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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

BumbleBee Childcare Management Software Global HQ

BumbleBee Childcare Management Software Global HQ
BumbleBee's sign at it's Global HQ along side other startups.

BumbleBee’s sign at it’s Global HQ along side other startups.

It’s been almost six months since we started subleasing office space from a leading, Portland-based startup accelerator called Upstart Labs and it’s been a great ride.

The “space” itself is terrific. It’s in an old warehouse in Portland, OR (imagine a creaky, old freight elevator, exposed brick and hardwood plank floors). But, the best part is meeting all of the great entrepreneurs and exciting projects they are working on. It’s a cauldron of of activity and energy. New folks are always visiting and pitching there ideas to the Upstart Labs team vying to become Upstarts.

We’re grateful to Upstart Labs for welcoming BumbleBee into their midst and look forward to the months to come.

If you are in town, please stop by

Improving on “Generation Waiting List”

Improving on “Generation Waiting List”

There was a really great article in the paper about waiting lists in the big city. The article describes how waiting lists are a fact of life for children and parents living in The Big Apple. We have talked before about how this problem is not exclusive to the big city, but the problem is excacerbated (and more often reported on) in large metropolitan areas.

The article only touches on some of the possible causes for the issue and why the writer calls children born after 2004 “Generation Waiting List”:

  • Budget cuts
  • Population growth (in certain areas deemed family friendly)
  • Families having children have more money (note this does not mean, on average, all people are more well-off)

[He] has been conscientious about tapping into playground gossip on what programs fill up first — and what steps to take to avoid ending up on the waiting list. “We’ve had many years of paranoia about this kind of thing,” he said with a laugh.

The obvious question you might be asking is: “What can we do, besides buying BumbleBee’s Childcare Management Software, about managing child care and activity waiting lists?” It turns out, there is a lot we could be doing. There is a large body of economic research (often called queueing therory) to help smooth out waiting lists. Some of the biggest things that can be improved are in dealing with the emotional issues around waiting lists. Think back to the last time someone cut in front of you in line, you probably can remember that more easily than what you had for lunch today.

There is a MIT professor nick-nammed “Dr. Queue”, here is some advice he provides and a number of BumbleBee’s own insights that we have learned after working with child care centers:

  • Tell people how long they will be waiting – think about all the sophisticated things Disney World does while you are standing in line.(By the way: BumbleBee makes this easy)
  • Let people know that they have a number – My friend went to the professional football game. He had tickets for an open seating section. Instead of having everyone show up, hold places, have people get upset when someone eventually cuts in line, they handout wristabands. My friend loved it. Instead of arriving at 6am, he picked up the wristband at his liesure, and showed up right before the game started.
  • If there are peferences, make sure people know that up front
  • Make one large line that everyone waits in (Wendy’s versus McDonalds)
  • Change a nominal fee to applyHow long would you be willing to wait for a free ice cream cone from Ben and Jerry’s? At some point, you should just go to the ice cream parlor and buy your own. Charging a small fee, for applications is a good way to sort out the number of people who are truly on your waiting list or those people who just aren’t that interested.

Do people line up to get into your child care center? Do they have to wait in line over night? Please tell us how you manage your waiting lists:

Real BumbleBees Making News: It’s Electric

Real BumbleBees Making News: It’s Electric

bumblebee-child-care-management-software-newsletter-april-2012-liftoff

Not related to child care management directly but, there was an irresistable piece on news radio this morning about how BumbleBee’s can detect electric fields (sort of like sensing static electricity).

When bees are flying through the air, just the friction of the air and the friction of the body parts on one another causes the bee to become positively charged

Check out the piece on BumbleBees on NPR’s website.

Credit Card Confusion for Child Care Centers

Credit Card Confusion for Child Care Centers
Child Care Centers Accepting Credit Cards

A lot of questions are being raised by child cares about new rules regarding credit card fees.

We have been working with a few of our customers to accept payment cards for application fees via BumbleBee indirectly. We are taking a “slow and steady” approach because of the significant issues involved in these additions. Our clients have been asking us and we have been asking our partners.

There are a lot of questions being asked by all sides: consumers, business owners, banks, technology providers. Changes to recent laws at a U.S. federal level and the ripple affects have for state laws are creating even more questions. From a consumer standpoint, I found this article in my hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, to provide a clear explanation of the recent changes to credit cards and rules regarding surcharges. It does not answer all of the questions a business owner or child care center might have.

Despite this, I think child care center owners, directors and administtrators will find it useful because it has some insights for business owners. The article points out the important fact that Dodd-Frank is having wide-ranging impacts on state laws. So the answer will likely depend on where you live. Definitely check in with your bank or payment gateway provider to see what changes your child care center may need to make if you are taking credit cards.

How are you handling the new rules regarding credit card fee? Are you adding a surcharge, raising fees for everyone or just absorbing the expense?

Early Childhood Education Plans from the President’s SOTU

Early Childhood Education Plans from the President’s SOTU
Source: Meggan Haller for The New York Times

I love this picture. It should win awards.

If you are like me, you are apathetic about watching the president’s state of the union, regardless of the president. I know I should, however, the constant applause, the endless anecdotes and the platitudes just do not interest me.

So it was with surprise and delight that I was accidentally listening to the State of the Union on the radio on the way home from our a Mardi Gras charity auction (it was fun but far tamer than it sounds). The delight part came when I heard the President mentioning investments in preschool and early childhood education.


Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.

Now I am not a trained or experienced educator and I am sure those who are could come up with better and bigger investments we could make in the United States, but I thought that a President making a connection between preschool and strong communities is a pretty big leap.

You can find some of the details here of President Obama’s proposal for early childhood education.

What did you think or feel when you heard President Obama’s proposals for early childhood education?

Be Yours: A Child Care Content Calendar

A friend of mine works for a small organization with an even smaller marketing budget. She was telling me about putting together a content calendar for 2013 for her tiny but powerful team. When she told me about all of her great ideas, I must admit, I thought, “Why would a small organization want a content calendar? Aren’t those just for well-funded, Fortune 500 marketing organizations and not small bootstrapped organizations like child care centers?”

The more she told me about it the more I realized I was wrong. Content calendars are exactly what small organizations with little resources like centers for child care need to be doing. So let’s start making a content calendar for your child care center!

Step 1 – What’s a Content Calendar?

It’s exactly what it sounds like. A plan to produce marketing material around a calendar. You might also have heard of an editorial calendar. The benefit of this to your child care center is your probably send out newsletters, you might tweet, you might put things on your blog, or newsletter.

The content calendar just sets a framework for you to fit your childcare center’s content into. It’s really just a great tool to keep you from procrastinating on marketing activities.

With the content calendar you can stay on the look out for relevant things and then stock them away until the right time. What do I mean, recipes, news articles, healthy tips

Step 2 – Look at Your Child Care Center’s Calendar and Create Some Buckets

Start your clocks because this will take no more than 2 minutes and don’t worry we’ll work through it together. Of course, I am assuming here you already know who your audience is: new families, prospective families, staff, alumni, etc. For this exercise, let’s say you are sending a newsletter to your childcare center’s current families.

  • January: New Years Resolutions for Parenting, Child care re-enrollment
  • February: Valentines Day Crafts and Cards and/or African-American history month
  • March: Spring is Here! Earth Day, Planning for Summer Camps and Family Vacations.
  • April: Safety Month, Gardening
  • May: End of school years in the US, Mothers’ Day
  • June: How ECE Changes Lives
  • July: Government and ECE
  • August: ECE Tech
  • September: ECE History Month, Harvest
  • October: Halloween crafts and the importance of storytelling
  • November: Being Grateful, Thanksgiving Holiday crafts
  • December: Best of and tops lists from the year
  • Congratulations! You just created a content calendar! Now that we have taken a first pass, you may want to go back and think about your child care center’s schedules. How does the content calendar square with your program year, open-houses, etc.

    Step 3 – Tools for Content Calendars

    The best tool is probably going to be your Google Calendar, Outlook calendar, or just a plain, old boring spreadsheet. Take the list we created above, copy it into your spreadsheet or add it to you calendar month by month. A spreadsheet is probably going to work best. Add a couple columns for placeholders. In my content calendar I added a column for the person responsible at the child care center, the format (e.g., child care newsletter) and a notes column (Free content calendar template).

    If you need to get more frequent communications with your audiences, you can. Break each on of the months into weeks and put more details into each on of those.

    Content calendars need not be restrictive. If something timely comes up like flu vaccinations and young children, feel free to override your calendars plan. Try it out and let me know how it works.

    Update: I saw this classroom resource on themes for different months of the year. Take a look and see if it gives you any ideas for building your child cares content calendar

    Please comment on whether you would or if you already use a content calendar.

    Productivity Secrets for Childcare Management

    Productivity Secrets for Childcare Management

    I was at my doctor’s office for a routine checkup (a clean bill of health thanks!) and my Doctor typed a summary of the visit and provided a printout of it for my records. This is mostly for her but I like having the copy of our meeting too (instead of just the bill) for medical records.

    I noticed when she was compiling the summary, she did it with very few keystrokes and with lightning speed. I asked her how show typed it so fast and she said she uses text expansion software. She recommended I look into. Doctor’s orders!

    For those child care administrators and directors new to text expansion or substitution software, like me, it behaves a lot like Microsoft Word’s spellcheck but everywhere in your computer you can type, not just word. The difference being, in a sense, you deliberately create misspelled words that are replaced by any block of text you want.

    A Basic Childcare Example

    Let’s assume you send a lot of emails in response to questions from parents. A salutation might be “Have a good weekend!” Now, this is something you would not include in every email, like in the email signature, but emails you send on Fridays. This is a perfect for text expansion. Simply set a rule to replace ;gwe with “Have a good weekend”. Its that easy, I cut my typing from 22 key presses to just four.

    Free Text Expanders for Childcare Directors

    Text expansion and text substitution

    Text expansion programs like TextExpander for Mac all have a similiar setup. A code word like ‘ddate’ is automatically replaced with today’s date.

    Best of all there are a lot of free and full-featured/low-cost programs to do this. For the Mac, there’s TextExpander (currently $34.95), TypeIt4Me ($4.99) and DashExpander (free). On the PC, there is only one real solution in my book and that is AutoHotkey (free). It’s free and infinitely flexible.

    ;gwe → Have a good weekend!
    ;ty → Thank you
    ;kr → Kind regards,
    ddate → January 18, 2013 (Today’s date!)
    ;work → 1104 NW 15th Ave Portland, OR 97209

    And on infinitem… You might think this is a lot to create and remember but you’ll be surprised at how easy this becomes part of your daily routine.

    Beginner’s Text Expansion for Childcare Administrators

    Here are a few that I think all child care directors can use on a daily basis.

    (Semicolons are used to differentiate from when you normally use the sequence. For example, when you write “pretty”, you don’t want “pretthank you”.)

    ;web → http://busybeesacademy.example.com
    ;ty → thank you
    ;Ty → Thank you
    ;hb → Here is a link to our childcare center’s handbook (http:://www.example.com/handbook.pdf)
    ;bba → Busy Bees Childcare Academy (replace this with your childcare center’s title)
    ;drop → Drop-off hours are from between 7:30 and 9:30.
    ;pick → Pick-up hours are anytime before 6:30.
    ;fee → Our late pick-up fee is $1 per minute over 6:30.

    Advanced Text Expansion for Childcare Administrators

    Are there any forms that you have to repeatedly fill out online or with a state licensing agency? Another example, do you have to do 1099s or time cards for your employees and have to type in your name, EIN, or address repeatedly? Or is there a spreadsheet you have to repeatedly fill in with one of four peices of text? These are all great uses for text expansion. Text expanders can also mimic key preypresses and even mouse clicks.

    For example, when I demonstrate BumbleBee’s online parent application, I have a child already setup so that I can put in the name, birthday, etc. into the online parent application. When I type: ;child, the text expander places the child’s name ‘Connor Exampleworth’ tabs to the next field, places the birthday, tabs to the next field, and places the desired start date.

    online child care application child care management software day care management software

    Text expansion can get quite sophisticated, like filling in forms. In this example, I typed ‘;child’ and the child’s name birthdate and desired start dates. It completes the online child care application with a couple keystrokes.

    Of course, you don’t want to put sensitive things like passwords, social security numbers, children’s birthdates, because the text expansion files are not password protected.

    Give it a shot for a month with just some basics: names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Have a blast. If you are like me, you will start noticing words you type frequently and start compiling them. Pretty soon you will be typing with many fewer keystrokes. My guess is you will wonder how you ever lived without text expansion.

    Do you have any ways that you save from repeating yourself as early childhood education professional? Have you ever done any text expansion?

    Good Gifts Ideas for Preschool Teachers & Directors

    Good Gifts Ideas for Preschool Teachers & Directors
    A Christmas Story Gift for Teacher

    What would your childcare center teachers think if you gave them a lovely fruit basket like this?

    I was trying to think of something really good and appreciated by child care teachers, administrators and directors. Here is a list of ideas I came up with.

    • A high quality box of tea – Nothing says comfort food more than tea.
    • Small gift card toward a restaurant – I had a boss that gave me Dunkin Donuts gift card every year and I loved it.
    • Fruit basket – Possibly expensive but a great thing to have around the house when on vacation.
    • Tickets – Lots of great holiday shows happening.
    • Bottle of wine – Not for everyone but easily shared or re-given.

    What are your suggestions for good child care staff gifts?

    Introducing: Camp Management Software

    Introducing: Camp Management Software


    Managing Camp Enrollment Requires Flexibility

    Almost simultaneously, three clients approached us about making it easier for them to manage summer camps. The lay observer might ask, “So what’s the big difference between regular school year and camps?” As we learned from these organizations, camps are a very different matter all together.

    Summer camp management software that's easy and delicious as smores

    BumbleBee just brought simple and intuitive to summer management software

    Camps are typically short-term and families often make changes up until the last minute. Families often enroll by the week. The families that attend camp, are not necessarily the same ones who attend the regular program year. To boot, licensing restrictions vary for short term care. Furthermore, child care centers offer many different options for parents to pick and choose. For example, parents can enroll in space camp one week and then nature camp the next.

    BumbleBee Adds Camp Management Software Features

    We are pleased to announce BumbleBee can now support all of your basic camp management software needs. Best of all, it works right in BumbleBee alongside your regular programs and classrooms.

    Here are just a handful of the highlights of our new camps feature:

    manage-camp-enrollment-by-week

    • Multiple camps per location (e.g., morning camp and all day camp) childcare management software for camps, summer camp management, camp management
    • Printable, up-to-the-minute rosters by week
    • Quickly identify openings to offer families
    • Maintain waitlists by week
    • Take applications online
    • Record custom questions like: “What size t-shirt does your camper wear?” or “What is your child’s favorite ghost story?”

    To make things even sweeter, all of the normal features of BumbleBee work great just as they normally would.

    If you would like to add this to your existing BumbleBee account or see a demo of camps. Please contact us at any time.

    New Feature: Icons & Stars Increase Childcare Productivity

    Icons allow you to get at-a-glance information about families on your childcare waitlist

    Icons allow you to get at-a-glance information about families on your childcare waitlist

    We are excited to roll out a few new features that give more you at-a-glance information when browsing through your family information.

    Icons: BumbleBee displays subtle icons next to each child’s name that indicate useful information, such as siblings or recent family notes.

    Stars: You can now “star” any child to mark it for follow-up or other actions. Simply pull up a family’s detail view and click the star icon next to any child’s status to star or un-star that record.

    We have also published a short demo video to see these new features in action.

     

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