Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why We Have to Take Risks

Today I posted my very first podcast.

“Do you want to listen to my podcast?” I ask my girls. They nod and soon we’re sitting around my computer listening to Podcasting, Blogging, Books and Lice!

“You’re using your ‘other people’ voice, Mum,” observes Gemma-Rose, “not your 'family' one.”

I think about this. Yes, somehow I don’t sound right. Oh my, what will people think? Will I get lots of critical comments? Perhaps I should go delete my podcast. 

 But then I look at Sophie. She’s smiling. “I can’t wait to make a podcast of my own,” she says. “Will you show me what to do?”

And suddenly it doesn’t matter that my podcast is really quite awful. I know I was right to publish it. Sometimes we have to take a risk, try things out and not worry what others might say because there is something far more important than looking good. It’s being a good example of learning for our children.

I showed Sophie how to download Audacity. She decided what to talk about and then disappeared into her bedroom to record her conversation. Now we are uploading her file to Podbean. Sophie is almost a podcaster. Today she learnt lots of new skills. Just like me. 

So I'm not going to delete my podcast, even though I felt like doing this not so long ago. It's out there on the Internet where anyone can listen and comment. And that's okay. Because today Sophie followed my example. She learnt something new. She's happy. And that's all that matters.  

PS:If you do listen to my podcast, please feel free to leave me some feedback. I'll cope with any negative comments. Maybe!

Please join me on Facebook on my Sue Elvis Writes page!

Podcasting, Blogging, Books and Lice!

microphone by Susanne Sperring(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I've been learning new things. You could say I've been unschooling! Yesterday, I worked out how to make a podcast.

It wasn't that difficult. I downloaded Audacity, pressed the 'record' button and then started chatting. When I'd finished speaking, I exported the recording as an MP3 file, which I uploaded to the podcast hosting site, Podbean. Voila! I am now a podcaster!

The hardest thing about podcasting is talking. Well, perhaps not talking. I don't seem to have any trouble doing that. I just open my mouth and the words fall out. But of course the words have to be interesting. That's the tricky bit!

Before I started, I made a short list of topics I could chat about and decided not to worry too much about getting everything right. This podcast is an experiment. It doesn't matter if it isn't perfect, does it? I learnt a lot from making it and I hope to get better next time.

Towards the end of my podcast, I said I was going to add some theme music to the beginning and end of my recording next time I made one. Actually, I found some music and added it to this podcast after all. I think it adds just the right touch. It makes me sound like a real podcaster! I wonder what you'll think.

It seems to me, that most real podcasters put together some program notes to go with their podcasts, so I shall do the same. I mentioned quite a few things while I was chatting away. Just in case you want to follow up on these, I'll list everything and everyone and add the appropriate links. The notes will all make sense if you listen to the podcast. But will you have time to listen? I hope so!

Have you made a cup of coffee? Now get out your ironing board or take up your knitting. It's time for...

Podcasting, Blogging, Books and Lice!

PS: A short time after posting this podcast, I almost deleted it. But I didn't. Instead I wrote the post Why We Have to Take Risks.

Podcast Notes

People and Podcasts
Greg and Jennifer Willits: The Catholics Next Door
Lindsay and Caroline (and Gerry): What the Faith
Jeremy and Michelle: Catholic Families

People and Blogs
Marilyn Rodrigues at Marilyn Rodrigues
Ellen Gable at Plot, Line and Sinker
Laura at Catholic Cravings

People and Books
Ellen Gable's books on Amazon

Blog Posts Mentioned
My conference notes: coming soon to my Sue Elvis Writes blog!

Videos and Podcasts
My Youtube Channel Sue Elvis

Image: Do you think this flower looks like a microphone? The photographer does!

As usual, you can also find me on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. I try and post things of interest to readers, as well as my blog post links. I enjoy chatting with everyone who stops by. I'd love you to visit!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teenage Daughters, Books, Movies and Love

When it comes to books and movies, my 16 year old daughter Charlotte is very hard to please. Sometimes when we are watching a family movie together, we’ll realise she is no longer in the room with us.

Later I ask, “You didn’t like that movie?”

Charlotte screws up her nose and shakes her head. Something is just not right about it as far as she is concerned. And she can’t make herself endure it to the end.

I remember when we watched the movie Home Alone. Charlotte disappeared very quickly that night. She just couldn’t stand the way the siblings and cousins treated each other in the opening scenes. She didn't think it was funny at all. I have to say I agree with my daughter. Too much of what society thinks of as funny is really rather sad or even cruel. Funny isn’t always funny.

The other type of movie Charlotte deplores is romance, unless of course it’s of the Jane Austen or Disney kind. But if an over-the-top kissing scene appears on screen (or worse), you can be sure Charlotte will protest. She will refuse to watch. Not that she doesn’t like love. She does. But really? Do we have to watch such intimate behaviour on screen?

The other night the conversation turned to romance novels. The Love Comes Softly series was mentioned. Charlotte’s eyes lit up. She’d read the first one and it had passed her stringent standard. Yes, she liked the book immensely.

“Charlotte, have you read the others in the series?” asked Imogen.

“We haven’t got them.”

“Yes, we have! There’s a box full of them in the family room. They’ve been there nearly a week.”

“How come I didn’t hear about them?” demanded Charlotte.

“Weren’t you there when Mrs D lent them to us?” I asked. “She gave them to us last Sunday.”

I was talking to myself. Charlotte had left the room in search of the box.

For the past few days we’ve had a very contented teenager in our house. Every now and then Charlotte reappears from her bedroom to exchange one Love Comes Softly book for another. I guess she won’t be smiling so widely for much longer. Soon she’s going to run out of books to read.

I’ve heard Janette Oke has written other series. Perhaps I should take a look and see if we can afford to buy them. Good books are worth buying, don’t you think?

Do you know what I love?

I love daughters who are fussy about what they read and watch.

I love authors like Janette Oke who write about love without explicit and sometimes immoral details.

I love friends who are willing to share their books.

And I love LOVE. The right kind, of course.

What about you? What do you think about love, books and movies? Have you read any of Janette Oke’s books? And do you also have generous friends who love to share their treasures with you?

PS There is also a Love Comes Softly video series, available on Youtube. Apparently these are different from the books but still good in their own way. My daughters have been enjoying them too.

We've been talking about books and podcasts (and too much talking!) on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page recently. Please come over and join me!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Homeschool Meetings, Talking and Turkeys

turkey profile by Hope Abrams (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s hard being the new girls.

“Hi, I’m Sue. I’m new to this group.”

“You’ve just started homeschooling?”

“No. We’ve been homeschooling for 22 years.”

"So you've just moved to this area?”

“Well, no…"

"So why have you suddenly decided to come along to our meetings?"

"We thought it would be nice to get out and meet some new people.”

I’ve had the above conversation a lot lately. Actually I've had it with every mother I've spoken to at the homeschooling support group we've recently joined.

It's difficult chatting to new people, trying to make new friends. It’s not as if the women aren’t friendly. They are. I guess it just takes time to get to know people, to feel comfortable and for us to work out how the group runs...

The first week we attended a meeting, everyone brought soup to share for lunch. Everyone except us. But the second week we were better prepared. We arrived with a huge pan full of carrot, potato and cheese soup. Unfortunately  it wasn’t soup week. It was cupcake week. We heated our soup anyway and ate it by ourselves. It was delicious.

This week is Book Week but we don’t have to worry about bringing along soup or cupcakes or even books, because we won’t be able to go to the meeting. This Wednesday I shall be in Sydney at the Catholic Digital Media Conference. While all the mothers are listening to their kids give talks about their favourite books, I shall be speaking about blogging. My girls are rather relieved. They screwed up their noses when I mentioned the Book Week activity. They certainly don't want to dress up as their favourite book characters. I’m afraid we get rather alarmed when someone suggests a group activity. I guess we just want to go to homeschool meetings to do a little socialising, have a few conversations. We don't want to be organised into doing things we aren't really interested in. I wonder if that's because we are unschoolers. Or perhaps we're just contrary.

A few of the mothers know we're unschoolers. (I volunteered the information.) But no one has yet discovered my secret online life. They are unaware I’m a blogger. It hasn’t come up in conversation. Thinking about this makes me realise there is probably a hidden side to everyone. If only we ask the right questions, and show enough interest, I’m sure we would find out so many fascinating or unexpected things about the people we chat to.  

So far I haven't found out much about my fellow homeschoolers. I suppose I'll have to try a little harder, get to know people better. There has to come a time when conversation moves on from: “How long have you been homechooling? How many children do you have? Where do you live?” to something more interesting. Those questions can get a bit repetitive. But how will I do it?

I am reminded of an art of conversation course I did years ago. I often think about one sentence in particular: You need to find someone’s turkey. Turkey? Apparently there was this man who was having a hard time maintaining a conversation with a certain woman… until he mentioned turkeys. Once this word was uttered, the woman’s eyes lit up and her tongue came alive. Suddenly she had a lot to share. Turkeys were her passion. (Yes, really!) Once we’ve found someone’s ‘turkey’ conversation is easy.

Joining a conversation isn’t always easy when you’re the new girls. My girls hung back at their first homeschool meeting, waiting for the teenagers to include them. When nothing happened, Charlotte strode across to them and introduced herself. She is rather surprising at times. I used to tell people she is quiet. She’s not. She just doesn’t make much noise if there’s no real reason to do so.

I remember when Charlotte was about 5 years old. We were at a homeschool camp. I was describing her to a woman I’d just met: “My Charlotte is very quiet,” I said, pointing to my daughter who was across the room.

“Oh I know Charlotte! She’s not quiet,” said the woman. "She ate lunch with my family. She’s very chatty.” Is Charlotte naturally chatty? Or did the woman find her turkey? Perhaps I just misjudged my own child.

So what’s my turkey? Writing, blogging, unschooling…You’d better not ask me about any of those. I’ll start talking and talking, and you’ll be stuck with me for hours. Yes, once we are talking about our favourite subject, an unending flow of words appears on our lips. I shall have to be very careful when I’m at the digital media conference. I’ve only got a certain amount of time to tell people about my experience of blogging. I mustn’t get carried away. I must keep an eye on the clock.

“Have you prepared your talk?” asks my husband Andy.

“I’ve made a list of points I want to make,” I reply.

“Have you practised out loud in front of a mirror?”

Practise? “Nah! I know what I‘m going to say.” The words are going to roll off my tongue, no problem at all. I hope.

Two days chatting with people who all have the same turkey. It’s going to be good!

So what's your turkey? What makes your eyes light up and your tongue come alive? Please share!

This week I've posted all kinds of things on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. There's a healthy brownie recipe, photos of our late winter walk through the bush, a link to an Astrid (How to Train Your Dragon) braid tutorial and most exciting, some information about my new children's novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek. It's now available from Lulu. I hope you'll hop over to my page and take a look!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Seven Revealing Facts About Myself

My friend Helena at the blog Life Across the River nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Helena is one of my young friends, a former homeschooler, fantastic musician, artist, writer... a very talented young lady. Oh and she and I are both red heads at the moment. Though I fear mine is fading (I guess it has to happen one day. We all get old.)

I feel very honoured to be nominated for this award. And special. It's always lovely when someone tells you they like your blog, isn't it?

I have to share 7 facts about myself, so here they are:

  • I used to be young and ‘beautiful’ and rather vain and now I’m not. Except for the vain bit.

  • When I was a school child I used to shake like a leaf in a high wind whenever I was asked to give a public speech. One day I decided I would overcome my nervousness. Now I enjoy speaking which just goes to show we can all conquer our fears if we really want to. And it's just as well I no longer fear facing an audience because next week I’m speaking about blogging at the Catholic Digital Media Conference in Sydney. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could meet you there?

  • Readers often get discouraged by bloggers who seem to sail through lives full of blessings. And it’s absolutely true: I am very blessed. But that doesn’t mean I never face challenges and make mistakes. I just don’t always write about them. And that’s all I’m going to reveal about that. At least for today.

  • I am famous for saying, “I’ll never become a Catholic.” But of course I did. The moral of this story is never say such things because sometimes life is very surprising and God can lead us in totally unexpected and wonderful directions, despite our short-sightedness, narrow-mindedness and stubbornness. Did I just reveal 3 of my faults?

  • As a child I had dreams of becoming an author. I wanted to write stories about big families or princesses or both. It has taken me a long time but I have just published my first children’s novel. It’s called The Angels of Abbey Creek. And that's very exciting. At least for me.

  • I have been a homeschooling mother for 22 years which makes me old. And I have been blogging about unschooling for more than 3 years which means I’ve written a lot of posts (326 actually).  Sometimes I wonder if I have anything left to say about this subject.

  • I used to be full of my own opinions. I guess I still am.
  • An additional fact: I hate having my photo taken (because as I mentioned, I'm rather vain). Looking back at our family photos it's not always obvious I exist. But I am here, a real person. After posting all these photos, I've just proven it.

Well that's all my facts. I've just realised I should have posted the 'official' rules. Here they are:
  • Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  • Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

I am not very good with rules. Must have something to do with being an unschooler. This is the best I can do:

Nominations: I enjoy reading many homeschooling blogs. I find the following bloggers extremely supportive, encouraging and friendly. I enjoy sharing ideas and resources with you all!

Lucinda from Navigating by Joy
Hwee from The Tiger Chronicle
Claire from Angelic Scalliwags
Wendy from Zoom Times 
Amy from To Love

If you would like to reveal 7 facts about yourselves, you too can have a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. And if you don't, that's no problem at all.

Thank you Helena for the nomination! 

And one very last fact: I have a poor memory so if I have failed to list any of my favourite blogging friends, please forgive me!

And on my Sue Elvis Writes page this week: Some links to a wonderfully enjoyable video series (free on Youtube!) and an accompanying book, and an article about motivation and teaching maths. And we are anticipating spring. I discovered some buds emerging on trees next to our lake. And talking about spring, are you wondering what will be in fashion this season? Help is at hand: The other day, the girls made a spring fashion shoot video. Why don't you come and have a look? I'd love to see you on my page!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Creating Evernote Reading Notebooks

I take the girls to the library and they return with dozens of books. I hope they’re going to keep the girls happy for a very long time.

But a few days later the girls say, “When can we go to the library again, Mum? We’ve read all our books.”

“You’ve read all of them? Already?”

They nod their heads.

I’m not planning another trip into town for a few days so I say, “How about reading the books I sent to your Kindles… and there’s plenty of books on our shelves... “

So the girls devour some of the books we own while they wait to exchange the ones from the library. They read book after book after book. And all those books give me an idea.

“Wouldn't it be great to keep track of all the books you read?" I say. "Why don’t you start an Evernote reading notebook and record them all?”

The girls want to hear more so I expand my idea: "You could...

  • Copy and paste an image of each book’s cover into a note. 
  • Copy and paste the book blurb from Amazon.
  • Add the book genre.
  • Write a few words about your reaction to the book… what you enjoyed most, what you didn’t like… and was it interesting, exciting, funny…?”
  • Add a favourite quote (if you want).
  • Include a star rating out of five (use a star icon).
  • Include books you'd like to read in the future."

“What about the books we don’t finish?” asks Charlotte.

“You could add DNF (did not finish) and the reason why."

We talk about the benefits of keeping a reading notebook:

  • It would be quick and easy to put together, and more fun than writing book reviews. 
  • It might be interesting to look back at all the books read: a trail of books going back weeks, months and eventually years.
  • Everyone could share each other's notebooks.
  • A notebook might be useful.

“When I’m writing my book blog posts," says Imogen. "I often have trouble remembering all the wonderful books I’ve read."

I know what she means. When I was writing my post Five Favourite Read-Aloud Book Series, I was absolutely sure we’d read many great books together. But naming them? I had to search my memory and ended up asking, “Girls, what books did we enjoy reading together?” It would have been much easier if I’d had a notebook to consult.

So the girls decide to create Evernote reading notebooks. I think I’d enjoy putting one together too. There’s only one problem: I might actually have to finish the books I start. Otherwise my notebook might end up having only entries like this:

DNF: I got distracted by a new book I just had to begin before finishing this one.

Then I remember I have read a few books that I couldn't put down until the very last page, like Ellen Gable's novels:

So what do you think? Would you use Evernote to keep a reading notebook? Would your children?

PS I think you can do something similar on Goodreads:

Goodreads is a free website for book lovers. Imagine it as a large library that you can wander through and see everyone's bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. You can also post your own reviews and catalog what you have read, are currently reading, and plan to read in the future. Don’t stop there – join a discussion group, start a book club, contact an author, and even post your own writing.

And that does sound good, but I don't really want to get involved with yet one more online community.

Talking of books, I've recently posted some book links on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page (in between the soup recipes!) Come over and have a look!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Five Favourite Read-Aloud Book Series

"What shall we do together today?" I ask my girls.

"Can you read to us, please Mum?" 

So we settle on the sofa side-by-side. Gemma-Rose hands me our current read-aloud book,and I begin.

Over the years we have shared many great books. I always know which ones the girls are really enjoying: When I get to the end of a chapter, they plead: "Can you read us just one more chapter, please Mum?" And I usually do because I'm enjoying the story too.

Today I thought I'd share five of our favourite read-aloud series. We love series. When we get to the end of the first book, there's still more to enjoy!

So here's our list:

  • The Matilda Saga by Jackie French
These three historical fiction books are set in Australia. They were all inspired by famous Australian poems/ songs. (You could enjoy these too. We did!) Even though these books form one continuing story, they can be read independently.

This tale begins in 1894. " Set against a backdrop of bushfire, flood, war and jubilation, this is the story of one girl's journey towards independence."

It is now 1919. "The Girl from Snowy River combines passion, heartbreak, history and an enduring love and rich understanding of our land. It continues the grand saga that began with A Waltz for Matilda."

The Road to Gundagai is set in 1932, at the time of the Depression. 

  • The Texas Panhandle series by Loula Grace Erdman
This series was recommended to us by an American friend, as being one of her daughter's favourites. Thank you, Karla. It is now one of our favourites too! The books are set in the 1800s in Texas, USA. A homesteading story.

  • The Drover's Road Collection by Joyce West: 
The setting for these stories is a New Zealand sheep station in the 1920s and 1930s.. We loved the humour. We smiled a lot while reading these books. Highly recommended! 

River Road, Sea Island, Drover's Road

  • Eleanor Spence's Australian Bush Books
The Switherby Pilgrims begins in England in 1825. Miss Arabella Braithewaite travels with her 10 orphan charges to Australia to take up a land grant. A pioneering story set in the beautiful, but sometimes dangerous, Australian bush.

The Switherby Pilgrims: a Tale of the Australian Bush

  • The Letzenstein Chronicles by Meriol Trevor
This series begins in 1847, in the small European country of Letzenstein at a time of great political unrest. Full of interesting characters!

I know I haven't given you a full description of each book, but it's easy to find out more by following the book links. 

Do you have any favourite read-aloud book series? If you do, I'd love to hear about them!

What have I been posting on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page recently? A link to a maths website, a story about punctuation, a link to some videos about the science of the Summer Olympics, a recipe... Have you ever eaten chocolate oatmeal? I haven't but I'm going to try it!