Friday, August 30, 2013

Daily goal cards

I believe setting and working towards goals is an important skill in life. Sometimes those goals are HUGE and need to be broken down into smaller chunks. Other times, those goals might be small but feel huge. Regardless of the size of your goal, I want you to achieve the goal and to feel accomplished.

Lately, I've been overwhelmed by my to-do list. As a result, I decided to choose one goal for each day that must be accomplished. To help myself to be accountable and to actually achieve my daily goal, I created goal cards. I wanted the cards to be attractive so I would be more likely to actually use them too!

I love how they turned out so I'm sharing them with you for FREE! Scroll down to download one, two, or all three sets.

It would be ideal to print your goal cards on a heavy paper or card stock, but if you only have regular paper, that will work! Choose your color, print your cards, and cut them out. Each day, list the date and your goal at the top. On the subsequent lines, list the steps you need to complete in order to complete your goal. Mark off each one with the check boxes as you go.

To add to your sense of accomplishment, set aside a box, a drawer, a small basket, or some other spot in which to collect your completed cards. Periodically, go back through your cards and savor the feeling of achieving!

Please remember that this is my original work. Feel free to print as many copies as you would like, but please don't profit from my work. Please print them for your own private use. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the topic of mothering

I try not to just put up posts that are ONLY links to other things, but I love these two links so much that I am doing just that! Today, I give you two posts about being a mother. These are two of the most important pieces I have read in a very long time about the act of being a mother and all of the things related to mothering.

"Mothers are not 'opting out' - they're out of options" by Sarah Kendzior


"Why being a mom is enough" by Rachel Martin

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Major and minor characters in literature

I once had a student in a literature class ask why the minor characters were part of the story. This question turned into a discussion that lasted for several days, and it was one that we returned to with every new short story that we read for the remainder of the semester.

While not all stories and characters are created equally, the majority of the time the minor characters serve to teach us something about the major character. Maybe the minor character has a secret to tell us about the major character's background. Perhaps the minor character is present to serve as a comparative device to help us understand the major character. Or, maybe the minor character is pivotal to a turn of events in the story.

The minor characters typically serve a purpose that moves the story along. Without the minor characters the story might not be as interesting.

With that in mind, I'd like to share a worksheet with you. Whether your teach literature in a school, are a student yourself, or use it in your homeschool, I hope you will find this worksheet of value.  Please feel free to make multiple copies for your personal use or for your own classroom use. This is my own creation, and I would greatly appreciate it if you would give credit where due should you share this with others. Please refrain from using this for your own profit. Thanks!

Also, check out my worksheet for short story analysis HERE.

Monday, August 26, 2013

College applications

In just a couple of months, many students in the United States will be sending off college applications. It can be a daunting process that unnerves even the most confident of students. Time and time again students second guessing their interests, abilities, and accomplishments when it comes to applying for college.

This weekend, I happened across three items that I'd like to share with you about college applications and narrowing down college choices. I hope you find these helpful.

First, "Writing the Right College-Entrance Essay" from The Wall Street Journal. I love the advice in this article. What it comes down to is being true to yourself. Click HERE for the article.

Second, NPR recently ran a story about using LinkedIn to learn more about different colleges. Click HERE for that story.

Third, if you have any literary interests, this list suggests the the top 25 most literary colleges in the United States. (Pssst...mine is number 7!). Click HERE for that story.

I wish you the best whether you are a parent or a student enduring the applications process!

This post is cross-listed at

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New projects - Literary analysis guides

I am embarking on a new project, and I could use a little help. I would be ever so appreciative if you would leave a comment in which you answer the following questions:
  • What books, articles, poems, or other material did you have to read in middle school, high school, or college English classes which left you either confused or bored to pieces?
  • If you are a homeschooling parent or a teacher, what do you look for in a good literary analysis study guide?
  • Do your students or kids like to incorporate artistic expression in their work? 
You see, I love to read. And, I love to discuss what I read. Of all the subjects I tutor, I love tutoring literature the most. A year or so ago, I had the idea to develop literary analysis study guides, but I didn't do anything beyond dream about it. Then, over the spring, I began making notes in my copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald while helping a student through the book. Those notes morphed into ideas for study guides, and I finally committed to making my dream into reality.

I've got my first few books, blank notebooks, sticky notes, and pens all ready to go. I started making notes in my books using sticky notes, and have begun to outline guides, vocabulary, thematic questions, and project ideas in the notebooks. I'm starting with:
  • William Shakespeare's Macbeth
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Homer's The Odyssey translated by Robert Fagles

There are just SO MANY GOOD BOOKS out there though! The ones I'm starting with just happen to be the ones I've used most recently in tutoring. When I'm done with these, what should I tackle next? It could be a book, an article, a poem, or something else related to literature.  Thoughts?  I'd love your feedback both as answers to the questions above, but also just general thoughts, concerns, and ideas.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond!

While I get working on the next steps of my study guides, feel free to make use of these literature related posts:
This post is cross-posted at

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

College planning

Through tutoring, I've helped several students with college planning. As one of my most recent students began visiting colleges, I began to reflect on my own college visits years ago.  I wish I had taken the time to take notes about each visit.

Listening to my most recent student talk about his visits, I remembered how much information I was trying to keep straight when I was in his position.  As a result, I created a worksheet for students to use when they visit colleges.  I suggest you print the worksheet double sided so that you don't have to worry about the two pages of the document getting separated.

I also suggest that you get a binder and page protectors.  After every visit, fill out a worksheet and slip it into a page protector. In the same pocket, add any brochures, paperwork, or photos from the visit.  This way everything for each visit will be kept tidy and all in one place.

In the top box, the student should write their overall thoughts about the school, and then make a list of the pros and cons for the school.  In the next field, make a list of important faculty and staff met during the visit. Be sure to get contact information and send them thank you notes. At many schools, a thank you note will make an impression! It will show maturity and interest, and it is a step that many students won't take.

In the final field of the first page, make a list of any family or friends that attended the school.  The student should take some time to talk to these people about the school and the experiences that these people had there.  Send thank you notes to them too!  If they had great experiences, ask if they would be willing to write a letter or make a phone call to the school after the student applies - these are NOT letters of recommendation that many applications require!  These are on top of the required letters of recommendation. Some schools, especially private schools, love to have alumni recommend students.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Poetry for Young People by Carl Sandburg

Right now my favorite book is Poetry for Young People by Carl Sandburg. I absolutely adore this book. Sandburg's poems are accompanied by beautiful illustrations, and the book begins with a fantastic biography about Sandburg.  The poems range from extremely short to a few pages in length, and cover a wide variety of subjects.  Most are fairly straightforward, and for those that aren't quite as obvious, the illustrations will aid in understanding. 

If you were to use this book in a homeschool, I would suggest reading the poems aloud to one another, and then compare the poems to the illustrations.  Discuss the meanings of the poems and how the illustrations relate.
After every couple of poems, perhaps work on writing a poem reflecting the same style or imagery or themes of one or two of the poems read.

My own son and I enjoy reading poetry aloud to one another over dinner or dessert.  It is a nice way to wind down the day.

For other poetry inspiration and ideas, please check out these links:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The most important thing you can do today...

Next to telling your loved ones how much they matter to you, watching this video may be the most important thing you can do today.  It's only 34 minutes, barely a blip in the course of your day - you have time for this.

Watch it, share it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Literary analysis worksheet for short stories...

When I was teaching adult ESL students, I found that many had difficulty sorting out different aspects of short stories in my Contemporary American Short Story class.  As a result, I made up a worksheet for them to fill out.  This worksheet helped them to sort the aspects of the stories into categories and to see how different elements related to one another. During class discussion, the students could use the charts to help them discuss the stories.  This was also a good study aide prior to midterms and final exams.  I hope you will find it useful with your own students whether they be homeschooled, in public school, or in college.

Also, check  out my Major and Minor Characters in Literature worksheet HERE.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thankful and excited...

I've been feeling down all morning. I haven't been motivated to do much of anything, including writing the homeschooling related post I had planned for today.  To try to bolster my spirits, I'm going to steal an idea from my friend, Sheri: to list five things I'm thankful for and five things I'm excited for.

Next time you are feeling down, I suggest you try this exercise as well.

1. I have a home
2. My son
3. My parents and siblings
4. One best friend mere blocks away
5. Another best friend just a text message or phone call away

1. A project I have planned called "Path to Awesome"
2. Plan to visit a museum on Wednesday
3. A new job
4. Seeing friends from out of town at the end of the month
5. JP turns 15 on the 24th of this month.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Planned August reading...

My July reading didn't exactly go as planned. I had to return almost everything on my list to the library.  I could have renewed, but would have had to pay down some fines first (oops!), and thus decided to just return the books instead.  I should plan better, I suppose!

July 2013 reading:

  • The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff 
  • Meet Me At Emotional Baggage by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella 
  • The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain 
  • Celia the Dark and Weird by Karen Finneyfrock

Abandoned/Returned to the Library:
  • The Hit by David Baldacci - I would like to finish this one eventually.
  • The Butterfly Hunter by Chris Ballard - Eh, it was ok, but I probably won't check it out again.
  • The No Asshole Rule by Robert J. Sutton  - Definitely want to finish this one! Gotta pay down those library fines and check it out again!
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Not what I was expecting, and I probably won't finish it.

Continuing into August:
  • The Owl and Moon Cafe by Jo-Ann Mapson 
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg 
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini 

Planned August 2013 reading:

Continuing from July:
  • The Owl and Moon Cafe by Jo-Ann Mapson - This is one of my go-to books when I need something familiar and comforting. I've read it several times.
  • The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg - Another go-to for comfort and familiarity.
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini - I loved Hosseini's first two books, but am really struggling to get into this one.  I want to love it, but so far I'm not even lukewarm.
Other planned reading for August:
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson - I started this one months and months ago, but put it down when life got too busy. Time to pick it up again!
  • Matar Un Ruisenor by Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird in Spanish.  My Spanish skills are elementary for speaking and writing, and probably low-intermediate for reading. However, I know the original English version of the book so well that I'm going to attempt to read it in Spanish.  I'm hoping that this will help improve my Spanish skills dramatically.  Anyone know where I can find copies in Swedish or Turkish? I'm not having much luck finding To Kill a Mockingbird in either of those two languages.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Whisper your worries...

I created another motivational/inspirational/meditation poster this morning.  The next time you are worried about something, or feeling overwhelmed with worries, I want you to close your eyes. Imagine that you are a child again, and blowing on a freshly picked dandelion. Every time you blow on the dandelion, and the little bits begin to float away, imagine that they are carrying your worries away with them.

Whisper your worries to the wind

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Getting published feels nice

Several months ago, I submitted a poem to The Blue Lake Review, an online literary journal. I was thrilled to have the poem accepted for inclusion in their August edition.  It came out today.

Backstory: while riding the 7-train in New York City from Time's Square out to Queens, I happened to be sitting across from a woman that reminded me so much of my grandmother who had passed away several years earlier that the ride was an emotional one.

Click HERE for the front page of the edition, and click HERE for my poem.  Please read through the other works that are in this edition as well. The Blue Lake Review is a lovely journal and deserves your time and attention.

Thanks for checking out my work and The Blue Lake Review!