Posted in Uncategorized

Until I Was on Lockdown

Until I was on lockdown here outside Houston, I was posting about how to spend your time productively on all things English. I hoped that my friends in other areas of the world, like Korea, Doha, or Norway, might find some fruitful ideas in my blog.

Now I’m stuck at home, and I’m finding it harder and harder to tame my thoughts and force them into a tidy outline that leads to a coherent blog post.

I’m done waiting. It’s time to move ahead anyway!

Update on my projects: I’ve begun teaching poetry and the common app essay on Outschool (also a life skills class on telephone communcation, which I’ll start in May). I had applied and begun putting together courses before COVID-19, which has definitely pressed the accelerator on the process. I’ve met some lively, intelligent, upbeat students and been so appreciative of this new venture in a stressful time. It’s helped me focus on positive activities and moving forward each day!

Outschool, like many other platforms, is stepping up during current closures to provide free classes for learners age 14-18. You can read more about the program here:

Outschool has been running group classes for years on Zoom. Isn’t that great! All my kids’ teachers are having to scramble and learn in a rush.

In a stroke of luck, I visited a charity store in Austin right before it became a very bad idea. And I bought several used books–I have new stuff to peruse! I’ve chosen Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to kick me off. A friend is joining me. With 1070 pages, it’s sure to last.

It hasn’t grabbed me at the start, but I will continue. I got sidetracked by Liane Moriarity’s The Husband’s Secret from my elibrary. It gets my thumbs-up as a distraction!

Will keep me occupied!
Quick little distraction. Recommended.

Posted in Literature, Uncategorized

Stuck at Home?

Turning Down Time Into Brain Gain

I rely on Libby, an e-lending app from my public library (icon pictured here). Other such apps include Overdrive and Hoopla. Do you use something else?

Let’s say your local schools are closed. Could be the coronavirus, could be a snow day–here in Texas we get hurricane cancellations. When that closure drags past a day or two, parents often become concerned about learning time slipping away. How can you make these hours count?

I suggest reading the classics (you knew I would, right?). You and your teen can stick your toes in the water quite easily. You can even take on a selection together. It’s always more fun to trade ideas about your reading.

Begin by consulting online reading lists for the SAT/ACT (here’s two:, Note: many lists say that they are “College Board recommended,” but I see no direct evidence of that.

Use the list as a menu and choose a play. I’m going with Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman because I know I can borrow it through my elibrary. And BONUS! I can also watch the movie version for free on Amazon Prime.

Dustin Hoffman stars as Willy Loman in the 1985 movie version of Death of a Salesman.

Read for 10-15 minutes about the American dream (click here for the Wikipedia entry, which is perfectly adequate).

And then jump in! Divide your daily reading into acts. You can even proceed by scenes if acts feel too overwhelming. As you read, take breaks and compare to the movie version. Ask yourself:

  1. What do I understand better from watching the movie?
  2. What does the movie change from the written play? Why might those changes be made? What effects do they have?
  3. What are the main conflicts I see developing?

If you start with Arthur Miller, you can move on to his contemporaries, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, both of whom take on similar themes in their plays. You’ll be taking a huge stride on the trail through American plays, which are often short and use accessible vocabulary while still stretching literary analysis skills. (Parents, these playwrights take on serious adult themes of violence, sexuality, etc., so you may want to research them.)

If you or your high schooler want to discuss your reading, start a reading group, with each other or friends. You can also comment below. If popular demand indicates, I’ll create a private discussion board for Death of a Salesman and/or other plays.

Happy stay-at-home time!

And come back tomorrow for more ideas for self-study . . .