From the Archives: Preparing for a New School Year

As you’re all gearing up for first semester in a couple weeks, take a look at some “buried wisdom” from the deep, carvernous archives of Gearfire.

Why You Need to Ask for Help as Soon as You Need It – Definitely something to keep in mind going into the new semester, especially for freshmen. It is super easy to fall behind, and if you don’t ask for help when you are confused, it will only get worse. Talk to a professor after hours for extra help, before your little confusion spirals out of control!

The Dual Screen Suggestion – Most students have laptops these days, with the exception of graphics design or film students. When buying a laptop there is a trade-off between screen real estate and portability. That 17″ Macbook Pro looks great, but it probably won’t fit in your bag, and that 13″ Thinkpad seems really nifty, until you start craving more than 13″ of screen real estate. The perfect compromise is to get an external monitor! No matter what your laptop size, your productivity will definitely benefit from having an additional screen. At $100-250 for most LCD monitors these days, it can make a very good addition to your birthday/Christmas wishlist.

Going Paperless with PDF – As little as five years ago, computers were considered a great creation tool, but whatever it was used to produce, be it word documents, spreadsheets, or flyers, were generally destined to be printed. The tables have turned, and computers are now becoming the primary medium, complimented by paper. Students have little need for large binders anymore, as any informational sheets can be scanned onto their computer, put through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and turned into searchable text in Microsoft OneNote.

7 Important Factors in Choosing a Good Work Environment – Within a couple weeks at university, most students realize that their dorm room is not a good place to study. Here are some tips on picking a good place to crank out some concentrated work.


How to Take Killer Notes and Cut Your Studying Time by 50% – Starting the year with a solid, well thought-out note taking method is a great way to improve over last year, and to minimize time spent scrambling before a large test.

10 Tips for Highly Effective Brainstorming Sessions – You may not be doing much brainstorming at the start of the year, but as your mid-term essays approach, these techniques could come in handy!

The Pensters – Essay writing service focused on high school.


The Frugal Student: Tips for a Low-Cost Road Trip

Most students can’t afford to fly off to Europe after their semester is over. It’s much more likely that they will head out on the open road for a little vacation with their friends. Saving money on your student road trip will be a lot easier by using some of the following tips.

Hit up the grocery store

Avoid the fast food restaurants and gas station cuisine. Try to stop at as many grocery stores as you can find along your route. You might also want to bring along a cooler so that you can store food in it. Planning meals as a group, such as having cold cuts one day and PB&J sandwiches the next will help to dramatically reduce money spent on food. If you have enough space then even pack a small camping stove so that you can have tasty warm meals whenever you like. If you need a meal cooked by someone else then look for early bird deals and get off the main route for better prices.

Find a free place to stay

Bring that old tent you have kicking around the closet and look for campsites along your route. You can often get a nice site for as little as $20/night. A campfire with friends is often a great alternative to an expensive hotel room. If you’re driving through major cities then look to websites like, which connect travellers with local residents offering their couch for the night. You might have to return the favor at some point in the future but it could be a great way of meeting new people and seeing new cities. Thee are couch surfers all over the world so you don’t have to stay in North America either.

Using Less Gass


Start by choosing your vehicle wisely. Obviously you will need a certain size of vehicle, but if the choice comes down to your friend’s or yours, opt for the newer vehicle, it will offer better fuel efficiency throughout your trip. Next, take the vehicle into the mechanic and get an oil change and check for any other problems before you start your trip. Remember to check your tire pressure as well! Not only will this improve your fuel efficiency, but car troubles on the road are a costly affair.On the road, use common sense to save gas. Driving at a constant speed is much more fuel efficient than stop-and-go, and most vehicles are most fuel-efficient at about 80 km/h. Use tools like the Gas Buddy app for the iPhone to find the lowest prices on gas, you can search all across North America with this tool and website.

Avoid Traffic

Another way to save money on gas and to increase the enjoyment of your trip is to avoid traffic. A lot of students go on road trips during long weekends and other national holidays. Traffic can be very high at times like this so it might be best to leave a day early and/or come back a day late. Miss the traffic and save some money. If someone has a smartphone with GPS, you can check traffic on major routes using Google Maps. Those are just a few ways that you can save on your next road trip. The key is to do a bit of prep work before you head out on your trip and figure out where you might want to stay and what you want to do. It’s that simple.

This is a guest post by Gary Kohler from the life insurance website


Knowing When and How to Ask for an Extension: A Few Tips

Having graduated from college only a short time ago, I often reflect fondly on my academic and personal trials while navigating the complicated and exhausting world of the university student. As an entering freshman, one aspect of academics of which I was completely ignorant was the ability to ask for an extension on an academic paper.


This practice, in my high school experience, was completely unheard of, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite common in college. Professors are, after all, human, and many of them understand the pressures that come with handling classes, extra-curricular activities, and socializing all at the same time. Over the years, I learned quickly the do’s and don’ts of asking for extensions. Here are a few tips.

1. Ask about the professor’s extension policy when the semester starts.
If not explicitly stated in the syllabus, ask the professor from the very beginning whether or not extensions on papers are granted. This will demonstrate that you respect the professor’s rules and expectations. If the prof has a very strict, no-extension policy, then don’t ever ask for one.

2. Never ask for an extension in the last minute.
Asking for an extension the night before a paper is due is a surefire way to either get denied or to not be taken seriously by your professor. If a professor does grant an extension when you ask in the last minute, you can be sure that he or she will have given it grudgingly, and they’ll be much harder on you for the rest of the semester. A week before the paper is due is a good rule of thumb, but never push it closer than three days before deadline.

3. Ask for an extension only if you genuinely want to improve the quality of your work.
Although it may not always seem that way, professors by and large want you to excel in their class. They want you to learn a thing or two also. If you find that your paper could substantially benefit from extra time that you will actually spend researching, writing, and revising, then go ahead and ask. But above all, be honest with yourself.

4. When asking for an extension, make it clear to your professor that you’re asking for extra time in order to make the most out of the assignment.
While of course there will be times when you’re in desperate need of extra time precisely because you squandered your time, putting things off till the last minute (been there, done that), the last thing a professor wants to hear is a laundry list of excuses. Ask for an extension politely and calmly (never sound desperate), making sure to emphasize what, exactly, will improve given the extra time.

5. Be prepared to submit work that will stand up to stronger scrutiny.
When a student is given some extra time, it is only fair that the professor expect a higher standard of work as compared to the work of students who turned in their papers on time. Therefore, if you aren’t prepared to put in the extra time, then think twice about extending the agony.
These are just a few tips that will hopefully enable you to make the most out the occasional paper extension. Most importantly, be sure to treat extensions as gifts and not entitlements. Be grateful when you get one, and fully assume the responsibility that comes with the extra time.


Tips for Buying a Car in University

As a student in high school or college, getting your first car is an incredibly exciting and potentially life-changing event. However, since students generally do not have experience purchasing cars, it’s a good idea to do some research on how to get the best bang for your buck. To help you in this endeavor, here are some useful car buying tips for students.

1. Cars actually cost more than just their purchase price. You need to take into consideration operating costs. Some cars tend to break down more often than others and require additional maintenance, so make sure to remember this when choosing a car.

2. Don’t forget about the cost of insurance! If you can’t afford insurance, then you might not be ready to buy a car. If you shop around though, you may be able to find a better price than just going along with the first company you contact. Ask about good student discounts – many insurance companies offer a lower rate if you have consistently good grades.

3. If you don’t feel comfortable with the salesperson you are working with, go to the manager and ask for a different one. You don’t have to deal with a salesperson that pressures you or makes you feel uncomfortable. Be assertive and don’t let anyone bully you.

4. Make yourself a budget and keep to it. Some additional options may be extremely attractive, but will end up costing you extra money that you simply cannot afford. Remind yourself that going deeper into debt is simply not worth those leather seats.

5. Once you’ve decided on a price, it’s time to negotiate. Salespeople often will quote you a deliberately high price with the expectation that you will try to talk them down. Don’t be shy – see if you can get that price lower!

6. If you do a lot of driving, it will be in your best interests to pick a car that is fuel efficient. A gas guzzler will cost you ridiculous amounts of money in the long run.


7. Take your time when signing the contract. Be sure to actually read the contract and check if there are any unexpected fees and extras being thrust upon you without your knowledge. Contracts are often filled with hard to understand text and small print, so if you don’t understand something, ask!

8. Shop around before settling on a particular dealership. Some dealerships may offer special incentives such as cash rebates, low-interest financing, or discounts for students.

9. Before you settle on a particular car model, research its reliability rating and take a look at consumer reports. This research will help you determine if the car is well built and has high safety ratings.

10. Talk to a friend or family member that drives the same make or model of car. Tell them that you’re interested in purchasing a similar vehicle and ask them if they have any positive or negative things to say about their car. You might find out the car your looking at isn’t right for you or you might find out that its a perfect fit.

This is a guest post by Ryan Embly from the discount car rental website Car Rental Express.


The Benefits of Using a Netbook in the Classroom

Even after the explosive growth of netbooks in 2008, it seems that these ultra-compact and inexpensive laptops have failed to penetrate the student market. Instead, most students with computers stick to an Apple MacBook or a Windows-based computer from one of the big manufacturers (Dell, Sony, HP) or go to class with no laptop at all. You rarely see a student using a netbook. Despite their underuse in the classroom, netbooks, which we will define as laptops with less than a 10” screen, under $500 and ultra-compact, do an excellent job at filling the gap between laptops and mobile devices. Here’s why:

It’s light-weight. One of the reasons many students refrain from using laptops in the classroom is that they are heavy to lug around. Students are often required to carry at least one bag containing several large and heavy textbooks, stationery equipment and other such items. Laptops tend to be quite bulky and heavy, with a typical 15-inch model weighing around 5 Kg. Even the relatively skinny 15-inch MacBook Pro by Apple weighs in at 2.5 Kg. Netbooks tend to be significantly smaller and noticeably lighter, with the Fujitsu Lifebook P3110 offering a screen size of 11.6 inches and a weight of just 1.6 Kg. In further illustration of the point, the popular Toshiba Satellite T130 boasts a screen size of 13.3 inches but weighs a mere 1.76 Kg – a feather compared to some textbooks. Light-weight laptops such as these illicit a pack-it and forget-it attitude that leaves you always equipped to take notes without being concious of lugging around a heavy laptop.

They are super compact. Pulling out a full 15-inch or 17-inch laptop computer inside a crowed lecture hall on those small pull-out desks may be awkward, but you can easily whip out your netbook and take notes with it resting on your leg, without annoying students next to you.

They do what they do, and they do it well. While most laptops boast their flexibility to many uses, such as gaming, media, office work, etc, netbooks specialize in office tasks, such as email, word processing, powerpoint presentations, excel, and internet browsing. Pretty much everything a student needs in the classroom. By designing a computer specifically for these tasks, you get a very cheap device (usually under $500) that does it’s job exceedingly well. Netbooks also have excellent battery life, with some models having upwards of 10 hours of battery life on a single charge.


Digital note-taking without the hassle of a laptop. Another important reason why netbooks are useful for classrooms is that many students no longer write a great deal with the pen. Essays, projects and dissertations are almost always typed up on computers, whilst examiners are becoming more open to the possibility of allowing students to complete exams on netbooks and other such devices. In a world dominated by computers, reverting to the humble pen to take notes and complete work can prove a significant drawback for many students. Digital note are simply more versatile, offering students the ability to maniuplate their notes digitally when studying for exams, etc. Friend slept through a lecture? Email her your notes with three clicks. Netbooks let students reap the benefits of digital note-taking without the hassle of lugging around a large, clunky laptop.

Distraction-free note-taking. Partially a element of #3 above, I think this deserves it’s own point. With a netbook, you can take notes in class without many online distractions such as Facebook or video games. Sure, you could go on Facebook or play a video game, but it would not be a pleasing experience on such a small screen, when you could just check Facebook later on your computer at home. Don’t be distressed at a poor gaming experience on your netbook, you did not pay for a gaming machine. Contrast this to someone bringing in their $2000 MacBook into class, where note-taking is constantly competing with a variety of other computing tasks such as organizing their pictures, visiting YouTube, etc, that have no place in the classroom.

In summary, the netbook is a compact, lightweight and versatile machine that is perfectly suited to the rigours of everyday use in colleges and universities. Students who use netbooks can avail of various programs, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft OneNote, OpenOffice and Adobe Photoshop, on various operating systems to complete their work quickly and efficiently. Netbooks may not be quite as powerful as some of the largest laptops, but they are ideal for the average student who moves around a lot and requires a long-lasting and high-performing computer.


Take The Plunge: Immersing yourself in your studies

The language learning community has always been a huge proponent of the idea of immersion. In its most extreme form, this means relocating to The Netherlands (à la Benny of Fluent in 3 Months), but for most students, it involves using Facebook in French, listening to Spanish music or podcasts, or watching Inspector Rex without the subtitles.

There’s no reason, though, that you can’t incorporate this premise into other subjects or areas of expertise. Here are a few suggestions of ways to enrich your experience and understanding of the material you are covering in school or university.

Consume relevant content.

The first step is to expose yourself to material related to your subject more regularly. You can do this in a passive way with not much effort by incorporating your topic into your feed reader or listening to the radio.

  • Find and follow revelant blogs and podcasts. New material will be delivered straight to your feed reader or iTunes. This is an easy and non-intrusive way to begin filtering the subject matter into your life. (Aspiring maths students, for example, might enjoy Vi Hart’s blog, The Math Dude, or Tim Harford’s podcast More or Less.)
  • Keep up to date. It’s easy to set up a Google Alert to keep on top of recent developments. Tracking tags on popular blogging and bookmarking sites like WordPress or Delicious can also lead to some interesting discoveries. (Try tracking geology or programming, for example.)
  • Find and use small pockets of time. The ten minutes before class or the bus ride to work may as well be useful: keep your iPod or Kindle stocked up with podcasts, e-books, and articles to read during your free moments. You could also try borrowing books or magazines from friends, teachers, or your library.

Repurpose “time-wasting” sites and make them work for you.


As students, we are constantly trying to spend less time on Facebook, Twitter, forums, and blogs. Tools like LeechBlock and Chrome Nanny help us curb those habits, but what if we could use them to our advantage?

  • Create a Tumblr blog centred around a subject. Keep your eyes peeled for new and interesting content—you never know what you might find! A project like this allows you to view the subject through other people’s eyes—and no post is too silly! (This is particularly good for music students. Searching for content for my own flute-related Tumblr, F Yeah, Flute! has inspired me to practice and introduced me to heaps of new and amazing pieces.)
  • Use Twitter creatively. Of course, you can follow professionals and leaders in your field, and interact with classmates, but what about practicing your conversational foreign language skills in small, manageable chunks (the Esperanto community is especially friendly); or tweeting from the persona of a character (like Hamlet) or historical figure (like Edgar Allan Poe)?
  • Participate in relevant forums. Two of the most effective ways to learn are by teaching somebody else or by participating in a discussion. Australian students completing their HSC or VCE can use the Bored of Studies forums to help other students with their questions and solidify their understanding of a topic, and students in other areas may be able to find similar online mediums.

Find ways to confront yourself with material.

The more often you see that formula, the more likely you are to remember it! Plaster your life with constant reminders, facts, and figures.

  • Put up posters in the places you frequent or see often. The poster on the toilet wall is a tried-and-tested approach—and the entire household can learn together! Other places you could consider include your bedroom wall (or even roof), the front of your planner, or the fridge door.
  • Use Popling on your computer. The difficult-to-ignore flashcard program offer an alternative for students who lack the ability to log off their computer and use the old-fashioned kind. The software can be installed either as a browser add-on or a desktop application. Beware, though: multitasking comes at a cost.

Exposing yourself to a wider range of material has the potential to deepen your appreciation, passion, and understanding of and for your subject—and is an easy, quick and unobtrusive way of utilising the tools you already use. I hope it helps you look at your studies in a new and unique way!

Photo credit: ‘Dive’ by Felipe Skroski


Nonprofit Organization Launches Scholarships For Young, Queer Black Men Attending HBCUs


Morehouse College freshman Jauan Durbin may not have been able to pursue his degree if not for the mentorship he received from Black, Gifted and Whole, a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to the empowerment of young, queer black men.

Its most recent extension of this initiative is the launch of the Ambassador Program, which awards partial scholarships to black queer men attending historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. Last September, Durbin became the program’s first scholarship recipient. But he won’t be its last.

BGW co-founders Guy Anthony and George Johnson told The Huffington Post that while Durbin was their inspiration for the program, they also recognized that young, black queer men attending HBCUs don’t receive much support on campus. Each school year, the program will award up to five scholarships.

“Being gay is not considered much of a ‘norm,’ especially on HBCU campuses,” Johnson said.

According to a report by the University of Pennsylvania,only 21 of the 105 HBCUs in the U.S. have LGBTQ organizations.

“Dealing with living as an openly gay person, in addition to problems we deal with in the black church around homophobia and masculinity issues can create an environment that isn’t very conducive to learning, growth and nurturing for these men,” Johnson continued.

Students with the Ambassador Program will receive support and mentorship from BGW throughout their college experience. Johnson and Anthony raise money for the scholarships through GoFundMe campaigns, private donors, galas and grant submissions.

“Our goal is to ensure that these young men know that they don’t have to live their lives in pieces and can truly embody the essence of what it means to be black, gifted and whole,” Johnson said.

Durbin himself dealt with homophobia in school. As the first male cheerleader at School Without Walls in Washington, D.C., he was bullied by his peers. When he applied to Morehouse, he was initially denied because of a low GPA. But with the help of Johnson and Anthony, he successfully appealed and was accepted into the college.

In a statement sent to HuffPost, Durbin said that since attending Morehouse, he has worked to make his HBCU campus more inclusive of the LGBTQ community. He was even elected a freshman class senator in his first semester. In this position, he began an effort to make the school’s constitution more inclusive by advocating for the implementation of non-binary pronouns.

“I am blossoming into the black queer man that I was destined to be at the institution that I was destined to help change,” Durbin said.

Some helpful tips on creating an appropriate musical library for your child


A Library of Variety
Whether they’re singing along with Curious George’s theme song or asking you to turn up a popular song on the car radio, children love music. But what kind of music should kids listen to at a young age? Here are some helpful tips on creating an appropriate musical library for your child.

Not Just for Listening
Before you pick the songs, keep in mind that your child benefits from doing more than just listening. To get the full benefits of music, children need to sing, clap and dance along with the tunes. Singing and moving to music tells the brain to make meaning of it, a cognitive process called audiation, explains Lili Levinowitz, cofounder of Music Together and professor of music education at Rowan University of New Jersey.

Audiation in music is like thinking in language. We learn by practicing it, making sounds and essentially training our brains. The brain can only develop its musical comprehension if we tell it to through voicing and dancing, not through simply listening. “We’re isolating ourselves with the earbud,” she says. “My research shows that 50 percent of children enter kindergarten without knowing the difference between singing and speaking.”

As you start to build your child’s music library, focus on interaction with the music that’ll help train your child’s musical ear. Peggy Durbin, a music educator at Kindermusik in Columbia, Md., suggests using bought or homemade instruments to play along. Help your child make music, not just listen to it.

The best musical library for your child includes a wide variety—a mixture of genres you like and music they like. Levinowitz compares music you play to the foods you serve: you don’t want your child eating only mac and cheese, or similarly, listening to the same CD all the time. “Create an ear food buffet,” she says. Your musical menu should consist of songs from your culture and those around the world, as well as music that you love.

“In addition to playing multiple genres of music, parents should play music that they enjoy,” says Eric Rasmussen, chair of early childhood music at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. “I emphasize classical and jazz especially (that’s my taste), but there is no bad type of music. It’s harder to find appropriate music in some styles than others.”

In order to challenge your child musically, aim for a variety of rhythms and tonalities, or songs that are in different keys. “Play adult quality music,” adds Rasmussen. “It is also best to play music that does not have strident tone quality, that is, music that changes its sound frequently. Orchestral music is best for this. By contrast, most thrash metal bands usually don’t have much contrast from one song to the next, let alone within a song.”

Variety exposes children to more styles, but more important, musical variety may help them learn better. “Children learn through the juxtaposition of difference,” Levinowitz says. “They should be singing those songs in unusual tonalities. Other beneficial actions include singing along or chanting to songs that are in asymmetric meters and not necessarily inherent in the culture.”

Start with the Familiar
When determining how to introduce your child to music, consider the songs you sang growing up and start there. Durbin suggests starting with nursery rhymes put to music before gradually moving into folk songs and classical numbers as the children reach preschool age.

When in doubt, consult the experts. The National Association for Music Education (NAfME, formerly MENC) created a list of 42 songs every American should be able to sing in hopes of uniting more people and communities through song (see below). The list was created in 1995 and has since been expanded; it is a great starting point for a family musical library.

“For ages two to nine, most of these songs are sophisticated,” says Elizabeth Lasko, assistant executive director of NAfME. “Little kids can sing ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad’ with ease, but they may have more trouble singing ‘Blue Skies’ by Irving Berlin. The list imitates book form, making it a resource for kids to start with and potentially master by the time they are teenagers.” Parents can also learn these songs with their children, making it a bonding activity to do together.
Rasmussen has a list of songs (see below), some of which are also on the NAFME list, that he uses to teach young children melody and harmony.

As you expand your child’s library, consider adding classical music—especially if the piece tells a story or teaches them about instrumentation. You can try Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens or Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev, both of which use instruments to represent different animals and characters. The children can learn about specific instruments while learning a story. “A programmed classical piece is going to help children feel comfortable with classical music and get the story at the same time,” Durbin says.

Rasmussen suggests avoiding very long orchestral music, and instead listening to short pieces about four to five minutes in length. He also says that string quartets or other pieces that rely on only one class of instruments are not the best for young children because they may not demand as much of the child’s attention.

“Any music that has strident timbre (or tonal color) will not distract children to listen to it as much as music that shifts in tonal color more frequently,” he says. “String quartets are wonderful, but it is all strings and doesn’t distract a child’s listening as much as an orchestra that has more variety of instruments. The same would go for brass or woodwind groups.”

What Should Be Off Limits?
While many music educators believe there is no such thing as too much music, it’s up to you to decide what, when and how your child will listen to it. Some music educators caution against purchasing mainly “children’s music,” which may be more about the lyrics than the tune, and instead aim for child-friendly music.

“Kids’ CDs that are geared toward children are not necessarily very healthy music for children to be listening to,” Rasmussen says. “They are often poorly produced, sung by children singing as if they are adults, and in major keys only,” he says. Follow this rule: If you think it’s bad, it probably is.
“Music with inappropriate lyrical content should be avoided,” Rasmussen says. “There is no bad style, it’s just harder to find hip hop that is high musical quality and also has appropriate lyrics.”

Parental Guidance Suggested
Although your child may be an expert with your iPod, you may want to be nearby to guide him. “Until you think your child can make good selections, I would recommend supervising what they are listening to,” Durbin says. Sit with your child at the computer and go through iTunes or Pandora to find new songs to add to your developing collection. “As children get older, encourage them to be more independent with their selection of music. In the car, give them a choice of CDs or stations,” Rasmussen says. Then take turns playing music you like. Also, remember to turn off the music and give children the opportunity to sing on their own and practice the songs.

Sharing Music Time
Your child may not like your passion for Pink Floyd, no matter how loudly you sing along, and that’s okay. The point is to give them time with the music they like, and then bring your own music into play. Take them to an outdoor concert so they can see the music in action. The more they hear different types of music, the more expansive their tastes and respect for artists and genres will inevitably be.

“They may find something they like that is particularly awful,” Rasmussen says. When Rasmussen’s daughter discovered a popular music show with kids that was musically horrendous, he allowed her to watch it, but “Daddy and Mommy music time” followed. “I was also open with her at four years old that I didn’t like the show, but that it’s perfectly acceptable for her to like it; I validated her taste, but also told her she might not like some of my music.”

Whether it’s your choice or hers, remember above all to model your love for music. Sing, hum, dance or air guitar to your favorite songs, even if your child doesn’t like them. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing in tune or dance well, because you are showing them the joy of music.

NAfME List:
Amazing Grace
America the Beautiful
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Blue Skies
De Colores
Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)
Dona Nobis Pacem
Down by the Riverside
Frere Jacques
Give My Regards to Broadway
God Bless America
God Bless the U.S.A.
Green, Green Grass of Home
Havah Nagilah
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Home on the Range
I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)
Let There Be Peace on Earth
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
Music Alone Shall Live
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’
Oh! Susanna
Over My Head
Puff the Magic Dragon
Rock-a My Soul
Shalom Chaverim
She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
Simple Gifts
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
Star-Spangled Banner
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
This Land Is Your Land
This Little Light of Mine

Rasmussen’s List:
All the Pretty Little Horses
Amazing Grace
Ants Go Marching
Aunt Rhody
Bei mir bist du schoen
Comin’ Around the Mountain
Don Gato
Down by the Bay
Erie Canal
Fire Fighter
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Jingle Bells
Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho
London Bridge
Mary Had a Little Lamb
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Old MacDonald
On Top of Spaghetti
Patsy Ory Ory Aye
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Silent Night
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
There Was an Old Woman All Skin and Bones
This Land Is Your Land
This Little Light of Mine
This Old Man
This Old Hammer (John Henry)
Twinkle Twinkle
Two Little Kitty Cats
When the Saints Go Marching In
Yankee Doodle
You Are My Sunshine

One simple trick to raising curious kids pay attention to their questions


Young children are naturally curious. They have an itch to explore their world and figure out how things work. And parents have compelling reasons to foster this inherent inquisitiveness.
Curiosity is tied to academic achievement, with research showing “unequivocally that when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better.” According to one study, children whose parents encouraged them to ask questions were more likely to succeed in science. Curiosity also drives creativity, or as writer Elizabeth Gilbert notes, creativity is the natural byproduct of a “curiosity-driven life.”

Here’s one simple trick to raising curious kids: pay attention to their questions.

A one-year-old child’s first question is usually: “What’s that?”—or as my kids pronounced it, “Dat?” They want help naming their world—what they see, hear, taste, smell and feel. From there, the questioning steadily evolves.

For example, like most four-year-olds, my daughter is fascinated with “Why?” Yesterday, as an experiment, I wrote down each of her questions. Here is a small sampling:

Why can’t I drink water and breathe at the same time?
Why do slugs make slime?
Why do walruses have tusks?
Why are they called hot dogs if they aren’t made from dogs?
Why does the sun go to bed later in the springtime?
And then there are the unspoken questions that can sometimes seem like misbehavior. My curious two-year-old spends much of his time asking himself, “What will happen if . . . ?” In the last few days, he has wondered:

What will happen if I drop this egg on the floor?
What will happen if I press this button?
What will happen if I put a ukulele on top of my block tower?
What will happen if I flush Mommy’s toothbrush down the toilet?
For parents, children’s unending questions can challenge our knowledge—and our patience. But if we want to nurture their curiosity, perhaps the best response we can give is simply this: “Good question. Let’s find out.”

Here’s how that might look:

Let’s explore: Rather than squelching toddlers’ and preschoolers’ curiosity, redirect it if necessary: “You can’t do that, but you can do this!” If they want to know what happens when they turn the juice carton upside down, let them play outside with cups and a jug of water. If they want to know what it’s like to draw on walls, make some bathtub paint and set them loose in the tub. Take kids on nature walks and follow their pace—as they stop to dig in the dirt, look at bugs, pick up leaves and hunt for “treasure.”
Here’s another reason to give children space to explore their world: explicit directions about how to play make children less likely to make their own discoveries. For example, when you show children exactly how to use a toy, they are more likely to play with it one way: the way you demonstrated! But if you let them explore independently—particularly with open-ended toys such as blocks and “make believe” materials—they get curious and are more likely to find new, creative ways to play.
Let’s look it up: In the information age, the answer to many “Why?” questions is in our pocket. When kids stump you—as mine regularly do me—it’s easier than ever to say, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up!” But before going online or to the bookshelf, first ask your child, “What do you think?”
For example, when my daughter asked me over breakfast why walruses have tusks, she followed up with, “Let’s look it up on your phone, Mommy!” She guessed that walruses use tusks to protect themselves and was delighted to discover she was right—but we were both intrigued to learn that they also use them to pull their bodies onshore and to cut breathing holes in the ice.
Let’s ask an expert: Help your curious child see that we are surrounded by experts who are willing to share their knowledge. Curiosity can drive connections. Start by thinking about your network of friends and family—and how they might be able to share their skills, hobbies, and life experiences with your kids.Recently, when my four-year-old was peppering me with questions about farm life, I suddenly remembered that we had an expert in the family: Grandma grew up on a ranch! Through FaceTime, Grandma gamely fielded questions about milking cows, gathering eggs, and riding horses. Both were delighted by the exchange, and my daughter found a new resource for satisfying her (hopefully unending) curiosity.

6 Secrets To Digging And Bring Up Your Child’s Talent


Could your child be the next American Idol? The next American president? Just maybe.

Daniel Coyle, author of the bestselling book, The Talent Code, says you can up a child’s chances immensely by understanding one key thing: greatness isn’t born, it’s grown.

Coyle spent two years bouncing between nine of the world’s greatest talent hotbeds—tiny, magical places that produce huge numbers of world-class performers in sports, art, music, and math. And what he found is that parents have been sold an incorrect picture as to how genius happens. Immense talent isn’t written into kids’ DNA, Coyle says, it’s the result of a distinctive and powerful pattern, a pattern that combines three elemental forces: targeted methods of practicing, specific methods of motivating, and coaching.

How kids practice, how they deal with failure, how they get praised, and how they are criticized, all play a part in the likelihood of achieving greatness. “Of course, not everyone grows up to be a Michelangelo or a Michael Jordan,” Coyle says, but understanding that genius is not an accident, but the result of a distinctive and powerful pattern, helps parents unlock the neurophysiology of learning.

Whether he was on a crummy tennis court in Russia that produced more top-20 players than the entire United States, or thousands of miles away at a classical musical academy in the Adirondacks, coaches in talent hotbeds “would speak with the same kind of rhythm, give the same kinds of instructions, and look at their students with the same kind of gaze. The practices would feature similar methods, like slowing things down to unbelievably slow speeds, or compressing the practice into a tiny space and speeding it up,” Coyle says.

He found that what was most striking about the talent hotbeds was “how amazingly similar” they all were. Want to create your own hotbed at home? Here are Coyle’s six strategies for unlocking kids’ talents:

Watch for tiny, powerful moments of ignition. It’s not easy to practice deeply—it requires passion, motivation, persistence, and the emotional fuel we call love. New research is showing us that when it comes to motivation, we are all born with the neurological equivalent of hair triggers. When a child’s identity becomes intertwined with a goal, the trigger fires, and a tsunami of unconscious motivational energy is released. Coyle points to a study done with a set of young musicians in which young musicians who foresaw themselves as adult musicians learned 400 percent faster than kids who did not. “It’s not genes that made these kids succeed, it’s the fuel contained inside a tiny idea: I want to be like them,” Coyle says.

Understand that all practice is not created equal—not by a long shot. The talent hotbeds have long known a crucial fact that science is just discovering: skill-acquisition skyrockets when we operate on the edge of our abilities, making errors and correcting them—a state called “deep practice.” The takeaway: mistakes aren’t verdicts; they’re information we use to build fast, fluent skill circuits. Kids who are able to see errors as fuel for learning, rather than setbacks, are the ones that eventually become geniuses.

Recognize that slow practice is productive practice. This technique is common to virtually every talent hotbed, from tennis to cello to math. The reason it works: when you go slow, you can sense and fix more errors—coach yourself to build a better skill circuit. At Meadowmount, a classical-music school whose alumni include Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, the rule is, you should play slow enough that a passer-by can’t recognize the song. As one coach puts it, “It’s not how fast you do it. It’s how slow you can do it correctly.”

Praise effort, not natural ability. When we praise a child’s intelligence, we’re telling her that status is the name of the game, and she reacts by taking fewer risks. When we praise effort, however, kids become more inclined to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them—the essence of deep practice and learning. It’s no coincidence that talent hotbeds use effort-based language: The Russian tennis players I met don’t “play” tennis – the word is borot’sya – to struggle.

Encourage mimicry. Copying is a neurological shortcut to skill. Vividly imagining yourself perfecting a skill is a great first step to actually doing it, whether you’re writing or dancing. Tim Gallwey, the author/tennis instructor, teaches beginner students to play a passable game in twenty minutes through mimicry—all without uttering a single word of instruction.

Stand back. The kind of deep practice that grows skill circuits can only come from within the kid, not from the parent, no matter how well-meaning. As Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck puts it, all parental advice can be distilled into two essential points: 1) pay attention to what your child stares at; 2) praise them for their effort. In other words, notice when they fall in love, and help them to use the energy of that love wisely.

When you start thinking about talent as a process—when you see the power of certain forms of practice, when you look for inner passion, when you tune into the teaching signals you can send—life changes, Coyle says. Like most big changes, it shows itself in small ways. “For our family, it’s when our son has a tough new song on the piano, and my wife encourages him to try just the first bar, or just the first five notes over and over, doing it in baby steps until it starts to click. Or when our daughters are skiing, and they excitedly inform us that they fell a bunch of times, which must be a sign that they are getting better,” Coyle says. (A concept that works better with skiing than it will with learning to drive a car).

Mostly, though, teaching kids that talent is built, not born, allows them to look at failure in a completely new way. Failure is not a verdict, it’s a path forward. And mistakes are not something to be embarrassed about, they’re steps on the path to success. Without them, greatness is not possible.