The Power of “Yet”

What I’m Reading:  “Brain Based Strategies to Reduce Test Stress” by Judy Willis. This article is an interesting, relevant, and a quick read. Tests are, for most children, a stressor. I found Willis’s ideas to be insightful and she gave some nice tips for teachers (but parents could utilize them as well). If you would like to read it yourself, follow the link.

Building Confident Learners: Most people aren’t good at something the first time they try it. Remind your child that it’s OK to be bad at something initially. The stamina it takes to keep trying is where they will find success.

What Gives Me Joy: Creating. I’ve been a huge crocheting kick recently and have made a few different projects. Here’s the thing, I’m not very good at it. Yet. Ahh, the glorious power of yet when learning something new!


The joy of learning. Together.



Anxiety and Control

There are so many things in life that we don’t have control over, which is often a maddening reality. Reminders about what we have control over and what we don’t can help us not only understand the reality of a situation, but it can also alleviate some of the anxiety we experience. When something is out of our control it’s scary! We can feel comforted by remembering, and then acting on the things we do have control over and working on letting go of the things we don’t.

For example, I know (although I too need a friendly reminder sometimes) that I only have control over my actions, words, ideas, values, feelings, and thoughts. I do not have control over other people, places or things. So when I make a mistake, that mistake is mine to own. Equally, when I bring joy to others that’s was a choice I made too!  We are the pilots of our own minds and actions, and we are not the pilots of anyone else’s mind or actions.

Children live in an world run by adults and sometimes feel powerless. Consequently they can fall into the trap of feeling that the actions of an adult are entirely their fault. For example, divorce, poverty, and addiction, are not a child’s fault and are not in their control. On the flip side, saying mean things to a classmate or participating in gossiping are within their control. You can see how this can be a confusing concept which is why it’s important to talk about with children!

Here is a handy diagram I created to help children understand what they do and do not have control over.

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 11.40.04 AM

The joy of learning. Together. 


Novel Experiences

Everyone can agree that experiencing something for the first time can be thrilling. We all love the feeling of getting new shoes or a new phone, trying an exciting new food, or visiting a place we’ve never been. It turns out that not only do we really enjoy novel experiences, we also learn really well from them! Unsurprisingly, we tend to remember a novel experience and the things associated with them better than something mundane. There are a lot of ways teachers and parents can create novel experiences for their learners. The purpose of a field trip for example is to make what students are learning about in school novel and relevant. Novel learning experiences can happen anytime and anywhere! You don’t need to go far or spend a lot of money to find them. Try camping out in your backyard, go for a hike and write in an observation journal, cook something new, or go to a museum. Not only do novel experiences help children learn, they are also a ton of fun and bolster their curiosity promoting further inquiry.

Speaking of novel experiences, I learned to shuck oysters last weekend! I know oysters look a little disgusting but I love them, and now I can prepare them.


If you want to learn more about what happens in the brain when experiencing something new and exciting, follow the this link from Scientific American.

The joy of learning together. Nora


Living Deliberately and with Gratitude

What I’m Reading: “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World” by William H. McRaven. This book was referred to me by a parent of a past student (Deanna, if your reading this thank you). It’s a concise and easy to read reminder that the little things add up to bigger things. I especially liked the reminder to work together as a community, and the emphasis on an internal locus of control. Although written for adults, it’s totally accessible to children.

Building Confident Learners: Quality Time. Make time to enjoy something or learn something with your child. Live deliberately, and show them that they are an important piece of your life puzzle.

What Gives Me Joy: Spending time with family and friends. I visited some family friends last weekend in Asheville. I went for a couple of mountain runs, ate oysters, visited the Biltmore Estate, laughed a lot, watched a total eclipse, and felt really lucky.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Back to School Relaxation Tips

I can’t believe summer is already over and students are packing up their backpacks for the 2017/2018 school year. Time flies! The beginning of the school year can be an adjustment for many children. Below are some ideas to help your child unwind after a long day of learning.


Audiobooks. They are great for teaching listening comprehension skills as well as relaxation! Your child can sit back an relax in a quiet space after a busy day of learning.

Talk to them about their day.  The beginning of the school year provides plenty of fun new experiences as well as some uncomfortable ones. Talk to them about their day. If they’ve had a trying day and are getting stuck making a a choice you can give them other more reasonable choices allowing them to have some control over the situation again. This is based in Love and Logic, which I really like. If you’re curious follow this link to start your own inquiry into Love and Logic.

Belly breathing. Help your child belly breath by counting breaths with them. Ask them to sit or lie down on their backs in a comfortable position. Then tell them to breath into their belly for a count of 4 or 5 (you can adjust depending on how fast you count) and then out again. The goal is to concentrate on their breath and to make it to the end of each counting sequence. It can be really helpful to have them put thier hands or a book on their belly and have them imagine their belly as a balloon filling up, and then deflating. There are a lot of versions of belly breathing so you can do what works for you and your child! I like this PBS link which explains why belly breathing works and provides some nice tips as well.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Henry at the Museum

I can’t stress enough the importance of  relevance in teaching and learning. As an educator I know it can be hard to make every lesson something that interests every student. Still, it’s a worth-while endeavor because it truly brings joy to the learning process. When possible, try to connect student interest to any learning experience both at home and in school.

For example, I vividly remember feeling the magic of “The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburn when I read it as a child. I loved art, and I loved museums. This book was a bridge between my love for art and stories, and it helped me build on my love of reading.

I recently took my eight-year-old nephew Henry to an art museum. He too loves art and has an impressive repertoire of art knowledge. Why? Because it’s interesting to him. He loves the “Who Was” book series and has voluntarily found books to read based on his interests in certain people or topics. I suggest checking the series out! You can find more information at If you look, you can always find relevance in learning.


Henry at the museum

 The joy of learning. Together.





Connecting to Interests (like Pie)

What I’m Reading:  Judy Blume’s “In the Unlikely Event”. Blume is known for for her relatable children’s books, many of which my students have read, such as “Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret”, “Superfudge”, and “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”. I am enjoying her latest novel that was written for adults. Without giving an entire synopsis, “In the Unlikely Event” is a fictional account that centers around three airplane crashes. Airplane crashes are literally my worst nightmare (I’m really fun to travel with). It’s good to face your fears, right? Seriously though, I’m really enjoying the novel and appreciate Blume’s ability to move between literary genres.

Building Confident Learners: Allow children to express themselves and connect to their interests. For example, if you’re trying to bolster your child’s reading habits help them find relevant and interesting topics that they actually want to read about. Make a list of topics or subjects they like and go to the library with them. Yes, they will have to read things they find boring sometimes, but why not help them develop a love for reading by helping them connect to their interests?

What Gives Me Joy: Cooking. For me, home is all about delicious food and comfortable cloths. Growing up my dad made amazing meals for us almost every night, and we ate together around the kitchen table. Shout out to my mom for wrangling everyone and making family meals a priority. Speaking of, my dad is coming to visit and I’m making a lemon pie with saltine crust. The saltine crust might sound strange but trust me, it’s amazing. If you too like lemon pie, go ahead and connect to your interests by reading the recipe in the link above.


The last lemon pie I made. Just look at that whipped cream!

The joy of learning. Together.



Anxiety and the Five Agreements

Have you ever read Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” and “The Fifth Agreement”? Although written for adults, the agreements are appropriate for use by children as well.

My mother in law, also an educator, gave me this compiled list of the “Five Agreements”. “The Five Agreements” are a superb way to talk to your child about how to be with other people in the world. Since much of our anxiety is triggered by interactions with others, the following “agreements” are very helpful. Let’s face it, we can all take note and try to live by these rules.

  1. Be impeccable with your word.

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

  1. Don’t take anything personally.

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the      opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

  1. Don’t make assumptions.

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

  1. Always do your best.

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

  1. Be skeptical, but learn to listen.

By being skeptical, we don’t believe every message we hear; we don’t put our faith in lies, and when our faith is not in lies, we quickly move beyond emotional drama, victimization, and the limiting belief systems our “domestication” has programmed us with.

The joy of learning. Together. 




Quick Tips: Listening and Fun

Helping children to boost their confidence can be as easy and listening to them, and modeling positive attitudes. Check out more quick tips for building confident learners below!

Listen, Don’t Interrupt: Listen to children when they are processing something new. It’s very tempting to interrupt their process in order to correct! I know. It’s hard. But stop yourself and allow them to find their own errors. If they don’t find the errors after they’ve worked on a task for a bit, you can go in and ask them about where they might have made a mistake. This allows them autonomy and gives them responsibly for their own learning.


Be positive and have fun! Nothing is more degrading to the learning experience than a nasty or impatient adult. Modeling positive learning attitudes will make a huge difference in a child’s mindset about their own education.

Three Things! Learning, Kindness and Family

What I’m Reading:  Remember when I said I was reading “A Mind at a Time?” Well, I’m still working on it, and have found it to be very insightful. Levine describes learning dysfunction concisely, while blending in relatable stories about real children. I would recommend it for both educators and parents alike. Even if your child isn’t experiencing big problems at school, it’s an important read.

Building Confident Learners: I can’t stress enough how much kindness and empathy is important to the learning process. We need to teach our young people to be kind to themselves when they make a mistake, and in turn be kind to others when they are struggling. Remember, when interacting with a young person you never know what they will remember. Even the smallest things can become a big memory to them. Always. Be. Kind.

What Gives Me Joy: Family. I recently went back home to Wisconsin to visit family and I’m so grateful for the time, albeit short, I had with them. Then I got to come back home to my wonderful husband and fluffy dog! Life is good.

The joy of learning. Together.