How do you spend your free time?

How do you feel you deserve to spend your free time?  How have you been spending it?

Are you spending your free time doing something active or passive?

Today, for many adults and children, watching television has become an acceptable and preferred way of spending free time.  Or many of us may simply do what’s most popular at the moment.

However, is that the best way to spend our free time?

How we or our children spend free time matters.  Every person in this world is Gd’s creation and every person is here for a reason.  That reason is to be him/herself and to share his/her abilities, talents and skills with the rest of us.  How we spend our free time represents how we feel about ourselves and how well we know ourselves. 

In his book, Finding Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, notes that,

“To make the best use of free time, one needs to devote as much ingenuity and attention to it as one would to one’s job.  Active leisure that helps a person grow does not come easy.  In the past leisure was justified because it gave people an opportunity to experiment and to develop skills.  In fact, before science and the arts became professionalized, a great deal of scientific research, poetry, painting and musical composition was carried out in a person’s free time.  Gregory Mendel did his famous genetic experiments as a hobby; Benjamin franklin was led by interest, not a job description, to grind lenses and experiment with lightning rods; Emily Dickinson wrote her superb poetry to create order in her own life.  Nowadays only experts are supposed to be interested in such issues; amateurs are derided for venturing into fields reserved for the specialist.  But amateurs—those who do something because they love to do it—add enjoyment and interest to their own life, and to everybody else’s.

It is not just extraordinary individuals who are able to make creative use of leisure.  All folk art—the songs, the fabrics, the pottery and carvings, that give each culture its particular identity and renown—is the result of common people striving to express their best skill in the time left free from work and maintenance chores.  It is difficult to imagine how dull the world would be if our ancestors had used free time simply for passive entertainment, instead of finding in it an opportunity to explore beauty and knowledge.”

My mother often watched me and pointed out my interests.  She pointed out to me how good I was in learning, drawing and helping my friends with school work.  She pointed out to me how much I loved children.  I searched further within and additionally inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, to pursue activities that speak to me personally and have nothing to do with what is popular at the moment, I found that I deeply enjoy the following:

  • Drawing
  • Writing
  • Literature
  • Ancient, timeless wisdom
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Personal development
  • Working with children
  • Literacy development
  • Helping kids dramatically improve in reading and writing
  • Motivating and inspiring
  • Holidays and tradition
  • Meaningful get togethers
  • Exploring culture, history
  • Reading memoirs

As a result part of my work involves being a Literacy Specialist, Reading teacher, English teacher, confidence booster, emotional intelligence educator, writer and author.

How I spend my free time involves, learning timeless wisdom, writing, drawing, art, holiday celebration, tradition, meaningful get togethers, reading memoirs, and visiting historical places.

Today, I watch my children, the same way my mother watched me and encourage them to engage in activities where they tend to thrive the most.  (Do not misinterpret this to mean, that I sign them up to a thousand and one extracurricular activities and control their every move.  Absolutely not.  Observing carefully and motivating gently is a way to control nothing and stay focused on just a couple of things.)

But enough about me and here is a gift for you.

It’s your assignment:  

photo (8)









Take a few minutes out of your day to think about your favorite activities and what you can pursue in your free time.  If this is hard, think about your favorite activities as a kid.  If you haven’t done those stuff in a while, start doing them again.  No, it’s not time consuming.  It’s awesome and doable.

For your children, watch them, observe them, encourage them, and invite them to share what you love to do.  They will be so motivated and excited.  (A lot more excited than washing dishes, I promise.)

Why does it matter?  What difference does it make?  One thing for sure, pursuing active entertainment, doing what you truly enjoy, and not just what is popular, or passive, brings joy and meaning into your life.  It makes you feel good about yourself.  It encourages and inspires others.  It builds great self-esteem.  It helps us succeed in other areas of life, including academics!

(Side note: I am not bashing TV watching.  I do enjoy a good movie or a show.  My most recent favorite movie is Into the Woods and favorite TV show is Shark Tank.  However, TV watching has to be intentional and meaningful, not just something or the only thing to do.)

ELA Test is an Opportunity





Are all emotions often present among students, parents and educators, when it comes to preparing for the English Language Arts exam.  It’s an exam given every year in the spring to those between 3rd and 8th grade.  The purpose is to evaluate the student’s reading comprehension skills.

The emotions noted above are certainly not the healthy and most desired.

What can we do to turn that around? 

We can change our perspective.  See this test as an opportunity to help our children strengthen their reading and test taking skills.  I, too at one point hated this test and saw no point to it.  However, as an English teacher, tutor, parent, and now a reading specialist I totally understand that this can be a very purposeful and meaningful test that we don’t have to fear.

The fact is, too many students, don’t keep up with grade level reading comprehension.  There are plenty of research studies and statistics to show how too many young adults and adults are behind in their reading comprehension skills even after graduating high school.  There are also plenty of statistics to show the importance of good reading comprehension skills.

No need for uncertainty.  Simple google search can help us find many sample tests from NY and other states for practice.

No need for tension.  This test creates a reason to constantly work on improving our reading skills and test taking skills.

No need for fear.  Make reading, questioning, learning, discovering part of your daily routine.

No need for frustration.  Building up reading skills is a good thing.  It creates more informed and more educated people so we learn to live meaningful and happy lives.

In the comments share with me the questions or concerns you may have about the test and will talk about it. 

You are learning 24/7, whether you realize it or not.

The What’s Up:

Have you proclaimed how much you hate learning?  And how you can’t wait for summer vacation and how you want to take a break from learning?

Have you made it loud and clear to your teacher on how you don’t want to learn today because it’s the day before the vacation week?

Have you grudgingly spoken out on how you hate learning and wished that there was no such a thing as school?

The story:

“My knowledge of Hanukka comes from the Rugrats [that cute cartoon from TV],” said one of the interviewees from a video that attempted to demonstrate how much non-Jews know about Hanukka.  At that point it hit me.

BAM!  Learning….

BAM!  Learning is….

BAM!   Learning is constant.

Yes, learning is something that happens round the clock no matter what we may be doing.

The explanation:

Learning isn’t something you or I just do when we are in school or when we are reading a book or a newspaper.  Learning isn’t something we only do when we are in some kind of a class or school or college environment.

Learning is something we do ALL THE TIME no matter what it is we are doing!

Even when we sleep.  We might be learning through our dreams or learning things about ourselves from the dreams that we have.

Even when we are just staring at the blank wall.  Yes, we are learning.  We are learning that blank wall.

Even when we are just chatting with a friend.  We are learning from the conversation and the information we share.

Even when we are playing sports.  We are learning about that sport or the playing techniques or our and our peers’ capabilities.

Even when we are playing video games.  We are learning the game, the characters and the messages of that game.

Even when we are reading status updates on facebook.  We are learning whatever it is we are reading that is on people’s minds.

Even when we are browsing through pictures online, Instagram and or whatever else, we are learning what we are seeing on those images.

Even when we are just listening to music, we are learning from lyrics of that song.

Learning as defined by the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill.

We are acquiring or gaining knowledge and or skill from anything and everything that we do and don’t do.

The purpose:

As an educator I often hear students try to talk me out of “learning.”  I often hear how horrible and undesirable learning is.  And so I attempt to show how awesome learning is and how fun it really is.  I even made up a song from my summer learning program for the kids to sing.  These were the lyrics that repeated: “I love learning, I love math, I love reading.”

Learning is learning and if it is something that we want it’s interesting and if it is something that we don’t want it’s horrible.  The question or the statement is not whether we like learning or not.

It is WHAT we choose to learn and how we CHOOSE to spend our time that determines where and how we end up.

Learning, however, happens no matter what we do.

Share with me in the comments:  What are you choosing to learn that is helping you accomplish the goals you have set for yourself for this year?

8 reasons to light Hanukkah (Chanuka) candles, 1 for every night

The what’s up:

“So What?”  May be something you ask and wonder about when someone tells you something.

There is a reason why you ask this.  The “So What?” is very important part of what makes us human.  We are meaning seeking creatures.  Therefore, we ask this because we are looking for meaning or purpose.

It’s not enough to just know stuff or do stuff, we need good reasons for why we want to or should do something.

The story:

Some years ago, when Hanukka and Christmas and winter season were all a blur to me, a family member came to me with a menorah and said, “Here, it’s Hanukkah, light it up.”  And so I did.  The first night, maybe the second night and then forgot all about it for the rest of the 8 nights.

Years passed by and today I am clear on what the holiday of Hanukka is all about.

The explanation:

Hanukka, celebrates the survival of the Jewish religion and Jewish people.  The Greeks wanted to kill off the Jewish religion but keep the people alive.  Some Jews converted and changed their belief system, while others fought to retain the religion and the beliefs.  The temple was destroyed in the process and at the end of the war, a small jug of oil was found and then lit.  The oil was such small amount that it was a miracle that it lasted for 8 days.  And these are the things we celebrate.  The miracle of oil.  Being ourselves and staying true to our roots.

The purpose: 

Why light the candles for 8 nights?  Yes, it is to remember the miracle that happened there, (in Israel).

Now here is another set of reasons for every night.

  1. 1st night, light and pray for Gd to take away loneliness
  2. 2nd night, light and pray for peace and harmony in our home
  3. 3rd night, light and pray for the wellbeing of children
  4. 4th night, light and pray for motherhood, fatherhood or selfhood
  5. 5th night, now that the lit candles outnumber the unlit candles, light and pray to gain positive outlook on life
  6. 6th night, light and pray for becoming a good person, and staying on the right track
  7. 7th night, light and pray for, trusting Gd more, having more faith and less worries.
  8. 8th night, light and pray for the supernatural and for miracles to happen in your life.

Wishing you a beautiful, peaceful, meaningful holiday!

In the comments, share with us, some things you do to make it a meaningful holiday for you? 

And if you want some playful songs to get into the spirit and learn more, here are some links that will take you to videos on youtube.

Stop putting it off and start putting it on!

So you know that person who got a high score on that test?

Or that other person who was performing nicely on the piano?

Or that other person who made it really far in the spelling bee?

Or those other kids who get the highest test grades in class?

How do they do it?   Are they magical or something?

Read on to find out.

I am continuing my work in the business development class I am taking now.  This week I had to write a promise letter to the people I serve with my reading and writing tutoring or teaching.

That’s you, the parent or the student.

This assignment also urged me to stay consistent on my promise, like a good friend, and constantly deliver no matter what.

So I am thinking.  Yes, I should deliver, but what if no one pays attention or cares?  What if they make fun of me or think it’s stupid?  What if I am not good enough?  What if it doesn’t work out?

And that’s when I saw this:

And so I told myself.  Yes!!  When I do my work, I am serving Gd.  He doesn’t want us to be influenced by negative, and lazy powers that talks us down and away from our service or work.  He wants us to grow and prosper.  We have to find a way to overcome whatever that may be holding us down and move past our fears.  It’s not about other people.  It’s about us and gd.

But in order to serve, we must stay consistent and deliver our promise.  If I do something sporadically, you know, once in a while, then nothing happens.

If you have an infection and were given antibiotic for treatment, you have to take it consistently for set amount of days.  Otherwise the infection won’t die but will come back again and keep you sick.

And that’s when I saw this sign:


So there we go.  Here is my promise to you:

As this school year continues I promise this to the students and parents I serve:

  1. Weekly blog posts like these, except holiday. (Holidays are a time for rest, reflection and rejuvenation).
  2. Incorporate more art, meaning and emotional intelligence into my work
  3. Continue to serve the people of Queens with my tutoring and teaching services for reading and writing
  4. Summer programs
  5. Work on completing my books that I’ve been dreaming about writing and publishing.

Now a lot of this may seem scary and time consuming and overwhelming.  It doesn’t have to be.  Much of these activities aren’t as time consuming as we imagine them to be.  We can start by making a schedule or a consistent effort with only 5-10 minutes a day.

I would like to hear from you.  Share with me in the comments:  What is something you’ve been putting off for a while? What is that something you can start to do every day for 5-10 minutes a day? 

27 years later, the secret is revealed!

For years I’ve been asking or just wondering on what makes someone really good at what they do.  What does it take to be great at something?  As a kid I’d ask my parents about people who were considered great or people who were famous.  “How do they become so well-known and admirable?” I’d ask.   I was told that these people are just really amazing and exceptional at what they do.  I interpreted that to mean, that being great is being perfect.

If someone is amazing at something, doesn’t that mean that he or she is flawless?


Upon recently joining a business development class, I have realized something I’ve been pondering for 27 years.  I finally figured out the secret to greatness and attracting people to your work.  The secret is being obsessed with your work and really truly believing in what you are doing.

Once again, if you want to make a change it has to start with you.  You know how you can’t really change others.  You can only change yourself?  Well, the same concept applies here.  If you want others to love and respect what you do, you have to be the first to start the love and respect for your work.

If you don’t, then no one else will.

As an English teacher and a reading specialist, I absolutely love my work.  I love how the English language comes together through Latin and Greek prefixes, roots and suffixes.  It’s amazing how we can pull apart words and then replace some parts and create whole new words.  (Check out this workbook I put together on Latin and Greek roots, prefixes and suffixes.)

I totally love creative expression.  It amazes me every time how words can be put together to paint a picture.  It is even more amazing how words can be used to change the course of history and how people think and function.  (Have you read, Martin Luther King’s speech, I Have a Dream?  It is such a delicious and oh so beautifully written speech.  Go read it now.)

Additionally, I love studying emotional intelligence or learning about human emotions and why we function as we do.  To read literature, means you have to do character analysis, which means you must understand people and their emotions.  I can read and learn about this all day, all night and all year.  (I just finished reading books by Steven Pressfield, titled, The War of Art and Do the Work.  Both books focus on the idea of resistance and how resistance holds us back from shining and doing our best.  For example, think of Hamlet, the dude is facing resistance all through the book or think of Lion King’s Simba.  Ahh, you see how literature analysis and personal development go hand in hand.  Love it! :) )

Last but certainly not least, I love art.  Drawing to be exact.  I love to draw stuff.  It is so much fun.  And then I love to enhance my drawing with wisdom filled quotes that I put together thanks to the literature and personal development books that I can’t get enough of.  (I am working on putting together a book now.  Samples will be shared with you soon.  Can’t wait!!!).

From now on, what I love, I am offering to you.

On the top right side of this website, check out my reading/writing classes, test prep classes and soon to be available, workbooks and fun books.

In the comments below, share with me, what it is you love oh so much that you wish to share with the world? 

Sending you much love and reading!

“I read it but I don’t get it. What can I do?”

How do I motivate my child to read more? 

I read it but I don’t get it.  What can I do? 

I want to read, but I don’s get what I am reading.  What should I do?

These are just some of the question I get asked most often as a reading specialist.  Upon researching, teaching, learning and then researching some more, I have come up with the following strategies to answer these questions.  When the child better understands what he/she reads he will be more motivated to read.  These can be applied for all ages that read, 5 to adulthood.

Strategy 1: Read before you read. 

Before you start reading, take a look at the cover, the title, the author and the back cover. What do these reveal about the book before you are about to start reading? What are the pictures on the cover? What’s the title all about? What is the summary on the back? Who is the author? What kind of stuff does this author write? Once you answer these questions, ask some more questions about the book, make predictions… then proceed.  This is similar to watching a movie.  Before you go watch it you may read the reviews, watch the trailer, learn about who is the director and the actors.  How does this help?  It allows the reader to understand what he or she is about to read.  This understanding contributes to better comprehension of the content.

Strategy 2: Read while you read.

Too often our children read the words out loud perfectly but have no idea what they mean or they will read books and while doing that drift off into thinking about other stuff, then a page or two later, have no idea what they just read. So what to do to help stay focused while reading so they actually read while they read?  Have a conversation with the author as you read.  What does that mean and how do you do that? The author wrote to communicate something to you, so you can communicate back. Here are 3 things you can do: 1. As you read and if you find something interesting, note it by writing a “Yes! or a Wow! or Interesting,” next to that passage or sentence.   2. If you read something that confused you or you want to know more about, put a question mark next to it.  3. If you read something and connect to it or connect that information to something else that you’ve read, note it. Such communication with the author allows for deeper comprehension and more joyful reading.

Strategy 3:  Read after you read.

What does this mean? Once you finish reading the book, you may have more questions or thoughts about the topic that you read. Questions may have come up as you were reading on other matters that weren’t addressed in the book you were reading. With these new thoughts and questions in mind, investigate for a new book to read so you could find answers.

Reading is a cycle, similar to other cycles of life such as the life cycle.  You start off with reading before you read, reading while you read and end with read after you read and then again go back to read before you read and so on.  Applying these strategies will help contribute a deeper understanding and therefore create a habit of reading.

Museums improve reading comprehension

For this week I was planning on posting a blog post on 5 steps to better reading comprehension but instead something else, very exciting happened. Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I ended up at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. All members of the family were home and we all went.

Getting together to leave the house to go wasn’t the easiest thing. Because you know……one kid doesn’t really want to go because he is busy with the rainbow loom, the other wants to watch Curious George and the other just wants to sleep. After talking, explaining the benefits and some frustration in between, we finally we got dressed and left. And at the end of the day, we all enjoyed it very much.

Back to the trip. It was amazing! The exhibitions there were spectacular. We visited the Poison exhibition and it discussed the when poison is helpful and harmful, the history of poison and the role poison plays in our lives through history and literature.

There were so many more exhibitions there, including the cycle of life in animals and the cycle of water, and all that’s outside of earth, the universe. Wow, wow oh wow. It was just amazing.

Education Next magazine published an article on how visiting museums improves children’s critical thinking skills. And for sure it does. I can totally see how. There is so much we learn through textbooks and when we go to museums the information in text books comes to life and becomes more real. Therefore it is more comprehensible. Therefore I can think better because I understand better and more. So it makes perfect sense.

Now how about we organize a trip to the museum for your kids? It will be amazing fun! Let’s do it in February during mid-winter recess.

This will be a small group. Up to 6 children. The cost will be 75 and that includes entrance fee, transportation, parking and of course my guidance and teaching on all the exhibits we visit. Each child will bring his own lunch and snack. We will be there for most of the day. Pick up at 9am and drop off at 4pm. It will be amazing, educational fun!!!

Is your child(ren) in? This is for children ages 6-14 and limited to 6 kids only. So sign up as soon as possible.  Send me an email or call to tell me you are interested.

Enjoy your Thursday that feels like a Monday. :)

Oh and the post of 5 steps to better reading comprehension is coming up next week.

Your everyday life can help improve your child’s reading comprehension

Reading comprehension is key to success in learning.  Think about it, how do people young or old learn?  One of the most common and predominant ways we communicate is through literature.  Therefore one of the most common and predominant ways that we learn is through reading.  If you can read, you can learn anything. 

In school your child may be learning various reading strategies.  How can you as a parent help your child improve his/her reading comprehension?  What can you do at home?  Before we answer this question there is something very important we have to learn and realize.  I am currently in Queens College working on attaining my master’s degree in Literacy.  This fall was my first semester.  My professor emphasized how background knowledge is key to comprehension.  Without background knowledge, students/children will have a hard time comprehending the text. 

So here is what you can do to help your child build his background knowledge and as a result improve his reading comprehension. 

  • Educate your kid.  Share with him all that you know. 
    • o   For example, do you know how airplanes, cars, television and other devices and machines operate?  If so, tell them, teach it to them.
  • You don’t have to make special time for this, so don’t panic on where you will find the time to do this now.  Do it while you are spending time with your children eating, driving, cooking and other such activities. 
    • o   For example, when you drive down the LIE (if you are in NYC), tell them about LIE, how long it is and how it helps you get from point A to point B.   
    • o   Tell them about JFK.  Who was he, what happened.  Tell them about Jackie Robinson.  What so special about these people that we have roads and highways and airports named after them.  If you are not sure, look it up on google and share the knowledge. 
    • o   If you are cooking or washing dishes and if that particular food you are making or those particular plates you are washing carry some kind of significance in your family history, tell them. 
    • o   During dinner/breakfast/lunch table, teach them or share with them what you learned from watching the news, Dr. OZ, reading the paper/magazine/website.  Or what you learned at work about the work you do and or about how people interact with each other. 
    • o   Tell them about what life was like back where you came from, what your childhood/high school life/college life/ newly married life was like.  This includes where you lived, what were important lessons you learned, or what was common thing to do among people and why.  Tell them about what your parents and grandparents were like and what family traditions you shared and the holidays you celebrated.  What kind of work did your parents and grandaprents do and why? 
    • o   Do you have family members that served in the Army or War?  Have them share their experiences/knowledge.
    • o   Tell them what life was like in your days and what is different in your children’s days and what is still the same.
    • Tell them where you traveled and what you saw and learned there.  

You get the idea. 

By sharing such information with your children, you are helping your child with the reading comprehension.  Next time your kid reads something about other cultures, about war, about human interactions, he/she will remember what you told him/taught him and make a connection between what you shared and the book/text he is reading.  This connection is necessary for reading comprehension.  Without a connection, very little comprehension takes place. 

Put this into practice today.  For additional questions or help, reach out.  I will be glad to help.  If you have more resources to offer, please do so in the comments section. 

Happy Learning + Succeeding!

What does math have to do with reading?

When we think of math we think of numbers, computation.  However, much of the math involves reading comprehension so we know what numbers to compute.   Many students struggle with word problems because they don’t really understand what all those algebraic terms mean.  Here is something that will definitely help translate algebraic terms into everyday, spoken English.

I got this from

Look  for “key” words. Certain words indicate certain mathematical operations. Below is a partial list. Copyright

  • ·         increased by
  • ·         more than
  • ·         combined, together
  • ·         total of
  • ·         sum
  • ·         added to
  • ·         decreased by
  • ·         minus, less
  • ·         difference between/of
  • ·         less than, fewer than
  • ·         Of
  • ·         times, multiplied by
  • ·         product of
  • ·         increased/decreased by a
  • ·         factor of (this type can involve both addition or subtraction and multiplication!)
  • ·         per, a
  • ·         each
  • ·         out of
  • ·         ratio of, quotient of percent (divide by 100)
  • ·         Is, are, was, were, will be
  • ·         gives, yields
  • ·         sold for

Here something more I got from Cuesta College’s Website on their Academic Support page:

Translating English Terms Into Algebraic Symbols

Sum +
Add +
In addition +
More than +
Increased +
In excess +
Greater +
Decreased by -
Less than -
Subtract -
Difference -
Diminished Reduce -
Remainder -
Times as much x
Percent of x
Product x
Interest on x
Per /
Divide /
Quotient /
Quantity ( )
Is =
Was =
Equal =
Will be =
Results =
Greater than >
Greater than or   equal to
Less than <
Less than or equal   to

Translating English Words Into Algebraic Expressions

Ten more than x x + 10
A number added to 5 5 + x
A number increased   by 13 x + 13
5 less than 10 10 – 5
A number decreased   by 7 x – 7
Difference between x   and 3 x – 3
Difference between 3   and x 3 – x
Twice a number 2x
Ten percent of x 0.10x
Ten times x 10x
Quotient of x and 3 x/3
Quotient of 3 and x 3/x
Five is three more   than a number 5 = x + 3
The product of 2   times a number is 10 2x = 10
One half a number is   10 x/2 = 10
Five times the sum   of x and 2 5(x + 2)
Seven is greater   than x 7 > x
Five times the   difference of a number and 4 5(x – 4)
Ten subtracted from   10 times a number is
that number plus 5
10x – 10 = x + 5
The sum of 5x and 10   is equal to the product of x and 15 5x + 10 = 15x
The sum of two   consecutive integers (x) + (x + 1)
The sum of two   consecutive even integers (x) + (x + 2)
The sum of two   consecutive odd integers (x) + (x + 2)

You can print this out and highlight those that are relevant to your child based on his grade level.  Then hang it up where your child does his homework or have him keep a copy in his binder as a reference.

For additional questions or help, reach out.  I will be glad to help.  If you have more resources to offer, please do so in the comments section.