ITSE Parking Lot

I am hearing about so many thoughts, books, ideas, web sites, apps, tools here at the conference that I want to check out, I am going to share them here in brief list format so I can keep track and others can check them out, too.

Why School? By Will Richardson
Knowmad Society by?? Free PDF
Invent to Learn

Dual Lingo site
Slide share site (look for Will R’s slides)

This is 40

A few weeks ago, the thirteen year olds at church had their rite of passage liturgy, lots of special words and prayers as they enter adulthood. We celebrated with cupcakes after, and when I walked into the reception room, I saw the teens gathered, joking with each other, really uncomfortably, about being grown-ups. What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was that they’d probably still be giggling when they’re 39 wondering who left them in charge! That’s totally how I feel sometimes. The line I used as a (late 20-something) middle school teacher when I’d find kids looking at me to see if they should be doing whatever it is they are feeling unsure or guilty about doing (and to be honest 90 percent of the time, I had no idea what they were doing but could smell the nervousness) was to put it back on them. “Is that something you think you should be doing?” Works on my own kids now. Come to think of it, everyone should ask that of themselves. I had no idea if I should be the grown-up and stop what they were doing. If they weren’t hurting anyone (physically or emotionally), it was pretty much a toss up on interfering or not.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing up. Today, I am 40. Both my mom and my husband’s mom turned 40. Neither of them turned 41. But I am healthy — clear biopsy a year and a half ago; clear mammogram six months ago; no chronic illness. Now, I have noticed that my first few steps in the morning hurt my feet. Not sure if that is age or daily flip flop wearing or (most likely) an extra 50 pounds. Still I am healthy. And I am a grown up, even if I don’t usually feel like one. I realize I have a whole lot of great years ahead of me. And I’m pretty excited about them.



My sweet eight year old picked Z Tejas for her birthday dinner, and as happy as I am to get to eat at my favorite restaurant, I feel a big burden knowing the influence I have on her. I always joke about my relationship with Z Tejas. It’s my stalker boyfriend. Before I even officially moved to Austin (I visited John here often when he co-oped), that little house downtown was a favorite spot. Then we settled up north, and before long, Z Tejas opened on Great Hills. We spent many a Friday night waiting hours for a table, drinking way too many margaritas. Then, we really settled WAY north in Avery Ranch and it wasn’t long before the Z started construction on the corner. Caroline knows it is my favorite, and she knows it as my celebration spot –Mother’s Day, my birthday. Is that why she picked it?

I know some moms want to be the main influencer in their kids’ lives (and that’s a big lure to homeschooling for them) but it kind of scares the bejeezus out of me. As happy as I am with my life, I don’t know if I am up for her being like me. Some of me, absolutely. Plenty, though, not so much.

So, this little thing, a birthday dinner, reminds me not to just be “myself” but to be the woman I want my daughter to be. Heavy burden. Lord, help me!

Best apps for roadtrips


Ribbet collage

My criteria for a good road trip app: keep ’em busy for a long time. Our family takes road trip vacations — Florida panhandle this year — so summer vacation means hours in the car (like 24!) so I need a tool kit filled with books, music, movies, apps, conversation, and food to keep the girls occupied.The apps on this road trip list fit the bill. They’re “sticky,” meaning kids will want to keep playing them. Not all are explicitly educational, but all are fun.

Grimm’s Interactive Pop-up Books by Story Toys — Though these are pricey, they are my preschooler’s favorite go-to app. She loves the stories and the interaction. They’re quite well-done. Available stories include Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and The Jungle Book. They are almost $5 each (I caught several of them for free via the free app of the day) so you’ll want to choose selectively. (used mostly by preschooler)

Toca Tailor — Dress-up, paper dolls, fashion design in preschool-friendly app. (enjoyed by both girls)

My Story World — This subscription-based storybook app is mostly geared to preschoolers, but my second grader enjoys the stories, too. For $5.99, you get a subscription to all of the available stories — fairy tales, Elmer stories, princess stories, more. New stories are added every week. Definitely read The Glass Castle — a favorite here! (enjoyed by both girls)

Let’s Create — We all love this app! You create your own pottery or complete “customer” orders, then fire it and decorate it. You can sell it at fake auctions and earn money to buy more designs and paints. Seriously fun. (fun for ALL!)

Mystery Math Town — Kids explore a quirky, sort of spooky house, and have to answer math problems to open doors and windows to further explore. (elementary)

Wild Kratts Creature Math — My review isn’t published on this one yet, but it is a great well-rounded app teaching math and ecology. Kids complete math problems while managing a whole ecosystem — keeping the animal’s and environment’s needs in balance. I enjoyed playing this one, too. (elementary)

Dinorama — I’ve written about this one before. Great road trip project. (elementary)