Keeping It Real

Parents and caregivers I have to give it to you straight: A good education is more important than sports practice, marching band, or scouts. Just ask Merlin.


New E-Books!

These new literature-based e-books published through Amazon Kindle, both have to do with Gothic Literature. For only $.99 each, these are great little additions to any reading curriculum, or for personal education.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle (I don’t, either). You can download Amazon’s Kindle for PC for free and read Kindle books on your computer, or you can use Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader to read Kindle books online, without downloading anything.

A Note about ADHD

This 5 minute video produced by The New York Times, takes a quick look at how pharmaceutical companies use advertising to promote ADHD medications.

Location, Location: A Note About Homeschooling

Homeschool Science Experiment
Homeschool Science Experiment

Before I tutored other people’s children, I taught my own as a homeschooling mom. We homeschooled for three years, during which my oldest child went through preschool, Kindergarten, and first grade, and my second child went through preschool and Kindergarten.

We had a great time and I and the kids learned a lot. We took many educational field trips, they learned to read, and we were on a roll to continue when I was forced to give it up during that third year due to severe health problems with my last pregnancy. But I don’t regret it. We are very fortunate to live in an area with a fantastic Elementary school, and my oldest two are thriving in fourth and second grade.

There are a wide variety of reasons why parents choose to homeschool their child/children, and there are an ever-increasing plethora of resources, blogs, and organizations to help homeschooling families. I think it is fantastic that so many parents are willing to take a strong stand for their student’s education, but I want to let prospective home educators know that despite the growing trend, homeschooling is not easy. I don’t think enough proponents of homeschooling admit that.

Just like public or private school, homeschooling does require a tremendous amount of time, effort, money (though there are ways to adequately “shoe-string” certain things), and organization. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, and sadly there are no substitute teachers when you desperately need a break or are ill. Many times, home educators begin with enthusiasm and passion, only to burn out within a few weeks-months. While there are plenty of successful home educators, it is also important to know your personal limits. This doesn’t mean you failed. The goal of educating children is the priority and it requires strong parental involvement for students to succeed no matter where the setting is.

*Are you a home educator? Take a look at the Resources page for a few materials and links to help you out.

Workbooks Help Students Study Over Holiday Breaks

One of the biggest complaints among parents and teachers is how quickly students tend to forget lessons over school breaks. Holiday or seasonal breaks can last up to two weeks in some schools, and summer breaks typically last 2-3 months. What can parents do to ensure their students don’t backtrack during breaks?

1. Get workbooks…and use them.

It’s easy to get extra materials for practice from local bookstores, grocery stores, Walmart, or discount warehouses like Sam’s Club. Stores for teaching supplies would also have them, or you can go online. There are a ton of free and inexpensive online resources, but my personal favorite is

Now that you and/or your students have the materials, it is important that you set aside time to use them. One hour, or two half-hour sessions during quiet time is probably all you need to enforce, but some kids enjoy the challenges and want to keep going. Just be sure the work gets checked and any mistakes are corrected.

2. Don’t stop private lessons.

If you have hired a tutor or use a similar service, keep up with it even during breaks. The temptation to stop may be great, but lessons are learned and best retained through repetition. A tutor or service, will help to keep you and/or your student on track.

Distractions Part 2: TV and Messes

In addition to gadgets and gizmos aplenty (see Part 1), two other things that make studying hard for students of any age are TV and messes.

Television is designed to capture and hold our attention with various sounds and lights, and it works! It works very well. Have you ever seen someone passing through the living room who “just stopped to watch for a minute”, but they were standing there for 15 minutes or more?

Don’t be afraid to just turn the TV off for a few hours, and maybe even establish an official “family study time”. Or leave the room for a quieter, more suitable study place (please don’t tell me you study better with the TV on. I’m not buying it), which leads into our next distraction: messes.

If you have no place to sit down and spread out the books because “stuff” is piled everywhere, you need to take a weekend (or three) and straighten up. No one can study in the middle of a mess. Parents, don’t be afraid to check on your student’s study place from time to time and make sure their desk or table is neat and homework ready.

A messy workplace is not conducive to good studying.
A messy workplace is not conducive to good studying.

Why Read Books?

“Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask for anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly.” Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

A very smart, twelfth grade student of mine shocked me by insisting that not only were books boring, taking an English class didn’t make sense to them because they already knew how to read.

I was a bit taken aback, but proceeded to dive into an animated lecture about books, plays, and good films being an important part of our culture, teaching us about other people, places, and times, enriching our vocabulary, making us smarter, more well-rounded individuals. I spoke about the illumination of human nature both good and bad, time-tested truths being revealed, literary experiments that succeeded and failed, and the toying with morals for better or worse. I fear she stopped listening at “books are an important part of our culture”, but maybe not.

“Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.” Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

I have such a deep-rooted love for the written word, I had never stopped to consider before: Just why should we read literature?

According to the article, Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer, by Annie M. Paul, “deep reading” (as the author calls it) is the “immersive” reading of literature, especially the tried and true classics, and fires up the brain in a variety of ways beyond the imagination. Paul says that “deep reading” elicits empathy and a better understanding of others, making us more compassionate, well-rounded individuals.

Your Brain on Books: 10 Things That Happen to our Minds When We Read, informs us that reading books elicits brain activity in the sensory, motor and visual areas, not to mention language. Reading also grows brains and attention spans. Reading really is brain food, but it takes practice and training to read “deeply”. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

My student asked a valid question, and I hope English teachers everywhere will begin to address it.

Meggie Folchart: You’ve been to Persia, then?

Elinor Loredan: Yes, a hundred times. Along with St. Petersburg, Paris, Middle-Earth, distant planets and Shangri-la. And I never had to leave this room. Books are adventure. They contain murder and mayhem and passion. They love anyone who opens them. (Inkheart film)

P.S. The book and film, Inkheart are both fabulous introductions into why books are awesome.

Attitude is Everything

“Can’t, couldn’t do anything”, my Dad used to say. That may sound corny, but it is so true. How you perceive (or choose to perceive) something may determine the outcome more than the work you put into it.

If you look at a challenge and say, “Ugh. I don’t want to/I can’t/That’s impossible”, then you have created what’s known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are defeated without ever taking a step, and what’s worse you defeated yourself!

When you think or say those kinds of things, you have shut yourself down mentally, physically, and emotionally. I see people do that all the time and they even look suddenly as if a plug had pulled from their back. I want to stress this next part: No one can pull you out of that, teach you anything, or “plug you back in” except you. You must decide for yourself, and I also want to stress: It is never too late to plug back in.

On the other hand, if you approach challenges with an attitude of, “Sure! I’ll take that on”, with energy, enthusiasm, and a will to work, you have a much higher chance of success. That doesn’t mean hard work and a lot of time won’t be involved, but you will have bragging rights in the end!