Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Websites and Tips for Home Teaching

I often think I have nothing to special to offer. I have been a teacher for about 16 years, but I never thought those were skills that would helpful. However in the last few years, I have come to realize that I do have skills to offer. And now of course there are things I can share that could help. So I'm going to stop talking and make a few big lists.

Free educational websites with no login
1. Abcya! Pre-K - 6. Games Letters, Numbers, Holidays, Skill, and Strategy
2. Starfall - Pre-K - 3. Math, Reading, Seasonal activities, and Music
3. Hooda Math - K - 12. Math games
4. Free Rice - Probably 9 - 12. English vocabulary, English grammar, Geography, Humanities, Science, Math, and World Languages.
5. Museum Virtual Tours K-12. Look around museums around the world.
6. Ted-Ed - Probably 9 - 12. Ted Talks with questions
7. Switcheroo Zoo - Animal games and information.
8. Nat Geo for Kids - Probably K - 6. Stories, Games, Quizzes, etc.
9. Fun Brain - Pre-K - 8. Games, Reading, Math, Videos, and
10. PBS Kids - Probably K-2. Games
11. Storyline Online Probably K-2. Like Reading Rainbow with different people.
12. Seussville - Books, Games, Videos all from Dr. Seuss books
13. Highlights Kids - Activities, Games, Jokes, and some Science
14. Online StoryTime with Barnes and Noble - Pick a book and go to the bottom and there is a video.
15. Storynory - Books read aloud even through Dickens!
16. National Geographic Young Explorers - Science magazine for elementary age kids
17. Oxford Owl - Pre-K - 6 reading, phonics, etc.
18. Lots more Math websites
19. Art Hub for Kids - Beginning art lessons
20. GeoGuesser - Figure out where in the country/world you are using Google Street View

Websites that are now free and might require login or account creation
Here is a list that has already been made.

Tips on Teaching
1. Have a designated space for them to work. When they go to that space, they should be on 'school' behavior.

2. Create a schedule

3. Includes break times.

4. Don't forget PE, Art, Music, etc. Those 'extras' can be the best times of day for students. This can also be a great time for you to teach your kids something you are good at that isn't one of the 'main' four, English, Math, Social Studies, and Science.

5. Proximity matters! Stand near them. Don't talk. Just observe. Be relaxed. Students tend to be on task more when you are close to them.

6. When they get work from their teacher and you don't understand it, ask them to explain what they know and understand. That will give you a starting place and possibly some Google search terms.

7. Talk to that home school parent you know. I'm sure they have so many tips.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus and Christians

This week has been flabbergasting. It has been scary and jaw dropping. 

NBA and NHL are on pause. MLB pushed back everything. I think most NCAA is canceled. High school sports are canceled. Universities sent students home. Broadway is going dark. We are all being told to stay home as much as possible. 

We have all learned more about how to make hand sanitizer and the right way to use disinfecting wipes. This is unprecedented

We will look back on this time and remember where we were when the United States was quarantined. 

I don't have all the answers. I don't have many answers. I can say that I saw some really helpful Instagram posts. Naomi from WWE gave several really great tips that are clear and concise. It gave me hope to see that there are things I can do to help myself and my family. Knowing that I have agency and a modicum of control. I can't find the other posts, but they gave me hope. 

Photo Credit: David Michalczuk

I think that is the point right now. We still have hope. We serve a big God who is in control no matter what. That is important to remember right now. You can feel sad that we have to miss things that matter to us. Seniors who didn't get their senior night. Fans of those teams who didn't get see how far they can go. I am a Blues fan and we could have repeated a Stanley Cup win. We might still have a chance, but I am sad and frustrated that it might not happen. And those feelings are okay. I am sad for those seniors. I am concerned about the elderly and immuno-compromised. I am concerned for students who might have to come back from a break and take a test. 

I have a lot of feelings and sometimes those feelings threaten to overwhelm me. Then I stop, take a deep breath, and realize I serve a big God. As Christians, we don't need to fret. God is still in control. 

And since we aren't fretting, we have a huge opportunity to serve and witness. Other people don't have our hope and our confidence. We can share those and love on people in this hard and scary time. We can share the hope and confidence that God gives us. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

This Kid Makes Me Better

I have been a mother for 11 years. It seems like I have been a mother forever. That might be because the last few years seem like they have lasted a decade or so. I guess I have changed so much that I have difficulty thinking of who I was before all this change. Maybe being a teacher for almost 2 decades is a part of feeling like a mother forever.

I thank God everyday for giving me Ben to raise. I have played games I wouldn't have otherwise, Pixel Art, read books I wouldn't have read, Press Start, and watched videos I wouldn't have watched, lots of fail videos. We have some epic GIF wars by text and I am learning a lot more about science now, than I retained from my years in school. I am enjoying these years, but he challenges me.
He regularly challenges me to be a better person, more compassionate and more consistent.  For instance giving back to others has been on his heart lately. He wants to go through the toys he doesn't play with anymore and give them to homeless kids. I am not exactly sure how to make that happen, so while I am looking into that, we decided to save money to use for microloans at Kiva and buy things that people need through the World Vision catalog. Those sound like nice things, but making this saving a routine in our house or sorting through toys and clothes regularly to donate them? That takes work and commitment. But maybe that is what is required to make a difference for people and to teach your kid that work and commitment to the betterment of others is important.
He knows he is on his phone too much, so he has asked me to start taking it away from him. There are times he gets stressed out and he is asking for strategies to help himself calm down. He wants to give away toys to the homeless. He wants to eat healthy and work out. It is hard for me to keep up with all the good things he wants to do. But being better takes work and commitment, so I guess I better up my game to keep up with him.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Reading Should Make Me Happy

Photo Credit: Anna

I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago that January is a hard month. One reason it is hard is that I pick out a couple reading challenges, plan what I am going to read for them, and then stress myself out that I am not reading quickly enough.

Right around the turn of the year, I picked up a book that had been on my TBR list for awhile. I checked it out of the library with a couple other books. I read a few pages and renewed it with the idea of finishing it in those 2 weeks. Those 2 weeks were coming to an end and I had progressed from 10% done to about 40% done. I was beating myself up that I hadn't finished the book yet. It was a good book. I was enjoying it, but it was a bit emotional and I didn't want to overwhelm myself with emotion. So I kept choosing other books instead of that one. Mostly I was choosing cozy mysteries. Those are fun and mostly formulaic. It isn't really emotional. It is just a light, fun read.

But shouldn't I be a serious reader and read serious books? What does it say about me if all I do is read cozy mysteries? Shouldn't I finish books that I start?

No I don't have to finish what I start. I can also take a break on a book if it is the wrong time. I can come back to it later. I can read serious books and fun books. My reading speed and choice of reading don't say anything about me as a person. So I took a break on the serious book and read cozies. It made me happy and that's what reading is for.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Top 20 Reads of the Decade

This does not include books from 2019 because last week I published my top 10 list. Maybe next year I can look back and see if any of those top 10 make it to this top 20 list. Most of these are books that made me see the world or the people in the world differently. I feel like in last decade I gained a lot of compassion and mercy for the people in the world. Several of these books helped me get there. Some of the books on this list introduced me to a new genre that I didn't know about. I also broadened the type of books that I read this past decade as well. So I think these are a good summary of what I learned in 10 years. They also make me smile remembering the experience of reading them.

1. Death of the Modern Superhero by Chris Lautsbaugh. This one taught me compassion and mercy toward myself.
2. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. This one taught me compassion and mercy toward kids who live in under-served and dangerous neighborhoods, kids who make bad decisions and maybe they don't have to live with it forever.
3. Bread of Angels: A Memoir of Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldana. This one taught me compassion and awe for Syrian people.
4. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil W. White III. This one taught me compassion for those suffering with horrible diseases.
5. Greenglass House by Kate Milford. I felt for adoptees and learned to love juvenile fantasy, especially Nagspeake. It might be my favorite fantasy location.
6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This taught me compassion for myself and other introverts. It also gave me permission to fight for what works with my introversion.
7. The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich. This one introduced me to books with non-traditional formatting as well as those with Disociative Identity Disorder.
8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This one reminded me that beauty is its own excuse for being. I can enjoy it without a bunch of plot action.
9. Sourdough by Robin Sloan. I didn't think I liked this one that much when I read it the first time, but I just keep thinking about it. I like quirky novels that play with how much of this is true stuff that has happened.
10. Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger. With these books, I learned that I love steampunk and alternate history.
11. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. This is another book with non-traditional formatting, but it also makes you ask what is contrived and what is paranormal. I like books that make you ask that.
12. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeline L'Engle. This one taught me to keep writing and not worry so much.
13. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I learned that I like magical realism and sometimes I even like crazy families.
14. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak. It gave me an idea of what World War II might look like from the "other" side.
15. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien. I learned that I do enjoy high fantasy sometimes.
16. The River Immortals Series by Erin Keyser Horn. It reinforced the idea that our waterways are important and sometimes YA romance isn't so bad. OH and independently published books are good.
17. The Miracles of Santo Fico by D. L. Smith. I like Italy as a setting and the story of a village.
18. A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon by Sophie Hudson. Funny books are good and other people have a sense of humor like I do.
19. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Family by Kathleen Flinn. The Midwest is a pretty great place and I'm glad that I grew up there.
20. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich María Remarque. This novel made me see the horrors of war and what it was like on the "other" side.

What are books that make you smile when you think of reading them?

Monday, February 3, 2020

January, behave yourself!

Photo Credit: Joe Lanman

January was unseasonably hot. That sounds like a good thing, but I'm not so convinced. The middle of January was especially warm and then we had a cold weekend. I was so happy to feel the cold outside and put my hoodie on when I got home from work. I liked wrapping up in the blanket and watching life go by our front window. Until it got cold, I hadn't realized how much I missed the cold in January.

I wondered why I had missed the cold. Maybe because January is hard month. I make a new year's resolution and pick out a couple reading challenges. I have a whole year to work on these, but I start feeling like I need to finish it in a month. That is unrealistic and I have talk myself out of that multiple times in a month. We have a low key Christmas, so we don't have credit card bills coming in. However with Christmas break, we do have to make the check go a couple weeks farther. That stresses me out too. There might be more reasons, but those are the ones I can pinpoint right now. January is a hard month.

So when January is hard and then it isn't going like I expected. I didn't like it. I wanted to cuddle up with blankets and hoodies. I wanted to drink hot chocolate. When it is too hot, I can't do any of that. So when January started behaving appropriately, I felt a whole lot better. Then we hit February and it is hot all over again!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Top 10 Reads of 2019

1. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
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This is a murder mystery, but so much more!! The narrator switches to a different body everyday and has to solve the mystery after 7 days. So by the end of the book all the crazy things that happen make sense. The narrator solves the mystery and even that has a twist to it. This is one of the best mysteries I have ever read. Amazing!

2. The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford
The Left-Handed Fate
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This is another book in the universe of Nagspeake. So of course I am in love with it. There is loss and pain and friendship and love. Lucy is on a mission to help find a thing that will save the world from Napoleon, but the Americans get in the way. So then Lucy has to serve a 12 year old commander on her ship! Not to mention the mysterious men in black that are following them. The set up is crazy and I expected to be skeptical of it, but I am so in love with these characters and Nagspeake that I will enjoy anything in this world. The emotion that this book evoked in me moved this book up to #2.

3. Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker
Light from Distant Stars
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Magical realism is something that I am picky about. I often enjoy it when I read it, but I don't seek it out. Unless that magical realism is written by Shawn Smucker. I enjoyed his 2 YA novels, but this adult fiction book is a new love. The first line might make you think it is a mystery novel, but it isn't. It is a novel about family and who we are. We switch back and forth in time to discover who Cohen is and who he was and how he feels about that. That may not sound amazing, but it is. We get way down deep in Cohen's heart and that is a good place to be.

4. An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose, #1)
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I have never read a Charlaine Harris book, but I heard her interview on The Professional Book Nerds podcast. This series is about a gunslinger in an alternate version of the United States that also includes a section that was bought by a fleeing Tsar Nicholas. How can I not want to read that! Then I read it and fell in love with the character of Gunny Rose. She is everything you want in a gunslinger and that makes her a powerful woman. I am on the holds list at the library to get book 2. I can't wait to see what happens next.

5. The Bear & The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)
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I started this book in 2018. I got it from the library and then fell in love with it, so I got myself a copy that I could read as slowly as I wanted. I didn't want to sit and read hundreds of pages at once. I wanted to read 5 or 10 pages at a time and sit in that universe for a while. So I read it slowly and it was wonderful. Arden does a great job of making us feel like a part of this world that is changing. It is scary and hopeful. And just when you think the worst thing has happened, it turns out good. Now I have read books 2 and 3 to see how Vasilisa ends up.

6. Valley of Terror by Zhou Haohui, Bonnie Huie (translator)

Valley of Terror
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I ended up with an Amazon gift card. I had gotten a book for me, a book for Ben and a book for Lily. I had a little bit of money left and wanted to use it on a book that I could enjoy and read slowly. I googled something about horror novels and translations. I ended up at this one and it was the right price, so I picked it up. I did read it slowly over 3 months or so. I had to do some work to figure out how to pronounce the Chinese names correctly. So I learned something and enjoyed the book. This isn't really a horror novel. It is more like archaeological mystery with a little bit of police procedural. I loved reading and getting to know a little bit of history and a little bit of mythology. I loved how the mystery was resolved. Don't expect to be scared, but expect to wonder and to learn.

7. Mycoft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse
Mycroft Holmes
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This is a book I have thought about picking up several times at the library, but never did until 2019. I like the characterization of Mycroft. I liked seeing how he thought. I liked his interactions with Sherlock. My favorite part was the heart of the book. As I read, I genuinely wanted this problem to be solved because I wanted Mycroft and Cyrus to make the world a better place, a place a little more safe. Kareem Abdul-Jabber does a great job writing an issue of color in a way that feels genuine and complex and important. I will probably pick up book 2 in this series sometime this year.

8. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High
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I read Poet X and enjoyed it, then I heard her interview on the Latino USA podcast. So I looked at it and then saw the cover! It is one of the most beautiful covers that I have ever seen. And the character of Emoni is beautiful as well. There is a little bit of magical realism, but it isn't really a focus of the story. The story is about Emoni believing in herself and her talents. I was rooting for Emoni and my emotional investment wasn't wasted.

9. I am the Lion by Rachelle Lauro (Re-published as The Hunted by Rachel Blackledge)
I Am The Lion
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The Hunted
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I have read a couple other books by this author, as Rachel Ledge, and really enjoyed them. I think I am on an email list of hers and found out about her new book. It was originally published under her real name and then republished under a pseudonym. This thriller is everything you would want in a thriller. There is a slow creeping build where you know bad things are coming. Then the bad things come and Genie has to fight her way out of it. It is very good as expected from this author.

10. The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard
The Talented Ribkins
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This book was a little outside my comfort zone in part because of the emotional weight of dealing with the past of a family. I am cautious about emotional books. If I think I might feel too much, I generally avoid it. So I had avoided this book. Then I threw caution to the wind and read it. I'm glad I did. This author did not waste my emotion. I felt things for Johnny Ribkins and his brother and his niece. It was good. Sometimes I still find myself thinking about Johnny and his family. I hope they are doing well and then I remember that they aren't real, so then I say prayer for anyone in a situation like this.

Honorable Mention:
1. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1)
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I think I heard about this one on The Professional Book Nerd Podcast. I found it and the prequel on Hoopla, so I checked them out. I loved listening to them. I love the concept of dangerous mermaids. I love the incorporation of ASL. This author does not use a deaf person as a token character. These are highly qualified people who is a part of deaf culture. There are lots of characters and lots of stress between scientists themselves and between the crew and the scientists. Then at the end there is one more twist. I don't think there is going to be another in this universe, but there could be.

2. The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
The Vanished Bride (Brontë Sisters Mystery #1)
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I read a lot of cozy mysteries and this one is probably a historical cozy mystery. I generally don't include them on my top 10 lists because they are fairly formulaic fun fiction. (Maybe I should make list of my top 10 cozies of the year.) This book however has a lot of other things going for it. I love that the detectives are the Brontë sisters. This author did a fantastic job of including various pieces of the Brontë sisters' novels in this mystery. I like seeing inside their home and how they might have interacted. And the mystery itself is very well done also.