Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Things I’ve Learned from Past Jobs

jobsIn No Grape Stomping or Candy Factory from Sioux's Page, Sioux  asks,

“What important things have you learned while on your jobs?  What was your favorite job or your most unfavorite job (and why)?”

(If you notice, Sioux’s Page inspires a lot of blog posts from me! If you get a chance, I definitely think it is a must-read and I make it a daily habit to read it!)

My first job was a cashier in a Chinese restaurant when I was 16. I worked one night a week for 2 years. Since I was the only person in my family who did not speak Chinese, everyone assumed that I did. Of course this meant I was either laughed at or looked down upon by the other Chinese workers in the restaurant. It didn’t help that my father was the maitre’d and there was very little social interaction allowed.

Next, I became a camp counselor in the summer at our local county park. This was fun and was my first chance to work with children who had disabilities. I realized that this was a possibility for me since I already knew I wanted to be a teacher of some kind.

After my first year of college, I returned home for the summer and knew I didn’t want to work in the Chinese restaurant again so I applied for jobs at anyone who would accept an application. I ended up working in a knitting factory that made coat sweaters. It gave me an understanding of the term “sweat shop” and I knew I didn’t want to do something like this for the rest of my life. In fact, the other workers knew it was a summer job for me and encouraged me to work hard and make something of myself.

During college, I worked at any job (short of selling my body) that would bring in money since I was paying for college myself. I worked in the dining hall for four years plus I worked cultural events (a certain number was required for students), and I worked as a dorm monitor (back when men and women did not live in the same dorms). These were all great experiences but now at reunions, I don’t know if some people were my friends or if I just served them food in the dining hall for four years!

The first summer away from home, I worked three jobs. I worked as a desk clerk in a sleazy motel from 7am - 3pm Mon. - Fri. It was the worst job of my life and I only lasted 2 weeks. My boss would grab me by my ear if I made a mistake and I went home many times in tears. I finally quit because he scared me. I also worked as a sales clerk at Fashion Bug (a clothing retail store in the mall) from 4pm - 10pm Mon. - Fri. On weekends I worked in the complaint department (or circulation department as it was officially called). That was where I met my future husband. This was different for me because it was outside of school and in a professional environment. Plus, it had nothing to do with education. The next summer I worked at the newspaper office during the week too. Eventually they had cut backs and there was no job for me anymore.

After that I became a summer camp counselor at the county park for several years. I was able to apply some of the things I had learned in the education courses that I had been taking during the year. This was fun and I was outdoors for the entire summer (rain or shine). I did this for several summers (even after I became a teacher.)

Finally I graduated college and became a teacher in the public school. I have learned so much from my students over thirty years. I am still learning something new all of the time. Now I teach teachers who are getting their master’s degree in special education. Teaching has been the best job I’ve ever had.

So, now that you have learned about my employment history, here is what I have learned:

1. Learn another language at an early age.

2. Don’t plan on a social life if you work with your father.

3. Some people like working in factories but it wasn’t for me.

4. Do whatever you need to do to pay for college and get a degree.

5. The people you serve food to may one day be your friends too.

6. Don’t stay in a job where you aren’t respected.

7. Working in a clothing store can get you a discount on some great clothes!

8. Summer camp is fun to work at and gets you outside.

9. Sometimes it is good to work somewhere outside your comfort zone.

10. Working at a career that you love makes the years fly by.

11. You never stop learning.

What have you learned from your job(s)? Please share.

Image: 'Social Media Camp 2009- Social Media for+the+Job+Search'
Found on

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One Big Happy Family

familyWhen I first started my career as a special education teacher, the field was still new and in its infancy. It wasn’t widely accepted by many of those in the profession. As with all new things, there were skeptics and people opposed to trying something new. The first few years I felt like the outside looking in and not accepted by many. My classrooms were always the furthest away from the general population and for many years, I was in a portable in the back of the school. It was as if I was out of sight out of mind. But I didn’t mind because I was doing what I loved.

Now fast forward about 40 years and it is a whole different world.

Now special education is widely accepted. In fact, in my last school, it was sincerely welcomed. I had teachers who came to me for advice about working with students with disabilities in their classroom. Some wanted help with students that were just having difficulties even though they were not labeled as having a disability. With all the years of experience I had under my belt, I was able to give some suggestions that they could try and many times they were able to help the student become successful.

With RTI in schools now and many students getting special education services in inclusion classrooms, special education teachers are considered in much higher esteem than when I first started.

It warms my heart to see that now we are one big happy family. I was afraid that with all this No Child Left Behind and testing, that many would end up resenting students with disabilities. Instead, I think because there are so many in general education classes, that teachers throughout the school realize the disservice we are giving to our students. Instead of blaming the students, they are finding ways to support and help these students.

If you are a new teacher, I hope you are tolerant and open minded to other teachers who are not in your field of experience. I hope you learn to look at other’s strengths and see how they can enhance your own strengths. But don’t just be a taker. Offer your strengths but don’t be offended if they aren’t taken. It is enough that you put it out there. And don’t feel like that you don’t have any because you are a new teacher. I am learning so much from the young teachers in my graduate class!

If you are an experienced teacher, be willing to listen to new ideas. Find ways to adapt them to your class and possibly make your lessons better. Continue to accept teachers who may be teaching a different subject and value their worth. I thank all of the teachers I worked with at my last school who made me realize that I had a lot to offer and still learn. It was this group that made me realize we were one big happy family.

How do you see the other teachers in your school? Do you see them as a separate entity or are you one big happy family? Why? Do you think it should be this way? Why? Please share.

Image: 'Free Daddy and His Little Shadow Girls+at+The+Skate+Park+Creative+Commons'
Found on

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Learning Place 2013 Week 3

011This week went well! I enjoy observing my young teachers and learning new techniques. I also like reading their blogs and seeing the lesson from their perspective. I saw math lessons using marshmallows and fruit loops to teach place value. I saw some teachers using the iPad, songs to remember phonics, and learning centers. I had a couple people from Furman visiting and I was very proud of the teachers and the children.

Next week is our last week for the program and everyone is preparing for the closing ceremony on Thursday. I invited a lot of important people from Furman but I’m not sure who will show up. Each class will do some kind of performance and I can’t wait to see it. Hopefully, I will be able to video the ceremony and post it here.

Have a great week!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/26/13

tools1Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

100 Years of Flight - “'s 100 Years of Flight allows your students to explore the history, science and adventure of humankind's journey through the air. The online activities include the first flight of the Wright brothers in 1903, the life and times of pilot Amelia Earhart, and the exploration of space. As students explore the activities, they can build their own virtual plane, write a newspaper article, build a timeline, and participate in a paper airplane contest.” (L:G; SA:A)

Funbrain - free math and reading games and activities (L:E,M; SA:A)

18 Google Earth and Map Lessons - from Free Technology for teachers (L:G; SA:A)

Thinkuknow - “Come in to find the latest information on the sites you like to visit, mobiles and new technology. Find out what’s good, what’s not and what you can do about it. If you look after young people there’s an area for you too – with resources you can use in the classroom, at home or just to get with it. Most importantly, there’s also a place which anyone can use to report if they feel uncomfortable or worried about someone they are chatting to online. All the information here is brought to you by the team at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.” (L:G; SA:A)

iStorybooks - Stories to read with young children (L:E; SA:LA)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dreaming the Possible

dreamIn To Dream the (Im)possible Dream from Sioux's Page, Sioux  asks,

“What dream do you have for yourself or for your writing? And...what are you doing to keep your dream burning brightly?”

Since I retired from public school, I believe that my dream is to stay connected with other educators and keep up with the education world. I’m afraid if I don’t, all that I have (knowledge and experience) will be lost. For me, that would be such a waste because I loved teaching.

So, I continue to write in my blog and connect my life experiences to education.

I read other blogs and see how they are connected to education.

When time and money allows, I attend education conferences.

I teach special education courses for my local university which means I have to stay current with education topics, trends and strategies.

I give presentations on education topics whenever it is possible.

I volunteer at the state park and lead school groups on hikes. I am able to share interesting information that relate to common core standards for that grade and I also get to share my love of nature.

So, now I will pass on the question. What is your dream and how are you keeping it burning? Please share.

Image: 'Dream a Little Dream - Complete'
Found on

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tips for the First Day

firstdayIn 10 Tips to a Successful First Day of School from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam shares some great tips. I just wanted to add a few more to these.

Call as many of the parents before the first day as you can. Introduce yourself and tell them how glad you are that their child is in your class. Explain that you will be sending home papers and what they may be. Tell them the best way to contact you. This helps you start off on a positive foot right from the beginning.

Make a list of all the things you have to do on the first day so you won’t forget anything. Usually the administration has a load of forms they want handed out or filled out. Add the things you want done also. This is like a road map for you to follow.

Have name plates on the desks so that you will know who each student is and the other students will know also.

Explain how you want certain procedures handled such as attendance, restroom, fire drill, or any other important things that happen during the week.

Have some kind of ice breaker activity to help students who are new to the community and don’t know the other students. Some of the other students may have grown up together and form a kind of impenetrable circle unless the teacher helps.

Instead of asking students what they are good at or weak in, ask them what they like to do and why. What about their hobby makes them feel good? Tell them that you want to learn one new thing about this every day they come into class. This will give you something in common to talk about. I learned a lot about skateboarding this way and I actually found it interesting.

Do you have any tips for making the first day of school a success? Please share.

Image: 'school bus'
Found on

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Take Chances

basketballIn Improve the Odds from Sioux's Page by Sioux , she shares,

“Improve your odds. Take more than one chance at some of the opportunities that come your way. You might end up a winner...”

This had me thinking about all of the chances I have taken on students in my classrooms.

Even though other teachers warned me that one of my students was a lost cause, I took a chance and believed in him. He blossomed under this faith I had in him and he succeeded.

Even though the parents warned me that their child was lazy, I expected the best from him and he gave it his all. We all were thrilled with his success.

Even though the student told me that he wasn’t going to do the work and I just needed to fail him, I refused to give up on him. I pushed and prodded until he did the work just to shut me up. I was so proud when he did well on the assignment. Seeing the surprise on his face was worth the effort. This motivated him to keep trying.

Even though my administrators warned me that I can’t save them all, I had to try. It is the success stories that keep me trying.

I remember talking to my friend who was a basketball coach and he always told his players that he would rather they try to make a shot and miss the basket than never try at all. No points were ever scored if no one took the chance.

That is how I feel in my classroom. If I never take the chance, how can I help my students succeed? If I don’t feel they are worth the risk, how can I expect them to take it?

Sure, I won’t be able to save them all but it is worth it to try to save the most that I can.

How about you? Do you take the risk? Are you willing to take a chance on your students? Please share.

Image: 'Air'
Found on

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Learning Place 2013 Week 2

010We had another successful week at Summer Learning Place last week. I began my formal observations of all of the teachers. I really enjoy seeing the different strategies and teaching techniques that they use. When I write comments on their observations, I try to mention suggestions if I think they can try something else to enhance or change the strategy a little. I sometimes can’t think of ways to improve or change the lesson.

One classroom uses a lot of movement with the little ones as soon as they arrive to “warm up their brains.” I think this is a wonderful thing to use to get students ready for learning. They also used learning centers to meet the needs of the children since there was such a wide range of abilities. I think this was very successful but as the teachers mentioned in their lesson reflection, it was easy to do with a small group and two teachers in one room. I liked one of the centers that was self checking.

I am seeing some negative behaviors coming out and I guess the “honeymoon” is over. It is interesting to see how these teachers handle this. I have suggested some behavior modification strategies that might help. Some of them have contacted parents which I always think is a step in the right direction.

It seems like the children and the teachers are enjoying themselves. The only major problem that we have had was getting the children picked up on time. I asked the parents/caregivers to pick them up by 11:30 and no later than 11:45 because the teachers have another class to attend right after the children leave. Unfortunately some children haven’t been picked up until noon or after. This really inconveniences everyone since no one may leave until all of the children are picked up.

I look forward to Week 3!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, July 19, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/19/13

tools1Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

DOGO News - “The leading source for current events, news and non-fictional articles for kids and teachers.  Featuring award-winning content written for children, DOGOnews is rapidly becoming the de-facto favorite for language arts, science and social studies lesson plans in the classroom and current events homework help at home.” (L:G; SA:A)

Country Maps - Public domain country maps (L:G; SA:A)

Youtube Tools - 8 overlooked tools (L:T; SA:A)

Google Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum - “Google has partnered with child safety experts at iKeepSafe, and also worked with educators themselves to develop lessons that will work in the classroom, are appropriate for kids, and incorporate some of the best advice and tips that Google's security team has to offer.” (L:M, H; SA:A)

Helicopter 2050 Challenge - “Tell us how your vision or design of the helicopter of 2050 will help overcome global challenges.” For ages 9-16. (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hope for the USA

HopeIn The Inside Secrets from Sioux's Page by Sioux, she asks,
“What are your hopes for the United States?”

I had to really think about this and this is what I came up with. They are listed in the order as I thought of them and not in the order of priority.

I hope:

1.      We find a cure for lupus. (My sister has had it for years.)
2.      We find a cure for cancer. (I’ve lost many friends from this.)
3.      We take the money we give to other countries and use it on our hungry and homeless in our country.
4.      We make the education system realistic and relevant to our children, the future leaders of our country.
5.      We stop making redundant and ridiculous laws just to make politicians look good.
6.      We take care of elderly and retired citizens instead of taking more of their hard earned money and making it worth less.
7.      We stop raising taxes at a time when the economy is in trouble.
8.      We elect people who want to better our country rather than themselves and their friends.
9.      We hold people accountable for their actions and stop making excuses for them.
10.  We treat people fairly rather than according to their economic status, race, religion, or gender.
11.  We encourage people to nurture their strengths in order to better the world.
12.  We stop enabling people to become helpless and help them become useful to society.
13.  We stop putting artificial preservatives and steroids in our food.
14.  We stop charging extra for organic food.
15.  We make the cost of living reasonable for all people.
16.  We make school some place that children want to go rather than have to go. 

What are your hopes for the United States? Please share.

Image: 'We're thinking of you'
Found on

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Art of Appreciation

firemenIn Why teachers should help lead a thankful revolution
Posted by Vicki Davis, she asks,

“How can we thank our law enforcement, EMTs, and all of those people who serve us every day? I'm looking for all kinds of ideas beyond having them come and sit at an assembly and taking food (I think they like the second one the most, from what I've heard.) What can we do to really shower and show gratitude to the heroes among us?”

I think showing our appreciation is very important but we also need to teach the younger generation how important it is. The best way of doing this is by example. Not only should we thank the many unsung heroes but we need to let our young people know why we are doing it and why it is so important. I know we tell students they should do random acts of kindness, I think it is also important they show planned acts of appreciation. Children learn from watching and if we are showing our appreciation and explaining to them why we are thankful and how important it is to show it, they will eventually learn the behavior and it will become second nature to them. Too many times I have heard people talk about the ungratefulness or selfishness of the younger generation but I wonder if it is because we aren’t teaching them. How many of them write thank you notes anymore? How many respond to their relatives when a gift is sent to them? I hear that many people don’t even do that anymore. I feel we have gotten kind of lazy in the art of appreciation.

At least twice a year, I bake banana bread and deliver it hot to the local fire department, police department, public works department, and public library. I put our name on the thank you card so they know that I really do appreciate all that they do. In the years past, I kept a small dorm refrigerator on my side porch filled with soft drinks for the city police (we live in a a small town). They would sit in the middle of the night and drink some soda while they filled out their reports. It was a small kindness that I could do for them in the hot summers when there was nowhere for them to get something to drink in the middle of the night.

During the summer program that I direct every year, I try to bring the janitors a dozen hot Krispie Kreme donuts every other week. They seem to love it and I want them to know that I realize they have extra work at the school because of my program and I appreciate all that they do.

Since there is no way to thank people the random acts of kindness that have been extended to us over the years, my husband and I became volunteers with the Red Cross. We help those in need during disasters such as fires and flooding. We have driven the Emergency Response Vehicle when needed, worked in shelters, and helped individuals when they have lost their homes due to fires and floods.

It is truly rewarding to be able to give back and show how thankful we are for the many people who have been there for us. It is vital that we show young people today how to show this thankfulness. I believe that many are thankful but I’m not sure they realize how important it is to show their appreciation.

Now, I ask my readers, “How do you show your appreciation to the many unsung heroes in your life?”

Please share.
Image: 'Firefighters'
Found on

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Doing, Loving and Hoping

happyIn 3 Keys to Happiness.from Boji’s Blog, Boji (a dog who writes about his adventures as a therapy dog), asks,

“If you have something to do, something or someone to love and something to hope for you have found happiness! What do you do? Who do you love? What do you hope for?”

Something to do:
I love doing things and learning things. Things I am doing lately: knitting, spinning yarn, hiking, gardening, traveling, and teaching.

Someone to love:
I love my husband absolutely and to distraction! Even when he drives me crazy at times, I can’t imagine life without him.

Something to hope for:
I hope to enjoy life and good health. I hope to be able to keep my sense of humor and find a reason to laugh every day. I hope to smile and make others smile.

I guess I have found happiness! I’m truly lucky. Yet, I think happiness surrounds most of us and that the unhappy people don’t realize it. Maybe if unhappy people thought about these three things, maybe they would realize that they aren't so unhappy after all.

How about you? Have you found happiness? How would you answer these three questions? Please share.

Image: 'Happy lane'
Found on

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Learning Place Week 1

003The beginning of our summer program started last week. I am the director of the program which has 9 teachers and 28 children. The teachers are actually the students in my graduate practicum class and they are getting their master’s degree in special education. Every summer I teach this class through this summer program. Parents are sent information about the program in the spring and apply to send their children (ages 6-13) to us. The cost for the parents is $150 to send the children for 15 days - Mon. through Thursday for 4 weeks from 8:30 -11:30 each day (except the first Monday) when I meet with the teachers. My teachers will teach the students reading, math, and writing skills which they determine after administering a pre-assessment the first couple of days.

The first day with children started off with a general assembly where I talked to the parents about dropping their children off and the procedure for picking them up. Then teachers led their students with parents to the classroom. All of the children seemed excited even though some of the older ones acted like they didn’t want to be there (they wanted to keep up the tough guy appearances anyway!). I saw a few familiar returning children and I was excited to see them again. It is fun to see how some of them have matured over the past year. One student has returned five times and this is the last year he is eligible due to his age.

The next two days I informally observed the teachers so I could get a feel for their classroom. I wanted to see how their day was structured and how well they were getting along with their students. I was quite pleased with what I saw. It is also fun to see what new strategies are being used to teach basic skills. Every year I seem to learn something new from the teachers so I love to see what they come up with.

Luckily this year I haven’t had to deal with any behavior problems. Of course this was just the first week and I warned the teachers that this could still be the “honeymoon” period.

Every Tuesday we have a seminar where I introduce a topic or we discuss a specific topic. First I ask for the teachers to talk about their class and see if there are any issues we need to address. It is interesting to hear these comments and their perceptions of what is going in the classroom. Every week the teachers have to share their reflections of a lesson that I observed in a blog post. If you have time to look at their posts and leave a comment, I would appreciate it. The link showing the listing of the blogs is: Teacher Blogs.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, July 12, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/28/13

tools2Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!
Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Character Scrapbook - analyze characters in any book (L:G; SA: LA)

Metropolitan Museum of Art - Free art history books online (L:H; SA: FA)

Dialect Survey - 122 questions were asked and put into this visual graph to show difference in dialects around the country. I found this fascinating and I think students would too. (L:G; SA:A)

Elephant Voices - “One of the primary goals of ElephantVoices is to use our knowledge to speak up on behalf of elephants. We act as a voice for elephants via this website, scientific and popular articles, lectures, TV documentaries, interviews, radio broadcasts, expert statement and testimony, appearing in court, where necessary.” (L:G; SA:SS,S)

Who Am I - “Insights into genetics and brain science: find out about your brain, your genes and your body and the effect they have on your identity.”; fun game to play” (L:M, H; SA:S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods Part 3

LittleHouseintheBigWoodsThis is the final part of Little House in the Big Woods. I have really enjoyed reading it again and I look forward to the next book and the wonderful things I will relearn from reading it. Hope you have enjoyed this too! Please join me in reading the next book:

1. Godey’s Ladys Book - using catalogs then and now, fashion styles then and now; Sears catalog
2. Making cheese - then and now
3. Honey - have a beekeeper come in and talk to the class; uses of honey; honey never goes bad
4. Harvesting and Threshing - what harvest are grown in what states? How are crops harvested?; farm tools, how does weather affect crops?
5. Hat making - how are hats made; different kinds of hats, purposes of hats
6. Gathering nuts - different types of nuts, how nuts are used besides in cooking, the nutrients in nuts
7. Cooking with pumpkin - grow pumpkins, pumpkin recipes, jack o’lanterns

Picture from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods Part 2

LittleHouseintheBigWoods(As mentioned yesterday: I decided to read books by Laura Ingalls Wilder this summer and see if it looks differently from an adult perspective compared to a child’s perspective. The first book was Little House in the Big Woods. What a neat trove of information I found in the book. I know many people roll their eyes when they think of these books but I think they were sweet and full of great stories that children of all ages would enjoy. I loved the books and I loved the TV series! I will be sharing topics and activities that can be done in the classroom that goes along with this book. If you think of any other activities that go along with a topic, please share!)

1. Handmade Gifts - There is a joy in making gifts with your own hands, brainstorm things you can make to give as gifts, discuss how the gift of time is as precious as material things.

2. Dressing appropriately for the weather - Discuss different types of clothes to wear in different kinds of weather.

3. Fur Trading - The art of trading; what was traded for the furs? What trading goes on in today’s world?

4. Bears and Spring - What happens when animals come out of hibernation?

5. Sugar snow - Making maple syrup and candies then and now.

6. Construction of houses - then and now; building codes

7. Stores - shopping in small towns vs. cities, then and now

8. Travel - by wagon then; modes of transportation now

Picture from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods Part 1

LittleHouseintheBigWoodsI decided to read books by Laura Ingalls Wilder this summer and see if it looks differently from an adult perspective compared to a child’s perspective. The first book was Little House in the Big Woods. What a neat trove of information I found in the book. I know many people roll their eyes when they think of these books but I think they were sweet and full of great stories that children of all ages would enjoy. I loved the books and I loved the TV series! I will be sharing topics and activities that can be done in the classroom that goes along with this book. If you think of any other activities that go along with a topic, please share!

1. Geography - this book takes place in Wisconsin. Students can identify Wisconsin on the map, identify bordering states, climate, population, topography.

2. Animals that live in the forest - this would be a great activity for young children. Some children might live in an urban area and have no idea what animals live in the forest.

3. Cooking venison - Look at the process then and now. Some people still eat venison. Look up recipes.

4. Hunting for survival vs. sport - they used every piece of the animal and didn’t waste anything.

5. Bears - talk about hibernation. What other animals hibernate? Why is hibernation important?

6. Preserving Meat - discuss about food safety and food handling.

7. Cooking hogs - talk about the process. Great activity for sequencing.

8. Butchering Time - time of the year it is done, what is involved, what is expected, what did they use the different parts of the animal for?

9. Playing dolls - compare then and now; make cornhusk dolls,

10. Every day chores - how do the chores differ from then and now; discuss if children should have required chores?

11. Making butter - have students make butter

12. Gun safety - What are the gun laws in your state? Talk about gun safety such as don’t touch guns unless you know how to use it. Maybe find a book that goes along with gun safety.

Picture from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, July 8, 2013

Date Codes on Tires

tiresWhat in the world am I talking about? I thought only food had expiration dates! Well, I was wrong. If you read a previous post about some of the bad luck we had, you would know we blew out a tire on the camper.

While getting it fixed, my inlaws told me to check the date code on the other tire. When I asked the guy at the tire place, he brought us to our tire to show us where the date code was and what it means. Apparently, the Department of Transportation can fine you if your tires are more than 5 years old. Plus, it is a good policy to not have tires more than five years old because of “dry rot” which may have been the cause of our blow out. Apparently our tires were eleven years old! They must have been the original tires that came with the camper because the date on them were from 2002 which is the same year as the camper. We thought the tires were newer because there was so much tread on them!

I think this would be an important thing for everyone who owns a vehicle to know! When you find the four numbers on your tires, the first two numbers are the week the tire was manufactured and the last two numbers are the year it was manufactures. So, if the tire has the four numbers 3512, it means was was made in the 35th week of 2012. Here is a good link that explains it more: Determining the Age of a Tire.

I guess I wear out my tires faster than five years so it has never been an issue before. Now that we are retired, we drive our main car and the other car and truck mostly sit in the driveway unless we use them for a specific purpose.

Doesn’t this make you want to run out and look at all your tires now! Or maybe you knew this already and are thinking I’m crazy. Either way, I’m glad I found out about this.

Image: 'contact patch'
Found on

Friday, July 5, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/5/13

tools1Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!
Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Birth and Death Rate Word Map - a visual of the world’s birth and death rate. (L:M,H; SA: SS,S)

Natural History Museum - online science museum (L:G; SA: A)

Mark Twain - see Mark Twain’s home in Google Maps (L:G; SA: LA)

StoryToolz - resources for authors (L:G; SA: LA)

National Gallery of Art - “NGA Images is a repository of digital images of the collections of the National Gallery of Art. On this website you can search, browse, share, and download images. A standards-based reproduction guide and a help section provide advice for both novices and experts. More than 25,000 open accessdigital images up to 3000 pixels each are available free of charge for download and use. NGA Images is designed to facilitate learning, enrichment, enjoyment, and exploration” (L:G; SA: FA)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth Of July!

4thofJulyToday is Independence Day here in the United States. There will be plenty of barbecues and fireworks today. I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday. If you are shooting off fireworks, make sure you wet your yard really well, have buckets of water nearby in case of fire, keep the children away from the fireworks, and be smart as well as safe! If you are celebrating with alcohol, please don’t drink and drive. If you are with a group of friends, enjoy yourself and enjoy life! Be thankful for all that we have here in the USA. Sure, like any family or any country, we have our problems but life isn’t perfect and neither are we - as individuals or a nation! Happy birthday USA! I’m glad I live here!

Image: 'Independence Day!'
Found on

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Run of Bad Luck

If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’m not sure we would have any luck at all. Lately we have had a run of bad luck. Here is our sad saga…

We left on a Sunday to go camping and were excited about camping at the same campground as my in-laws. We headed out early and were halfway there when I noticed smoke from our Tahoe back right wheel. My husband thought the car was on fire! So, he immediately pulled in the gas station at that intersection. We ended up calling AAA and my in-laws came to rescue our travel trailer. They towed it on up to our campsite while AAA towed the Tahoe back home to the shop that had just put new brake pads on. Of course it was Sunday so we had to wait until Monday to talk to them. They had it fixed by 4:30pm and put on a new caliper, brake hose, and rotor on the left side of the car. Not really sure why the smoke came out on the right side but they checked both sides. We finally got to the campground that night around 8pm and had a lovely time.

We got home on a Thursday so I could go to my Friday meeting and left as soon as I returned from my meeting. We were heading to Orlando, FL but planned on spending the night somewhere in Georgia. We found a great campground in Darien, Georgia (Cathead Creek Ranch and RV Park) for only $25. We got up bright and early on Saturday morning around 5am to continue our journey. 003About 90 minutes later we had a blow out on the trailer tire on the right side. We called Good Sam’s Roadside assistance who sent out a company to help us but about 40 minutes later they called and said they weren’t able to change a trailer tire. I had to call Good Sam again and we waited about 70 min. for another provider to come help us. While changing the tire, his jack got stuck and he had to get a 2nd jack so he could remove the first jack! Not to mention that it was pouring down rain at this point!

Meanwhile, I’m calling places trying to find someone who sells trailer tires. Camping World sells them but has to order them and it takes 3 days! I found a Tire Kingdom who was able to get a tire for us and install it. While I’m there, I’m texting my sister in law who tells me to check the date code on the remaining tire. When we do, we find out these tires are 11 years old and probably dry rotted which caused the blow out. So, we have to get another tire for the other side of the trailer!

Okay, we finally get on our way and follow the directions from my Ipad to Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, FL where our campground reservation is. Unfortunately, my directions brought us to an entrance that doesn’t take us to the campground. I call and they say I have to backtrack and go about 10 miles around to the main entrance on the other side of the lake! Okay, we finally arrive and check in. Then on the way to the campsite, my hubby tells me he has noticed a problem with our brakes on the Tahoe again just as the alarm sounds on the car that we have a brake system problem!

We make it to the campsite and set up. That is when we notice we can’t find the adapter for the electric cord to hook up the camper! I had lost it at the campground in Georgia! So, we head out to Walmart (about 5 miles away) praying our brakes work. We get some food while we are there in case we are stranded at the campground but on the way back, the brakes worked fine. We decided to set up our EZ Up canopy (10’ x 10’) because rain was expected. We used the huge nails to stake it down in case the wind comes by.

The next day we decide to go to Epcot and just relax from all these traumatic experiences. We had a great time and when we return, we find our EZ Up Canopy upside down, bent in all directions, and tore up. It bent the legs sideway where the stakes held the base in the ground! So we will have to throw it away and find another one. Of course we loved this canopy and had it for years and they don’t make it anymore!

On Monday we went to Animal Kingdom and had a great time before the torrential rain started. Then we decided to leave the park. At dinner we decided to head for home the next day so we packed and organized as much as we could that night.

Yesterday, we left the campground about 6am and got home 12 hours later. Luckily nothing happened on the way home and I’m so glad to be home! This had to be one of the most miserable trips we have been on.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

If the World Were a Village- A Book Review

if world were villageI recently read the book If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith; illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

This wonderful picture book was written for upper elementary level students but I think it would be great for middle school too. For some discussions, I could see it even being used in a high school class for visual demonstrations. I love how the book breaks down numerical information into usable, understandable information that any person can put into perspective. I think that is why pictographs are so well liked because it is a visual representation of hard to process information. This book puts world figures into a manageable amount so we can understand the different concepts. By doing this, the uses in the classroom are endless! This book can be used for discussion of the different statistics given. It can be used in a math, social studies, or science class. I can even see creative writing being done using these facts. This book should be in every school library!

I would definitely give this book a 5 out of 5!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monthly Review of Goals from June

GoalsAnother month has flown by and it is now July! It is time to review my goals and see how I did last month. All of my goals can be found here.

For the year:

1. I want to spin the alpaca fiber that I processed with some wool. ( I accomplished this!)

2. I want to knit a sweater. (I am finished two this year! I finished The Old Man and the Sea cardigan by MSkiKnits last week.)

3. I want to dye yarn. (We have been doing lots of traveling in my new camper that I haven’t really had time to do this yet.)

4. I want to spruce up my gardens this year. (We have gotten three truckloads of mulch so far and I’ve done a lot of weeding! )

5. I won’t commit to more to more than I can handle. (I am still doing a great job with this so far. I’m finding out that saying no doesn’t make me hated by others and I feel so much better about myself!)

6. I will find something good in each day. (This has been challenging when we have hit some obstacles like our car having to be towed but we had AAA so it didn’t cost anything, the tow truck driver was nice, and we weren’t hurt even though our brakes went kerplooey!)

7. I will learn archery. (We only have 1 month left to use the coupon so I need to get on this!)

8. I will nurture old friendships. (We really weren’t home enough to do this. )

9. I will lose at least 20 lbs. this year. (I have lost 10 lbs. since I joined this online group and 15 lbs. overall since January. My hubby has even noticed a difference. I’m ecstatic!)


1. I will eat healthy. (I have learned that I need to eat at least 1200 calories so my body doesn’t go into starvation mode and starts storing sugars and fats. I had always thought eating less was better but I’m learning that is not the case.)

2. I will exercise. (I have been walking on the treadmill and walking in the park.)

3. I will stretch. (I haven’t done as well this month with this. I really need to start up my yoga again.)

4. I will read my bible. (I’ve gotten really slack this month! I need to get on the ball.)

5. I will do something that I have been avoiding. (I guess reading the bible has been one thing that I have avoided because I’ve come up with excuses. I need to do better about this.)

6. I will contact a friend and let them know I am thinking of them. (There are some elderly ladies that I think about and plan on dropping them a note in the mail. I still haven’t done this.)

7. I will be happy. (My hubby and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary in June! I am definitely happy!)

I think this month has been good but I can do better. I need to print out my goals again and tape them to my bathroom mirror so I can see them every day. Monthly reviews have helped but I need daily reminders!

Have you reviewed your goals or resolutions you made at the beginning of the year? How are you doing? If you haven’t achieved something yet, don’t give up. Just begin now.

Image: 'La Jolla Goal Wall'
Found on