What you really mean when you ask, “Is it hard?”

This sort of question comes up a lot.  I hear it often as a teacher of high school students.

If person X shares something he did with person Y and person Y is amazed at the accomplishment of person X, person Y may ask, “Is it hard?”

Imagine on career day in your school a person with a highly successful job comes to talk to you and you ask him/her, “Was it hard to go to college and get the job you have or do the job you have?”

So what are we really feeling and thinking when we ask such question?

  1. “Wow! That looks really complicated.  Could I actually do that too?  I wonder how hard this really was.”
  2. “Wow! That seems so out of my reach.  But this person is doing it.  I wonder if this is really hard or maybe not so much.”
  3. “Wow! That seems like something I’d want for myself too, but boy, I wonder if I too, could actually make that happen. Although I am really not sure.  I am so scared.”

But why can’t you or I do something that’s hard?  Aren’t all things doable in small steps?

Next time you hear yourself asking this question, evaluate what it is that’s really scaring you.

Or what is really making you think that this is out of your reach, complicated and or scary.

The truth is whether something is hard or easy, is relative.  It depends on each individual and can’t be measured with precise science.

Welcome fear but then bid it farewell.  And proceed to focus on making your dreams and goals a reality, step by step, day by day.

Happy Learning and succeeding!

6 Important Lessons from the Purim Story

The Purim story has 6 good lessons to teach us on personal development and success inducing behaviors.  To learn more about the story of Purim go to Aish.com or watch videos on YouTube, through aish.com as well.  (Purim is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the salvation of the Jewish nation).

The Lessons:

  1. Do you do what is right or what others want you to do? Mordechai, one of the main characters of the Purim story was asked to bow down to the evil character Haman.  Mordechai did what is right according to his beliefs and values.  He didn’t bow down even if Haman wanted him to do so.  Often in life we are pushed by our friends or family members to do what makes them happy but may not be what is right.  It is up to us to make the choice.  To do what is right.
  2. Your level of determination makes a difference in your destiny. Throughout history there have always been nations that wanted to get rid of the Jews, physically or spiritually.  Why are the Jews still here?  It is because of their determination to survive and stick to the Torah and their beliefs.  No matter how hard or impossible or dangerous the political situations would get, the determination to stick to the Torah never faded.  How determined are you to do good or to reach for your goals?
  3. Pushing yourself to go against your comfort zone or even placing yourself in a dangerous situation to do what’s right. Esther, the heroine of the story, was terrified to face the king.  However, with the help of the one who advised her and guided her, she pushed herself despite her fear for the sake of saving her people.  It’s okay to listen to those who are older, more experienced and to push ourselves to do what’s right or what will help make this world a better place.
  4. An act of kindness goes a long way as long as saving a nation. Mordechai, did an act of kindness for the king.  This helped save him and his people.
  5. When you hurt others you are only hurting yourself. There are times when we feel tempted to take revenge and insult or hurt others physically or verbally.  Either way, when we hurt others, we are only hurting ourselves.  Nobody wins.  Spend your time and energy on doing good instead.  Haman attempted to hurt Mordechai.  At the end of the story Haman is the one who is hurt along with his sons.
  6. Have faith. We can spend a lot of time worrying about what awaits us in the future.  The future is uncertain and that’s okay.  Having faith in the higher being and that the higher being will take good care of us, brings inner peace and reduces worry.  Have faith and all will be well.

Which of these lessons resonate most with you?  Which of these lessons do you want to take on and start applying to your life?

So you want you or your kid to develop a habit of learning and reading?

Learning-teachingHow do you develop a habit of learning and reading?

First and foremost there has to be motivation, desire.  Now if there is no desire or motivation how can you develop it or bring it about?  Change perspective.  See learning and reading as the most amazing and awesome thing to do.  Love it up.  Love reading and love learning.  Build a positive relationship with reading and learning.  Make learning your good friend.  Your sweetest and most wanted friend.  The, “I can’t live without you,” friend.  Speak nicely of “learning and reading.”

Here is one truth about learning.  And then here is another.

Once the motivation and desire are in place, here is a literacy and learning strategy that is basic, simple and most effective.

Reading & Learning Strategy

The strategy is simple and basic and most effective in teaching your child to become a lifetime, independent learner.  Using these strategies will allow your child to learn anything and everything he or she wishes to learn on his or her own, with limited help from other professionals.

  • Read before you read-observe, analyze and question.
  • Read while you read—think, question, clarify, connect, learn
  • Read after you read—search for answers to questions asked, inquire, reach out.
  • Making use of resources available to us all. Resources such as virtual and physical libraries, inquiries, and discussions with people of various backgrounds, professions and lifestyles.

If you wish to have a one time 1-2 hour session on having me teach you or your child these strategies, so that your child will become a lifetime learner and reader, I will be happy to help.  The investment is $100. 

If you wish to have a 12 hour session over a 6 week period on having me teach you or your child these strategies so that you or your child will become a lifetime learner and reader, I will be happy to help.  Why 6 weeks?  Because that’s the time it takes to build or develop a habit.  Investment $600.

Available to those over the age of 10 and adults.

Send me an email vera.borukhov@gmail.com or text 718-790-8911.



How do you feel about learning?

Is learning something good?

Is learning something fun?

Is learning something adults force on children?

Is learning something terrible and mean?

How you feel about learning may determine the activities you pursue. 

I shared a struggle with my mentor teacher.  I asked what to do when students get failing grades on tests.  Sometimes this happens because a child has a hard time understanding the subject, then getting a tutor who can help is the answer.  However, there are times when a child’s behavior is not the kind that produces academic success.  That’s when parents or mentorsneed to help our children establish success habits and the kind of behaviors that lead to better grades.

This mentor teacher explained that learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom with a teacher.  Long ago, the wealthy people had tutors and many not so wealthy people learned independently through books.  I thought of my uncle at that moment.  He was a voracious reader and much of what he knows today he learned on his own.  There are times I think about how perhaps I should have pursued psychology instead of teaching.  I am so interested in emotional intelligence and how the human mind works.  Much of what I learned related to the human mind and emotions, I learned on my own, through books and audio from experts.

Similarly, our children cannot and shouldn’t rely solely on schools and classroom teachers for education.  They can do a lot of academic learning on their own.  There are many videos and audio online.  There are many books in the library and book stores.  There are also many educational and entertaining applications or apps that can be uploaded on our smart phones and tablets.

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Learning is good.

Learning is a gift.

Learning is greatly rewarding.

Learning and discovery are interesting and intriguing.




Once we adapt a positive attitude towards learning, we can learn and grow in all the ways we desire.  We can do it on our own and we can do it with help from others.  We will no longer have to only dream up about good grades.  We can make that dream a reality.  With the appropriate attitude anything and everything is a possibility.

What is something that you have been wanting to do or learn?  What kind of attitude adjustment may be required to make that learning happen?

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:  

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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.)

14 Jan 2015, 10:44am
Veracity Talks

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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 dictionary.com: 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!