Saturday, February 26, 2011

Life Long Learning

I am crazy about school. I love the fresh start that a school year brings. I love school supplies. I love learning new things. I have been dreaming about some new learning opportunities in my life.

Writer Mama, Christina Katz, offers writing classes through her website/blog. I am looking at the Writing and Publishing the Small Stuff Class. I would also like to take the Personal Essays class she offers which is taught by Abigail Green. The classes aren't cheap, but I have been thinking about taking one for so long, I'm starting to think it is time to get off my butt and just do it.

I used to take online scrapbooking classes at Big Picture all the time. I had some great experiences in those classes. But life got busier and I did less scrapbooking and haven't taken any classes in awhile. But I have started looking at their class lists again. There's a class that goes with Ali Edwards' One Little Word. There's another one about emotional wellness that is intriguing, too. 

I received a flier in the mail recently about self-paced graduate classes from a local university. I loved looking through the course catalog, circling classes like The Adolescent Brain, Learning Differences: Effective Teaching with Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences, and  Teaching Beginning (K-3rd) and Developing (4th-6th) Readers. 

I'm not sure if any of these courses are in my future, but I think it is clear that I am at a place where I am craving some new challenges and new learning opportunities!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Productivity Tips

Here are two blog posts from Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers that I label "productivity" tips. The first is about crafting a good blog entry. I think having a plan or a format for your blog is helpful. I recently switched to a new format on my book blog, and I am happy with the results. This blog is a little "loosey-goosey" still, and I haven't found a format I like just yet.

The second is a post about saying "no." Always a good tip - especially in days like these when we have so many things vying for our time and attention. I especially like the first one - waiting to say yes or no. I have seen this work well with teens - at least in my work with those in group homes (that waiting often clued me in to manipulations or conflicts I did not see at first) and I know it would have kept me out of some awkward situations in the past when I have had to back out of things I have agreed to (then later wished I hadn't.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stampin' Up Sale-a-bration

Sale-a-bration is the time of year when the Stampin' Up company offers a great sale. For every $50 spent on their regular product, you can get a free stamp from their special Sale-a-bration catalog of products not available any other time.
I am not a demonstrator - I just like the products. If you are looking for some stamping/card making/scrapbooking supplies, check out the sale at the link above. You can find a demonstrator in your area on the website, too.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dystopian trends in Young Adult Literature

"Dystopian" has become a buzz word in publishing circles. It means a society characterized by human misery. The stories involve a bleak future, oppressive forces, and protagonists facing difficult choices.

Here is a great article by a child and adolescent psychiatrist stating why this style of literature appeals to teens, considering their developmental tasks of separation from parents, and their emotional and hormonal upheaval. Great information for parents as well as for fans of literature.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CLEVER - Booksellers and Math

When I define the word "clever" to my students, I describe it as a combination of something smart and something creative. I am drawn to things that are clever - things that show someone using his/her brain in a creative way.

Here is a link to something "clever" - a blog entry about booksellers and math. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Spent some time this week with this blog entry from Ali Edwards.

In this entry, she talks about her daily schedule as she works from home with two children - one school-aged and one not. I brought back a lot of memories of the days of working from home with my son. It sounds like a great gig - and it is, if you can get it - but it has it's own challenges like balance (when am I working and when am I parenting?).

I really liked some of the quotes Ali included in her entry:
"Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver
"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." ~ Diane Ackerman

These are the sorts of thoughts I am living with these days. Truly, I have been living with them for months. What am I here to do? Where should I put my energy? What do I do with my varying interests and passions?

What do you think of these quotes?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I took this picture on Saturday - this past Saturday, February 5th, 2011.

This is my to do list. I have gone through TONS of different systems - a Day Timer planner, loose lists, other store-bought planners, a custom planner (with pages I designed myself) and finally this. A single sheet for the whole week with places for daily activities and then "Must Do," "Could Do" and "Should Do" sections.

Can you see the date on my to do list here - the one I took a picture of on Saturday?

December 13th - 2010. I haven't looked at my planner since the middle of December. 

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? I can't really fathom that I haven't even set up a page in 2011. I have lived with this list, every day, every week, for years. And all of a sudden it's like it didn't exist any more. It isn't even like I knew it was there and was consciously ignoring it. It hasn't even crossed my mind. 

I forgot it existed....

Now the question is - will I start using it again now that I remember it exists, or will I press on, living life "on the edge" without a list?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

iPad Book Apps

I love all things books - book reviews, discovering new books in favorite series 4 months before they are going to be released, libraries, magazines about books... You get the idea.

I have discovered three fun apps for the iPad that are book related.

The first is the Monster at the End of this Book app. This is based on one of my favorite children's books. You can go here to see what the app looks like and here to see a YouTube walk through of the app. In the app, Grover reads the book and the reader gets to enjoy some interactive elements (like knocking down a wall). It is just darling! 

Next up is another app based on a favorite picture book - Wild About Books. You can go here to see a little video of the app and here to read a detailed review with screen shots. The original book is fantastic and I love seeing it brought so well to the iPad. 

Finally, there's an app based on the darling book How Rocket Learned to Read. You can go here to see what it looks like. Isn't Rocket cute?

I would recommend all 3 apps to parents of kids under 10 - fun, interactive time together, and I think they can encourage kids to check out more books like these (Grover's book as a sequel and Judy Sierra and Tad Hills have written lots of other titles kids will enjoy.)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reading in 2010 - part 3

A few observations from the last 3.5 years of recording my reading

1) It's easy for me to read a lot when I read my favorite types of books - picture books and middle-grade fiction. Judging by the first month I recorded by reading, I was reading a lot of books, looking for things my son and nieces would like to read. We found a lot of fun books that summer - Stink Moody, Judy Moody, Princess Power series, No Talking, Faithgirlz Blog On series, and Magic Tree House.

2) I read a lot of superhero stories, mysteries, princess tales, fractured fairy tales, and stories with an element of the unusual/magical/paranormal.

3) I like to read series from the beginning. If I pick up a book from the middle, I'll stop reading and go back to the first one so I can start from the beginning.

4) Going back through my journals is a treat when I am reminded of books I have enjoyed but also have forgotten about -  The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Prophecy of the Stones: A NovelPrincess AcademyThe Wednesday Wars32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from TeachingThe Will of WisteriaHidden TalentsHe Came with the Couch... and so many others!

I'm so happy I started keeping track of what I read so I can enjoy the memories of discovering new reading treats over the years!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reading in 2010 - part 2

On Tuesday I started posting about my reading over the past few years. In 2010 I read 203 books - at least, I recorded 203. Sometimes I don't record re-reads (like the Harry Potter series which I read annually) or books my son and I read at bedtime. But 203 is pretty good - an average of 16.9 a month. I felt like my reading was way down for last year because I started working, but it really wasn't down that much from 2009.

Looking back like this gives me a chance to think about what might influence my reading levels.

One influence is obviously the other things going on in my life. I started teaching in the fall of 2008, part time, and that fall I read 5 books in August, 2 in September, 4 in October, 6 in November and 10 in December (I love Christmas break!).

In the summer of 2009, I took a graduate class that required/encouraged me to read a lot of children's books/picture books. So my numbers that summer were pretty high. When I am prepping for my Writing Club students, my reading increases, too.

One final influence I noticed is book series - when I discover a new series, I read book after book until I finish the series, or at least get to the most recent book. When I get to read a series back to back, the characters stay fresh, as does my attachment to them. I am eager to read what comes next, and I get to. When I have to wait a year for the next book, it is harder to get back into the author's rhythm and remind myself what was happening to the characters and what I liked about them. When I am faced with the "latest, newest" book - or a "one-off," stand alone story where I get to start fresh or trying to pick up a series, the series often gets set aside.

This gives me hope for the books I have on my TBR (to be read) shelves. Several are part of series I have read in the past. Perhaps, now that I have 2 or 3 books in the series waiting, I can get back into the story and zoom through them and rediscover why I liked the series enough to buy it in the first place.

Come back Saturday for some highlights of the last 3.5 years of reading and recording.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reading in 2010 - part 1

In July of 2007 I started keeping track of the books I read for my own interest and for my other blog. It's been fun to go back and see what I've read and how much reading I have done at different times.

In six month in 2007, I read 115 books - averaging about 19 a month.

In 2008, for the whole year, I read 112 - averaging about 9 a month.

In 2009, for the whole year, I read 235 books - averaging 19.5 per month

Come back Thursday and see how 2010 measured up!