Resources for 4/24/2020

Happy Friday, everyone!

Today’s resources are mostly literary, and I thought I’d start with a poetry open mic, seeing that it’s still National Poetry Month!  (Oh, I’m so glad poetry gets its own month, rather than just a week!)  Poetry open mics are very close to my heart.  I spent years running a few, and they changed my life.  Literally.  I met my son’s father at an open mic when I was 19 years old.  Granted, there’s probably not much chance you’ll fall in love at a Zoom meeting, but you never know! 

Literary North and Still North Books & Bar Poetry Open Mic invites you to celebrate National Poetry Month on Sunday, April 26 from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.  The open mic will take place on Zoom and features readings by Laura Jean Binkley, Vievee Francis, Kristin Maffei, Rena J. Mosteirin, April Ossmann, and YOU! 

Looking for some writing inspiration?  River Valley Community College’s WriterSpace is now meeting online Mondays and Wednesdays at 6pm and Fridays at 9am.  For the weekly link, more questions, and to learn about WriterSpace Kids, send an email to

To acknowledge the heroism and sacrifice of Vermont’s medical and service personnel in the fight against COVID-19, the Vermont Holocaust Memorial (VTHM) has launched an essay competition that will challenge Vermont students (grades 4-12) to reflect on those neighbors and relatives on the front lines against this historic threat and how their values echo those rescuers of the World War II Holocaust.  Cash prizes for the top three entries in each grade category will be awarded. The entry deadline is September 30, 2020.

Have you and your children been reading up a storm during the quarantine?  Log your reading minutes, and Save the Children’s 100 Days of Reading will provide books and educational resources to children in need.

And finally, in celebration of Earth Day, White River Indie Films is offering a free screening of EARTH, a documentary film by Nikolaus Geyhalter. After watching, you can join a live-stream discussion of the film, EARTH & the De-Materialization of Our Economy, with the Sierra Club Upper Valley Group on April 25 from 7:30-8:30 PM.  The film will be available until Sunday, April 26.

As always, stay well friends,

50 Years of Earth Day

The first Earth Day in 1970 mobilized millions of Americans for the protection of the planet. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

Earth Day led to passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Many countries soon adopted similar laws, and in 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement into force.

~From the Earth Day website:

Relating deeply to nature is a profound and crucial human desire, one that modern living had all but forgotten – until the world turned upside down. Now, many of us are taking daily walks.  We’re tucking seeds into the tender earth and watching for returning songbirds.  We’re enjoying the glorious sun, the pinhole stars, and even the occasional snowflake.  Try to spend some time each day sitting in the grass, walking beside a brook, searching out the perfect stone for your pocket, cloud watching, looking at the sky through the spring leaves of a tree, or contemplating the moss growing beneath your feet.

This year, while we can’t gather together to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, we can make our voices heard in other ways.  Today is a wonderful day to set our intentions for the year.  We make New Year’s resolutions – to lose weight, to eat better, to be more productive.  Why not use Earth Day as a day to make eco-resolutions?  Do you resolve to buy less plastic?  To compost?  To plant ten trees?  To eat less meat?  Maybe this is the year you finally trade in the gas guzzler for an electric car.  Or put solar panels on the roof.  Or start taking your children on weekly hikes. 

What else can we do?  We can sign petitions.  We can call our legislators.  We can write letters to the editor.  We can get involved with the town’s Energy Commission. 

We can donate our money or our time to causes that matter to us.  We can grow a row for Willing Hands so that more people will have access to the earth’s bounty.  We can give to conservation causes.  We can join a climate strike. 

We can participate in Green Up Day activities – not just on May 30, but every day.  We can help keep the earth around us beautiful and thriving.  We can take the Earth Day Challenge, 22 days of activities that encourage us to see how we can make a difference in the world.

And we can join with others – online.  Today (and the rest of this week) is the perfect time.  There are so many Earth Day celebrations and calls to action.  You can start with Earth Day’s own website.  Then, check out Earth Day Live for a three-day live stream of events starting today.  

Feeling the Earth Day spirit?  Looking for more activities?  Here’s a grab bag full.

Learn Something New

Celebrate Earth Day by joining Billings Farm’s educators on the next Ask Billings Farm Live on Facebook, April 22 at 1PM EDT. Learn how land use ideas changed and how Billings Farm’s founder continues to inspire sustainable practices today. Send your questions about Earth Day to  The celebration will continue at Billings Farm at Home – an online resource and education tool for families – with an array of information, videos, downloadable craft activities, and fun! Visit us at

Use the NASA Earth Day 2020: 50th Anniversary Toolkit  NASA is providing a wealth of science resources from across the agency for outreach to young people. The programs, games, videos, books, images and posters are free for teachers, students, parents and anyone.

Gather Scientific Data

Participate in Earth Challenge 2020the world’s largest citizen science initiative. Get the app for Android and iOS devices that enables you to gather scientific information on air quality and plastic pollution near you. Earth Challenge is a joint initiative by the Earth Day Network, the Wilson Center and the U.S. Department of State.

Attend a Virtual Conference

Earth Optimism Digital Summit hosted by the Smithsonian Conservation Commons. April 22-26. It is open to all and free. The program includes a film night; virtual workshops; virtual social networking; video competitions; and panels on envisioning the future, global health, sustainable food, climate change, protecting biodiversity, environmental justice, international perspectives, climate communication, and resilience. Speakers include Jose Andres, chef and humanitarian; Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Climate Change Convention; Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University; Bob Inglis, executive director of; Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund; Bill McKibben, environmentalist and activist; and many more. The event also includes an opportunity to share your nature-themed artwork.

Earthx Conferences, in partnership with National Geographic, will be held April 22-27. They are open to all and free. The series of conferences will focus on energy, law, cities, technology, capital, women in the environment, the future and more. The 50th Earth Day Celebration will be livestreamed April 22, 12-7:30pm CST. It will include EarthxFilm from 1:30-2:30pm CST, speakers including Tia Nelson, daughter of Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson; National Geographic explorer Enric Sala; chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Neil Chatterjee, and more.

Crafting the Planet is a virtual Earth Day conference organized by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The conference will explore the convergence of traditional conservation and restoration of the planet, and ecological innovations taking place in areas such as genetics and engineering. The program includes pre-recorded and live sessions. April 20, 8:30am-8:30pm CST. Registration is free.

Here’s a poem that was sent to me by Sharonite and former library trustee Paula Duprat. Today seems the perfect day to post it.

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Don’t forget, you are a part of the earth, too. Taking care of the earth is taking care of yourself. Happy Earth Day, everyone.

Stay well,

Free Books & Math Resources for 4/20/2020

Happy National Library Week!  Since the physical library is closed during National Library Week, I’ve put out a new batch of freebie books on the back porch. If you’ve been itching for some new reading material, go take a look! It’s a beautiful day for a walk.

Also today, I’m bringing you a bagful of fun math games.  A patron wanted some help looking for resources on fractions and decimals, so I did a little web searching and came up with some fun math links for every age. (Remember, you can always contact me with any topics you’d like help researching.)

For the younger crowd, PBSKids has a great math games website.  The games are cute and engaging, and for those who know the characters, there’s an extra incentive.  (You don’t need to know the characters to enjoy these, however.) Highly recommended!
This site has games for grades preK through 5 in multiple subjects, as well as worksheets, activities, songs and more.  Right now, it’s free to join, and you’ll get access to some stellar content. 

This site has just over a dozen free games, but each lets you choose the grade level and math skill.   

Created for kids in grades Pre-K through 8, Funbrain offers hundreds of games, books, comics, and videos that develop skills in math, reading, problem-solving and literacy.

Coolmath Games
Like the name implies, this site is filled with free math games – everything from addition to spatial relations to calculus. 

A free online math games site. Founded by a middle school math teacher, Hooda Math offers over 350 Math Games.

Math Game Time
Designed for students from pre-K through 7th grade, Math Game Time offers fun, educational games focused on critical math concepts.

Math Playground
Games to play related to logic, number skills practice, geometry, algebra, probability, fractions and more. There are also math word problems and video instructions to help students remember how to solve them.  You can find games by grade or math skill.

Have fun and stay well,

Diaries and Postcards

I have a terrible secret.  I have, under my bed, a stash of abandoned journals.  They always start out so strong and hopeful, six pages filled with dreams and ideas, of fears and questions, of tiny epiphanies and huge sighs.  And then, nothing.  Blank pages.  Silence.

The idea of writing for my self has never taken me very far.  Something deep in me wants an audience.  When I send off poetry or essays to literary journals, when I write in my private blog, when I labor on the novel I keep returning to – there’s the possibility of a reader (or maybe even a few).  Is that egotistical?  Maybe.  It’s certainly fueled by ego. But it’s what gets my pencil moving (or fingers typing). 

Maybe it’s the same for you?

Imagine a young woman, your descendant, 100 years from now, stumbling upon a dusty crate in the attic.  The lock has broken over the years, and she lifts the creaking lid to discover… a diary a diary you wrote during the outbreak of 2020. 

What will she learn about you?  About the way life was before the virus?  About the changes that are taking place? 

If, like me, journaling for your self has never been enough to motivate a daily commitment, maybe the thought of your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, historians or anthropologists eventually reading your words is just the kick you need.  And, writing for others forces you to clarify things you might not feel the need to explain when you’re writing for your eyes only.  Who is Uncle Andy?  Should you describe the empty playground? Why are you happy you won’t see Janice at work for the next few weeks?

Some of you may take this idea and fly with it, but others might prefer to have someone reading their thoughts, not 100 years from now, but next week.  For you, writing postcards may be just the thing.  Postcrossing is a service that allows you to “send postcards and receive postcards back from random people around the world.”  The service is safe and free (well, except for buying the cards and stamps, a wonderful way to help our struggling postal system).

Perfect for children, postcards aren’t so demanding.  They have limited space, and once you finish writing one, you get to mail it off and imagine the recipient reading your words.  How cool is that? 

And, as luck would have it, it’s National Card and Letter Writing Month!

What do you write on a postcard to a stranger?  Anything you want!  You can keep with the diary/journal theme and tell them a little about what’s going on in your life right now, or you can send them a bit of kindness, a drawing of the flowers in your front garden or a promise that we’ll all get through this bleak time and emerge into something better.  You can describe the town of Sharon or send your favorite recipe for zucchini bread.  You can write a poem, or list your top five bands from 1973, or transcribe your favorite movie quote.  Anything at all. 

How far will your words travel?  And whose words will come back to you?

Stay safe,

Poetry and Journaling Resources for 4/13/2020

We’re nearly halfway through National Poetry Month, and it seems like a good time to offer some poetry resources. 

Favorite Poem Project
This is, perhaps, my favorite poetry resource of all time, and I’ve sifted through many, many, many.  Boston University’s Favorite Poem Project is a collection of well-produced videos showcasing everyday people reading their favorite poems and talking about why those poems are so meaningful to them.  A construction worker relates how he found encouragement in Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” a student from South Boston discusses how the teens of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “We Real Cool” mirror today’s young people who find themselves victims of the opioid crisis, a computer science professor shows us how he uses Robert Frost’s poem “For Once, Then, Something” as inspiration when he feels stuck….  Why does poetry matter?  These videos answer that question in so many ways.

The Social Distancing Reading Series
The Green Mountains Review presents a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.

You’ve heard of NaNoWriMo?  National Novel Writing Month (November) has gotten a lot of press over the years.  But poets have their own month, too, and we’re smack dab in the middle  it!  A poem a day for 30 days.  Today is day 13, but, you can start your own NaPoWriMo any time (and doesn’t the current stay-at-home order seem tailor-made for budding writers?).  Just commit to a poem each day for 30 days.  You can use the NaPoWriMo site for daily prompts (just start on day 1 of any year and work your way to day 30).

Perhaps, one of your NaPoWriMo poems would be a perfect fit for The Academy of American Poets. They’re using the hashtag #ShelterInPoems to invite readers to share poems that help them find courage, solace or energy — and a few words about why.

And, speaking of writing during the stay-at-home order….

Telling Our Stories in the Age of COVID-19
We’re living in a unique and disquieting time.  There’s a lot of fear, a lot of questions, and, for many of us, a lot of reflection.   Journaling can help us put it all into perspective.  Keeping a daily journal can bring our focus back to what truly matters.  It can offer insight and clarity, reduce stress, and bring us back to the moment.  If you’d like to share your journal entries with others, check out Telling Our Stories.  Here’s their website description: “To join our storytelling community, simply sign up and look for daily journal links in your e-mail. Add journal entries daily or simply as often as you can. Use the journal to share what you are noticing, witnessing, feeling, longing for, and experiencing. The project will continue until it is clear that we are on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we are all done, we will put together a snapshot of stories from everyone who visited that will go to everyone who participated. No participant names or other identifying information will be included in any publications from this project.  Write daily or a few times a week, post pictures or stick with text, share anything you are noticing – there are no rules. Just come share your story and know that we are in this together.” 

Also, if you’re able to read stories at The New York Times, The Quarantine Diaries is a wonderful article about journaling during the pandemic.

And, before I go, I want to remind you about ArtisTree’s weekly Exploring Self through Expressive Arts for teens.  This is a peer-led Zoom group that meets for 90-minutes Mondays at 5:00 and allows high school students to discover creativity in a variety of art modalities found at home. No experience necessary, just openness to finding creative things to connect with while in quarantine.  Anyone interested can email Ben Fox to be sent the Zoom meeting link.

Here’s to a wonderful, wonder-filled week. 

Stay safe, stay well, and stay kind,

The Little Things

Hello, library friends,

I don’t know if the same is true for you, but I feel overloaded. Overwhelmed. Like a string stretched taut.  I feel like nothing I’m doing is enough.  And then, I open up the library’s Facebook page and stumble over a poem that’s making the rounds.  A poem that feels like it’s been written just for me.  I don’t know for certain who the author is, but it’s credited to Elena Mikhalkova.  Mikhalkova appears to be a popular Russian writer of detective and thriller novels.  Or, maybe it’s someone with the same name.  I was able to find the poem written in Russian, but I’m still not certain of its origin (though it does seem to have been written recently).  In any case, the sentiment feels so good, so necessary right now, that I wanted to offer it here. 

The Room of Ancient Keys
by Elena Mikhalkova

Grandma once gave me a tip:

During difficult times,
you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future,
not even what might happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Take off the dust.
Write a letter.
Make some soup.
Do you see?
You are moving forward step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Get some rest.
Compliment yourself.
Take another step.
Then another one.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow
bigger and bigger.
And time will come
when you can think about the future
without crying.
Good morning.

It’s difficult to slow down, isn’t it?  Our whole lives, we’ve been taught to run, to reach, to grasp, and never ever to stop.   Now, there’s nothing to reach for.  So, we create things to reach for – redecorating the house until we could invite Martha Stewart to tea, writing the long-dreamt-of novel, starting an Internet-based side business selling homemade whatsits, designing and building the backyard shed, cooking complicated gourmet meals and posting the perfectly-lit photos on Instagram….  But wait – is this really the time? 

Like an army of Atlases, we’re all carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders right now.  Should we really be piling on more?  Should we be giving ourselves an opportunity to feel guilty for not getting enough done?  For many of us, no one else is expecting all that much of us, right now.  No one but ourselves.  There’s no race, but we can’t seem to stop running.  Maybe, just for the moment, taking care of ourselves and our loved ones is enough.  Maybe, homemade gnocchi with sage butter sauce and a spicy beet salad with black tea dressing isn’t really any better than a simple, nourishing soup.  Maybe, we don’t need to prepare for Martha’s visit.  Facetiming with far-away loved ones doesn’t require deep cleaning the drapes and creating centerpieces out of birchbark.  Maybe, we can give ourselves a break.  Just for now.

Just for now, turn off the news.  Just for now, focus on something small.  Make the bed.  Take the dog for a walk.  Water the houseplants.  Journal.  And then, let yourself feel at ease.  You’re okay.  Right now, in this moment, you’re okay.  And your houseplants are okay, too. 

I miss you all, and I hope we can all meet back at the library very soon.

Stay well,

P.S. I know I promised resources on writing, and those are forthcoming (really!), but today’s post just bubbled to the top. 

Science Resources for 4/9/2020

Today, for the curious among us, I have a plethora of science-y links.  The first is a site that I can spend hours wandering through.  The article titles are all so interesting that they’re almost like click bait – except when you click on them, they really do deliver.  It’s How Stuff Works a site brimming with articles, videos and podcasts about… well, nearly everything. No, it’s not all science, but there’s certainly a lot that is. Want to know the difference between mitosis and meiosis? Maybe you’re wondering how viruses work or why school buses don’t have seat belts (not science, but it caught my attention – eight states mandate them, but Vermont isn’t one). You’re in the right place.  This is one site where I have to give myself a time limit.  

Here are a few science sites aimed at kids:

Ology – Biodiversity, physics, paleontology, climate change, and much more – all for kids! Check out the videos, play the games, try your hand at the activities, and learn something amazing!

Science News for Students – Articles highlighting ongoing research in fields ranging from astronomy to zoology. Stories are reported by experienced science journalists, many with PhDs in the fields on which they write. There are also experiments to perform, a series that explores cool STEM jobs, and articles highlighting the intersection of science and fiction.

And, now for a grab bag of NASA sites!  NASA has had a long, strong web presence, and their sites tend to be engaging and fun.  First is NASA’s main site,  Here, you can find live streams from the International Space Station, NASA at Home videos and activities, audio podcasts, dozens of apps to download (want to take a selfie of yourself floating through space?), image galleries, even NASA TV.

Next are some of NASA’s many sites for kids:

Climate Kids by NASA – Launched in 2010, NASA’s Climate Kids website tells the story of our changing planet through the eyes of the NASA missions studying Earth. Targeting upper-elementary-aged children, the site is full of games, activities and articles that make climate science accessible and engaging.

NASA eClips – eClips brings together exciting video segments and resources to inspire and educate students to become 21st Century explorers by introducing them to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts and providing teachers with engaging resources and tools to support teaching and learning. 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory – DIY STEM projects, video tutorials, games, links, and more

NASA Kids Club –  games of various skill levels for children pre-K through grade 4

NASA Space Place –  NASA Space Place’s mission is to inspire and enrich upper-elementary-aged kids’ learning of space and Earth science online through fun games, hands-on activities, informative articles and engaging short videos. 

NASA STEM Engagement – Activities and opportunities selected by NASA STEM experts

Have fun exploring!  Next up?  Poetry and writing!  Stay tuned….

Be well,

Resources for 4/8/2020

Welcome to another day of social distancing and (for most of us) staying at home!  I have several fun links for you this morning!  This year, Billings Farm has made their Baby Farm Animal Celebration virtual – and FREE!  What else? Well, you can learn at home with PBS, find your voice by reading Shakespeare, listen to radio stations from around the world, and learn how to knit your very own Weasley scarf!

Billings Farm and Museum
This weekend is the annual Baby Farm Animal Celebration – online!
Get up close with the farm’s baby animals through videos, photos and downloadable activities, including making natural egg dye for your Easter eggs! Virtually meet and learn about the farm’s calves, lambs, steers, goats, bunnies and chicks. You can already watch the eggs in their online stream, and you might get to see a chick hatch!  Today, though, Museum Educator Christine Scales will preview the Baby Farm Animal Celebration and answer your questions about the baby animals at 1:00 PM EST during their new Facebook Live series, “Ask Billings Farm Live.”  (A recording of the event will be available.) And don’t forget that Billings also provides daily “Bag of Fun” kits and videos featuring book readings, farmhouse tours and virtual visits with the farm animals. 

Harry Potter at Home
I think this might be the perfect time to reread the Harry Potter series.  Is anyone with me?  Harry Potter at Home is a free online collection of child-friendly activities, videos, puzzles, illustrations, quizzes, creative ideas, articles and much more, that will help you bring the magic of the wizarding world into your home. (Want to knit that Weasley scarf I mentioned earlier? Check out the video tutorial.)

Radio Garden
Do you enjoy flipping through radio stations?  How about spinning a globe with your eyes shut?  Well, then, this will be a treat!  Radio Garden is a non-profit Dutch radio and digital research project developed from 2013 to 2016 by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.  You can use it on your desktop, or download the Apple or Android app onto your phone or tablet.  Then, just spin the globe and see where you end up?  Norwegian pop?  Russian talk radio?  Up-tempo Tanzanian?  Cambodian punk?  Jamaican gospel?  There are more than 8000 stations registered all over the world.

Find Your Voice Through Shakespeare Workshop
Join Peter Gould, creator of the popular Get Thee to the Funnery Shakespeare Camp, and Find Your Voice Through Shakespeare in a free interactive workshop via Zoom on Friday, April 10 at 3:00 pm.  As a childhood stutterer, Peter Gould turned to Shakespeare to find his voice and build confidence; he now shares his methods through his popular Get Thee to the Funnery Camp. In this online interactive workshop, participants will learn how to look through words, add punctuation, leap over line endings, and use breath and focus to bring new life to immortal words. No previous theater training necessary. Sit and watch, or dive right in. Sign up here.

PBS At Home Learning
While school is out, PBS is showing educational programming with accompanying interactive lessons and suggested activities at their website.  Vermont PBS Main Channel will offer programming starting each weekday at 7:00 a.m. with programs for pre-K to 8th grade students.  Vermont PBS Plus Channel will offer science, history and English language arts programming for students in grades 6 through 12.  Both channels are broadly available on all cable systems, and available for free over the air through a digital antenna without the need for cable subscription or broadband internet access.

Stay well, everyone, and we’ll make it through this – together.


Home Education in the Time of Coronavirus

(Apologies to Gabriel García Márquez)

Dear Library Friends,

We live in interesting times.  Curse or not, it’s our new reality, at least for the foreseeable future, and we’re each trying to make the best of it, in our own ways.  We’re learning how to be with each other (and without each other).  We’re learning how to occupy ourselves and our children in new ways.  We’re taking on new and different work responsibilities, or else we’re learning to live with being un- or under-employed.  And many of us are also learning how to take charge of our children’s education – at a time when our children are also struggling to adjust to this same new reality. 

Home education isn’t easy, but it can be simple.  I know because I’ve been there.  In addition to homeschooling my now-22-year-old son from kindergarten through his senior year, I also published a magazine on home education. 

That’s how I can say that, without a scrap of doubt, you can do this.  It will take some getting used to, sure, but I know you can do it.  And I’m here to help in any way I can.

First, you should know that, in the home education community, it’s well understood that, when a child leaves school to begin homeschooling, there’s a period of time when very little that resembles learning takes place.  It’s a period known as “deschooling” or “decompressing.”   For some children, this might take a few weeks; for others, a few months.  Don’t worry.  It will pass.  Be gentle and provide guidance and learning opportunities, but try to abstain from forcing too much.  Remember, our children are experiencing the same upheaval to their lives that we are, and stress simply isn’t conducive to learning.  Be patient.

Second, don’t feel like you have to be an expert at everything.  You don’t.  Instead of always teaching, sometimes homeschooling is learning along with your children.   Learning with kids shows them that learning never ends.  We’re always learning new things – from the moment we’re born until the moment we die.  It also allows children to see learning in action.  We can model how to learn – perhaps the most critical skill of all.  

Third, make learning fun Endless worksheets and quizzes may fill time but may also make your job harder down the road.  Children thrive on novel experiences.  (We all do, really.)  If things get too samey, children are likely to push back and eventually refuse.  Instead, find fun ways to learn – together.  Consider allowing a child’s interest to fuel their learning (there’s math in knitting and baking and playing piano, there’s history in Greek/Egyptian/Norse mythology, there’s English in writing a letter to a pen pal, there’s science in growing a garden…).  If this sounds like something you’d like to try, and you’re wondering how to work with a particular interest, please let me know.  That’s what a librarian is for, after all.

Fourth, talk.  A lot.  It’s amazing how everyday conversation, seen in a different light, is actually learning.  Talk all day long.  About everything.

And finally, don’t worry that it’s all on you, that, if you fail at this homeschooling thing, you’ll scar your child for life.  It’s a common fear, but an unnecessary one.  I’ll leave you with something I wrote years ago for the magazine:

“So, you’re not his teacher, then….”

Well, yes I am. He learns many, many things from me. He asks me questions, he discusses things with me, he debates me. We talk. A lot. I bring him things I think will interest him. I keep an eye out for books, movies, websites, articles, games, magazines, exhibits, and people to feed his passions. He assumes I will do these things for him. He knows I will use the power I have as an adult to make the world more accessible to him. Yes, I am his teacher.

But, so is every person he meets, the neighborhood pool, our community, the pets we own, the Internet, the books he reads, the artwork he sees, every insect that catches his interest, the music that surrounds him, trees, television, dirt, stores, every place he visits, everything he notices.

Teachers are everywhere. In fact, my son, himself, is a teacher – an amazing, inspiring teacher.

Remember, you can do this.  And if you have any questions, any nagging worries, any anything, really, I’m here.  And so are all the other parents treading these unfamiliar waters.  You are not alone. It takes a community to raise a child, and the community of Sharon, though mostly virtual at the moment, is brimming with people ready and happy to help.

Stay safe, stay kind, and stay well,

Jigsaw & Origami Resources for 4/4/2020

Looking for a calming activity to counteract the turbulence that so often feels inescapable?  Try putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  You can sit happily for hours scanning pieces for the perfect fit, the world beyond your kitchen table forgotten.  Doesn’t it sound blissful?  Of course, these days, when we’re stuck indoors, puzzles may not be easy to come by.  Enter the online jigsaw.  Though I’ve seen advertisements for them for years, I hadn’t tried one until yesterday, and I’ll admit, I didn’t have high hopes.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised. 

Norwich resident Cynthia Crawford has long taken beautiful photographs of local birds and made them into calendars, but now she’s offering several as free online puzzles.  I pieced together the red-winged blackbird and found that, while my brain was happily engaged in the search for the right piece, my stress just fell away.  By the time I was finished, it was gone. 

I’ve always thought that online jigsaws must be buggy and frustrating, but that wasn’t the case, at all.  The puzzles were made with an application called Jigsaw Explorer, a site filled with thousands of beautiful puzzles, all available for free.  You can even create your own!  You decide how difficult each puzzle will be by choosing the number of pieces and whether the pieces have the ability to rotate. 

This was my first foray into the world of online jigsaw puzzles, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Another great stress reliever?  Paper folding.  Sure, you can fold a dollar bill into a heart or create a cootie catcher, but what if you’re ready for more?  Well, the Origami Resource Center has you covered.  This site aggregates tutorials from all over the web to show you how to fold baskets, animals, stars – you name it.  You can even fold precious toilet paper into beautiful works of art – without ever taking it off the roll!  Looking for kid-friendly tutorials?  Why not try watching some of the Easy Origami for Kids videos?  Or, visit (I like their addition of dotted lines to show where to fold.)

I’ll add these links to the Resource Center.  Hopefully, with all this folding and piecing, we’ll all feel a bit more relaxed this weekend.

Stay safe, stay well, and stay kind,