Slow Down! Slooowww Down!

“Slow Down! Slooowww Down! Re-enter the pit slowly and come to a complete stop.”

We are just returning from our annual week at the beach.  While there, we took the kids to drive go-carts and when it was time to return to the pits, we heard the above automated statement repeatedly.  So much so that the kids are still repeating it days later.

Now that the statement is ingrained in my memory, I thought it was an appropriate metaphor for life.  Previously, I have written about the fact that my kiddos are moving on to middle school and high school in a couple of weeks.  I’m all too familiar with time passing very quickly.  And while I am always excited and hopeful about the possibilities the future holds for the kids, I’m also very cognizant of the fact that time is not slowing down.  And our society as a whole is on the fast track.  We are always trying to get to that next best thing. . .faster.

So, today, I’m challenging myself and you, to take a moment to slow down.  In whatever way that means to you.


Last Time for Everything

“Throwing the ball with the first dog you ever had
Spending all day on the lake with your grandad
Watching Glenn Frey sing “Already Gone” at the Forum in LA
There’s a last time for everything”

~Brad Paisley, “Last Time for Everything”


On Friday, I went with Chloe to “Muffins with Mom.”  As I was driving away from the school, I realized this was our last “Muffins with Mom” event and her elementary years are quickly coming to an end.  She is moving on to middle school next year.  In a few short weeks, my baby girl is leaving her fifth grade year behind.  And Clark is moving on to high school, leaving his middle school years behind.  I’m not sure how the years have passed by so quickly, but they have.

I am painfully aware that every day has a potential to be a “last time” day.  I no longer remember the earlier years, the last time that the kids called me Mommy and began calling me Mom, or the last time they rode a tricycle and took off on their bikes.  With each passing day, we have a “last time” moment.  And I am doing everything I can to enjoy each day with my children because I never know when it might be the “last time.” All too soon, my kiddos will no longer want to spent time with us as their friends become more important and they become increasingly more independent.  I love being their mom and I love the young adults that they are becoming.  I just want to savor each day with them, because I know all too soon these days will be a “last time” and they will be on to the next phase of their lives.




The Invasion of Normandy: Epic Battle of World War II by Moira Rose Donohue

The Invasion of Normandy is a fantastic nonfiction text appropriate for upper elementary and middle school readers.  Starting with the first line of the text, “The English Channel was choked with British and US warships,” Donohue shares the story of the invasion of Normandy with great description and word choice, including vivid verbs and sensory details.  The text is written in a way that makes it easy for 5th-8th graders to access the information.  This is the type of nonfiction I look for to share with children.  It is short and focused on the topic and is written in a “kid-friendly” way. You could pair this text with a more traditional, nonfiction text (text books, articles, etc.) about the invasion of Normandy, to give students a full, yet descriptive understanding of the topic.

©2017 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Anything for Professional Development

img_0005I love to learn.  I love to teach, but, I really love to learn.  I think that’s why I’m constantly busy. . . I’m always trying new things, and want to learn new things.  I just completed my Administration and Supervision certification. Boy, did I learn from those classes and my internship!  When I began teaching I had no desire to go into administration.  I still don’t, but I sure did love taking the classes and learning about the many facets of administration.  Anything for professional development.

I tell you this about me, because I may be a little late to the party, but I just recently realized that podcasts are my “new classes.”  Over the course of my drive to and from the gym/school/home, I have listened to all of The Nerdy Bookcast (a part of The Nerdy Bookclub) and all of The Yarn (by librarian Travis Jonker and teacher Colby Sharp). While I’m anxiously awaiting the new seasons of both of these podcasts, I’m listening to the likes of Simon Sinek, Gretchen Rubin, and Daniel Pink.  See. . . constantly learning.  I’m soaking in all they have to offer on my commute each morning and evening.  And.  I.  Love.  It.

I’ve learned about new authors and their books to share with students and teachers at school.  I’ve learned about the inner workings of how a book is put together — the process, the artwork, the editorial pieces, the marketing.  All so interesting to me!  Just this morning, I learned about Gretchen Rubin’s work on habits and how to use habits to create your own happiness.  Hmm. . . Sounds a lot like living with intention to me.

So, as I drive to the gym tomorrow morning, I’m going to continue on this journey I’ve started of discovery both for myself and others.  Because I love to teach, but, I really love to learn.

Reflecting on the Past; Focusing on the Future

Photo by Clark Little, 2016
Photo by Clark Little, 2016

2016 came and went and now we are almost through with the second day of 2017.  Hard to believe.  I’m a pretty reflective person by nature, and several years ago decided that I was no longer making resolutions.  They were always the same and always broken within the first week of the new year.  So, I decided that I would set goals for myself instead.  I write them down, because out of sight means out of mind — for me anyway.

Last year, we sat down as a family and set goals for ourselves.  Today, we reflected on those goals; whether we met them or still had work to do.  For the most part, all four of us met some of our goals, but we all individually still have goals we would like to accomplish.

I, for one, would like a focus for myself this year.  And, for the last several years, many of my friends have been sharing their “One Little Word” – the word that will be their focus for the upcoming year.  It has been fun to see the words that people choose.  I decided to try it out this year and have been tossing words around in my head for the last couple of days.  This morning, I finally decided on my OLW.    I am going to focus on intention this year.

See, I have the disease of “busyness.”  I am always busy, always running somewhere, always doing something.  I don’t remember always being this way, but I do know that I have had this disease for most of my adulthood.  I must learn to slow down.  We aren’t promised tomorrow.  My children are growing up before my eyes and will be moving on to college within the next 4-7 years. That is not a lot of time.  I want to enjoy the time I have with them.  I want to live with intention, particularly in two areas.

  1. Family.  I intend to spend purposeful time with my family.  Slow down and just enjoy each other’s company.  Travel together, play games together, watch movies together.  Just be.
  2. Health. I intend to work on my nutrition this year.  I want to be around for a long time.  I want to be a strong and healthy role model for my children.

You see when we start with intention, when we know why we want to do something, we have motivation to reach a goal.  I plan to crush these goals this year.

I know that my plan to live with intention will bleed over into other areas of my life, my work with teachers and students, my writing (I intend to do a lot more this year!), my relationships with my friends and extended family.  But, for now, as long as I am living my day to day with purpose and intention, as long as I know my why,  I know I’m on the right track.

What is your focus for this year?  What goals would you like to accomplish?


Interview with an Author: Megan Shull

My ten year old recently read two books by Megan Shull that she would love to recommend to you for the middle grade readers in your life.

After reading THE SWAP, she was delighted to find out that it premiered as a Disney Original Movie and in school, she had the opportunity to create her own commercial. Click on the screen shot to view it.


BOUNCE  takes place over the course of one day – Christmas Day, to be exact – but it’s not your typical 24-hour story. Frannie Hudson makes one desperate, crazy wish on Christmas Eve to be somewhere, anywhere else but with her busy and distracted family. And it works! When she wakes up, she’s dropped into someone else’s life, and it’s wonderful.  There’s only one catch: waking up as someone else keeps happening over and over again.  A celebration of the power of love and connection, Megan Shull’s heartfelt new novel combines the humor of the movie GROUNDHOG DAY with her own signature insight and proves that while we may not get to choose the life we’re given, we absolutely get to decide how we live it (publisher’s review).

BOUNCE is the ideal gift for the holiday season – full of fantastic adventures but woven with a heartfelt message that will stick with readers.

After she read BOUNCE, she had an opportunity to host a Q&A with Megan:

  1. What inspired you to create/write these/your books?

My goal always as I write is for my readers to want to keep the book close, or tuck it under their pillow because the protagonist’s journey somehow helps them (the reader) feel seen, safe, soothed, and—as with my new novel, Bounce—more resilient, and more capable of bouncing back after falling. So, I am always super honored if a reader tells me that one of my books just made them “feel good”—that’s for sure what I’m hoping for.

  1. As a kid, or even as an adult, have you ever wanted to swap lives like Ellie and Jack, or “bounce” into a different one like Frannie? 

Hmmmm. I haven’t wished for a body swap! To me Bounce is more about Frannie really needing to connect with people who can help her navigate her own quite reasonable painful emotions. Through the power of care and connection (from the bounces and the people she meets along the way) and feeling seen and soothed and safe in her body and her mind, she’s able to learn to take care of herself and feel a little bit less afraid and more capable of handling her life—which hasn’t really changed . . . but as you know, Chloe . . . she has!  The Swap and Bounce both have that piece in common which is really learning how to be more yourself by being—for just a little while—someone else.

  1. Did you have a dream to be an author when you were a kid? 

I did not. I wouldn’t have guessed it at all! On that note: I love this sweet, wise sentiment by the poet Mary Oliver—“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”

  1. When did you start writing books?

I started writing my first book after earning my doctorate at Cornell.

  1. Do you have any other hobbies? 

I love being outside. The town I grew up in (and still live in today) is stunningly beautiful and teeming with waterfalls, gorges, and secret swimming holes. I had the privilege of having a very outdoorsy childhood and that joy and freedom of exploring independently and being inspired by the sheer physical beauty that surrounds you that (in Bounce) Frannie experiences as Sky, well, I know that feeling and I love that feeling too.

Megan Shull is the award-winning author of five books for kids, including The Swap, now a Disney Channel Original Movie and, Bounce. Megan holds a doctorate in educational psychology from Cornell University, where she also earned her undergraduate degree. Born and raised in Ithaca, New York, Megan lives and writes in her hometown—a small college town surrounded by waterfalls, quiet, rolling hills, and secret swimming holes. 

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Down the Research Rabbit Hole; Up with Rosalie Gardiner Jones!

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights

Author: Zachary Michael Jack

Publisher: Zest Books

Date: September 27, 2016

March of the Suffragettes tells the forgotten, real-life story of “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones, who in the waning days of 1912 mustered and marched an all-women army nearly 175 miles to help win support for votes for women.  Most of us know about Susan B. Anthony and her fight for women’s right to vote, but few of us know about Rosalie Gardiner Jones.  The author of March of the Suffragettes, Zachary Michael Jack, tells us a little bit about how he learned about Rosalie Gardiner Jones.


Over the past week, as I’ve taken my new book, March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights into schools and bookstores, readers keep wanting to know: how on earth did you discover Ms. Rosalie Gardiner Jones?! Rosalie, it seems, has surprised and delighted them as much as she did me, hiding out in right there in plain sight in the pages of history.

I only wish I could tell them in the fifth grade—when I was taught the remarkable story of “General” Rosalie Jones and the all-woman suffrage army she mustered and marched 175 miles, through the dead of a New York winter, when she was still in her twenties. I wish I could tell them that a well-meaning high school teacher, sensing my love for the revolutionary and the brave, tipped me off, almost conspiratorially with a nod and a wink and a go-forth-my-child, to research the amazing story of Rosalie and Ida Craft and Lavinia Dock and Jessie Hardy Stubbs for an upcoming research paper.

Instead, I’m left to confess the sad truth—that beyond Susan B. Anthony no one in my excellent public schooling taught me the noble truth of the votes-for-women movement and its amazingly contemporary advocates and their advocacies. That, I suppose, is part of the amnesia we suffer as a country where our foremothers are concerned.

The real story of how I came to learn about Rosalie Gardiner Jones and her remarkable march (at the time, probably the longest sustained women’s rights march in all of American history) is far more prosaic then that: I virtually stumbled into her in the dusky dustbin of history while researching female farmers and agrarians for a previous book: The Midwest Farmer’s Daughter: In Search of an American Icon. It turns out that a number of leading early feminists had rural backgrounds or rural interests, including the likes of Jane Addams and Frances Willard. So, as the saying goes, way led on to way—down, down, down and back up the research rabbit hole again—and suddenly, standing on the shoulders of these great women agrarians, I could see the distant figure of General Jones and her heroic army marching toward me…at least metaphorically.

As a writer and researcher, I believe in walking through the looking glass with both your notepad and your mind open, moving laterally, joyously, from one research find to another—something the Internet (the smart-as-a-whip “Aunt Google,” as I sometimes call her in classes) makes not only enlightening but enjoyable. While my otherwise fine fifth grade history class failed to introduce me to the proud, fightin’ spirit of my suffrage foremothers, it did, in my epic research paper on Maine, at least show me the vertigo-inducing, chutes-and-ladders feeling of historical research at its finest and most life-giving. That’s the breathless feeling I hope I’ve at least partly bottled in March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights. May it march on to the most unexpected places.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review.

Zachary Michael Jack is an award-winning author and editor of over twenty books, a former youth and bookmobile librarian, and the lead instructor for a popular writers’ workshop for tweens and teens, the Master Class for Young Writers. An associate professor of English at North Central College, he teaches courses in Leadership, Ethics and Values, and Writing for Social Change. His latest book, March of the Suffragettes, was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) for its Best Books for Young Readers 2016 catalog.