Tuesday, August 3, 2010


My mind generates questions faster than I can find answers. I think that is what makes the world such a fascinating place.

Children have lots of questions, too. Often, we tire of helping them find answers, or we tell them to stop asking questions. Personally, I believe that by fostering a questioning attitude in our children, we practically guarantee a lifetime of learning for them... a true and comprehensive education.

Right now, I'm wondering why the clouds I saw last week were so huge, and so breathtakingly formed. They were the largest clouds I have ever seen. They looked like hundreds of clouds had combined to form megaclouds. They were white, cream, gray and some even had splashes of pink and blue and yellow. They definitely were not billowy, which to me implies light and fluffy. These clouds were dense, and looked to be the consistency of egg whites that had been beaten until they were stiff and "formed peaks."

Another day, there was an even bigger storm cloud overhead. It seemed to cover three-fourths of the sky, and it was shaped like a flying saucer, smooth and dark. Why was it so smooth, and how did such a large cloud form?

Why do sun rays shine from behind the clouds in straight lines? Why aren't they simply a glowing aura around the clouds?

These are things that I am pondering. What questions are you thinking about today?

Photo by Tumble Fish Studio
Used under Creative Commons Attribution License

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are You Paying Attention?

One of the most important characteristics of a lifelong learner, is attentiveness. Every activity you perform offers the opportunity for learning, but it is necessary to pay attention!

Often we are so caught up in our own thoughts that we miss thousands of interesting things around us. Instead we are focused on problems, schedules, work, planning, even rehashing past discussions or arguments.

Of course, our minds are capable of processing tremendous amounts of information, but as Adam Sandler's movie, "Click" illustrated, we fast forward through things that are everyday events, and seldom notice the little things that make life worthwhile.

So, take a deep breath... Take another... Did you take a slow, deep breath, or just a quick quasi-breath? Were you thinking about other things you have to do, and just tried to do this quickly to show yourself that you can relax, even if it's only for a micro-second?

Take a real, deep breath this time...

Now, look around. Look for something interesting... something you may not have noticed before. You don't have to do anything, but see it. It can be anything from dust patterns, to the many shades of green leaves on a single tree, to the tiny sparkle of light in your child's eyes.

Decide you will take a mini-break from hustle and bustle, several times a day, and take notice of things you hadn't seen just a minute before. I'll be posting reminders, periodically, to help you remember to take these moments of awareness. You'll be surprised what you learn!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A 12 Year Old With A Message

Note: Adora Svitak is lives in the state of Washington, is homeschooled, and is a busy writer, speaker and teacher.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Don't Miss the Magic!

Making a lapbookImage by Andrea_R via Flickr


I found this quote today, and it really captured my feelings perfectly:

Sometimes when your kids comprehend something new, it happens after a lot of effort and study. Sometimes it has to wait until their mind is ready to grasp the concepts. When my daughter has trouble fully understanding a math concept, for example, I’ve found it’s helpful to just leave it be, work on related but different lessons, and go back to the trouble topic in a couple of months. Always, she then understands the concept with no effort. I’ve been lucky to have been able to have so much time to study how my kids learn. Because of this, I am always on the lookout for those telltale signs of learning. Passion for a subject, paying attention with no difficulty, asking unexpected but completely relevant questions.wired.com, Keep Watching Your Kids Learn, Mar 2010

I hope you will read the entire article. It espouses exactly what I love most about the entire homeschooling adventure!

Not everyone enjoys spending time with their children. Not everyone gets excited about learning. Not everyone notices the unique abilities, interests, passions and gifts that their children possess. Too bad! They're missing so much!



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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lifeskills Lessons

Too often, education focuses on traditional school subjects. Life skills don't always receive the attention they deserve. Our children may be able to function quite well in the world without having spent a year learning algebra, but they will not do well if they aren't able to prepare food.

Ree Drummond, better known as "Pioneer Woman" is a homeschool mom and a multi-talented, fascinating woman. Her website is filled with tons of useful, interesting information about her life on a ranch, her fascinating family, their homeschool experiences, her talent for photography AND her amazing culinary skills!

Ree has added a new area on her site, called Tasty Kitchen, Favorite Recipes from Real Kitchens! The Tasty Kitchen is filled with a wide range of recipes, from various contributors.

A recent post, by Erika, was titled The Theme Is … Homemade Ingredients! In the post, Erika shared links to numerous recipes on the Tasty Kitchen blog. Included were recipes for homemade baking mix, homemade brown sugar, homemade vanilla extract, and many other mainstay ingredients.

I immediately thought that this is something that young cooks should learn. So little attention is given these days to creating your own ingredients when your cupboard is lacking. I remember the surprised look on a group of teens faces, when I explained that I had to use applesauce in my brownies, because I had no vegetable oil in my cupboard. They had just been discussing how tasty the brownies were, but now they stopped mid-bite, and stared at the brownies in their hands. "You mean there's applesauce in these?" Total shock!

I reminded them that they had just been saying how good they were, and that applesauce can easily be used to replace oil if no oil is available, or just to make the brownies a little healthier.

Knowing how to create these homemade ingredients can, also, inspire young chefs to be a bit more creative. They will start to notice food textures and tastes, and may begin to experiment with making some substitutions of their own. It's a great learning experience!
Photo by Kylia Radney, used with permission.
Salad created by Chef Katie

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Change for the Better!

I have been writing a lengthy monthly newsletter for lifelong learners, for almost 12 years. This past November, I realized that it was a struggle for me to keep up with all the work that was required to make the newsletter what I wanted it to be. In addition to a monthly article relating, in some way, to learning, each issue included events, resources, ideas, lesson plans, holiday celebrations, announcements of upcoming classes and workshops, auditions, opportunities for volunteering and a few other sundry items.

Each month, I spent weeks preparing the newsletter, usually resulting in at least 30-35 pages of information. The entire issue was then emailed to each of my subscribers. It was a popular newsletter, and something I loved to prepare. In November, I finally realized that as much as I loved writing the newsletter, it required more time than I had to offer.

Because my subscribers had been so loyal and supportive, I wrote to them, explaining my situation. I indicated that I was working on a new and better way to prepare the newsletter, and that when I resolved the problems that I was currently facing with its publication, I would again publish, and at that point, all subscriptions would be free, rather than paid. Most of the subscribers enthusiastically thanked me for making the newsletter a free publication, and most, also assured me that they didn't care how often they received it, they just wanted to read my articles. I was relieved to have a bit of time to play with the format, and to develop a better method.

Over the past 4 months, I have considered about 20 different approaches to newsletter publication. Finally, I have settled on a method that I think works well. I'm still making the final tweaks and adjustments, but I'm pleased. I hope my subscribers will be pleased as well. I'm expecting to have everything ready for the debut next week. I've very excited, a bit nervous, and ready to get this show on the road again! It's been far too long! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A New Perspective on Writer"s Block

I've been stewing for several weeks about my lack of posts on this blog. Why can't I think of anything to write about, I wondered. Today I realized that the problem has not been that I can't think of anything to write about... instead I have had too many ideas for posts!

In the past month, my mind seems to be a never-ending fount of ideas and inspiration. I try to write down as many as I can, but they just keep coming. I don't happen to think that's a bad thing, but it has made it very difficult to focus. I haven't been producing any posts, because my mind has jumped from thought to thought.

Today, I spent time sorting and categorizing some of my ideas. That seemed helpful. Getting them down in black and white, and then arranged in a somewhat manageable order, made it seem less overwhelming.

I'm going to get a good night's rest now, and look at my list with fresh sight in the morning. As uncomfortable as this deluge of inspiration has made me feel, it has also made me smile to realize that I can stay busy for years, just with the ideas that have flooded my brain this month!

Hopefully, I'll wake in the morning with a bit more of a direction in mind. Good night!

Monday, January 25, 2010

What did you learn today?

Every day is filled with hundreds of learning experiences. How many of them do you notice? Most of us are so busy trying to complete the items on our to-do list that we fail to see situations that hold important and helpful lessons.

My mom always kept a journal. It wasn't something she wrote in at length each morning or evening, rather it was a stenographers pad, in which she jotted brief notes about things she noticed during the day. She wrote titles of songs she enjoyed, quotes that inspired her, recipes that sounded tasty, books that tickled her fancy and intriguing and funny things she saw and heard.

Because my mom paid attention to what was happening around her, all the time, she was an interesting and intelligent conversationalist. As a teacher, she always had new ideas to share with her students. Most of the time, she could solve problems that arose, quickly and easily. If it was beyond her abilities, she knew who to call to assist her. She paid attention to the world around her, and her life and the lives of her family, her friends and her students were enriched because of it.

I began keeping a "learning journal" many years ago. I note many of the same types of things that my mother did. Because I am self-employed, I also pay attention to things that will help me become more efficient, more productive and a better business person.

I jot down ideas, questions, insights, problems, the names of people I meet, places I hear about, and websites that sound interesting or helpful. I pay attention to situations that arise or conversations that I have, and note my actions, reactions and fears. Sometimes I jot things down when they occur. Other times, I may take a 5 minute break and write what I have seen, done and heard recently.

For example, in a recent conversation with a married couple, the wife said, "My husband is a very talented woodcarver!"

"That's fascinating!" I said. "What do you like to carve?"

The husband answered, "Oh, I never actually carve anything, because I don't know if I would be happy with the end result."

That made me wonder if there are things that I hesitate to try because I am unsure of the outcome. Are my fears holding me back? I made a brief note about the conversation in my learning journal. Once a week, or whenever I am waiting for an appointment or have a few minutes to spare, I read through my notes to refresh my memory, and to see if I am making use of the information I have learned. Have I implemented new ideas or techniques that I meant to try?

My learning journal has helped me to find positive solutions to problems that occur in my life and in my business. It has enabled me to complete more of my goals, and to reach them more quickly. Reading about funny things that happened brightens my day, and reminds me not to take things too seriously. I am more organized and have better focus, because I remember helpful tips and tools that I may have forgotten if I had not noted them in my learning journal.

Many people have told me that they prefer to keep their notes electronically. If that works for you, then do that. I have found that I am not as likely to reread electronically filed notes, and without rereading, much of the benefit of the journal is lost. I also think that writing, as opposed to typing, seems to make information more memorable. For those reasons, I recommend a small notebook, that fits in your pocket or purse, so that you can access it quickly and easily, to make notes, and to reread notes you have previously written.

I hope you will give this a try! You may be surprised by what you learn!

Think you would like to try a Learning Journal, but not sure that you would remember to use it? Why not join the 15 day Learning Journal Challenge at Ruzuku.com! There you will find support, encouragment and maybe even a few new friends! To learn more, visit: http://ruzuku.com/group_challenges/39/challenges/new