Creating Friendships…One Bench at a Time.

One person can really make a difference.

Christian Bucks, an 11 year old fifth grader from York, PA came up with a great idea for encouraging friendships on the playground.  After seeing kids on his playground sitting alone or having no one to play with during recess, he asked his principal if they could get a Buddy Bench. A place where a child could sit down and be joined by others looking for friendship.   The principal agreed and a bench was installed on the playground.

It was an instant hit.  A lot of new friendships were being made.  The bench also helped prevent bullying. Since the installation of that first Buddy Bench, the concept has taken off and there are now more than  2,000 Buddy Benches at schools in all 50  states and in 13 countries including Russia, Australia, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia.

When asked how he felt about his idea Christian said, “I like how the idea has spread.  It’s a little thing, but little things can be big.”

To find out more about the Buddy Bench visit: http://www.buddybench.org

Kim Pfennigwerth Returns to Give Something Away.

It’s almost here – Our Second National Give Something Away Day!

Last year I wrote that July 15th is National Give Something Away Day and Darlene and I thought it would be wonderful to celebrate it once again.

As a quick reminder National Give Something Away Day is exactly what is sounds like. Give something away. Give something small or something large to someone else. It can be an organization, a family member, a friend, or a total stranger. It will lift your heart and bring a smile because giving something away is a kindness that our world needs.  

What are your plans? Going to the beach? Take along some small bottles of sunscreen to give to others.  Live along a popular walkway? Leave out some fruit or bottles of water with a Free: Take One sign. Know someone stressed-out and frazzled? Surprise them.

Giving something away is a win-win moment. You are either giving away something you’ve purposefully thought about or you are cleaning / organizing shelf or drawer space for yourself while taking the time to give it away rather than adding to a local landfill.

Recently my sister and I walked 300+ miles of the Central Portuguese Camino Way to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We experienced kindness given away daily.

Conversations were struck up at tiny cafes and well wishes given. Dozens of times a day the phrase ‘Bon Camino’ (have a good journey) were given and shared.

Pilgrims resting at Roman Bridge, Santiago.

A house along one part of the trail had fresh water and fruit for ‘pilgrims’ like us to enjoy. Another provided a shady area with chairs to enjoy a rest with the added bonus of hot coffee or some water at no charge.

On one hot day, a woman in Spain gave cool, juicy peaches and cold water to two weary women who still had 8 miles left to walk.

Daily in tiny cafes, along trails, or while sharing a cold stream to cool hot feet, kindnesses were given away. Band-Aids, cookies, fruit, with no thought other than the enjoyment of sharing with someone else.

Give away a smile, some books, or delightful time and conversation. Wish someone a good journey. But do yourself a wonderful service and take delight in the magic of giving something away. Someone else will be glad you did, I guarantee it. If you need ideas links are included below.

What have I given away? Books to the library, toys for a toddler, clothes to Good Will.

WHAT HAVE YOU GIVEN AWAY?

Share your plans and how they made you feel and be in the running for our own give-away to two randomly chosen people.  One will receive a Barnes and Noble $15.00 gift card from me and another a handmade quilted cosmetic bag from Darlene.    WINNERS WILL BE DRAWN AT RANDOM AND ANNOUNCED HERE ON THURSDAY, JULY 27. 

And from Darlene and myself enjoy a Smile-Inducing, Happiness-Boosting National Give Something Away Day!

Kim Pfennigwerth

Helpful links:

Vietnam Veterans Of American: http://www.clothingdonations.org/about-us/

Dress For Success: https://www.dressforsuccess.org/

Books for Soldiers: http://booksforsoldiers.com/donate_to_the_soldiers/

Good Will: http://www.goodwill.org/

Volunteer Your Time: https://www.volunteermatch.org/

Give to Food Banks: http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/

Find Your Public Library – donate books or give a monetary donation: http://www.publiclibraries.com/

BIO:   

Kim Pfennigwerth is a lover of books, animals, children, and kindness. She is often spotted in a bookstore or library reading piles of books while revising her own picture book manuscripts.

Darlene here:  Ever since Kim’s post last year, I have been making an effort to give away things large and small.  In January, I gave away my old – but in good working condition – car to a woman who was unable to find a job due to lack of transportation.  For Valentine’s Day, I gave chocolate candy to random people I saw throughout the day.  I try to give a smile to everyone I meet.  I’ve given away clothes, household goods, free copies of my book, and some hand-made cloth cosmetic bags.  The smiles on the recipient’s faces made my day.  Giving feels wonderful!

 

Laurie Wallmark Presents: A new PB about Grace Hopper, Queen of Computer Code.

WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE GRACE HOPPER?

Curious. Persistent. Unique                       

HOW WAS SHE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TERM “COMPUTER BUG”?
The term “bug” to represent a problem in machinery pre-dated Grace by quite a bit. Thomas Edison coined the term in the 1870s to refer to a problem in a telegraph system he was designing. Grace was the first one to use it in reference to computers, though. Her team found an actual bug, a moth, stuck in a computer relay. This “computer bug” caused a program to malfunction.

HOW DID GRACE SERVE HER COUNTRY?

Grace was proud to serve her country in the United States Navy. From the beginning, her service always involved work with computers. She retired at age 79 as a Rear Admiral. Her feelings about the Navy are summed up with the following quotation: “I’ve received many honors and I’m grateful for them; but I’ve already received the highest award I’ll ever receive, and that has been the privilege and honor of serving very proudly in the United States Navy.”

GRACE SEEMED TO HAVE A FEW SAYING’S OR BELIEFS ON HOW TO GET THROUGH LIFE.  WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I love the self-confidence she exhibited at age nine when she wrote, “The world will be a better place / When all agree with me.” Don’t we all feel that way now and then?

Click here to join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code.

Laurie Wallmark
www.lauriewallmark.com    

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, May 2017)

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston, 2015)

 

My Path to Home Schooling by Teresa Robeson

The paths that different families take to homeschooling are varied and unique. Even within a single family, the decision to home school each child can be drastically dissimilar, as was the case with us.

Our older son was precocious. He knew the alphabet around the age of one and was reading by two.  

One time when Son1 was about three years old, while watching my husband garden, a strange worm wriggled out of the soil. My husband wondered aloud what it could be. Our son replied that it was a wire worm. Hubby naturally thought he was making it up and so, as adults do, nodded indulgently and said, “Oh, is that right?” After returning to the house, hubby looked it up in the “The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insects and Disease Control” book and sure enough, that’s what it was.  

Son1 had been perusing the book and we assumed he was only looking at the pictures but he was actually reading the text.                              

By the time kindergarten rolled around, he was reading proficiently and counting up to 100, doing simple adding and subtracting. We figured that he would be incredibly bored with kindergarten and decided to keep him home for the year, putting him in grade one after that. We didn’t want to skip him up to grade one at that point since, in maturity, he was more like his kindergarten peers.

My younger son, on the other hand, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. He had language delay and exhibited symptoms on the autism spectrum (he has since been tested and is determined to be not autistic though he has a learning disability). He attended a public school speech preschool program and blossomed under their tutelage, but he had sensory integration issues that made him highly sensitive to noise and chaos. Since most kindergarten classes are the epitome of noise and chaos, we decided that the best option for him was to not send him to kindergarten, but to home school him until he outgrew his aversions and to take him to occupational and speech therapy on our own.

When each of them arrived at the stage where we thought they could happily integrate into the school system–around grade two for Son1 and fifth grade for Son2–we gave them the option every year of going to public school or continuing to home school. They always chose to continue with homeschooling.

Thanks to a wonderful, large, and diverse home school support group in our town, we were able to have the kids participate in group activities–everything from music to art to language lessons–in addition to doing lessons at home on our own. The support group, by holding parties and playgroups as well as the more academic offerings, also ensured that the kids interacted with other children in multi-age gatherings rather than just a narrow subset of their same age peers.

We’re nearing the end of homeschooling. A few years ago, Son1 won a National Merit Scholarship and entered university with nearly perfect SAT scores. He is currently in his junior year and plans to go to graduate school. Son2 is finishing up the twelfth grade and plans to take a gap year to assess his interests.

We have been pleased with our homeschooling journey. It’s not an educational path suited to everyone but it worked out for us and we’re happy we could provide it for our children, both with their own special needs. 

Teresa’s family has been homeschooling since 2000. This is their last year of home-learning and she’ll have more free time to write, do art, knit, make soap, bake, and can jams and jellies in the future. She can be found online at teresarobeson.com

 

 

Three Cheers for SPRING!!!

The Inspiration Called Spring.

After painting my thoughts from a grey pallet with a cold winter brush, I pick up the same brush and find it changes color like a chameleon. The words coming from its tip are filled with sensory images that wake up the dormant muse. There is no doubt that spring has entered into the picture to spread its influence on my thoughts. How can I stay grey when yellow and purple crocuses wave their tongues as I pass by? How can I be cold when the earth feels warm in my hands? How can I take a breath of air without bringing the scent of grass and hyacinth to my nostrils? Spring is the season of poetry; it is the feast promised after the famine passed. It is the reason birds sing, and the sun shines. It is the reason I pick up a fresh piece of paper and a newly sharpened pencil and bare my soul in words.                    crocus

Get your children outside on a SPRING SCAVENGER HUNT. Make a list of things to look for as you take a walk through the neighborhood or park. Some possible things to include on your list are: flowers of various colors, different kinds of birds, different kinds of trees/leaves, insects, things popping out of the ground, nests, etc. Or, make it a sensory hunt and try to identify various bird songs, nature sounds, smells from blossoming trees and flowers, taste of newly sprouted asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries.


Celebrate all things spring!

This Makes Sense by Beth Ferry

I recently flew home to NJ from Dallas, TX.

With a sore throat.  In a storm.

As a result, the hearing in my right ear was compromised.

Like I have a cotton ball tucked snugly and constantly in my ear.

Nothing permanent, but pretty darn annoying.

Most people, especially me, take their senses for granted.

Our senses are like five little superheroes to whom we don’t pay much attention, but who really rule our world.

Not being able to hear as I usually do made me think about how our senses affect our writing.

Do we use our senses as we write?

Interesting question.  Our senses surely inspire us.

I know the smell of the salt air at the beach makes me dream of whales and mermaids and deep sea stories.

The feel of the sand gives me ideas about sand castles and buried treasure.

The sight and sound of the crashing waves makes me write about pirates and seagulls and starfish wishes.

But do we use these senses during the writing process?   During the typing and reading and thinking and revising?

The answer is most definitely yes!

And even though you’ve probably heard this advice before, because of my current auditory predicament, I am going to focus on the sense of hearing.

Write your stories.

Read your stories.

Hear your stories.

Reading your stories aloud is critical to the writing and revising process.

When you read your stories aloud and float your words in the air, you are able to perceive them in a completely different way.

You can almost taste them!

Those spicy verbs.                          hjn010212lifespice           

The bland run-on sentences.

The juicy adjectives.

The past-their-expiration-date adverbs.

Something that looks fine on your computer screen and sounds fine in your head, doesn’t always work quite the same way when heard by your ears.

Your ears will pick up the rhythm of your sentence.

The power of your word choices.   The flow of the story.

The mistakes.  The successes.

It is the single most important thing you can do as a writer – read your stories aloud.

It’s how children will hear them.

It makes complete sense!            sbw-cover

 

A Small Blue Whale is releasing in October and is illustrated by Lisa Mundorff.

It is about a whale who sets out to find a friend, but along the way uses his senses to ponder the meaning of friendship.

Have you ever thought about what friendship looks like?

Tastes like?   What it sounds like?   Or feels like?

Probably not, but it is a pretty fun idea to explore.

I like to think that friendship tastes like a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

That it sounds like those waves crashing on the sand and smells like that salty air.

That it feels like soft, fluffy cotton balls.

An image that I love.

Only not in my ear!

bethFerry Headshot 500Beth Ferry lives and writes by the beach in New Jersey where she is influenced by the sea and the sand and the salt. She is the author of Stick and Stone, Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet and A Small Blue Whale which swims into print on October 24, 2017. You can learn more at www.bethferry.com.

 

 

Ever See a Crab in the Forest?

  NATURE MAKES US NICER.

A study done by the U. of Rochester, 370 people were shown either images of man-made or natural objects and worked in space with or without indoor plants. Images of nature and indoor plants made people feel more connected, more caring and charitable toward others. Man-made images made people place more value on wealth and fame. Other research tells us that exposure to nature reduces stress.
So, if you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, try plants and photos of natural settings to help you through the dreary days of winter. Visit parks and natural areas as often as you can.
To view beautiful photos of nature click on Travel + Nature at:   http://www.treehugger.com
Spring is just around the corner!

To get children interested in nature, take them            

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum

outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a park or forest. A playground, back yard or grassy field will do nicely. Get down on your knees and look for things hiding in the grass and under leaves and rocks. Most children have a natural curiosity when it comes to bugs, birds, and wild creatures. If you’re a bit squeamish regarding members of the insect population, try not to project those feelings onto your child.  Most bugs and insects are harmless and fascinating to watch as they go about their business. A magnifying glass will add a level of “scientific authority” to the activity. It’s also fun to take along a camera or some paper and pencil to record what you discover. Have a contest for whoever can find the most different species.

Buds are springing up from the ground and on trees thanks to our mild winter.  How many can you and your child identify?  There are lots of field guides available to help you identify plants and insects.                             Triple oaks spiderWhat are some of your favorite natural spaces?

Remember: “Take only photos, leave only footprints