Coding, Creativity and Raising Awesome Kids: One Parent's Perspective
Every day the Jewelbots team is amazed by all of the smart, hard working, and creative kids we have coding and playing with Jewelbots. We often think to ourselves, how did these kids get so great? And personally, as a parent, I hope my daughter grows up to be a confidant and curious as the kids in the Jewelbots community. So I sat down with Rachel Galloway, the mother of one of our favorite Jewelbotters, coding Youtuber Ellie Galloway, to learn about her experiences and gather some tips on raising awesome kids!
Tell me about your family. How many kids do you have and what ages?
I have three girls, Rosie, Esther and Ellie, ages 17, 14, and 11. Both my husband and I are the second child out of five so we knew we wanted a handful of kids, but five children….let me say that both my mother and mother-in-law probably had more energy then I do!
How do you encourage creativity?
Both my husband and I are very creative. My father is a gospel singer/songwriter and worked with his hands as a carpenter when I grew up. My mother can sew anything and taught me as a young girl to sew as well. So I grew up with music and art all around me. All of my girls have had music lessons: piano, guitar, ukulele, violin…we have instruments hanging up all over the house encouraging music and creativity. I feel that music is very important to have in your back pocket for enjoyment. You don’t have to be a professional musician to enjoy that part of life. I have created an album in my spare time called, “Sing To Your Mountain,” released by Great Comfort Records, and am working on a second one now. People tend to put musicians into categories of “professional” and “don’t you dare make music.” I see music as fun and enjoyable like making a quilt. Just do it if you want to, it’s fun! The girls see that and have fun with it. My middle daughter Esther decided last year that she wanted to join the marching band. She picked up the clarinet and taught herself to play this last year. She absolutely loves it. That’s what music is about.
I also sew and before I had children I worked for the San Diego Opera, San Diego Repertory Theatre, and Lambs Players Theatre in the costuming department. All of my girls know how to sew and I taught them to start using the sewing machine and serger between ages 8-10. When they get inspired to make a project, we take all the machines out, watch old movies, and make a huge mess sewing together. It’s so much fun. Esther has been interesting in sewing vintage high-waisted pants recently. I bought her a pattern and red corduroy 70’s fabric from Etsy hoping to work on it with her. That very night it came in she stayed up all night and just sewed them herself. Eleanor (Ellie), my youngest has always been extremely creative. She is constantly making things with paper, scissors, glue, paint, fabric, you name it. The struggle is real with encouraging creativity and the mess that comes with it. They really go hand in hand. Ellie’s latest creative interest is combining art and computers for Jewelbits (ed note: check out Jewelbits by Jewelbots!).
My husband Jon is also a musician, but he is incredibly analytical and works with computers as well. He went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis and studied nuclear engineering. He has been amazing with encouraging all of the girls to learn computer coding, Gimp, Inkscape, as well as other computer art programs. Out of three, only Ellie has really expressed an interest in learning. She loves building and creating worlds in Minecraft and has started learning how to code using Jewelbots, a friendship bracelet geared towards young girls encouraging them to learn how to code. She was so inspired by this program that she started a YouTube channel and became an ambassador on the website to encourage and welcome new girls to the program. It’s wonderful that Jon can help her when she gets stuck in this area, because I am clueless! I think it would be fun to learn though.
How do you encourage intellectual curiosity?
My biggest thing has always been reading. I graduated from college with a double major in English and French literature. I have always encouraged my girls to read and for years when we homeschooled we would all sit around the living room and I would read aloud to them. We read countless novels together over the years and it’s amazing how language, themes, alliteration, style, etc. is absorbed by little ears even when they don’t understand everything. I am still reading books aloud to Ellie, who is 11 now, but still likes to snuggle up next to me on the bed. It’s a great way to spend time together. If you are able to write well and express yourself well, you will succeed in any area in life.
Do you have a parenting inspiration, a book or a person or philosophy that has shaped the way you parent?
I don’t really. I feel like you just have to figure stuff out that works for you and the personalities you have been given the best you can. People who are parents just love to give advice on how this is the best way to do things, but I don’t really agree with that. I can’t parent the way my mom did because I’m a different personality. What makes sense to me doesn’t make sense to her. We are all just trying to do the best we can, love our kids the best we can, and it’s important to know that we are going to screw up because we are human. I have a very hard time with people that judge others because they do things differently. Why were we given this life if we can’t make our own choices?
Did you put your kids in any particular activities that you recommend? Do you believe in more structured activities or free play?
Great question. In this day and age parents usually put their kids in sports and activities from a very young age. There isn’t anything wrong with that of course, but I didn’t choose to do that. The reason I didn’t do that is because I really need to have completely free and quiet weekends for myself. That’s the time that I get to sew, create, make music, etc. It’s important I think, to not just be a mom only, but to have projects and things on the side for fun. We always had music lessons for the kids, but the extracurricular activities started as they got a little older and expressed interest in certain areas. My oldest daughter Rosie really got into aerial silks, so she took classes at the Circus Center in downtown San Diego for some years. Once she transferred into our local public school, she preferred to be a part of the team sports with school like cheerleading and gymnastics. Esther really expressed interest in marching band as a freshman in high school, taught herself the clarinet, and will probably continue to be a part of that community throughout high school. She will also be a part of the swim team this year as well. This coming year as a 6th grader, we are going to put Ellie into a gymnastics class. She expressed interest and I think it’s important to have some sort of exercise in your life to take some of the stress off of the school part. I definitely think there are positives to both structured and free play. Free play lends a space for creativity and making mistakes. Structured activities encourage teamwork and comradery.
Did you do screen time? If so, what, when and how much?
So, I get this question a lot. This is the hot topic question of the time we live in that determines whether you are a good parent or not. If you allow too much screen time you are bad, and a moderate to low amount you are good. Honestly, I had to let go of these “rules of the day” and just be. I live in a house where my husband earns his living working on computers and teaching computer coding around the world for Microsoft. Since the children were little we have had the best computers/computer programs/tablets/phones, etc at our disposal because of the nature of my husband’s job. My 11 year old has an amazing set-up in our shared office with two monitors to work with at the same time. If she needs to occupy herself, she is free to go into her office and play computer games, learn coding, create crafts, read, whatever. She is literally sitting in front of not one, but two screens. However, she is learning, creating, and encouraging other kids. She has been given amazing opportunities to speak in front of adults and share her love of creating on the computer. People have to decide what is right for their family and their kids. It’s easy to have a blanket statement to put on everyone, but I just don’t agree with that. If I see my kids are getting grumpy and spending too much time on their phones or computer, I just take it away until they get a bit sweeter. You are the ones who know you kids the best.
Any other tips on how to raise awesome kids?
Thanks so much, but honestly I think everyone is just trying to do their best. We screw up all of the time and hope that the lasting consequences don’t run too deep. I think it’s important to stay involved in your kids lives wherever they are at. Right now, I hardly see my 17 year old because she is so busy with AP classes, school clubs, and tumbling classes. This past year, I decided that I wanted to get up earlier in the morning, make her a healthy breakfast and pack her lunch before driving her to school. Now, of course she is completely capable of doing those things for herself; I know that. But, it was really important to me to do that because it seems to be the only time I really see her anymore. She’ll be off to college in a year. In my small way, I can make sure she has healthy food to fuel her brain during the day and when she blasts her music in the car and we chat for those 10 minutes, it makes it all worth the extra effort.