Saturday, November 18, 2006
  Foreign Thougts in Star*Line
My poem Foriegn Thoughts is in the November/December edition of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. ( You can purchase sample issues on the website, though they are showing the current issue as the July issue, so you may have to make a special request or something.

Science Fiction, Writing
As the article has been taken of the Indy Star site, I'm reproducing the full version below:

Helping your Kids love School

By Pamela K. Taylor

August comes as a welcome relief to many parents. No more bored kids complaining that there’s nothing to do. But for many kids, like mine, back-to-school comes all too soon. Summer in our family is the time for all those things that you can’t do during the school year – driving trips to explore the beauties of the American countryside and the idiosyncrasies of American culture; leisurely days of reading, reading, and more reading; month long science projects that give kids a hands-on and up-close look at practical experimentation; days of family camaraderie and fun, whether it be at the local pool, the county fair, or in our own backyard.

Teachers lament the knowledge loss many kids experience during the long summer break, but summer can be an opportunity to practice and expand on the skills and knowledge learned at school. I’m not talking worksheets and flashcards here, but real experiences that will engage your children’s minds and prepare them for going back to school in the fall.

While summer is over and school has already begun, many of the opportunities of summer can be adapted to after-school or weekend activities that will help your youngsters approach school with a whole new attitude.

Elementary age: Applying book learning

Young kids are naturally curious and excited to apply what they’ve learned at school to real life. Let them see how math, reading, social studies and science has real importance in their lives, and their grades will improve overnight. Activities like the following give school and homework relevance for young kids.

Take them to a farmers market or grocery store, and put them in charge of the buying and the budget. Let them add and subtract to figure out how many items twenty dollars will buy. Show them how multiplication comes in handy when corn is $2 for a dozen ears. How much will four ears be? Or six? What fraction of 12 is 3 ears?

Read the newspaper with them, even if it’s only the comics. The Living, Sports, and Entertainment sections are full of human interest stories that will grab kids’ imaginations.

Visit a mosque, synagogue or church other than your own, participate in an ethnic festival, or an art or music event that you normally wouldn’t. Take a Saturday or Sunday to visit an Amish village or a historical site, like Conner Prairie or Abe Lincoln’s boyhood home. See first hand how other cultures are similar and different from your own.

Plant a window garden – mint or chives are good choices – giving kids the opportunity to grow their own food from seed to tabletop.

Each of these activities show kids first hand how what they learn in school applies to their life outside of school. Life experiences that demonstrate how math is useful in the real world, or that being able to read well has benefits in their daily life, will keep kids motivated at school even more than a report card full of A’s.

Middle and High School: Compare and Contrast

Once kids hit the middle school years and their classes become more specific, parents can take one of two tacks – focus on activities that compliment the subjects their children are studying at school, or design ones that cover subjects they may not get in school. Because kids this age are often more interested in peer relationships than family activities, including friends in your agenda can improve teenage attitudes immensely.

While most of us may not think of doing algebra or geometry in daily life, there are lots of problems which use advanced math. Things like, Aunt Bea leaves Columbus at noon and travels up 1-65 at 70 miles per hour. We leave Indianapolis at the same time and head south at 73 miles per hour. It’s 53 miles between Indianapolis and Columbus, where will meet, at what time? If you’re feeling really nice, let the kids study the map and pick a restaurant in the nearest town. Two birds with one stone – math and geography!

Kitchen chemistry and backyard biology (experiment with making ph testers from cabbage, or catalog the species and numbers of birds stopping at your birdfeeder on their way south) compliment work that the kids are doing in school. Astronomy (try looking for the stars in the big and little dippers in Indianapolis, then look for them from a campground in Brown County; the amount of light pollution near the city will amaze you and your kids), geology (take a trip to a local cave to study stalactites and stalagmites), and physics (my all-time favorite: the physics of roller coasters, or why don’t you feel like you’re upside down when you go round the loop the loop?) can show kids that science is fun, interesting, and engaging.

Set aside a few hours each weekend for family reading time, or pick a book that you all read and then have a family book discussion. Family members can write a poem, essay or short story about the same topic, then share what they came up with. You may not produce odes like Keats or stories like Washington Irving, but its fun to share your creativity with family members, and when kids see their parents involved in an activity, they are more likely to do it as well. An additional benefit – the more secure and involved a child feels with his or her family, the better she or he will do at school.

I can imagine, some of you are thinking, yeah right, what do I know about roller coaster physics, or, I couldn’t tell Betelgeuse from Arcturus.

If your project requires research, and at a high school level, there’s a good chance it will, involve your kids. Surf the Internet together to find the information you need, or head to your local library to check out books. Not only will you being sharing quality time, but you’ll be teaching them how to do research, and the importance of taking the time to find out the facts. Heck, you might even learn something yourself along the way.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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