How We Learn by Benedict Carey

I read How We Learn by Benedict Carey (Random House, September 2014) at much the same time as I read Born Reading, so I found the correlation between the two quite interesting. Both books were written for very different and unique reasons and for different audiences. But, since I’m a homeschooling mom, I found that I was an appropriate audience for both!

How We Learn is definitely a more technical book, with plenty of references to studies in learning techniques from the past 50 years and more. Nevertheless, Mr. Carey wrote with a familiar tone sometimes, with examples from his own life. These felt more like digressions to me (I honestly did not want to know about his college drug habit!) but overall, the book had a professional feel due to the research involved.

Concepts Mr. Carey covered include basic concepts on how memories form and how we forget, how we best hold on to things we want to learn, what to do about distractions and other difficulties to learning, and how to best tap in to the subconscious to retain learning. I found the most interesting and useful concepts to me as a homeschooling teacher and parent to young children were those about how getting wrong answers and actually forgetting concepts helps strengthen long-term retention. I am all the more eager to give my children “pre-tests” and provide a spiral method to learning and then eventually revisiting concepts.

I also found that it helped me approach the things my son has forgotten in a different way. When he’s forgotten and relearns it, he is more likely to retain it for longer!

In retrospect, the book has stayed with me. While the technical details have escaped me, the basic concepts of learning and forgetting have intrigued me as a teacher. I think it’s a valuable contribution to for the library of teachers and learners!

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I had heard of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s one of those books that has been on the top of “to read” lists since it came out in early 2012. Now that I have read it, I know why.

At the center of Wonder is a boy, August or Auggie Pullman, with a severe facial distortion. Since he has been in and out of surgery for his entire life, he had never been able to attend school. Now that he is 10, his surgeries have lessened, and it is time for him to try a mainstream school with his peers. But although Wonder puts Auggie in the center of the story, it is really a story about kindness, acceptance, and overcoming bullying. Continue Reading

Recipes for Play by Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener

I am a mother that is not comfortable with mess. I don’t like noise or chaos either. And yet, I’m learning to adapt.

In fact, when I read Recipes for Play by Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener (The Experiment, September 2014), I started actually getting excited about trying out some of the activities and crafts mentioned.

I’m a homeschooling mom. Another thing I never intended to do, and yet here I am. Homeschooling gets me out of my comfort-zone many times a day.

As I read Recipes for Play, which is full of play-crafts for young kids and mothers to easily recreate in their homes, I started to think of the many ways I could tie the suggested crafts in to our daily routine: some of them could be adapted for a homeschool lesson. Another one could keep my littlest one busy while I get a chance to over the math assignment with my son. The possibilities got me excited.Continue Reading

Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? Avi

When I was a kid, I had a bike and a backpack. I’d ride up to the library at least once a week all summer long and check out a bag full of books. The next week, I’d take them all back and restock. If I found an author I liked, I would check out every single book I could find by that author the next week.

There were some authors I always returned to. One of them was Avi.

I don’t know which came first: meeting Avi, or reading his books. But when I was third grade, I was selected from my class for the “Young Authors” program, and I got to meet Avi himself, who told us his story, why he loved to write, and so forth. I knew from that moment that I’d be an author too. Although I have not really written children’s fiction as I thought I wanted to as a child, I certainly have kept reading, and as my 6+ years of blogging about reading may indicate, I like writing quite a bit too!

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Avi is such a fascinating author to me because not only does he write realistic children’s fiction (like Nothing But The Truth), he also writes ghost stories (like Something Upstairs), mysteries (Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?), historical fiction (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Crispin: The Cross of Lead), historical-ghost-mystery (The Man Who Was Poe) and fantasy (Poppy). There are a million other subgenres he’s written too: I must admit, I have not kept up with all his new books since college and motherhood have come along! (I love that, now that my son is getting older, I have more “excuses” to revisit middle grade fiction!).


Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? (originally published 1992, reissued by Scholastic Paperbacks 2014) is one of the most unusual novels I’ve read: it is written entirely in dialogue. No, it’s not a play: there are no name indications in the text, nor are there settings and stage directions. Indeed, every single line that appears in the book is a line of dialogue. Continue Reading