Staying In Focus: Their Future is In our Hands

Young Archeologists at Work.

My sister hit a home run when she gave my granddaughter a Smithsonian Archeology Kit for Christmas. It consists of a rectangular sunblock, goggles, a hammer and chisel, a paint brush and a magnifying glass. The aspiring archeologists “excavate” gem stones by gently tapping the chisel with the hammer and when one is discovered, carefully brush away the sand as the gem is removed from the sand block.

Both my seven-year old granddaughter and her five-year old brother had a blast searching for the gems. They unearthed 5 of the 11 gems buried in the block so far. Evelyn declared that science was the most fun and that she was going to be an archeologist/geologist/biologist because she wanted to go tomb hunting, find more hematite like the stone she had at home and work with germs. If anyone could achieve this trifecta, it would be Evelyn’

She is currently writing a “non-fiction” article about hookworms and other parasites, after reading about them in a book on the slimy side of science which Santa brought her for Christmas.  We gave her a laptop computer for Christmas, and she is already learning how to use windows 8, and drew her hook worm using a Paint program, and then inserted it into her Word file.

Although I am a proud grandmother who thinks her grandchildren  are the smartest and cutest on the planet, I know there are millions of other bright minds out there. Children who will grow up in a world where technology has exploded in its ability to transfer information, cure diseases, entertain us with the unimagined  ability to cross the boundaries between reality and the virtual world.

But I fear we are falling behind in preparing our children for this brave new world.  Our teachers are undervalued and underpaid, held to strict curriculum that allow for little in the way of creativity. This is boring for the students, and unpalatable for the best teachers. So they are leaving the profession in droves. Latest statistics show that 40% of those with advanced degrees never enter the classroom at all. Finland is reported to have the best school system in the world. Why are we not studying this model? Are we too arrogant to admit we can learn from someone else? If so, where does that leave my two future archeologists?

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Daily Prompt: Fifteen Credits:Staying in Focus: Memories in Black and White (Notebooks)

 Daily Prompt: Fifteen Credits

Another semester is starting. If you are  in school are you looking forward to starting classes? If you’re out of school, what do you miss about it — or are you glad those days are over? 

Memories in Black and White (Notebooks)

Although I often felt sad at the passing of summer, those long, sunny days of swimming, fishing, hiking or lying in a hammock reading the afternoon away, there was always a special anticipation which came with the arrival of September. We started school  after Labor Day, and so September brings to mind change, replacing summer’s freedom and ease with routine and schedules.

We would go to a store named Gellman’s to pick up our uniforms, to a shoe store for black and white saddle shoes and then to the Ben Franklin’s  or Woolworths for pencils and paper, black and white notebooks, and fountain pens and cartridges (remember them?  No ballpoint pens allowed in my school). To this day I cannot walk past a display of school supplies without getting that nostalgic feeling.  I can remember having a Dr. Kildaire pencil-case and a Monkees lunchbox.  Am I dating myself here?

I can remember opening that new black and white notebook, all the pages crisp and clean, that first page representing a new beginning, full of possibilities, a new year of learning waiting to be written. I remember how carefully I would write on that first page, practicing my Palmer method handwriting.  By the time the notebook was filled, it was dog-eared and tired, the excitement of a new school year-long past and replaced by dreams of Christmas vacation.

While in school our lives have clearly marked milestones. The beginning of the school year in September, Christmas and Easter vacations, the last day of school followed by an endless summer. Once out of school the years run together, and one day you find yourself gazing nostalgically at the school supplies in Staples.  Dr. Kildaire is long gone, and now vampires and zombies cover the spiral notebooks which have replaced the old black and whites.

Do I miss the start of a new school year? I guess, so, as I have just enrolled in an online course provided by my local community college. Some things change and some remain the same, and guess what? I can still find a black and white notebook wedged between the vampires and zombies. Now, I if I can only find that fountain pen!


school picture grade 8

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my first black and white notebooks


kindergarten homework

Focus On: How To Spend a Sunday Afternoon

Today was grandkids day and did we have fun! We planted flowers in pots, played with bubbles, went to the neighborhood park and finished up at their dad’s house for a spaghetti supper!

Here is a photo journal of our day:                                      058054 063 064              Planting008001



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Focus On: Photoshop Elements 10

I Have  been so busy I have neglected my blog.  I was finishing up an internet course on using Photoshop Elements 10.  I completed my coursework yesterday, took my exam and  achieved a 100%!  I have learned so much from this course.  It is offered by my local community college, but is a part of  www.ed2go.com.  If you access this website, you can take the courses directly from them or from a local college in your area.  You receive 2 lessons a week for 6 weeks.  The lessons include assignments, quizzes, resources and supplementary materials.  A discussion section is also provided to discuss coursework with the Instructor, course administrator and classmates.  The courses are reasonably priced for the amount of material and knowledge you receive. They offer courses in career and professional development, writing and publishing, computers and technology and personal development.  I plan to take a course in writing poetry next.  It’s a great way to keep the old brain challenged and teaches creativity and artistic expression. Here are some of the things I learned to do with Photoshop Elements 10:    (All photos except the last one are copyrighted materials. The last one is mine, copyright pc 2012)

Using the lasso tool, I added some green apples.

Here I turned Mt. Rainier into an active volcano!

The challenge here was to reduce the shadow on a backlit subject and change the photo to a sepia toned picture

In this one, removing the large cracks in the foreground allows you to focus on the mountains.

In Elements 10, the sky can be any color you choose!

In this one I added a border and text

This is a photo I took in Alaska. Very ho-hum, as the sky was overcast and the radio tower distracting, so I played with it a little, adding some snow, a blue sky and painting out the tower. Much better!

Focus on the big L – Lifelong Learning

In addition to exercise for the body, we must not forget to exercise our minds.  Now this is the kind of exercise I can get excited about!   No matter what our age or how much education we’ve had, we must continue to challenge our minds if we are to retain a sharp, focused intellect into our golden years.  Just as our bodies are faced with changes as we age, so too is the mind..  And just as forms of physical exercise can keep the aging body agile and fit, so too can exercises for the mind.  Keeping the mind alert and active can help us avoid too many “senior moments” from creeping up on us and  help us retain our independence longer. Keeping our minds challenged can stave off depression and the feeling that life has passed us by. And the best news is, you don’t have to get sweaty and hot and bothered to do it!

There are so man ways to exercise our minds.  Lifelong learning is now easier than ever  before.   From taking continuing education courses at a local community college to solving crossword puzzles, to playing games online, there is a virtual buffet of ways to stay focused  as we age..

One of the best ways to keep the old bean challenged is to learn something new.  If you’ve never gardened before, sign up for a class in that.  How about trying to learn a new language?  Or learn to sew, play chess, play a musical instrument,  make jewelry?  There are limitless possibilities.  By choosing to learn something completely new to us, we challenge our brains to create new pathways and connections, to keep those neurons firing away instead of fading away.

Spending some time each day working on crossword puzzles, word search or suduku puzzles are important in keeping problem solving and logic abilities sharp.  I never felt that I had truly grasped algebra in high school.  Being a word person, I took as little math as I needed to get into college  So I am working on that now.  Practice with both words and numbers is important.

.Games on the computer, like Gardens of Time or Mystery Manor, where you search for hidden objects are fun, and can be a great exercise in focus and concentration.  Or perhaps you’d like to try your hand at Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy..  The more you play these games, the better you get at them and the healthier your brain becomes.  Games like Bejeweled  Blitz or Tetris Battle are great for eye/hand coordination, challenging you to think and respond quickly.  One of my favorite games is that old standby, Scrabble, which you play with friends across the Internet.

Speaking of the Internet, it is a marvelous source of learning, right at your finger tips.  From  taking courses for college credit, to free online access to college classes, such as at open.yale.edu/courses, to those offered by community colleges and public school systems, the possibilities are  endless, With the open Yale courses, you “virtually” sit in on an actual class being conducted at the university.   Never thought you’d get into Yale?  Well now you can — for free!

It can be overwhelming, the amount of information and learning available to us these days, so focus in on a few topics at a time and you’ll be surprised how much you cn learn –  if you put your mind to it!

the bell has rung
the time has come
for us to heed the call
this must be the day
we cast fear away
and climb over that limiting wall
where we will find
freedom of mind
and a wide open road that twists and winds
its way to a future we cannot see
do we stay where it’s safe
where we know our place
or forge with our hands our own destiny?
—   pc 2012