artifacts,’ documentation showing how we are growing as a teacher.  I provide lesson plans and pictures from the school year…we all know pictures are worth a 1000 words.  LivingTree makes it easy to find all my information for the entire year in one place; “very quick, easy and effective”.  I shared my ‘process’ with other teachers. They are now also using LivingTree as the tool for ‘documenting’ what they are doing in the classroom.

LivingTree has an App and can be used from a PC; which do you prefer? Both are valuable and user friendly.  The app is convenient – I use it for messaging, but I tend to use it mostly for sharing photos.  I sit at the PC when messaging and completing my McREL evaluation.

What do the parents of your students say about LivingTree? Parents and students alike love LivingTree.  Parents are “very happy” to see their child’s picture posted showing them hard at work, receiving an award, or celebrating a special day.  And my students love it too! It has gotten to the point where they say, “Mrs. Cantu, take a picture for LivingTree.”   

Tiered Social Network

LivingTree builds trust and partnership between schools and families by providing private, social networks to enable family engagement. LivingTree builds these communities using the LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR.

What is LivingTree’s Tiered Social NetworkR?

It is a private social network that is built as a hierarchy, or ‘tiered’ – like an organization chart or feeder pattern. Each group (class, grade level, etc.) has its own private community which nests into the organizational layer above it. Conversation and content flow up, down, and across the tiered network based on group membership and relationship to the community.

Users are given relevant content based on their relationships or connections to the community. For example, a kindergarten parent receives their class, kindergarten grade level, school, and district level content. They are not disturbed with irrelevant information from other classes, grades, or schools within the broader community.

hierarchyLivingTree’s Tiered Social NetworkR uniquely gives administrators at each level the full view and analytics of the smaller community networks feeding into their part of the organization. LivingTree empowers leaders and organizations to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private Tiered Social NetworkR.

With all engagement efforts (announcements, texts, alerts, photo sharing, volunteer management, two way conversation, private messaging, etc.) in a single network, administrators, teachers, and parents experience less chaos and frustration, save time, and can focus on engagement!

Getting the Most Out of Your “Staycation”

Top Ideas for Spring Break at Home

Spring Break can be a fabulous time to travel and see new things, to refresh and rejuvenate, experience new things at home, or even get ahead for the coming months. These four ideas really resonated as ways to get the most from a Spring Break Staycation.

#1  Play!
Recreation is one of the best ways to make new memories, recover from stress, and feed creative thinking and growth mindsets. Whether it’s bicycling, jump roping, swimming, running, skating, playing tag or getting really creative with a water balloon war or even making your own field day plan, go out and play.

Play, Education, Student Engagement and LivingTree

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” – Dale Carnegie

 

#2  Help Your High Schooler Find the Fun Jobs & Internships
Think how good it would feel to for them to get ahead on the summer job search and find something seriously fun to work at or an inspiring place to intern. The truly fun jobs and internship spots will be taken up first, and March is the time that many employers begin searching for candidates to fill positions. Get ahead of the rush and grab your seat in the “fun section”!

Here are a few ideas to get you going:
→  How to Find an Internship You’ll Value
→  Search for Internships Across the US
→  Types of Internships for High School Students

 

#3  Do Volunteer Work and Make Someone’s Day!
When you help someone it pays you and those around you in kind. Volunteer work is the best cure for being sad about missing out on the expensive vacation the neighbors got to take. Making someone else’s day is priceless and feeds the heart and mind. Whether it’s helping the elderly neighbors with yard work or joining in on a Habitat for Humanity project, any form of volunteer work that interests you or your children is sure to bring smiles as well as great lessons and stories.

 

#4  Organize and Clear Your Mind and Worries Away
It is absolutely true that a clear house lends to a clear mind. Prepare to more fully enjoy the weeks ahead by organizing. The more organized you are in your closet, kitchen, supplies and files, the more successful you will be because every day life will just feel easier. Instead of rummaging around for whatever you need at every other moment, you can move through your day with ease and grace when you are organized. The entire household can breathe easier every day when you are and remain organized along the way.

Need more convincing?
→  About The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
→  Creative Ways to Declutter by

Teaching Your Child Healthy Friendship Skills

Written by Guest Blogger: Lisa Montierth

Summer is just over the horizon!

It’s coming at us fast, and it’s bringing all sorts of wonderful things with it: long hours spent under the sun, barbecues, family vacations, and, of course, a break from all the routines of the school year. With all that free time sprawling ahead of you, you’re probably thinking about how to keep your kids happy and adequately occupied for three months.

Summer blows your child’s regular schedule wide open, paving the way for much more self-directed activity – time that is often spent with their friends. With so much more time for play dates and activities, this is the perfect time to talk to your kids about friendship skills.

Friendship is important at any age, and it can be especially critical for kids. Kids are still learning about social skills, and relationships will always have their ups and downs. The best thing to do is to stay calm and gently offer guidance when your kids need you. Here are some ways you can help your child be a better friend:

Encourage team building. Activities where kids can work together toward a common goal are great for developing friendships. Things like building forts, playing games with teams, and making an obstacle course encourage negotiation, communication, and problem solving.

Give positive feedback. If you see your children doing something pro-social, like sharing a treat or helping in a game, let them know how that action shows their friends that they care. Making note of these kind and thoughtful actions will help your child understand what sort of behavior makes a good friend.

Put the ball in their court. If your children come to you about a problem with a friend, take the opportunity to work through the situation with them instead of just trying to fix it. Ask them what happened, how they felt about it, and what they could try next. Ask how they tried to make the situation better, compliment them for trying, and let them know you support them. Don’t dwell on the situation. Just address it and then move on.

Role-play social skills. Have conversations with your child about how to handle important social interactions, like:
– Being a good listener
– Having a group discussion
– Following rules
– Asking questions
– Having a conversation
– Apologizing
– Being a good sport

Get to know the parents of your child’s friends. Especially if your kids are shy around new people, modeling friendship with the parents of your child’s friends is key. Connecting with other parents is also a great way to build community, and stay updated about what’s happening in other areas of your child’s life.

Friendships are important for kids, and learning how to be a good friend is a skill that will serve them through their lives. With a little guidance and support from you, your child can be a better friend – and your whole family will have a great summer!

Helping Your Child Develop a Love of Learning

Written by Guest Blogger: Lisa Montierth

A love of learning can make all the difference in your child’s life, and not just in school. Developing a passion to learn helps kids grow into curious, successful adults.

Being engaged at school is certainly a big step toward being an enthusiastic learner, but parents can build on these lessons exponentially by bringing learning into the home. Enthusiasm is contagious – when you get excited about something, your kids will pick up on it – so try some of these ways to get the whole family excited about learning:

Keep them reading. Reading acts as the foundation to every other kind of learning. Many parents read to their young kids, which is a great head start to understanding language and appreciating learning. As kids grow older, keep encouraging them to pick up a book. Start a family reading time where you each enjoy a book, or take turns reading from the same book. Kids pick up their cues from you. Keep books, magazines, newspapers, and other reading materials around the house, and you’ll teach an appreciation of reading by example.

Get on board with their interests. Use your child’s natural enthusiasm about things they love to promote learning. If your daughter loves the ocean, encourage her interest with books about marine life. By getting involved and showing interest in the things your child loves, you will show her that learning isn’t just about sitting in school and practicing her spelling; learning is a fun and exciting part of life!

The “what” can be more important than the “how”. It’s natural to pay attention to your child’s grades, and it’s important to let your child know that grades matter. But focusing too heavily on grades can overshadow the accomplishments of learning. Instead of asking about how your child did on a test or worksheet, ask them what they learned that day. By putting the day’s lessons into his own words, your child is more likely to retain what he learned.

Give them some space. As adults, we know how some of our best learning experiences come out of mistakes. And while it can be a scary thought, it’s important to remember that this lesson applies to our kids, too. When we swoop in to solve every tricky math equation or spelling worksheet for our children, they never get the chance to figure it out for themselves. Children gain a sense of competence when they overcome a challenge, which makes them more likely to want to do that activity again.

How to Successfully Engage with Your Child’s Classroom

Written by Guest Blogger:  Lisa Montierth

As parents, there’s nothing that we wouldn’t do to help our kids succeed. All week we tow them to and from school, lessons, and clubs, happily trading in our valuable time to help enrich theirs, all without blinking an eye.

So if you knew there was a way to help your child dream bigger, have better self-esteem, and enjoy school more, you’d probably do it in a heartbeat. Luckily, these benefits can easily be achieved – just by getting involved at your child’s school.

Being more involved in the classroom has so many benefits, and not just for your child; parental involvement benefits the whole class, the teachers, the school… it even benefits you!

Research has shown that when parents participate in the classroom, children are more likely to achieve more, get better grades, complete their homework, increase their self-discipline, and have a more positive attitude about school. Parental involvement boosts school morale and teacher satisfaction, leading to improved communication and more respect between teachers and parents. And the benefits extend to parents as well.

Parents gain confidence, become more responsive, and positively interact with their children more when they become involved in the classroom. They are more in tune with their child’s development, and their relationships with their children often become more affectionate, leading to the use of positive reinforcement rather than punishment in the home.

So: Parent engagement in the class leads to happier kids, more satisfied teachers, and better schools. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But it gets a little trickier when you remember that sometimes just finding the time to get dinner on the table every night is a major accomplishment!

The secret to successful and sustainable classroom involvement is being honest about what you can take on. It’s okay to make it easy on yourself. Sign up for things that you will genuinely enjoy, and don’t give in to any nagging doubts about what you “should” be doing at school. The National Parent-Teacher Association says that even three hours of school volunteer work per year can make an impact.

Being realistic about what you can do sets you up for success, and makes the experience much more enjoyable for everyone. Try one of these ways to get involved at school:

– Love reading and books? Offer to be a class reader or volunteer at the school library.

– Are you a secret drama or music star? Assist with an extracurricular club for the arts.

– Did you grow up playing soccer? Help out with a school sports program.

– Have a love of learning? Volunteer to tutor or work in the computer lab.

– Still don’t know have the slightest idea where to start? Just ask! Teachers will likely have plenty of ways that you can help out, from a bit of classroom organization to a big project like planning and attending a field trip. (Don’t forget, LivingTree makes parent/teacher communication a breeze!)

Teacher + Parent: Top 5 Views on Parent Engagement

Parent engagement is a beach?!?

I want a vacation. 

A seemingly simple statement that resonates with most, yet with it comes with a variety of interpretations and definitions. For me it’s a morning in the mountains, breathing the cool air and hearing nothing but nature. Someone else might have meant the sights and sounds of a new and exciting city, or the sand and warm sun on a beautiful beach.

I want parent engagement.

Another simple statement and yet another multitude of paths and meanings.  A year ago, I might have thought that defining and delivering on parent engagement was simpler than it is.  In reality, there are many different perspectives, definitions, and ultimate goals.  Developing a platform aimed at delivering the capabilities to simplify engagement, communication, and coordination has afforded me the opportunity to speak with and listen to thousands of parents and teachers and hear many sides of the parent engagement discussion.  What follows are the top desires I’ve heard from parents and teachers across demographics.  You will see that the overall desire is universal and simple:  I want parent engagement.  Peeling back the meaning, however, shows that engagement may be mountains, beaches, cities, or all depending on who is asked.       

I want parent engagement.

What the parent means:  I want my child to be happy and smart, and I want to help.

1.       I want to know my child is happy.

2.       I want to know my child is keeping up with their peer group.

3.       I want to know what I can do to make the school experience better for my child.

4.       I want to know where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to bring, and have time to do it properly.

5.       I want to be talked to…not at.

What the teacher means:  I want parents to join me in making their children, my class, and our school successful.

1.       I want parents to reinforce what I’ve taught in school.

2.       I want parents to join me in the education process, not question me.

3.       I want parents to trust that their child is learning and happy at school.

4.       I want to spend my time teaching, not coordinating.

5.       I want parent teacher conferences to be part of a continuing conversation…not a stressful, one time check-in.

Despite the differences, what’s most exciting is that parent and teacher end goals are the same: a happy, educated and successful child, which ultimately delivers a successful class and school. 

So, how do we bridge the teacher’s need for continuing education lessons at home, easier parent coordination, and time for teaching with the parental need to know their child is happy and learning? 

I believe technology offers us an option (and I’ve seen it work!).  Today’s technology capabilities give us the opportunity to create a virtual window into the classroom allowing teachers and parents to take the journey together by way of shared photos, messages, assignments, events, etc.  A picture shows us that our child is happy and learning, but even more, it shows what they saw on the field trip or during the science experiment and allows us to ask deeper questions to continue the learning at home.  Quick messages from the teacher about the focus for the week or learnings from the day allows for the same deeper exchange with our children.  These simple photos and messages allow for a deeper conversation at our next parent teacher conference and show me just how much goes into the education of my child each and every day.  Better use of technology allows for the end result of parent engagement to be equally rejuvenating regardless of whether it’s a mountain, city, or beach for the teacher or parent.   

 

 

LivingTree Helps Broaden Parent Engagement at Schools with New Translation Feature

Schools, Teachers and Families Can Now Communicate Without Language Barriers

AUSTIN, TX, August 18, 2013 – LivingTree today announced the continued evolution of its digital platform enabling deeper parent engagement via a new translation feature. Parents, schools, teachers and organizations can now easily communicate in language of parent preference. Over 41 languages are now available on the LivingTree translation system.

“Since our launch 8 weeks ago, over 400 schools have signed up to our platform and committed to parent involvement. We want to ensure there is equal opportunity for parents to have a seat at the window into the classroom and school.” said Cullen Childress, Co-Founder and CEO of LivingTree. “From experience and feedback, we know that children often play the role of translator between teachers and their parents. LivingTree is working to remove that burden with our new translation capability, and enable more robust parent, teacher and school collaboration and coordination in parents’ native language.”

Five decades of research confirms that involvement of families in education improves schools, academic outcomes, and graduation rates. To help deepen parent engagement, LivingTree has launched a cutting-edge web and mobile-based communication platform that provides schools, teachers and parents with a private and efficient means for sharing important information, rich media, documents,  private direct messaging, shared calendars, and integrated volunteer sign-ups. The LivingTree service is available at www.livingtree.com and supports mobile access to all functions through intuitive iPhone and Android applications.

Some of the benefits of LivingTree include:

  • Improves communication:  School administrators, teachers and parents can conduct two-way conversations, post information/media, comment, and share documents in one private and safe place.
  • Encourages engagement:  Provides complete transparency into the classroom through a unique combination of collaboration and media sharing capabilities – facilitating greater parental awareness and partnering in the education process.
  • Enhances coordination:  Parents’ calendars can be updated at the school or class level.  Volunteer and sign-up needs (carnivals, parent/teacher conferences, field trips, etc) can be easily coordinated – straight from the web, iPhone, or Android applications.

“Using the LivingTree platform, our school was able to build a much tighter community and meaningful engagement with our families. It has truly changed our level of transparency with parents and how we converse, share, and coordinate in the context of educating our children,” said Eden A. Jones, Principal at Briargrove Elementary in Houston, TX.

“We have over 27 languages spoken by parents at our school. LivingTree already helps us connect better but this feature is going to mean even deeper collaboration by all parents,” said Lilian Rodriguez, parent at Briargrove Elementary.

Schools administrators can learn more at www.livingtree.com/schools.

Teachers can learn more at www.livingtree.com/teachers.

Family, Inc.

Make technology work for you – instead of letting technology simply make more work!

Family, Inc…  Family, Inc.  What’s that?

No, Family, Inc. isn’t the latest family focused start-up aimed at toppling Disney or Pixar.  It’s also not the pre-quel or sequel for Monsters, Inc. Family, Inc. is one of the latest trends in parenting.

If you’re like me, it’s actually hard to keep up with all of them.  The trends mash with the descriptors:  helicopter parents, mindful parenting. We’re told only tummy sleeping for safety, then no tummy sleeping for safety…swaddling for comfort…No, just kidding, no swaddling……NO SWADDLING?? WHAT???  How do I keep up?  How do I make sure my house is one of harmony, health, and happy memories for all?  It seems like the age of technology has given us so much information and so many trends that we don’t know where to turn.  So, why should I try to understand one more trend?  What is this Family, Inc.?

In a nutshell, Family, Inc. is the trend towards using work tools to manage your family.  The basic premise is that corporations have spent decades of research improving and perfecting group dynamics for optimal output.  Why shouldn’t we, as parents and families, reap the benefits of the findings, methodologies and tools to improve our family’s daily chaos?  There’s a lot of chatter on this topic. This Wall Street Journal article offers a great summary and describes it in these terms: “A new generation of parents is taking solutions from the workplace and transferring them to the home. From accountability checklists to branding sessions, the result is a bold new blueprint for happy families.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323452204578288192043905634.html

A summary so that you don’t have more to read:

Family Inc. = Using the best of the business world to help manage family life (mission statements, team meetings, accountability checklists, tools, etc.).

I have to admit, as a working mom, I like the idea of utilizing what I know works in managing teams.  After all, my family is a team, right?   And a blueprint for a happy family sounds like a huge win.  This said, the last thing I want to use when I’m at home are cold, corporate tools that are often difficult to decipher and quite frankly, painful to use.

Then I read the entire article (and a few more) and told my inner skeptic to park it.  There were really good ideas there.  After all, I want harmony, health, and happiness, right?

It hit me then.  It was time to make technology work for us instead of letting technology simply make more work.  It was time to utilize the “skills” I’d practiced in the workforce to lay the harmonious foundation I so desired for my family.  The next big question was: Where. To. Start.  Yikes.

Family branding, empowerment, etc. sounded fantastic on paper, but how and where were we going to stay aligned on the basic day to day family functions?  Honestly, I couldn’t even dream of branding my family team before I solved some of the coordination stress.  What we needed before the full incorporation of the family was the startup phase…a simple dabbling in staying on the same page and reconnecting.  Was there something simple I could break off first for my very busy family?

Identifying primary causes of family dysfunction and stress resulted in three main buckets for us:

1)      Internal family coordination (who’s running carpool, what’s for dinner, etc.)

2)      External coordination (all those organizations and people that help us raise our kiddos…boy, do they generate a lot of ‘stuff’ for us to deal with)

3)      Capturing and sharing the joy that is our family (oh the stress of being the family historian and realizing a year has passed without organizing ANY precious mementos or memories…I actually feel the stress rising as I admit that).

Given that these were/are our three main areas of chaos, it seemed like it would be simple enough (yeah, right) to pick one and get moving.

First step:  Internal family coordination = Mom and Dad on the same page.  No more schedule mishaps + clearer check-ins BEFORE 9 PM when the kids were finally down for the night…a pulse throughout the day as needed to maintain the family conversation.  Why wait until we’re past the point of weary to share the anecdotes of the day and the things that made us giggle?  Why not share them as they happen, and allow each other to participate in the conversation and moment when we can?

Yes, a lofty goal.  One that used to be forever out of reach and take multiple applications and devices, one that used to result in lost e-mails, forgotten texts, buried photos in a smartphone, dates scattered between paper calendars and multiple online calendar apps, a goal that used to go unrealized.  To truly move forward, it was critical for us to have a tool that could combine all our needs (sharing, remembering, and coordination) in one place that we could utilize either on our laptops or mobiles.

I’m happy to say that we’ve progressed; we’re not perfect, but it’s much better.  We’re now working on sharing those snippets and thoughts that happen throughout the day in addition to sharing a private calendar that either of us can update wherever we are.  We share fun and important moments and photos as they happen, not only with each other, but with our extended families too.  Even more, we’re sharing and scheduling in the context of each of our children so that we can quickly identify what’s happening in each of their lives.  Our conversations are no longer lost in e-mails or split between different accounts or handled in tired voices when the house is finally winding down.  Conversations happen throughout the day as the memories or thoughts occur and are there when we want to look back at them.  All the information we need to realize our step one goal of Mom and Dad on the same page is right there.  We’re aligned (mostly…we are still human!) on expectations and reactions and able to laugh at more of the funny moments family life inevitably delivers.

This is what technology working for me looks like.  I like it.

Chime in with what’s working for you and stay tuned for what step two in the Family, Inc. journey will bring….

Engagement & Fundraising

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