Friday, June 3, 2016

Keep Thinking all Summer #100DaystoLearn

They are stretching out ahead of us. Those long, sunny, hot days of summer filled with sunscreen, sweet tea and kids whining “I’m bored” when they bother to look up from their digital screens.  What’s a parent to do?

One thing is to keep them learning all summer. We know it intuitively and research proves that during those lazy days of doing nothing, kids forget some of what they learned all year long. They come back not remembering how to write a cursive J or solve a + 3 = 9 or who fought in the Civil War. It’s called the “summer slide” but its not fun. Research shows that kids can lose up to 2-3 months of learning while out of school, the effect is stronger in lower-income children who may not experience some type of active learning from June through September.  Keeping kids busy and thinking all summer long can help reduce, or even eliminate, those effects. And, yes, there is some pushing and prodding and reminding that may be required, but it doesn’t take a lot of work for parents to keep their kids firing those brain cells around math and reading.

To help parents along, I’ve launched #100DaystoLearn.  Wearing my other hat, as a Family Ambassador Fellow, with an eye to encouraging more family engagement in education, I’ll be tweeting a tip or activity each day, June through September for parents to support their children’s learning, pre-K through high school.  Follow me on Twitter at @FFEngageFamily for your daily tip (and of course, I’ll retweet as @JustPiddlinBlog too).

Day 1, June 1, kicked off with starting a summer journal. Whether a $1 Store notebook or a leatherbound journal – or even that composition book that you sent to school way back in September and your kid only wrote on 10 pages #recycle #reuse!  Start a journal, decorate the cover or first page. Write in it through the summer – what you all did, what you read, random lists, stories, poems, math work.  Some of the tips I post will also return you to the journal. The kids practice their handwriting (slowly becoming a lost skill) and writing skills.  Have fun with it. Post pictures of your journal - #100DaystoLearn.

Day 2’s reminder – go to one of my favorite places – the public library! Find your card, renew your card, get a new card and get a schedule of summer activities and services at your library card. You’d be surprised at what your local library offers for free.

Follow along. Let me know how it’s going! Happy summer!

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Life is Like a Black & White Milkshake

We’d like to think that life is like a sundae. Start with that base layer of a couple scoops of vanilla and chocolate. Go ahead, add a scoop of mocha almond fudge for some good flavor. Another scoop of Chunky Monkey because why not. A couple dollops of whipped cream and do not leave out the hot fudge. Crushed Oreos? Yeah, sure. I’ll go without the cherry, because I do not like those kinds of cherries, but you go for it if that’s your thing.  I’ll take some of those almond slivers though. Pass the spoon and a napkin, give me a little time, and we’ll get through this thing happily.

But really, it’s more like a milkshake. Start with that basic vanilla – ice cream and milk. If you change your mind and want a little something more flavorful, a black and white instead perhaps, you’ve got to pour out some of the vanilla and pour in chocolate, then mix it together. You might be able to pour in a shot of Kahlua (you do do that, right?)  You might even be able to get a little whipped cream on top.  But that’s about it. No crushed cookies, no almonds. No additional milkshake poured on top because it will overflow.  Because that will be a mess and will run all over the table and then you’ll have to clean it up and that won’t be fun. And if its like anything in my house, someone will drink your milkshake while you are cleaning off the table.

So that’s about how I’m feeling on life choices right now. I know – I come back after not writing for a couple weeks with this crazy food analogy. Because we all like food, especially ice cream. And because bad analogies make the world go ‘round.

I’ll be back, let's say next Friday, maybe with more bad food analogies.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

One more stitch, One more page... Hooks & Books

When you crochet in public, people ask you what you’re doing.
When you tell them, they ask you can you teach other people.
When you say that you can, they ask you when you’re free.
And next thing you know, you’re running an after-school class, teaching middle schoolers how to crochet.

That’s how it all began.  But I didn’t want to only teach them how to crochet, I wanted there to be some academic component to it. I consider a math tie-in – there’s a lot there as far as gauge, stitches per inch, patterns, felting – but I decided to go with literacy. Surprise! I presented the idea to the Principal and ta-da – Hooks & Books became a thing.  And I did have to explain to some folks that no, I was not starting a fishing lessons class.  Thursdays, after school, yarn, crochet hooks, and National Book Award winner, Coretta Scott King Award winner, and Newbery Honor Book, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Week 1 was an intro lesson, we read a few pages and worked on chain stitches. 
Belated Happy Birthday to author Jacqueline Woodson!

Week 2 - we talked about the importance of names and what people call you after reading girl named jack and our names. We continued to work on the chain stitch – there were a few kids still getting the first chains going, others whose chain was as tall as they are. For those who were ready, we moved on to double chain stitch.  Talk about differentiated learning and teaching.

I’m prepping for Week 3. We’ll be talking about the stories of South Carolina and perfecting the double chain.

One more stitch, one more page….

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Monday, February 15, 2016

I Still Haven't Fallen Into Formation

Its been little over a week since the release of Formation. Folks lost their minds, SuperBowl fans were confused, and fans are launching GoFundMe campaigns to raise money for Beyonce tour tickets. Its been suggested that Formation is the new Black folks anthem.

Okay. I’m going to go out on a limb, be really really daring, at risk of losing the one or two cool points I may have and say “yeah, I don’t really get it.”

I watched the video last Saturday when it was released. I waited to be wow-ed and blown away like everyone on Twitter promised I would be. It never happened. Now – it was a very Beyonce-esque song, all about how great she is and some clever lines about hot sauce and Red Lobster and her baby’s au naturel hair. And by the way, I actually do sometimes have a little teeny bottle of Tabasco in my purse. I get it. There are hot sauce emergencies.  But the lyrics did not elevate to “anthem” level. 

As for the video - it was a visually strong video, I’ll give it that. From the police car floating in flooded New Orleans, the old school Creole/southern women costumes. Cute Ivy Blue with her full Afro.  The little boy dancing in front of the line of police. All of that. There was some definite Black pride and social messages embedded. But other than Ivy Blue’s appearance and Beyonce doing what she does – dancing in a leotard while repeating “I slay” – the video didn’t really match the lyrics.  So, in my logical mind, I was confused.  Perhaps this was her way of being socially conscious in a low-key, you got to be paying attention, kind of way.

Then we went to the SuperBowl. She dressed in throwback Michael Jackson military outfit (the leotard version), with her blond locks whipping.  Her backup dancers were dressed in black, complete with berets and Afros as a nod to the Black Panthers. I was more concentrating on Bruno Mars, but still noticed that the visual message did not match lyrics about her wonderfulness. It still, however, inspired politicians and police departments to get all bothered about an “anti-police” message. I don’t know how they read that into it, just because folks don’t want to get shot by the police.

Then the tour was announced and there was the flurry and excitement about ticket sales and there were reports of tickets on sale for thousands of dollars. I thought it was all exaggerated and went on TicketMaster myself. Yup. Starting at about $100, all the way up to $8000. Per seat. To see a person. One who has not performed any miracle nor will grant me any special powers.  One who is not touring with Michael Jackson or Jesus as her opening act or the 12 Disciples as back-up singers.  I’m hoping someone will explain to me that the $8000 ticket is some kind of resellers’ trick to hold tickets, Beyonce’s economic folks’ method to drive up demand or something. Some explanation that confirms that no one is actually spending $8000 for a concert ticket. Because I’m ticking off all the things I could do with $8000 other than watch a lady dance in a leotard.  And I want folks to really think about what they could do with $8000. Especially those who are salivating for their tax refund check or needing a GoFundMe campaign or selling their plasma.  And oh, she even launched a charitable donation to Flint Michigan, as a portion of her tour tickets. Well yeah, if you’re charging $1000s for folks to see you for 2 hours, you can surely spare a couple bucks to buy water for some children.

So I’m still stunned. Sure Single Ladies was a great song and who can not dance when Love on Top or Crazy in Love comes on. And my heart tugs a bit everytime I hear If I Were a Boy, though I don’t think it gets played as often as it should.  And nah, I wasn’t really crazy about the 2013 self-named “secret” album, sorry Beehive residents.  So, although I get the pieces of Formation, if not as a whole work, I don’t really get what all the buzz-buzz is about, other than it is Beyonce. Or maybe that’s all folks need. For me, I need a bit more to fall into formation, so I'll still be singing Life Every Voice.

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