Category Archives: Education

Failing at your own business–Content Writing

ce writerThose antennas are helping some with the stability of the internet. It still goes out randomly. I’ve cut my online teaching hours to the bare minimum. However, if I ever want to get a new moto, I need to earn more money than bare-bones survival income.

In December, I made an effort to find another sort of job. I must have filled out at least a dozen online applications for virtual assistants, bloggers, copywriters, and freelance writers. Finally, at the beginning of February, I heard back from one.

The position was for a content writer. With Google changing up how things are indexed and classified and rated every few months, everyone needs more content on their sites just to get noticed, whether they are bloggers or merchants. So content writing is becoming the in-demand job online.

Even though I passed the initial screening, that didn’t mean I had the job. I was given two articles to write, one was about climate change and the other was about men’s bicycles. I had no problems with the climate change topic even though it was considerably longer than most of my posts at 2500 words.

However, I completely bombed the men’s bicycle article. I had a hard time finding information for bikes in the price range I was supposed to focus on. I had never written a Best of type article before, so my formatting was WAY off. Not to mention, this article was also 2500 words.

In order to turn it in, I needed to have a Grammarly grade of at least 90 percent.  Grammarly is like an online spell/grammar checker. Grammarly decided my writing was only worth 88 percent. Even after going through paragraph by paragraph, I couldn’t improve. I had to use the Grammarly Premium app to find those two unclear antecedents that were holding me up.

So now at 90%, I turned in my article and the boss was flabbergasted, not in a good way, mind you. He said I was totally off. He gave me some suggestions, cleared up what I was supposed to be researching, sent me a sample article and asked if I would do it again. He said that my writing was good and they normally didn’t give second chances, but he thought I could do this. Oh, and could I have it in by Monday morning?

So I worked over the weekend because I really wanted this job. When the internet drops, I can go and do something else for a while, and pick back up with my writing when it decides to work again. So much less stress than dropping connection in the middle of a live class!

I also tried out Hemingway Editor, which I’d heard about but had never used. Hemmingway will tell you what grade level you are writing at based on the complexity and length of your sentences. It will suggest ways you can “dumb-down” your writing since the average reader in the U.S. reads at about a 7th-grade level. Short and clear sentences, in the manner of Hemingway (hence the name), are the key.

Just as I was finishing up my revision, I accidentally deleted the file in Google Docs. That gave me about 10 minutes of pure panicked-induced adrenalin before I figured out how to restore a previous version.  Whew! I lost some information but not the entire article.

After more hours than I could count, I finished the article and sent it back. It was perfect. I got paid for both articles, a prompt Paypal deposit, not like that Canadian lady that still hasn’t paid me. Then I got two more articles.

One was another Best of type article, only this time on hot weather tents. I nailed it the first try! The second one was a review article, which I hadn’t done previously. This was a whopping 3,000 words on a prepared meal delivery program–you know, like Meals-on-wheels. I was confused about whether I was supposed to be reviewing the product or reviewing reviews about the product. My article was rejected.

The third week, he only sent me one article so that I would have time to redo the review article. Since my class schedule was so minimal I had no problem fixing the article and completing the new one, about water toys. There was a bit of a problem with a 4% similarity with another site that reviewed two of the same toys. I was introduced to Copyscape, which will search out any possible plagiarism issues online. Since my boss thought I didn’t mean to “copy” he asked me to reword the descriptions, which took like 5 minutes to do. 

I did so well with that, he sent me the second article, this one about train tables. I finished by Wednesday, averaging one article or rewrite per day.

This job has been wreaking havoc with my self-esteem though. Being rejected is never easy. Having my writing rejected was even worse. My best online buddy Daisy kept up a constant flow of encouragement–reminding me there was a learning curve for any new job and that I was more than capable of doing this one, with a little practice. My husband was supportive in his own way–he said it was good I’m learning new things at my age–whatever that’s supposed to mean!

I’m hoping that next week, I can complete both articles without a problem making me MASTER OF THE WRITING UNIVERSE or some such totally cool person. Meanwhile, since I’m done with those articles, I’m working on that book on Mexican healthcare that’s been taking me so long to finish!

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Digital Learning Day

Did you know that today is Digital Learning Day? With our rapidly changing technology, digital learning has become integrated into our lives even here in Mexico. Digital learning has made higher learning accessible to many who live in rural areas here in Mexico at the secondary, preparatory and even university level.

My son is currently enrolled in UVEG’s preparatory courses for his high school diploma. He’s doing well although Algebra has been giving him problems. He’s 49% through his course of study. He will finish just a little bit before his classmates who are studying in the traditional way and he doesn’t have to get up at 5 am. It works for us!

While the emphasis on technology promoted by the official Digital Learning Day in the classroom is intended for K-12 learning, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of my favorite online courses I’ve enjoyed over the years.

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The Science of Happiness by far takes the cake. It’s free. It’s just like being in a classroom with assignments and stuff. And I learned a LOT. You can read my review here.

A Life of Happiness and Fulfilment with Dr. Raj was entertaining but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Science of Happiness. Dr. Raj is quite a character and definitely adds to the fun aspect of this course.

I also took Oregon State University’s free course Intro to Permaculture. Even as an intro course, I think it was a little beyond me, but I did learn oodles of information about permaculture. Getting my husband to implement these “new” ideas hasn’t happened completely yet, but we are getting there.  You can read my review here.

Another class I enjoyed was The Challenges of Global Poverty at Class Central. Although most of the research was based on data collected in India, I found poverty in Mexico to be very similar. Here’s my review.
Herbalism Courses for all levelsHerbal Academy’s courses are wonderful! I’ve taken several courses which have expanded my understanding of herbs considerably.

Botany and Wildcrafting Course

Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course

The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course

And the one that started it all, the Herbal Medica Course.

I haven’t had the same quality of classes at Udemy, but then maybe I’ve just been taking different sorts of classes, practical rather than life learning in nature.

I’ve taken and completed 30 Day Blog Transformation Challenge and shared the helpful information with my SOTB Bloggers Group so that we all can improve. I’ve begun but not finished, Lifestyle Upgrades for Busy Adults, maybe because I’m too busy. I’m currently enrolled in Linked in Basics for FreelancersMarketing on Linkedin, and Pinterest Marketing. Social media still baffles me. I’m hoping to make some headway on understanding how these platforms work with these classes.

Of course, I have my own digital learning course to offer.course cover square Surviving Voluntary Exile: Overcoming Common Obstacles to Making a Successful Life Transition is available at Coursecraft. You can enroll today for 25% less in honor of Digital Learning Day here.

So that’s my contribution to Digital Learning Day #DLDay because you are never too old to learn something new!

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Surviving Voluntary Exile: Overcoming Common Obstacles to Making a Successful Life Transition Online Course

If you’ve followed my blog for a time, you’ll likely already know that I have made it my mission to provide practical information and support to those, especially women, who have moved to Mexico, particularly rural Mexico.

I love my life in rural Mexico. However, that has not always been true. When I first arrived, the lack of basic services like water, sewage and electricity caused my daily activities to be physically (not to mention mentally) exhausting. I was often depressed. It took me years to find my happy space. Looking back, I can pinpoint several life-changing moments that propelled me to create the life I have now. This process is what I want to share with others who are struggling with life in Mexico.

To that end, I’ve created an online course via CourseCraft that I hope will provide support and guidance for those that most need it. This course is entitled: Surviving Voluntary Exile: Overcoming Common Obstacles to Making a Successful Life Transition and is designed to not only identify common reasons why you might not be living to the fullest in your new country but also what you can do to reduce, if not eliminate these obstacles to happiness.

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Since I know that finances are a concern for many who have moved to Mexico, (the pesos is extremely low right now) I have priced this course at $9.99 USD during the month of January making it the perfect time for you to enroll. I know, I know! I’ll never make any money that way! That’s ok. It will all work out somehow!

So if you are having a hard time adjusting to life in Mexico, or know someone who is, check out  Surviving Voluntary Exile: Overcoming Common Obstacles to Making a Successful Life Transition.

Why not make 2019 your best year in Mexico yet?

enroll now

 

Here’s what participants are saying:

So much of the information out there on moving to another country is either focused on those moving for work or for retirement and only focuses on nitty-gritty details. What about if you are moving for another reason, or if you have the life details ironed out but want to prepare for the emotional rollercoaster that is sure to follow? This course is different; it is really about the internal changes we experience and how we help ourselves not be overwhelmed by our feelings. I found it very helpful in conceptualizing how we can change our reactions to events and therefore increase our happiness. Not only that, but many of the techniques or info can be applied to other areas of our lives!

— Florence P.

I really enjoyed the Surviving Voluntary Exile course. I really feel that it has excellent information for anyone overcoming obstacles in their life ( aren’t we all?!). The course designer has used her experience to make the path for other women to be easier and to have some idea of the challenges they will be facing. She approaches the lessons with positivity and humor. She really has an excellent perspective on this topic. It leaves you feeling like you can overcome the obstacles that lie ahead, and her positive attitude becomes contagious. There are assignments each week that are uplifting and not burdening. It’s information that you can come back to again and again to help you be successful.

— Erica D.

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The cost of schooling in Mexico

It goes without saying that private schools are more expensive than public schools in Mexico. However, that doesn’t mean that public education is free.

Enrolling

Private schools require a downpayment called inscripción ( enrollment) at the beginning of the school year. It’s usually the equivalent of a month’s school fee. This holds your child’s place at the school. Should you decide not to have your child attend, you won’t get the inscripción fee returned.

Public schools require un cooperación voluntaria (voluntary donation) which can be as much as $500 pesos. Don’t be mislead by the name. It is not voluntary. You will not be able to enroll your child if you don’t have the bank statement showing you made the donation.

School fees

Private schools require a colegiatura (school fee) every month for 12 months. At schools that charge only 10 or 11 months of fees, the initial enrollment fee is doubled. The school sets this fee and the upper limit can be quite high. Schools in our area typically charge upwards of $2,000 per month. Schools in urban areas can have a colegiatura of more than $4,000 pesos.  

If you have more than one child enrolled in the same school, the school may give a discount to the second child. If you are a teacher at the school, you may also receive a discount. Each school is required to provide a certain number of becas (scholarships). It pays to inquire about those as well.

Public schools do not require a monthly payment. However, there may be additional fees for talleres (workshops) or elective courses. Public schools also give out becas. Our son had a becas of $400 pesos each semester for two years. It really helped out!

Uniforms

Both private and public schools require the purchase of at least 2 different uniforms. The uniforme diario consists of slacks, shirt, vest or sweater with school insignia for boys and a skirt or jumper, blouse, and sweater or vest with school insignia for girls. Both boys and girls must have appropriate dress shoes. Girls must wear medias (long socks) rather than mallas (stockings) unless there is extremely cold weather. The uniforme deportivo is the same for boys and girls, sweatpants, polo shirt and jacket with school insignia. These are only to be worn on days when the class is scheduled for P.E.

Uniforms can be pricey. Unless you plan on washing every evening, you’ll need to buy at least 2 complete uniforms at the beginning of the school year. Private schools often have the uniforms available for purchase at the school itself. Public school uniforms are bought where school uniforms are sold. You’ll be told at enrollment where to go to purchase them.

School uniform inspection is a daily event in some schools. Wearing a dirty or improper uniform may result in your child not being admitted to the school or sent home early. Make sure to bordar (embroider) your child’s name on the uniform or at the very least write his or her name on the tag. Sweaters and jackets are often lost and reclaimed by new owners without this identifying mark. There are places that offer embroidery service. Look for signs that say “se bordan nombres.”

Books

While both private and public schools are required to follow the SEP mandated curriculum, private schools add more books to the roster. It’s rare that the public schools use any books other than the free national textbooks, although not unheard of. In that case, there is a fee for any extra books. Private schools can have book lists of more than $3000 pesos. The English book set that I used as a teacher at the last private school I worked at cost $800 for a student book, workbook, and supplemental book.

Books must be paid for at the beginning of the school year. They are usually available at the school, however occasionally the school didn’t receive all the books and you’ll need to hunt them down at the libraría. With the other school fees, sometimes parents wait to purchase the books. However, the teacher typically starts using the textbooks on the second day of classes and the child without a book will quickly fall behind.

All books are paperback and must be covered in clear plastic contact paper. This process is called forrar and let me tell you, it’s anything but fun. Make sure to write your child’s name on the front cover of the book before you forrar. There are enterprising ladies who offer this service during the months of August and September. Look for signs that say “se forran libros.” Otherwise, you might want to watch this video a few times before tackling the task.

School supplies

Public preschool list

When you enroll your child, ask for the lista de útiles escolares (school supply list). This is the list of notebooks, required number of pencils, and additional material your child will need for class. It will also include things like a document folder, a ream of copy paper, whiteboard markers or chalk, manila folders, pens and other items that are for the teacher. Each school will have a different list of required items. Private schools require more items than public schools. Make sure all notebooks, dictionaries, and pencils have your child’s name on them although that still doesn’t prevent loss or theft entirely.

Public elementary school list

Notebooks are specifically described, so make sure you get both the right type and color. There’s a lot to choose from and it can be overwhelming.

Head to the papelería with your list. It’s easiest to just hand the whole list to the person behind the counter and buy everything at the same place. Many papelerías offer discounts if you get everything from their store.

The papelería will become your home away from home during the school year. Homework assignments will require all sorts of printed worksheets, maps, poster board, paint, styrofoam balls and more. When in doubt of exactly what your child needs, just ask the person working there.

Lunches

Not too long ago, SEP mandated that parents would no longer be permitted to drop off lunch for their children at the lunchtime. That hasn’t entirely prevented mothers and grandmothers from lurking at the gate and tossing a bagged lunch over the wall to their little ones.

Otherwise, you can send a packed lunch with your child in the morning or give them money to buy food available for sale. Most lunches cost about $20 or so. Keep in mind that there is ALWAYS a huge line. Lunch and recess together are no longer than 30 minutes. So if your child is waiting in line 10 minutes, then eating for another 10, he or she may only have 10 minutes for recreational activities.

Events

School events can be expensive. Schools almost always have events to commemorate Independence Day, Day of the Dead, Revolution Day, Christmas, Children’s Day, Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Day, and Father’s Day. The cost associated with these events varies from school to school with public schools requesting fewer donaciones (donations) than private schools. Depending on the event, you may be required to buy a special outfit for your darling child to perform at school or march in a parade, donate food items for a school-wide kermes (fundraiser) or alter, or participate/attend certain events yourself.

Field trips are rare at public schools but expect at least one trip during the school year with private schools. Transportation, food, lodging, entrance fees, and souvenirs are things you should be prepared to pay for.

Cleaning

Public schools have a required cleaning fund and cleaning rotation. You or your child will be expected to stay after school for a week every few months (depending on the number of students) and clean the classroom, public areas, and bathrooms. This is called aseo (cleaning). Yep. At the beginning of the year, the materials list will include a certain number of rolls of toilet paper and a quantity of cleaning supplies. Private schools typically hire a cleaning person for this function, although they may still require toilet paper or tissue donations.

Graduation

Every level of education has a graduation ceremony which requires a special outfit, certain fees and a mandatory event with optional misa (mass). Fortunately, here you can parcel the expenses out to a variety of madrinas/padrinos (godparents). Just keep in mind that if you are asked to be a madrina/padrino of a graduation, you’ll be expected to pay for a section of these expenses.

And that’s what to expect when your child attends school in Mexico.

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