Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Learning Styles and Clutter

Nearly everyone has a predominant learning style and mine is visual. I'm also a somewhat kinesthetic learner and not much of an auditory one. I need to see things to remember them and tend to take notes in workshops and lectures at writers conferences.

Several times I've read housecleaning advice that says you should get rid of things you keep because of sentimental value and only keep one item to remind you of a specific loved one. That's nonsense to me. I don't keep things to keep from forgetting people, but to enjoy thinking of experiences I had with them. But if I get piles of papers in my office I find it difficult to write and most of the time things in my other rooms are put away where they belong. I think I have those tendencies because of my dominant learning style.

So here's a question: Do learning styles have a big influence on parts of people's lives besides learning?

For example, do they influence how most people keep their environments? Do kids who are visual learners tend to keep their rooms tidier than, say, auditory learners?

And do they influence talents? Are visual learners likely to be artistic? Are athletes usually kinesthetic learners? Do most auditory learners have musical abilities?

How do your dominant learning styles effect your life?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Love, Amalia

When I was a kid my father died so I can identify with the main character in Love, Amalia by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta. When her best friend moves away and the grandmother she relies on for comfort dies soon afterwards Amalia is devastated.

This book portrays the extended family interactions and Latino culture well and readers will pick up some Spanish vocabulary by reading it. The loving relationship between Amalia and her grandmother is shown in many ways throughout the book.

But the most important thing Love, Amalia has to offer is the way the girl learns to cope with her grief.

I recommend this book highly for any kid who must deal with the loss of a loved one.

While many young readers are not girls and may not have support from nearby family like she does, anyone who has suffered the death of someone they care about will be able to identify with the main character's emotions and doing so should help them cope with their own feelings.

The book will also help kids understand any of their friends who are experiencing grief.

The few questions at the end would be useful for group or family discussions or to answer in school, and the two recipes look delicious.

Many children will benefit from reading this book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


When we got married and moved into our first apartment my husband said, "Pictures should be of people."

Ever since, although there is some art work on the walls in other rooms, our living rooms have always had a group of photos of family members on one wall. Other pictures of our kids and grandkids stand in frames on bookshelves and dressers throughout the house.

Some of the photos on the wall are of my ancestors and were taken in the 1800s, well over 100 years ago. In order to protect them from sunlight the frames contain ultra-violet resistant glass or plastic and a few of the pictures are actually copies of the originals which were scanned and printed from my computer so the originals can be kept safely in dark places.

I look at the pictures on the wall every day.

Long ago cameras could only take twelve, twenty-four or thirty-six pictures on a roll of film and now we can easily take hundreds - or even thousands - of shots with our digital cameras. But will those pictures still be viewable in a hundred years?

Technology keeps changing and in a few decades we may not be able to access pictures taken today.  And even if we print out copies on photo grade paper we don't know how long it will take for the ink to fade away.

That's why when I take an especially good picture of grandkids or other family members I have it printed at my local drugstore. That doesn't cost much and it seems worth it to be sure the picture will be available for future generations to see.

Maybe one of them will think pictures should be of people and want to display them on a wall.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Starting School

The first day of school can be both a positive and negative experience for kids. While it's fun to re-connect with friends they haven't seen over the summer, it's always a little scary to have new teachers and not know exactly what to expect. Starting a new school is the scariest thing of all.

There are lots of books for little kids about the first day of school and I read many of them to my grandson before he entered preschool. His first day went smoothly because he knew what to expect and the teacher was impressed with how well he adjusted. But the second day wasn't so good. He had no idea there would be a second day and even more after that.

When I was a little kid I had to enter new schools several times after the school year had already begun and everyone else had already gotten used to the routine and knew the teachers and each other. That was very scary for me.

But being new is probably harder for older kids because the social hierarchy has already established and they have to deal with bullies. Here's a website that can help a lot with the bullying problem.  While the techniques suggested here are different than those suggested in many bully prevention programs and may not always be successful, I've seen them work many times.  I think it would be a big help to kids starting new schools or a new school year to know about them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bearly Learning About Water

Mary Esparza-Vela has written a cute book about the relationship between siblings. Of course they happen to be bears, but human children will be able to identify with them.

Molly keeps trying to get her little brother Fritz to try new things, but the younger cub is afraid of nearly everything. However she gradually gets him to try a few things until Fritz manages to overcome his fear of water on his own.

Of course I liked the illustrations by Alexander Morris, who illustrated one of my books.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Street Names

A few days ago I blogged about people's last names. Today let's talk about street names. That includes roads, avenues, etc.

Lots of streets are either identified by numbers or letters. That's especially true in urban areas. Some cities have numbered streets going in one direction and those identified by letters crossing them.

Others may be named after famous people. In the United States many streets are named after former presidents.

Other streets, especially in areas that were originally rural, are named after a family that once lived there. Others are named after businesses originally located on them such as a mill, mine, factory, farm or ranch. There are School and Church streets in most towns, too.

A lot of street names tell something about the geography, such as a beach, hill,  river, or mountain.

Sometimes streets in certain areas, especially housing developments, may all have the names of certain flowers, trees, birds, or animals or even people's first names, usually in alphabetical order.  Names of states or countries might be used, too.

And, if people of various nationalities have lived in an area the street names might be in languages other than English.

Does your street name fall into one of these categories?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Last Names

Long ago people didn't use last names, but when lots of people had the same or similar first names descriptions were added to make it clear who was being talked about. (I guess humans have always talked about other people.) Eventually those tags stuck and became surnames.

Often those last names were jobs. For example John Clark (clerk,) John Baker, John Black (short for blacksmith) and John Farmer were known by their occupations. Others were derived from the place someone lived or had come from, or, if they were servants, their owner or boss.  My last name, Collins, meant Colin's.

Women and children weren't considered important so they were simply known by the name of their husband or father, and if a father was well known his sons might still be know as his son when they grew up.

These are English examples, but family names in many other languages were also derived from occupations, locations, and  the fathers' first names.

Do you know the original meaning of your last name?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Milk Cartons

When I was a kid our milk was delivered in glass bottles that would be returned, washed and reused. My mother thought the milk in waxed cartons at the grocery store must be inferior and wouldn't buy it.

Now most of us in the U.S. no longer have the option of home delivery by milk companies so we all buy it in stores.

I've gotten mine in cartons for years, but recently learned that in my area the milk cartons aren't recyclable. All the ones I and other people put in the recycle containers were simply sorted out and sent to the landfills. However the plastic milk containers are recyclable, so I now buy my milk in those even though they cost slightly more.

Do you know if milk cartons can be recycled in your area?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


When I was a kid there was a sexist saying: "Men!" (or "Women!") "Can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em."

Now I say that about computers. They can drive us crazy when they don't function well, but we depend on them for lots of things.

Long ago computers were science fiction. Then real ones were invented, but they were the size of refrigerators and couldn't do anything like what tiny contraptions like i-phones can do today.

Back in the early 1970s I worked at the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley and people from the nearby Lawrence Hall of Science brought some  Tele-Typewriter Devices normally used for sending telegrams to our campus and connected them with their computer through phone cords. The idea was that Deaf people might be able to communicate at a distance that way. I was computer phobic and a bit scared to be one of the staff who first tried using the TDD, but also excited to get to do it. I outsmarted the program and soon had the computer typing gibberish so I got over my fear of them.

A few years later I took a computer class from a friend. It involved feeding tapes from a tape recorder through the computer and using a lot of html code, which I couldn't remember. I decided computers weren't for me.

But in the 1980s I got a Macintosh Computer that fit on my desk and found it easy to use. By then the tapes were consolidated into floppy discs. I got one of those discs, but doubted that I'd ever fill it up in my lifetime. Of course you know how inaccurate that was.

Now computers are everywhere and I use mine all the time even though it's difficult to keep adapting to the changes in software, etc. I consider myself a techno-idiot because I know lots of people who are far better than I am at technological stuff, but I keep on learning and can do things I wouldn't have imagined were possible a few decades ago.

And when something goes wrong, like what made me take my laptop in for repairs this week, it's obvious that doing without a computer is now a major problem.

Computers! Sometimes it's hard to live with 'em, but we sure can't live without 'em anymore.