Posted on 1 Comment


smart-parts-songI can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted here. Wow! My book was published in November 2016 and I hit the ground running, it seems! I’m so excited and extremely grateful that Ellie Rae Discovers Eight Ways to be SMART has been received so enthusiastically, not only by my friends and family, but by the multiple intelligences/education communities, as well. I have shared my passion for MI teaching/learning with my students, teachers, parents and future teachers for many years; but, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share Gardner’s theory with little children, on their level, in the form of this book. Understanding they are SMART, just SMART in their own special way, helps to lay a foundation of self-awareness and self-confidence at the beginning of their formal education. Knowing they havegetting-started the ability to nurture and grow their intelligence is a profound motivation and terrific encouragement as they grow and develop.cafeteria-photo MI also goes hand-in-hand with Growth Mindset, which is being incorporated into the curriculum in numerous schools.

It was so much fun to be working with my dear friend, Kelly Baloun, again. Kelly is now the Director at Tiny Tots of Apopka. We have known one another for over 17 years and we have worked together to spread the word about MI for many of those years. Her daughter, Ellie Rae, is the title character in my book. I spent an entire day at Ellie Rae’s school, speaking to the entire student body. It was invigorating! The students were very well behaved and they asked questions that really showed higher order thinking skills. Over the weekend Kelly and I presented at the Association of Christian Schools International conference. Those who attended our sessions were very receptive to my book and Gardner’s theory. We discussed practical application for their classrooms and daily lives. MI works! And more and more people are realizing the value of perceiving children through an MI lens or perspective. I had a great time in December, visiting my great-niece’s school and meeting Camden folks for a Book Signing at Camden Jewelry and Gifts. What a fun time! I will be traveling to south Alabama for several book signings and back to the Orlando area to participate in a couple of Literacy events insigning February and March. If you would like for me to stop in at your child’s school or, if you’re a teacher and would like to arrange for a visit, I’d love to schedule something with you! Happy reading, friends!emmes-school

Posted on Leave a comment

All Children Are “SMART”

For several years I have been involved in researching, teaching, learning and understanding Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI). My Masters thesis, Increasing Fourth Grade Mathematics Proficiency in an Intellectually-Diverse Classroom Using Multiple Intelligences, and doctoral dissertation, The Impact of Training Teachers in Multiple-Intelligences Instructional Strategies, both involved years of researching and practical application of the theory. As a career teacher for over 40 years, I have come to believe all effective teachers have an innate understanding of this theory and naturally perceive their students through an MI lens. They just may not have been introduced to Gardner, so they don’t make the connection.

In 1983, Howard Gardner conducted a study (Project Zero) and subsequently wrote a book about the findings (Frames of Mind). He identified seven “intelligences” that he believes love-and-needare present in everyone at birth: Visual/Spatial, Logical/Mathematical, Body/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal. He has since added an eighth intelligence to the list, Naturalist. Gardner’s contention is that we all have these intelligences and they develop through environmental influences and experiences, genetics and deliberate attention and stimulation. Basically, I see Gardner’s theory as stating that all children are smart, they’re just smart in different ways and it’s up to us (adults) to figure out their strengths and act accordingly.

The traditional western educational system focuses on Verbal/Linguistic and Mathematical/Logical intelligences, which is evident by the focus on standardized testing in our schools today. An MI perspective is to see each child as a unique individual and rather than teaching to a class, we teach to individual students, tapping into their dominant intelligence(s) and using that strength to help hone and strengthen the intelligences that aren’t as developed. An example would be, if a child is struggling with spelling, but has a real knack for music, you might encourage him to “sing-spell” his spelling words (spelling to a familiar or created melody). Perhaps you know a child who is very athletic, but struggling in math. You can make a grid of numbers on the floor (or chalk in the driveway) and show him how to hop from number to number, creating and solving addition/subtraction problems.

Designing activities that tap into all of the intelligences or are created to stimulate a specific intelligence is very important, but probably as important is simply the lens through which we view children. If we see them as one-of-a-kind learners, it will be very natural for us to view them through an MI lens in our observations, perceptions, activities and daily interactions.

I have written a children’s book, “Ellie Rae Discovers Eight Ways to be SMART,” which is in the process of being illustrated by the abundantly talented April Bensch and will, hopefully, be published and ready for distribution before Christmas. It’s a child-friendly story, written in verse, to help explain Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences on a child’s level, helping them understand they are all SMART, just SMART in different ways! So, rather than asking ourselves, “How smart are we?” maybe we all should be asking, “How are we SMART?” slide1

Posted on Leave a comment


blue shirtI titled my blog based on something my Dad always said to me (“Hug the Mountain”), so it is only fitting that my August post, HE PRAYED, honor him, as he would have been 91 years old on August 15th. He’s been living in his mansion over the hilltop for just over five years now and though I miss him terribly and I’m brought to tears frequently at the very thought of him, I’m so happy that his body is healthy and whole right now and he lives pain free, worshiping his creator.

 I was raised with four siblings, spending every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening in a church service. Additionally, my parents held “Visitation Meetings” in our home and the church sponsored “Singings”, potlucks, vacation bible school, youth activities, etc. That time together shaped us and directed many of our life decisions as ayoung family family. The church we belonged to conducted worship with a cappella singing only. I have vivid memories of my Dad standing next to me, singing the bass line from the shaped-notes hymnal. To this day, as a musician, I believe that’s why I hear the bass line more predominantly when I listen to music. As my Dad aged and after my Mother died, he began to sing the melody line of hymns. I don’t know why he chMom and Dadanged his preference and to this day, along with many other questions, I regret not asking him.

 I recall when our conversation would turn to my Dad’s preferences for his funeral, he always said, “Whatever you girls want. It won’t matter to me.” He did say one time, however, when asked what he wanted printed on his headstone, he stated simply, “HE PRAYED.” That was so appropriate. He was a praying man, a man after God’s own heart, and he believed greatly in the power of prayer. I’m sure his prayers carried him through many of the earthly trials with which he was faced . . . my older brother and sister’s drug addictions and subsequent deaths, my Mother’s sudden and tragic death at the hands of a 16-year-old drunk driver, his severe injuries from the crash that killed my Mother, living in constant pain . . . just to name a few. His model as a prayer warrior affected me profoundly and instilled in me a faith that, likewise, has carried me through many earthly trials. He lived what he believed. Nowadays we would say “He walked the talk.”

 Swindle SistersAs a side note and to offer a bit of comedy relief: When my Mother died, I was riding with my sisters to the cemetery after the funeral. We talked about what should go on her headstone. I mentioned that my Dad wanted “HE PRAYED” on his and one of my sisters said, “Well, Mother’s should read SHE SHOPPED!” We all cackled, as only four sisters can! It was this type of humor that helped get us through that particular valley and many more to follow.

 My Dad stood before Jesus on June 28, 2011. My son, Will, had the first date with Natalie, the girl he would marry, one year after Dad died, to the day. They would be married the next year, June 28, 2013, on that date. My parents grew daylilies, acres and acres of daylily-resizeddaylilies. People would drive by just to look at their stunning landscape. It would be just a few years after Dad died that I realized Matthew 6:28 is the scripture we frequently referred to, “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing.” God’s way of telling us He loves us so much, we shouldn’t worry because He will take care of us and Dad did not worry, he prayed. 6:28 . . . June 28 . . .Very fitting.

 So, happy birthday, Dad. You fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. Your crown of righteousness has been awarded and you are Home. Your legacy is deep and wide, strong and solid, precious and true and I am grateful.

on Camden swing

Posted on 7 Comments

Inspire the Woman, Impact the World

This alphagammadeltapast weekend I was privileged and honored to have been initiated into Alpha Gamma Delta, as an Alumnae Initiate. I never knew such a thing existed, but my daughter, Alex (who is the Chapter Advisor for Gamma Beta chapter at Florida State University), sponsored me at the 2016 International Convention in Orlando, FL. This convention was particularly special for my initiation because Alex was the Convention Soloist. We even sang a duet together!

As part of a group of nearly 800 women, five of us were initiated. We ranged in ages from 20s to 60s (I was the oldest by 2 years), three moms were sponsored by their daughters, one daughter was sponsored by her mother and another lady sponsored her friend. All of us were overwhelmed, enlightened, and deeply touched by this great honor.


I supported Alex all through college in her participation in Alpha Gamma Delta, as well as her continued post-grad role as Chapter Advisor. She was very active in the sorority and loved being a part of Greek life. I thought that must be in part because she doesn’t have any biological sisters and the sisterhood of Alpha Gam filled a void. After spending five days becoming a part of this group, I understand fully why this sisterhood struck a chord with Alex.

Alpha Gamma Delta is made up of a group of ladies who live with purpose. Their association with Alpha Gam is not limited to four years in college. Rather, their sisterhood in this group lasts a lifetime. They are committed to their Vision Statement, “Inspire the Woman, Impact the World”, in their daily interactions, attitudes, and goals. The Purpose includes “To welcome the opportunity of contributing to the world’s work in the community where I am placed because of the joy of service thereby bestowed and the talent of leadership multiplied”, as well as my favorite, “To honor my home, my country, my religious faith.” This is not the unfortunate stereotype of sorority life so often portrayed in the media. These women are leaders. They are role models. They are goal-oriented, purposeful in their living and they are making a positive difference in this world. They are my sisters and I am so grateful.

Posted on Leave a comment

Fundamentals of Education

I came across an article today that thrilled me . . . at least the content of the article thrilled me. This informative message is about a new law passed by Congress, The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It calls for making available to every student a “well-rounded” education. It will include the arts, social studies, science, foreign language and physical education, rather than focusing on language arts and math in order to teach to high-stakes tests. This concept is not new and many of us working in Education have harped on it for years: Teaching to the “whole child”, Arts-based curriculum, multiple intelligences, differential learning, etc. I’m thrilled to see the wheels of change beginning to move, albeit very slowly. The content of this article is exciting! My issue with this article is the mistakes I saw as I read it. Mistakes made by the author. How can we discuss the value of a quality education, yet settle for grammatical and spelling errors when writing about it? I’m not even comfortable posting this article on my Facebook page, because of the mistakes. Sure, there are only a few, BUT THEY ARE MISTAKES in spelling and grammar! It’s like I tell my college students when they say, “This isn’t an English course, why are you counting off for spelling?” My reply? “You are going to college to become a TEACHER. As a teacher, you will model for your students in everything you say and do. You need to be able to write correctly.” I’m disappointed we have reduced correct spelling and grammar to “grammar Nazi” comments. Why is it out of line to expect excellence? SU-AS-Liberal-Arts-Value-graphic

Posted on Leave a comment


As I reflect upon the tragic events of the past weekend in the town our family called home for nearly 30 years, my mind goes to the children of that community. So often children are thrMister Rogers look for the helpersust into adult scenarios and faced with adult conversations that are simply not within the realm of their understanding. Children have an innate need to feel safe and secure that rests in the  reptilian brain, the oldest part of the brain, responsible for survival instincts. It they don’t feel secure, their development can be drastically stunted. It’s up to their caretakers, guardians, parents, loved ones and associates to help them feel safe. Here are a few suggestions to help you help the children in your life cope with tragedy.

  • Turn your TV off. It is very difficult to shut out the media when a tragedy rocks our community or our country; however, oftentimes children do not have the ability to distinguish what is the reality of many  news reports. What they do realize is something is wrong and their personal safety feels threatened. Get your news from a source that only you can hear/see (reading online, etc.). The same goes for adult conversations about tragedy. Have those conversations when your children are not likely to overhear you. Allow your child to hear about tragic events from YOU, not the media and not friends at school.
  • Keep a normal routine. Routine helps children in every day life. Being able to predict what happens next adds to their sense of security. As much as is possible, go about your normal routine. Pay close attention to your child and any unusual behavior you may notice. Sometimes a child will regress with potty training, thumb sucking, language, separation, etc. if s/he has been adversely affected by a tragic event. The sooner you address these behaviors, the better.
  • Give information as your child asks. Even though we may be consumed with a horrific event, wanting to find out everything we can, your child cannot process adult content or context. Use your child’s questions as a barometer for how much detail you provide. Certainly, if your child has heard about a tragedy through friends or overheard adult conversations, it is important to help him/her feel safe by clarifying in simple terms what they may know (“A man hurt some people we don’t know. It’s very sad when people do bad things. But, you are safe and so am I. We are going to be ok.”). Redirecting them at this point is important (“Let’s go read a book together!” “Do you want to put a puzzle together?”).
  • Show support/Be of service. If an opportunity presents itself, involve your child in supporting or being of service to victims. Firstly, and most importantly, you and your child can pray together for victims of a tragedy. Again, the words you use are important. They should be simple, loving, hopeful, and on a child’s level. If the event took place in your community, you may have an opportunity to deliver food, clothing, or other items to a collection center or to victims, themselves. Of course, you will want to be very careful of anything your child may see and may just want to involve him/her in preparing something and not the actual delivery, depending on the specific circumstances.
  • Be yourself. You may be drastically affected by a horrific event, so it’s ok to show emotion. If your child sees you crying, you can simply say, “I’m sad this happened and sometimes when I’m sad, I cry. It helps me with the sadness.” Your tears may open up a worthwhile conversation and a teachable moment.

Certainly, if your child is of the age/maturity s/he can understand tragedy in more depth, any conversation you have with him/her could become an opportunity to discuss “stranger danger”, becoming separated in public, a secret password, death, etc. Take your cues from your child and remember, your child will take his/her cues from you. However you deal with adversity, tragedy, and disappointment, you are modeling for your child. S/He is watching you and retaining in long-term memory your response to particular events and circumstances in your life. Use a calm, reassuring voice and be uplifting and positive in your tone and word choices.

In his simple, yet genius manner Mr. Fred Rogers gives brilliant advice about this very thing: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Posted on 2 Comments

Shared Music Experiences & Child Development

RESEARCH     CYC%20Sun%20Catchers%20musicgirl

Jamming with your toddler: how music trumps reading for childhood development, by Liam Viney

This article  by Liam Viney references a study conducted at the University of Queensland School of Music in Australia. For decades Australia has been the frontrunner in education, especially early childhood education and child development. They are on the cutting edge of new research and we would be smart to take heed.

The gist of the study and thus, the article is: Creating and sharing musical experiences with young children, in playful and informal settings, benefits the children in early development to include reading, social skills, math, and regulation of attention and emotions.  But what does that mean for the typical parents of toddlers?


These are some very simple and easy ways a parent can put Viney’s research into action to benefit their child(ren). Often times, parents are too rushed or preoccupied with life to feel as though they are capable of creating every day actions and behaviors that could truly make a huge difference in the development of their children. Hopefully, these simply suggestions will help:

  • When riding in the car, make up songs about what you see. For instance, (Sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb), “Now I see a great big truck, great big truck, great big truck. Now I see a great big truck; it’s red and white and blue!” If your child is verbal, you can take turns making up verses. If not, just singing the lyrics to your child will do the trick.
  • When you are cooking, designate a spot in your line of sight where your child can “create” music. Give him pots and pans and a wooden spoon. Model for him how you can make a sound and then turn him loose!
  • While dressing your toddler, focus on colors as you create a song to “Love is Blue,” “Blue, blue my dress is blue; blue is my dress, my socks are blue, too!” Change the color with each article of clothing. If a child is just learning her colors, you can help encourage learning by singing, “Red, red my shorts are _______,” and allowing your child to fill in the blank with the correct color.
  • When your toddler is in the highchair or booster seat, ready for lunch, you might sing, “Sam is eating meatballs, meatballs and spaghetti. One, two, three and he gobbles it up!” to the tune of “Ring Around the Rosey”.
  • When it’s time to pick up toys, Barney’s “Clean Up Song” is great for motivating little ones to “do their share”. You can personalize it by singing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere! Clean up, clean up, Jennifer will do her share!”
  • To help with bedtime, try singing your own version of “Old Macdonald”: “Now it’s time to go to sleep, I am very tired. My day was fun now I must rest. I am very tired. First I took my bath, put my jammies on, brushed my teeth, said my prayers, next we sing our bedtime song. Now it’s time to go to sleep, I am very tired.” Remember, repetition is the mother of all learning  . . . keep it simple and repetitive.

I hope these simple examples will get you started on a deliberate path to creating musical experiences with your little ones. After reading Viney’s article, you will have the foundational research behind such activities. These suggestions will provide you with practical application for your everyday life. Of course, my suggestions are just the beginning. You are only limited by your own imagination and creativity! Have fun making music with your children and enjoy watching them GROW!

Posted on Leave a comment

Slow Down

I’ve always encouraged parents to enjoy every age and stage with their children. Each one holds unique growth and development and we can’t imagine the next being as wonderful. The truth is, every stage is magical because the treasures that are our children are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and when we see them, we see God’s miracle of birth in the flesh. Still, I understand the longing to soak up every step, every word, every expression, every laugh and every turn of the corner as we witness our little children grow and develop into the people they were made to be. Enjoy this beautiful song and Happy Mother’s Day. slow down

Posted on 1 Comment

Write It Down


I’m finding that the older I get, the more important it is for me and the more value I see in taking the time to write things down. This documentation allows me to go back and review/renew my thoughts. Thoughts are preserved for recollecting and refreshing and ideas have a chance to blossom when put aside for a time of rest. I hesitantly wandered into the Facebook Notes forum initially, which allowed me to share important information with friends and family from a distance. However, I decided I needed to continue to learn and grow with the social media tide and move forward by venturing into blogging.  Who would have ever imagined during my childhood in the 1950s that I would one day take to cyberspace to share my thoughts? The world continues to change and sometimes we must change with it, or we are left behind. This is one of those times for me. I will still send hand-written thank you notes, say “yes, sir/m’am” and “no, sir/m’am” to my elders, and hold the door for anyone approaching as I exit; but as far as this social media trend is concerned, I will play along for now, jump in with both feet and enjoy the ride. It’s good for me to exercise my synapse connections every chance I get and, who knows, someone else might even broaden their perspective as they peruse the blogosphere. I’m hoping it will serve me in recollections and research and possibly, by chance, serve someone else in the mean time. Here’s to new and exciting adventures in blogging!