Each month, my weekly business column features a respected leader in our region who has been in their career long enough to have learned a lesson or two worth sharing. The name of this monthly feature is Leadership Reflections.
You will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the featured leader's leadership journey that led them to their current role. Most importantly, you will gain valuable insight from helpful "real life" lessons they've learned along the way.
This month, I decided to feature a leader in our region who flawlessly represents an underappreciated role that is arguably harder than any other: stay at home parent and spouse. However, this month's featured leader also juggles another role simultaneously: homeschool teacher of her five young children. Enjoy.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I earned a master's degree in special education and a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Edinboro University. I'm also a graduate of Jamestown High School.
Q: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?
A: I believe that a person who makes a good leader is someone who heads his or her cause with genuine interest and passion. My father, Bob Ostrom, has always modeled these qualities to me. His commitment to our community, whether it's running a United Way campaign or staying up all night with an elderly friend who is sick, inspires me and shows my family how important it is to follow any kind impulse with action. When my husband Jamie and I made controversial decisions, such as deciding to homeschool and adopting internationally, we knew we would come under some scrutiny. We made these choices prayerfully and were passionate about our decisions. My father encouraged me to follow my heart and take action.
Q: What is one characteristic that you believe every parent should possess?
A: Humor. Being able to laugh at yourself and at situations in your home is important. Knowing when to diffuse situations with laughter makes for a happier home. It's not that you don't take things seriously, you just don't take everything seriously. Everybody has different feelings about parenting, from co-sleeping to potty training. However, everything comes to an end; even cuddling with mom and dad. You will miss it. Don't worry about the little things. Keep your silliness. Many evenings are spent laughing with my husband over something that happened during the day. I'm thankful that Jamie and I have laughter - and the occasional glass of white wine.
Q: What advice would you give someone contemplating homeschooling for the first time?
A: If a parent asks me about homeschooling, I always ask if their spouse is supporting this decision. Homeschooling requires a team effort. Both parents need to be on board and, ideally, involved in the instruction. I'd recommend attending some of our local Loving Education At Home activities. From field trips to museums, art classes, music classes, and cooking co-ops, the opportunities are endless.
Remember that no (educational) situation is perfect; not public, private, or homeschool. You'll have great days when you're on top of the world and days when you feel like throwing in the towel. However, seeing your child read for the first time, experiencing that "I get it" look, and watching how homeschooling can foster closeness in your family makes it all worthwhile.
Q: What are the "core values" you instill within your family? How do you make sure your activities are aligned with these values?
A: Our faith is the center of our home. When my family was camping last summer, my son was badly injured. This was the first time I experienced an awful injury with one of my five children. Our first response was to pray. No matter what troubles face us, life isn't hopeless if we have faith.
Q: What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better parent?
A: MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) offers mothers with young children an opportunity to meet with women in similar circumstances. It also aims to inspire, educate, and support moms with myriad activities, speakers, and opportunities for collaboration. I also enjoy reading parenting books by Dr. James Dobson and Dr. Kevin Leman.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a Regional Director and Senior Consultant with JL Nick and Associates, Inc. She is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance.