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A Different Kind of Schedule

Summer is here!

Enjoy the view!

This can mean different things for different families. Some families may be part of the regular brick and mortar school. This means no longer having to wake up early and rush out of the house. Other families who homeschool, summer days may look similar with a few more beach activities or road trips added into the mix. For some summer may mean just more open-ended time with warmer weather!

What we have noticed in my family is that there is more downtime, less plans, more togetherness.  Sometimes summer starts out rough with a little restlessness. I’ve learned through all the different seasons with my children, that I’m better with a schedule. I like to know what to count on when. I like to communicate this to my children.

Recently I read a blog post that talked about two things that really hit home:

1) being intentional with those we love, and 2) creating a rhythm of the day.

So how do we be intentional?

The author talked about deciding how you want to feel and looking at what’s going to get you there. This is really a family discussion and reflection. Intentionality might be scheduled downtime each week or each day. It might be quality time spent together. It might be read aloud storytime.

In our family, my children really appreciate time alone with my husband or me. Especially as they get older, they really want time to talk. For my son this usually involves some kind of activity; walking the dog, bike riding, gardening, or doing yoga. For my daughter it’s cuddling up on the couch or in her bed sometimes with a really amazing cup of coffee. For my very youngest it is playing pretend or reading books together. Sometimes it’s enjoying a delicious snack. My husband and I need time too, so we have been taking walks together, watching a show and doing a regular date night with another couple. These are all things I now put on the calendar along with the kid’s regular swim day. And the beauty I’ve discovered is that you can still leave things loose and open ended while having regular routine.

What about Rhythm of the day?

Take a moment and imagine yourself in yesterday.

What feels easy?

What feels hard?

How could it flow better?

When my kids were little and done napping the hours of 4-6pm were always the hardest. We all felt a little pent up and crazy. This is when I started taking walks. At the time we lived right next to a small zoo we could walk too. We would get there right before 4pm, when they stopped letting people in. We would walk around the zoo the last hour it was open, and it was when the animals were the most active. We would walk slowly and watch all the animals come alive.

As the kids got older this rhythm changed. We no longer had that pent up feeling, but we did have a window when we all needed quiet time. Our 4-6pm moved to 3-5pm. I always hit a tired slump at 3pm, I had the same slump when I was working full time. I saw it in my kids too. I started mom’s reading corner during this time. It’s a corner in our living room that my favorite part of the house. I sit in a cozy corner of the couch, soft pillows and a knitted blanket. My favorite art is on the wall, my bookcase straight ahead. Next to the bookcase are a wall of glass windows and doors. I see outside to our beautiful backyard see the fruit trees and I can hear the birds that started a nest there. I just started siting there one day. We have moved over the years, but it has always been a consistent comer, my view just changed. My kids at first didn’t know what I was doing and would come asking me for help or for an activity. I would gently set my book down and say, “This is my quiet reading time.” It took time and consistency but my children started finding their own quiet reading spots. My son Liam would be in his big wide chair in the corner of his room. My son Grady would be on his bean bags talking out a story as he looked at pictures and watching his hands become characters. My beautiful Ella would be cozy in her bed. Sometimes they would join me on the couch and we would cozy up in my corner. This rhythm worked for us and still does on our long summer days. We can hit the ground running and know that we have a place and time to rest. And when we miss it, it becomes even more special. My corner hasn’t changed but my stack of book has, and the pile has grown. I often start one to three books at a time, my minds retreat.

The third and last tip, I gleaned, was running the “I’m bored” experiment. I would hear this a lot from my children, especially over the summer when things felt slower. I never knew what to do when I heard this. I didn’t want to preach. I had often heard growing up “Bored people are boring people”. I didn’t believe this was accurate. I didn’t want to create a list of activities, that all would be shot down! I did want them to be heard and I did want them to find something they could be wildly creative with! So here is the suggestion, just listen, acknowledge and walk away. It might be something like this, “I’m bored”. You respond, “Oh, I hear you”, then excuse yourself to the bathroom or to get a glass of water or make a quick call. Give them time to sit in their boredom and see what it leads too. You might be surprised and so might they!

We live in a society that is always running, always busy. The more activity the better! We become human doers, not creators. Sitting still with ourselves helps us to really feel, to become in tune with ourselves and others, and to create beauty. That quietness might feel like boredom at first to those of us on the go, but maybe it’s really peace. I think that’s a good place to be. I hope your summer is filled with connection, rhythm, rest, play, adventure and most of all peace!!

 

~Clare Bonn

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Write a Summer Sink Monster

LittleGuy

As summer sizzles her sunshine, be inspired by a delightful collection of clever images at our Write it…! board on Pinterest to write a poem or two. Write about some whimsical or fantastical creature from your imagination. Begin with sentences that you break into poetic pieces.  Remember to “show” the reader concrete sensory details. Take inspiration from the creativity of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and William Blake’s “The Tyger.”

Example-

Sink Monster

This one lived beneath the kitchen sink:

When I was a child, I could hear its

Subterranean gurgling from the pipeline guts

Of the basement. I could have sworn I saw

The tip of its fin peek out from the drain,

Or heard the snap of its jaws, with its many

Monstrously tiered teeth after turning the faucet off.

~Constance

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Q is for Quilt

I love it when the weather turns cozy.

Cozy means quilts and hot cocoa.

But you don’t have to wait for winter to enjoy a quilt.

Quilts make a terrific summer fort.

Quilt making is wonderful community, no matter the season!

When I’m wishing for cozy, I think of Q, and my favorite quilt stories come to mind:

The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco
Stitchen’ and Pullin’ by Patricia C. McKissack
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
Luka’s Quilt by Gerogia Guback

So read a book, quilt a Q, and embark on a literary tradition!

~Kimberly

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Growth Mindset: Just Keep Swimming

The next time your student gets tackled in the I CAN’T zone, share a story of your own.

Yesterday I was shopping at Trader Joes, contemplating an almond milk purchase when a good friend approached me and said quite simply: “Why don’t you make your own?”

This suggestion set off a cascading thought process in me that went way beyond the situation at hand. All in a millisecond I thought about the many times I had thought about making my own, the videos I had watched, and the numerous blog posts I had read. Still I had never “pulled the trigger” so to speak. Now, I’m smart enough to know we all have “stuck” areas in our lives. There are things we aspire to in life, but we often get overwhelmed OR SOMETHING and are stopped in our tracks. Who knows all the things that hold us back. I suspect the problem has myriad roots.

Anyway, back to Trader Jones, what happened this time is that my friend continued: “Just soak 1 cup nuts (any nuts) overnight in water and in the morning drain the nuts, add 3 cups of water in the blender, and blend to liquify.”

There was something in that moment. I think it might be that the process was presented so simply to me that I thought: “Okay it’s time to do this. I have almonds. I have water. I CAN do this…!”

And so I did. I added a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla too. And the result was delicious—you don’t even have to strain it if you don’t want too! There were no additives so MY almond milk tasted so good!

I think sometimes the moment becomes right to make a move into the stuck zone. It’s so easy to over complicate things in our minds, to Pinterest an idea to death! In the case of almond milk, you know, make it all pretty with mason jars and ribbon and chalkboard labels,etc,etc, etc. when the true beauty is in the MAKING (and consuming) of the scrumptious drink itself.

It felt SO good to FINALLY just do it! And the icing on the cake? This is going to save me a ton of money!

So back to education… What if I had failed? Would I have learned something? YES! and I would have had strengthened my tenacity to try in the process. I would have learned some right and wrong strategies. I would have been learning.

Thing is, a growth mindset is NOT always easy. Students are NOT always successful when they try, but they ALWAYS learn something that is useful. Something that will help them in the future when they are faced with something new to learn. So the next time your student shrinks into the “I CAN’T” zone, share a story of your own, hum Dory’s song, and just keep swimming!

PS By the way, my friend said the roasted unsalted hazelnuts from Oregon at Trader Joes makes an incredibly good milk. No fixed mindset here… I’m making some!!

 

~Sara Evans

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Y is for Yarn

Want to know what it means to spin-a-yarn?

Read Extra Yarn by Mac Bennett, illustrated by Jon Klassen and you’ll soon see.

Winner of the Caldecott, this contemporary fairy tale is bound to become a classic. Annabelle reminds us that curiosity, determination, and generosity are three ways to thwart a villainous archduke! So, like Annabelle, grab a ball of yarn and imagine the possibilities.

PS Be sure to watch the story. It’s delightfully animated!

 

~Kimberly

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Let’s Talk Struggle!

writing

During the last Pages session we explored Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamilo. The author’s journey continues to be on my mind. I am inspired by her resilience. Resilience, I am sure, makes her a courageous and successful writer. In the last week of the Pages class, the writing prompt for the rough draft was, “Write a story about yourself that you would like to tell someone someday.” This prompt leads to unlimited possibilities! As I read each child’s submitted rough draft, I realized they all decided to write about a struggle they experienced. That made me reflect on the books we have read for the Pages class this past year.

During our first Pages session we read Fish In A Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  This is a school story focusing on a new Teacher, Mr. Daniels, and 8 of his students. Like any classroom there is diversity—race, culture, socioeconomic status, intelligence, personality, family life, and more. The main character, Ally, struggles in school and is ultimately diagnosed with dyslexia. The author’s own struggle inspired this story. She was never officially tested for dyslexia growing up, but struggled with reading and self-esteem until she reached middle school, when she experienced her own Mr. Daniels who cared and inspired. Lynda has written two other books, both highlighting characters with struggles and how they successfully made it through to the other side.

Kate DiCamillo openly talks about her children’s books being a little sad. Her characters demonstrate how we readers can survive trials such as suffering or loneliness. In the end there is always a seed of hope, that ultimately things will work out. I mentioned in my previous post that Kate moved to Florida from Philadelphia when she was 5 years old due to chronic pneumonia. What I didn’t mention was that her father who was a dentist who had a practice in Philadelphia and never left. He visited over the years but kept his life and practice in Philadelphia. Opal, the main character in “Because of Winn-Dixie”, struggles throughout the book with understanding why her mom left her when she was 3 years old. Opal has no contact with her mother and is filled with many questions and a great longing that we readers feel deeply.

We as human beings are drawn to struggle. We see struggle every day in the world. We see it in the people around us. Reading about struggle helps us see our own and other’s struggles in life. Writing about struggle can help us figure out the world around us and the workings of ourselves as well. I have heard writers say “we write what we know”. I like what Lynda Mullaly Hunt says, “I think I tend to write what I’d like to know—things I long to understand but don’t.”

It takes courage to look deep within and write our struggles for the world to see.

It takes resilience and a long list of related traits to add hope to any struggle.

Struggle is part of our human condition; sharing is how we relate to each other. When we share our struggle in stories, we see the similarities in our humanity over our differences. There is always the thread of hope in struggle. The question is not whether there is hope but how we get there.

Keep writing courageously! I will get to the other side, understanding my struggle a little bit better, knowing I am not alone, that hope is waiting for me. Hope for me does not guarantee happiness, only the knowledge that things can be better or different then today. And that I believe, is enough.

~Clare Bonn

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Ars Poetica for April

A poem about “what-is-a-poem” is an Ars Poetica.

 

Sometimes a poem is as small as a list.

Sometimes it encompasses all the words we need.

Sometimes a poem is restless buttons  in a jar.

But always,

a  l  w  a  y  s

a poem

is translucent,

waiting to unfurl

its magic.

 

~Kimberly Bredberg

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Caterpillar of Birds

Caterpillar_Birds

Write poem that is at once a story describing an image or event or memory. Be imaginative. Think Caterpillar of Birds. Be the blind man who thinks he is describing a snake but is actually describing an elephant. Draw more inspiration from metaphor and synecdoche.

“The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop overtly describes the catching of a fish, but subtly describes the concept of choice, the wonder of the natural world, mortality, beauty, and more.

Example:

 

“Dropping a Plate While Washing Dishes”

 

I nearly caught it—

the plunge of dish from hand

frame by frame was frozen

as the slippery china slid,

still fleeced with shining bubbles,

from my gloves, and the wild waltz

of slippery fingers grasping

still failed to stop

its spiral to floor: one frame remains

still rendering in loops—

my heartbeat expanded into

throbs of meaty bass

the second when the runaway

nearly seemed suspended

above the unforgiving tile,

I stood staring like a friend

left behind on a train platform,

even after the floor burst

into a kaleidoscope, shreds

of blue glass.

~Constance

 

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Flourishing an Idea

Mozart Season Bundle

Aesthetics is a set of principles that inform the outcome of a work of art. Aesthetics taps into that part of our being that connects with beauty. Last spring, after reading The Mozart Season,  knew the section of the story that would inspire the most creativity. I know this because I have seen it here, and here, and here. And when readers stumble upon this three-page passage, well, Section 5 happens.

As the story goes, when Allegra and her mother’s friend, Diedre spend an afternoon in the Rose Garden, well, music happens. Nestled atop a hill in the park is a silvery aluminum sculpture. There are tall columns and arched columns, smaller columns and water uniting them all.

“It was Diedre who started the song. She began slowly, BONG bong Bong bong with her knuckles on the three big columns, walking between them.”

Now I’ve seen some fantastic creative responses to The Mozart Season (some that have won awards), but when this past year, one of my students finished the book and brought in her Section 5 project to share, I marveled that, yet again, it was in response to this specific music-making passage.

And the project she brought in was not only “nique” (as Allegra and her friends would say), but also a perfect opportunity to share some tips to elevate the Section 5 project artistically.

With a cardboard box, some discarded bottles, aluminum foil, a few scraps of notebook paper, one green marker, Scotch tape, and a pitcher of water, my student made a musical instrument! While I have seen many musical instruments (even musical compositions) inspired by this little section of The Mozart Season, this one captured my imagination. Think “don’t judge a book by its cover” for a moment. This homely little project surprised me with rich sounds made from filling the bottles with different levels of water and blowing gently across each the neck. Oh! I was simply tickled, “My favorite Mozart invention so far!”

But the poor dear was in desperate need of a makeover. So I gave the maker a simple lesson.

So following is the simple make-over:

BEFORE

 

  1. To begin, if you are going to use a box (and boxes are a great way to begin), always paint the box! Give yourself a blank canvas upon which you can build your idea. A coat or two of gesso or acrylic paint will do just fine.
  2. Use more than one art medium. Here for example, using green marker and green paint on both folded and crumpled paper makes the viewer read ‘foliage” more clearly.
  3. Give the reader an anchor to the book where the idea originated by posting quotes around the project.

You don’t have to be an artist to make your idea beautiful. And, think about it, ideas are meant to be appreciated. So, go on, beautify.

AFTER

One last thought… There is a trend in all sectors of education to discount the reading of pure fiction. This is not wise. This quiet little story is, in my opinion, powerful proof why we all need to read across many genres, read all kinds of stories. Every time I’ve led students through this purely fictional story set in a very real setting (the competition that Allegra is working toward is a real competition that happens annually in Oregon), they read a few pages and groan. But by the time they get to the end, they have a deep appreciation for the rich story and significant fodder for their creativity to unfold.

~Kimberly Bredberg

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It’s April… Read and Write Poetry!

Try Douglas Florian.

Winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and recipient of an ALA Notable Children’s Book Award, Douglas Florian is the author and illustrator of many children’s books. He believes there is only one rule when it comes to poetry, that there are no rules. Douglas Florian gives credit to his father as his first art teacher, who taught him to love nature. He begins his poems with research of the real thing and then uses that information to create an imaginary poem. Douglas Florian lives in New York City with his wife and five children.

Try Love That Dog.

What is a poem anyway?

I don’t want to
because boys

don’t write poetry.

Girls do.

Meet Jack, who tells his story with a little help from some paper, a pencil, his teacher, and a dog named Sky.

Although this guide includes many of the same elements as the other Level 1 guides, such as vocabulary and comprehension, the format is unique.Each week, your student will be encouraged and guided to write poems in the style of each poet being introduced in the story.

Try Locomotion.

When Lonnie Collins Motion – Locomotion – was seven years old, his life changed forever.

Now he’s eleven, and his life is about to change again. His teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. And suddenly, Lonnie has a whole new way to tell the world about his life, his friends, his little sister Lili, and even his foster mom, Miss Edna, who started out crabby but isn’t so bad after all

Poetry bundleTry Exploring Poetry.

Discover the poet within you!

This unit will help you discover the craft of writing poems and the delight of reading poetry. Over the course of seven weeks you will be introduced to some of the basic techniques used by poets, explore excellent poetry, and practice writing original poems. Each section is designed to be completed in about two, one hour sittings.