An Update On Our Progress

New Host, New Goals

Spring is almost here, and change is underway indoors and out! Our website’s migration process from the old host to the new is complete. A self-hosted site opens a world of interesting possibilities.

Our website shouldn’t look any different to our followers than before. However, if you do encounter any broken links or irregularities, please report them to us via email. You may also leave a comment on an individual post or page.

Current email subscribers will continue to receive notifications of new posts. Nothing more needs doing in that regard. Our fellow bloggers who follow us on WordPress.com will see our new posts in their WP Readers. Click on the “Follow On WordPress” button to once again receive email notifications when our new posts hit your Readers.

From the start, we have had both short-term and long-term goals for the NGCHE website. We just met one of our long-term goals by self hosting. When it comes to our short-term plans, sometimes we find ourselves responding to needs and circumstances that we had not necessarily anticipated. Such is the case at this point.

The Importance of Email

A common complaint among those who market themselves on social media is the unreliability of today’s platforms. Often algorithms change, with no explanation as to why. Organizations like NGCHE are at the whim of these algorithms when it comes to our content appearing in our followers’ feeds. Many of you just don’t see our posts. The general consensus is that email is the only reliable way to reach people in a timely manner.

At NGCHE we write and share a variety of articles. Some of our content is evergreen, such as our “Dark Side” series and PayPal® article. Other information is time sensitive. We don’t want to receive any more messages like this comment from one of our followers: “Wish we could have gone on that field trip. Saw it too late.”

Visitors to our sight will soon be asked if they’d like to sign up with us via email. The purpose is not to sell, share, or use your information for personal gain. We simply want to communicate with our families as quickly as possible. We can no longer do that by relying strictly on Facebook®, Pinterest®, and the like.

More to Come

Quite a lot has been happening behind the scenes at NGCHE this past couple of weeks. We love to share potential opportunities with homeschool families; but, we have learned the hard way not to count our chickens before they hatch.  Sometimes even sure things don’t work out.

We do have several substantial opportunities to present in the coming weeks. We are never offended if you say, “No thank you. That does’t work for us.” What we don’t want to happen is for a family to miss out on something important to them simply because they didn’t hear of it in time.

And, truth be told, the writer over here at NGCHE headquarters is thrilled with the possibility of generating a regular newsletter. So… What’s keeping you busy this spring?

© 2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Six Times to Action – A Post About Human Nature

Six Times to Action - Human Nature

Recently I took a short online training course that equipped me to present a homeschooling seminar. For the sake of the seminar and NGCHE, I am keen to learn anything legitimate to help with marketing. (Okay… I’m a bit of a nerd. I must be learning something new or I get bored. But don’t tell anyone.)

As soon as I heard the following little nugget of wisdom, my ears perked right up.


Research indicates that the average person must be shown something SIX times before he or she acts on it.


I gave this serious consideration. I thought about what I see regularly that requires action of some sort. I’m not much of a shopper, and would like to think (probably erroneously so) that I am not easily swayed by advertising for “stuff.” What might interest me enough to act upon it? A field trip! But certainly it doesn’t take a smart girl like me six times to make up my mind?!

Deciding to test out this newly learned rule of thumb, I thought about how I typically respond to a field trip. We’ll use a fictional field trip to our state capital as an example.

1. Let’s say I’m scrolling through Facebook and come across the state capital field trip posted by a friendly homeschool group. What do I do? Probably mull it over for a second or two and keep going.

The event interests me, but I have this irresistible urge to ingest all of my Facebook news feed before I can make any decisions about my future. I reach the end of my feed or attention span, whichever comes first. But now I have a bit of a problem. Since I was only casually browsing, I didn’t bother to record any of the interesting things I saw to act upon them later.

2. Tomorrow rolls around. I scroll through Facebook for more casual fun. But there’s a nagging feeling that I was supposed to remember to do something. It must have been something buried in yesterday’s info. Do I bypass today’s juicy news and go straight to yesterday? Heavens, no! I might miss something! Thirty minutes later I finally reach the 24-hours-ago mark and wade through the information I’ve seen already. There is it! But by now something or someone needs my undivided attention. A field trip will have to wait.

3. Days three, four, and five pass with no action from me on the trip. Why? Well, life. Still that gnawing feeling is reminding me I was supposed to look something up. What was it? The state capital trip! That’s it. Who posted the darned thing? Sigh.

I make it a point to visit each of my favorite homeschool group’s pages. Clicking… Clicking… Clicking… and find it in the third place I look. Here we are at day six and I’m just now reading the description. It’s out of town, could require me to juggle my schedule for the week, and might cost a few bucks. On the back “MAYBE” burner it goes. Before I leave, I do myself a favor and mark “Interested” in the event.

4. Days seven and eight go by. Day nine in Facebook land and I notice that a friend has also marked “Interested” in the state capital trip. Hmmm… Someone there we’d know. The event is on my radar again. I mull it over and decide to message the friend to see if they’re really “Interested” in going.

5. Day 10 arrives and the friend may or may not go. “Interested” for her translated into a distant “plan C” in case everything else fell through. But by now I’ve almost talked myself into going. I check the calendar for that week. Nothing on that particular day to which we’re already committed. What to do? What to do? Off to something else I go while I think it over one last time.

6. If I see it again in my feed, a friend’s or mentioned in some other way, I’ll be ready to track down the host to pay. If not…

It’s at this point that I am on the verge of making a decision about the event. If the host is not an aggressive marketer and only mentions their events once or twice, odds are it will fall off my radar and I’ll never consider it again. But if the group understands the importance of repetition, there’s a strong chance the next mention of the field trip will be the tipping point at which I take action.

And there it is. A real life example from someone who considers herself to be serious and thoughtful when it comes to events. Not marking “Interested” unless I really am. Showing up when I say I will. Put yourself in my shoes and consider any event that might pop up in your social circles: a party, church function (sorry Pastors), fundraiser, etc. Odds are it takes you multiple exposures to act on the event.

The conclusion I drew from this led me to believe the Six-Times-to-Action rule is accurate. It explains why people with a product, group, or idea to sell always seem to be talking about it. It explains why you didn’t get as many responses to your Valentine’s Day party as you thought you would. It’s not that nobody saw it at all. It’s just that the average person takes awhile to process it enough to act on it. And you didn’t want to be obnoxious.

Trying to remember something? Tack it up in multiple places. Teaching your kids a new concept? Review, review, review. Marketing a new idea? Post it. Share it. Talk about it. But don’t give up! If someone asks you why you’re always bringing something up, you can reply in all truth, “It’s just human nature.” They don’t have to know it’s their nature you’re talking about.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl; but, whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Original photo by Haeruman, Pixabay.

© 2018 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Whitelists and Why You Should Use One

Whitelist our domain

Original photo by Dan Gold, Pixabay

You’ve done all your research on a particular topic of interest. Might be homeschooling, gardening, a social issue important to you, or underwater basket weaving. You’ve found just the right Facebook pages, blogs, and websites to follow, confident you’ll stay well informed and in the loop.

Everywhere you look you are encouraged to sign up for email notifications. Owners of Facebook pages mention something you don’t quite understand about ever-changing algorithms and followers not seeing their latest posts. Web articles contain convenient little “Sign up” buttons. So you give email notifications a try… and spend the next week digging those emails out of your spam folder. So much for being a subscriber!

Security measures employed by email providers can be pretty tough. Spam, spoofing, and phishing are constant concerns. Sometimes our email providers can be a bit too diligent in protecting us from harm.

No matter how often you mark email from a particular sender as “Safe” or “Not Spam,” it never seems to make a difference. Into the “Junk” folder goes their next email. And the one after that. And the one after that. That’s because the “Safe” or “Not Spam” option applies only to that particular piece of mail. What’s a follower to do? Use the whitelist option in your email program or app.

A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist. While emails from entities on your blacklist or “Blocked Senders” list will never bother you again, emails from those on your whitelist or “Approved Senders” will always go straight to your Inbox. With just a few steps, you can add your favorite organizations to your whitelist so your “Junk” folder doesn’t swallow anything else it shouldn’t.

Benchmark has a great post with links to whitelisting procedures for most email providers and security programs. If yours isn’t featured, try searching the “Help” page of your program or app for directions. If you are a website owner, you can also find tips on the Benchmark site to encourage your readers to whitelist your emails.

Adding your favorite organizations to your whitelist will make the job of managing your emails more efficient. You will no longer have to go over your “Junk” folder with a fine-toothed comb. And, as an added bonus, you won’t miss out on the latest techniques in underwater basket weaving.

© 2017 Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Engaging the Community Through Accurate Information

Engaging Through Information

Original photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

One of NGCHE’s primary goals is to foster positive relationships between homeschoolers and our local communities. We encourage homeschool families to reach out and engage with others in meaningful ways. Sharing information is often a wonderful first step in developing long-term relationships not only with individuals but community organizations as well.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a website featuring a series of articles on homeschool laws. Each article was written by an author who had lived and homeschooled in the state about which she was writing. I’m not sure what made me stop and read the entry on Alabama. Maybe it was a bit of nostalgia.

I thought back almost 15 years ago to the time when I was on the internet eagerly researching homeschooling and how important accurate information was to our family. We knew maybe two homeschoolers back then, but not very well. All that we could tell you about homeschooling at that point would fit on a postage stamp, and a small one at that.

Back to the present day… The aforementioned article pertaining to homeschooling in Alabama was published in late October 2017. It was written by a mom who had left the state in 2013. Tutors and cover schools (aka church schools or “coverings”) were the only legal homeschool options she gave as those were the only available at the time she left the state. The article made no mention of our third choice.

The owner of the website meant well by publishing a series of posts featuring homeschool law in all fifty states. Though done with good intentions, that’s a grand plan. The content had not been vetted for Alabama, and the article gave out incomplete information.

In 2014 the State of Alabama declared that a private school could be established by any legal entity, not just a church. This included parents. Families who wished to homeschool their children could declare their home to be a private school, register with the Board of Education, and begin teaching their children without enrolling in a cover or hiring a tutor. The BOE has since stopped accepting private school registrations from homeschool families. At this time, it appears to be unnecessary to register with the state BOE to homeschool using the “private school” option.

Long-time residents of Alabama have come to associate homeschoolers with coverings. Despite the fact that the law changed over three years ago, many people in the general public still don’t know that coverings have become an option. This includes a significant number of the local professionals with whom I’ve made field trip reservations or group enrollments.

At first I was a tiny bit surprised that word of the change hadn’t spread much outside the homeschool community. But I quickly came to see this lack of knowledge as opportunity to open dialogue about homeschooling. NGCHE volunteers have been delighted to advise directors, education curators, and even a state coordinator on how to adjust sign-ups and enrollment procedures so that those without coverings are not excluded or inconvenienced.

What are the morals of this story?

For those considering homeschooling: Don’t take for granted that every bit of information you find on homeschooling law is current. Always check trusted, reliable sources. HSLDA is our go-to for issues pertaining to the law.

For veteran homeschoolers: Take each opportunity you are given to pass on accurate information to those interested in learning about homeschooling. Reach out to others. Be relational. Be gracious. A knowledgeable, well-behaved family who receives people with kindness and consideration makes the very best ambassadors.

© 2017 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

Debugging Graphics Problems

girl-1064659_1920

Facebook can be downright twitchy when it comes to graphics.

Ever run across an article online with a photo so eye catching you can’t wait to share it? You search for the obligatory Facebook icon or “Share” button and click with great expectations.

Congratulations! You’ve shared a link consisting of a boring article summary surrounded by a white box inside a thin black frame. Boo! Or perhaps you got extra lucky and your link contains a picture that has nothing whatsoever to do with the article at all. Frustration! Your friends just wasted 10 important seconds of their lives and are feeling a bit misled.

What’s going on here? Where did that lovely picture go!?

The missing graphics issue plagues WordPress blogs quite frequently. There can be multiple causes for the disappointing result, most of them related to the size of the photos themselves. The solution is the Facebook Sharing Debugger, a tool used by developers to troubleshoot graphics problems.

I’m not a developer, and have no idea how to deal with graphics snafus. No worries! You don’t need special skills to work around your issue.

  1. Copy the URL of the article you want to share and head over to the debugger.
  2. Paste the URL into the debugger box and click Debug. Up pops a bunch of mumbo jumbo. What now?
  3. Return to your Facebook page and delete or cancel the previous share that wasn’t working out.
  4. Go through the share process again and you should get the link complete with the picture you want.
  5. Click Post and pat yourself on the back.

Will this work in every single case? Unfortunately, no.

How do I know when it is and isn’t going to work? Look at the results on the developer page after clicking Debug. If there is a graphic that Facebook can successfully use, it will appear on that page. If all you see is that boring white box, there is no workaround. The errors themselves must be fixed on the website containing the article.

If your share is falling short of your expectations, try the Facebook Sharing Debugger. It may just help you pull up exactly what you’re hoping for. You’ll avoid sharing white space, and your friends won’t want their 10 seconds back.

Original image courtesy Concord90, Pixabay

© 2017 Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators

An Open Letter to Free 2 Homeschool Members

cropped-ngche-banner-collage1.jpgGood evening, everyone. In a post in our private facebook group earlier this school year, I promised to be working on field trips and other activities. Most of these have been geared towards older students (middle & high) since I have a senior in my house this year. But I promise to incorporate more activities that can include the younger kids as well. I am not going anywhere after this year is over. I am planning on sticking around as long as God is willing.

Two field trips are set in stone right now. Two more are in the works. I am also working with the Mobile County DA’s office on a Bully Blocker/Best Internet Practices Seminar for homeschoolers. It looks like that will take place in November. I have leads on four community service projects. Once we get the items collected for Hurricane Harvey relief sorted and delivered to TX, I’ll be in a better position to coordinate those new projects. And last but not least is our Mobile/Baldwin community graduation ceremony for the spring of 2018.

After putting in all that work, the last thing I want to have is difficulty getting the word out. Unfortunately, facebook made things very difficult a year or so ago when they changed the rules pertaining to groups and events. Back in the “good old days” before the change, an admin or member could create a private event for the group and be assured that all the group members received an invite. That is no longer the case. Now the only people in the group who receive an invitation are the event creator’s facebook friends. Any group members who aren’t “friends” with the creator of the event don’t get an invite, even if they are in the same group together. Ridiculous.

This isn’t much of a bother for admins of small groups, or with people who don’t mind having 6,892 facebook friends. Neither of those is the case here. Our group is not small, and as much as I’d love to get to know every single one of you, I’d prefer to do it in person! Adding 600+ new facebook friends is not going to work out for any of us. Even if I wanted my feed to get that busy, (which I don’t… no offense), facebook’s algorithms would probably put a stop to it pretty quickly.

Putting information up in posts is a challenge as well. Admins can choose one post to pin. But any others that might also be important or time sensitive, like field trip announcements, get buried by all the other posts that come up afterward. An active, vibrant group where people share information and hold discussions is a wonderful thing. That’s what every admin wants for their group. But on the other hand, it is disheartening to put in a lot of time and work on something only to have it A) go nowhere because the invites are so limited; B) buried within the group by other posts, awesome though they may be; and C) not easily shared outside the group.

To that end, I have resurrected an old mothballed homeschool blog I started a few years ago and retooled it into Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators. I hope that the blog format will be more conducive to organizing and sharing information. My intentions are to upgrade the blog from free to a paid, self-hosted blog in the very near future. That will allow us all to share info with just a click of a button. Until then, we’ll have to copy and paste URL’s into posts, messages, or texts if we want to share. So bear with me over the next few weeks and months as we get things tweaked to work as best as possible. In the meantime, feel free to look around, comment on posts, and share what you find with friends.

Heather

© 2017 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators