A few posts back Kaze memorialized his high school English teacher, Miss Casey, the archetypal one we all wish we had, the teacher who returned a paper and asked him, “Would T.S. Eliot have written this line?” Well, if Miss Casey had married and decided to stay at home with her three kids under age six, I suspect she’d have become teachmama.
Teachmama is a once and probably future high school English teacher and reading specialist. Her actual name is Amy and she’s the mother of Maddy (6), Owen (4), and Cora (2), who often appear in starring roles on her teachmama blog. Amy blogs what is clearly her vocation – teaching kids literacy through everyday fun activities like baking cookies, writing Christmas lists, or building snowmen. I’ve always felt ninth-grade English teachers are the pickets on the front lines of civilization, but teachmama takes this process to an age group I did not imagine was civilizable.
Like SomethingGirl, teachmama has a distinctive voice, though it’s less flamboyant than Natasha’s. Her tone is upbeat, a see-it’s-not-so-hard-you-too-can-do-it form of encouragement for harried moms everywhere. Useful tips are her métier, Frugal Family Fun and Quick Tricks among the blog’s staples.
And there are many photos of kids engaged in activities, though for safety reasons very few faces shown. You see a lot of close-ups of hands on this blog. In sum, the teachmama blog feels like a combination support group for mothers with small children and an online educational magazine for parents (a pretty professional one at that).
Also like SomethingGirl, teachmama is a born storyteller, though this impulse gets a bit submerged in the welter of useful tips. Check out the saga of Maddy’s sixth birthday and the matinee movie party in which the mini-revelers see The Princess and the Frog. It all begins with detailed instructions on just how to make trompe l’oeil princess and frog cupcakes and proceeds eventually to this mini-movie review:
“Finally – a strong-willed, determined, intelligent, kind, and hard-working Disney princess-role model who isn’t sitting around waiting for her prince to save the day. Sure, we weren’t lovin’ the scary Shadow Guy, the crazy voodoo stuff, or losing that silly lightning bug, but overall, I’d say the movie was a hit for our tiny group of kindergartners and moms. (And I really think I saw some of the moms jammin’ in their seats and drying tears from their eyes at the end, too!).”
There’s also the Mama Shop with an Amazon online shopping cart where you can buy recommended books for your second-grader and much more. Teachmama is not shy about commerce. The FCC recently required bloggers to reveal when they’re getting paid by makers of products they review or endorse, and the national news media stirred this into a controversy for about a month this past fall. There were Newsweek’s “Are Mommy Bloggers Corporate Sellouts?” and Advertising Age’s “Inside the Mommy Blogger Business.” News flash: moms like money too. Kaze and I are shocked, deeply shocked. For the record, teachmama is about as thorough and upfront is you can be about product endorsement. Here’s her disclosure policy:
“This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising and products for review, but my opinions on products are always my own; if I like a product, I’ll say I do, and if I don’t I’ll tell you why.
”I abide by word of mouth marketing standards. I believe in honesty of relationship, opinion and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space, or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.
“Occasionally, I am compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though I may receive compensation for my posts or advertisements, I will always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.”
(By the way, no need to worry about the integrity of Kaze and me – nobody pays us any blog money. We suspect the publishing industry, in fact, doesn’t know we exist.)
Teachmama kindly agreed to answer some questions for us about her blog and how she got here:
Why start a blog?
I started teachmama.com for a selfish reason – I was tired of sounding like a broken record with my friends who kept calling and asking for suggestions as to what they could do – or should do – with their children in order to set them up for early literacy and math success. I wanted to share the knowledge I had from my training as a Reading Specialist and the simple activities I was doing with my own children with my friends who also had young children. I knew that to set the pathway for a lifestyle of learning, my friends had to begin early, and for just a few minutes a day, they could give their children a head start by using the materials that they already had around the house.
< em>“Teachmama” – where’d you get the name?
I came up with “teachmama” because I wanted my site name to be my name, if that makes sense. Initially, I didn’t have my name on the site at all. I wasn’t sure how things would go; I didn’t want to jeopardize the safety of my family or children. On everything – my profile, my contact, everything – I was referred to as “teachmama.” I also wanted to make sure that I entered into the “mommy blogger”’ niche but with a teaching edge.
Are you OK with the term “mom blogger”?
I am a “mom blogger,” and I’m proud to be one. If you’ve done any reading or research, you’ll find there are about a gazillion varieties of “mom bloggers,” and I’m a part of a small – but growing – niche: education. There are homeschooling mom bloggers; ranting, raving mom bloggers; spiritual mom bloggers; giveaway mom bloggers; product review mom bloggers; insightful mom bloggers; travel mom bloggers; foodie mom bloggers; parenting mom bloggers; techie mom bloggers; hysterical mom bloggers; totally and completely offensive mom bloggers; crafty mom bloggers; mixed-bag mom bloggers. And within each (and there are more types, obviously….) there’s the continuum of really, really awesome and really, really not-as-awesome.
I’m really just happy to be out there, to be providing other moms – and teachers – some ideas, and to have a strong, loyal, and growing readership. Honestly, if it weren’t for ‘mom bloggers’ I’d have my three best friends from elementary school and my family members reading teachmama, and that’s about it. Mom bloggers are online, they’re using Twitter and Facebook, and they’re reading blogs. God bless ‘em - I mean, us.
What keeps you going, doing the time-consuming work of blogging?
Feedback from friends and readers is huge, and really, that’s what keeps me going, but it’s also kind of a “virtual scrapbook” of the last year with my children, too, so I always justify putting “blog time” in that way, too. Even though I don’t use pictures (maybe only one or two) of my children’s faces, their artwork, their hands, the clothes they’re wearing in the pictures, and the activities we did together bring back such great memories.
Also – because I share documents online (the games, activities, and manipulatives we use) – I can see how many downloads a document has had, and that’s encouraging, too. Maybe one post has had zero comments, but when I check the downloads and there are over 200, I know I’m helping some people out there.
Do you have ambitions for the blog, even fantasy ambitions?
Hmmmm. My dream, dream of dreams would be that I’d get a paid gig out of this whole thing – possibly doing the learning through play column somewhere for a magazine or online something, then – of course – a book deal, then a movie. Honestly, I’d like to be on Oprah before she calls it quits. That’s my dream – Oprah. I’d like to fly to Chicago, be on the Oprah show, then get a writing gig, then the book deal, then a movie. And I’d really love to spit out a few children’s books on the way.
Thank you, teachmama. You’ve got a way with metaphor, and as you’ve pointed out, there are many more varieties of mom blogger in this heaven and earth than I ever dreamt of when I began this series. I also stand in awe of your ability to get photo captions into Blogger and the average of 19.4 posts per month (each its own little feature story) you’ve managed to publish so far this year.