Thursday, May 24, 2012

the dreaded humdinger

I am proud to announce that my daughter passed off the humdinger, the final rite of passage into the 36 club.  The humdinger is 36 addition cards + 36 subtraction cards + 36 multiplication cards + 36 division cards mixed together and completed in 5 minutes or less.  Humdinger doesn't even begin to describe it. You have about 2 seconds per card.  There isn't time to get stuck on one problem. Every problem must be memorized. There isn't anything I can do to help kids pass them off at school, but there are things parents can do to help their kids pass it off at school.

Many students decide they can't do it before they try.  One little girl came out in the hall today and told me she wasn't ready to do the humdinger.  She wouldn't even try.  It sounds intimidating but most students can do it if they work on it at home with a parent on a daily basis.  Here are some tips to help your child on the road to success.

1. Work on individual sets until your student has their time down to 1:15 per set before you mix the cards together. (This is 15 seconds less time than they had when passing off the individual sets.  Mean.  I know.)  Make sure they know they can already do all the problems in 5 minutes.  They just have to learn how to do it when they're all mixed up. (The cards, not the student.) Once they are combined, don't expect a great time.  They have to train their brain to take in all those signs and numbers and spout off another number in less than two seconds.  It takes time.  If they get stuck, remind them if their adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing.

2. They have to go through the entire deck every day.  I noticed if my daughter missed a few days she would add a lot of time to her score. It was frustrating for us both. The repetition also helps them get over their nerves when they do it in school.

3. Don't do it more than once a day.  With the individual sets I didn't let them stop until they beat their previous time.  There were days when we worked on cards for half an hour. But I've noticed the humdinger tends to fry little brains.  They do it only once no matter their time.

4. Keep track of their time and if your child's time is not improving:
    A. As you go through the cards with your child make two piles.  One for the cards they know as soon as they see them and a second pile for the ones that take them longer than two seconds.  Go through the second deck with your child until they can do all the cards in less than two seconds.  Keep the hardest problems toward the front so they know they can get them over with.  For some reason my daughter hates this method but she can't argue with the results.
    B. Slowly move the cards toward your child as they figure out the problem.  This is similar to the previous method but they can actually see their time melting away.  My daughter hates this method even more than the previous method. I think she improved her time just so I wouldn't do it to her anymore.

5. Make sure they get a chance to pass their 36 club stuff off at school.  Volunteer. My kids didn't pass off their math until I volunteered in their class.  I'm the only parent that does 36 club for both my elementary school aged children.  In previous years the parent volunteers never got to my children because we are toward the end of the alphabet.  They never got through the entire list and always started at the top.  I usually mark the student where I left off.  I don't get to my own kids every time. I wonder how many classes don't get any volunteers at all.  It makes me sad.  I've seen other students improve significantly as I've worked with them individually.  There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the light in their eyes when they finally get it.

6. Bribery.  My daughter really loves gum. I really hate it.  So as an incentive I offered to get her a pack of gum when she passed off the humdinger.  It worked.  She has her gum. (And she'd better not get it in her hair.)

For help on individual sets click the links below

Comments are nice.  I really like them.  Comments help me to know that I'm not just writing this for myself.

I'm thinking of doing a post on helping kids learn to read.  Anyone out there interested?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A cute and inexpensive way to wrap friend presents

When my kids are invited to birthday parties, they have to come up with the money to buy the present for their friends.  Then comes the problem of wrapping the resulting tiny present.  My kids would have more money if they ever did their chores, but they don't so they don't have a lot of spending money.  The gifts are carefully chosen, but not big.  They look silly in wrapping paper and a gift bag would cost about as much as the gift.  But I found a solution!

I found some instructions for cute little Easter baskets here and here on Pinterest. I pinned them and then Easter came and went.  Then I thought it would be cute to make a little basket for wrapping the present my daughter bought for her friend.  I think it turned out darling.
My daughter used her art paper and chalk pastels for the paper.  Then we cut it into one inch strips and wove six strips to make the bottom.  For the two strips that go on the side, we connected two strips together and trimmed off the excess.  (The two places I linked to above have really good instructions so I'm not putting them here too.) We put a bit of glue on the staples for a ribbon. (I folded all the ends into the basket instead of following the instructions and then secured them with staples) It looks really pretty along the top and we also used it to make a cute bow.  We punched holes in the side and threaded a little card through it. Everything was on hand and I didn't have to make any more trips to the store. (I love when that happens.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Storymakers 12

Writing doesn't have to be cold and lonely.
(I also really like this drawing and wanted to use it again.)
Someone asked me the other day why I went to a writer's conference.  She thought I knew it all. If only.  I do have some short stories published.  I even have a Christmas pamphlet coming out later this year. But I'm still learning. I smile and nod when other people throw out words like predicate and participles. When I write I go by what sounds right.  I usually get it correct but there are times when those sneaky homonyms trick me.  (Who came up with this language? Aisle and Isle/ Brake and Break  Ugh!) But the writers conference didn't deal with grammar.  I have books that teach about comma splices and semi colons. (And I should read them again.) I have spell check (although it doesn't always help) and the internet to cover the rest.  I also have writing forums and beta readers to help with the stuff I can't see. 

So here is what writer's conferences are for, in case you ever wondered.

1. Meet other writers.  
 - The other people at the conference understand what I'm going through.  They've experienced the rejection.  They've had other people look at them like they're delusional when they admit to writing a book.  There have been times they haven't admitted to being a writer.  They are also great people to go to when you need feedback.

2. Meet industry professionals. 
 - I got to meet my editor.  (I love how that sounds. My editor.) She's the acquisitions editor so she won't do the final edits but she does have a say in what else they will accept.  It's nice to meet the people you work with.  They are a wealth of information. (The cover for The Candy Cane Queen isn't done yet and they are still reviewing my other manuscript.)
 - This conference had an amazing lineup.  Classes were taught by Kevin J. Anderson, Holly Root, Molly O'Neal, Kathleen Ortiz, Michelle Wolfson, James Dashner, J. Scott Savage, Weronika Janczuk, Janette Rallison, and several other industry professionals.  What an amazing opportunity. I got to have my query critiqued by Holly Root.  It isn't often do you get the chance to have an agent tell you what they really think of your query.  And, after she ripped it to shreds, she said I rocked.  How cool is that?
 - Pitch sessions are another way to meet agents and editors.  You get 15 - 20 minutes to make them fall in love with your project.  I haven't done one of these yet.  My manuscript isn't ready yet.
 - The publisher's meet and greet is also a great opportunity to meet acquisition editors from local publishers. 

3. Amazing feedback.
 - Last year I entered the First Chapter Contest and tied for second place in my genre (which has since changed).  This encouraged me to finish the book.  It also came back with some fantastic feedback that helped me improve that first chapter. 
 - I already mentioned my query critique.  It's still bleeding in the corner of my folder.  I'll pull it out when I'm ready to query and patch it up.  
 - Other agents gave the attendees the chance to have their work critiqued too.  This takes a super thick skin.  Imagine having your hard work put up on a screen in front of hundreds of people while someone points out everything you did wrong.  It's not easy.  They also point out what you did right so it doesn't hurt so much. But's not for the faint of heart.
 - Last year I attended the publication primer.  We were separated into groups, given an industry professional, and spent two hours critiquing each other's work.  Everyone had already read each other's work so the entire 2 hours were spent talking about how we could improve.  I kept in touch with two members of that group.
 - There is also boot camp which is a full day of the publication primer. I haven't tried this yet.  maybe next year.

4. Classes
 - Two days of classes taught by industry professionals.
 - I took two marketing classes.  One by Kathleen Ortiz and one by Elana Johnson.  These classes are a must for anyone published (or will some day be published.)  What good is getting a book on the shelves if no one knows about it?
 - The range of classes was amazing.  I'm using that word a lot but it's true.  I already dove into my manuscript using some of the tips from the conference and I'm giddy with excitement. She Came From the Hill is going to be incredible.

On a side note.  Things you should bring to a writer's conference.
1.  Notebook and pens.****
2.  Laptop (they had a free WIFI connection)
3.  Pepto (dinner the first night was brutal on my stomach.***)
4.  Tylenol (for brain overload.)
5.  Contact info
6.  Camera (and don't forget to use it like I did)
7.  Open mind.
8.  Conference schedule.  Know what classes you are going to take and bring the materials they suggest.
9.  Cell phone so you can call your kids when you miss them.
10. Clean clothes. (No one wants to sit in a room with a stinky writer.)

If you are serious about being a writer, I highly recommend a writer's conference.  Find the one closest to you and go! LDStorymakers is the biggest one in Utah.  (You don't have to be LDS*) 

*I almost giggled like a schoolgirl when Weronika Janczuk** added swear words to a piece she critiqued for a class.  Half the people cringed and you could almost feel a collective gasp.  We're so sheltered.  lol
**I never did figure out how to pronounce Weronika's last name. Everyone said it different and sort of coughed halfway through. 
***Don't order the chicken.
****Paper is especially useful when your laptop battery has the energy of an eighty year old.