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Bess began working with Microsoft SharePoint in 2003 and has worked with every version since, including 2016 and Office 365.  She enjoys leveraging her business analyst skills to assist organizations in getting the most out of their Microsoft investment.

During her Information Technology journey, Bess discovered the joys of improvisation.  She has traveled the country to study improv, including the top three schools in Chicago – The Second City, iO, and The Annoyance.  She performs locally with Dinner Detective and is the director of Indy Improv Collaborative, an improv troupe nominated for Nuvo’s Best of Indy in 2017.

Bess combines her improv skills with her 20 years of corporate experience in Information Technology, allowing her to specialize in collaborative solutions.  She is the owner of Collaborative Ventures, LLC.

Bess lives in Indianapolis, IN where she is raising her three children.

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School Spirit: Home School Style

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When we're early in the home school journey, it's easy to feel timid about the path.  Let's face it, parenting is filled with an ample amount of doubt and second guessing.  One of the focuses I've had this year has little to do with academics.  I am attempting to define a strong sense of our home school's identity.  I not only want to make the experience feel legitimate for myself but I want my children to understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves in regards to education.  Essentially, I want to celebrate the spirit of our home school.

What's in a Name
I gave our home school its formal name two years ago.  I was surprised at how it changed my thinking.  The moment it had a name it had an identity and a life of its own.  I also found that it gave me a healthier sense of separation.  Before, I WAS school.  Now I'm a teacher at The Cornerstone Academy.

Once you have a name, use it!  We now the name on our classroom door.  If you do not have a dedicated space, you could always use a freestanding table sign.  I also use our school name on various classroom materials that I make such as binders.  It also comes in handy when you don't want to have the school discussion with a stranger.  "My children attend The Cornerstone Academy.  It's a private school that integrates the principles of Maria Montessori with classical education.  We love the low student to teacher ratio and how closely they school's values match ours."  :-)

Teacher and Student IDs
Teacher and students IDs aren't just fun, they are actually quite useful.  There are a number of business that give discounts to home educators.  Student IDs will also allow your children to take advantage of the multiple students discount opportunities available in your community.  If you need some help created these, the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op offers the ability to design and print one for free.

Fun with Branding
Once you have a name, you can easily create a host of themed products such as shirts, pencils or even coffee mugs and tote bags.  It's fun to take pride in our home school.

Traditions Begin With You
If you were instructed in a more traditional manner, as I was, then I'm sure you remember some of the basic traditions that meant so much to you.  Pizza day in the cafeteria was one such highlight for me.  I also remember the annual fire safety convocation and the Christmas program.  There's no reason you can't start your own memory-making traditions.  I'm planning an annual safety week as I speak, not that traditions have to be elaborate.  Children will be thrilled to discover that every Tuesday is chocolate milk for lunch day.

School Spirit Week
If you really want to go for the gusto, why not hold a school spirit week?  Don't leave the crazy hair, pj wearing fun to everyone else.  Ok, pj day might be the norm around here but there are many other options.  In fact, there is an International Homeschool Spirit Week that occurs each year and it's right around the corner.  They have a list of planned activities that you can follow along with.

Spread the News
Don't keep all the fun about your homeschool to yourself.  I encourage you to share your adventures with your family and friends.  Blogging is an easy way document the school experience.  Services like Blogger give you the ability to only publish your blog to individuals you invite so it doesn't have to be a public experience.  Once my kids are older, I'll get them involved too.  I fully intend to help them start a monthly school newsletter to send to family.  I find that the more I talk about what I'm doing with those around me, the more confident I feel.  I have also found that it helps my more skeptical family and friends find more legitimacy in what we're doing.

Create A School Yearbook
Sites like Total Yearbooks and Picaboo allow you to create a yearbook online and do not require a minimum purchase.  Not only that but pricing is very reasonable.  If you're like me, you probably have a host of pictures from your activities that never see the light of day.  I plan to make one at the end of this school year and order three copies.  I want Elora and William to have one they can take with them one of these days and of course, I want one for myself.

And don't forget... I'm still attempting to build a community of Montessori inspirited homeschoolers.  You can find us on Facebook here.
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