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Friday, June 22, 2018

Great Writer - Judy Blume

Art by Basia Panko, 2018

Judy Blume is an American writer for children and young adults (YA). Publishing her first novel in 1969, Blume is credited as one of the first authors to write YA novels about topics that some still consider to be taboo.
Judy Blume has received praise for addressing the common, but often unspoken worries of her fans from menstruation to teen sex, birth control, and death. This has also led to criticism from individuals and groups that would like to see her books banned.
She has written over forty books for young people, including picture books, early readers, and middle grade and young adult novels. 

Judy Blume Books:

The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo
The Pain and The Great One
Freckle Juice

Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One
Cool Zone with the Pain & the Great One
Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain & the Great One
Friend or Fiend? with the Pain & the Great One

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
Double Fudge

Iggie's House
Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself
It's Not the End of the World
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Then Again, Maybe I Won't
Just As Long As We're Together
Here's to You, Rachel Robinson

Tiger Eyes
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Then Again, Maybe I Won't
Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You
Places I Never Meant to Be

Smart Women
Summer Sisters
In the Unlikely Event

Check her website

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Teach to Value Access to Education

Read Basia’s reflections - 10 years old girl from NYC
NYC Skyline, Watercolor by Basia Panko, June 2018

“Right to Education” by Basia Panko 4/30/18
“I am very privileged to go to school, have a good education, nutrition and a warm and welcoming home every day. That made me think of Human Right 25 - Food and Shelter for All and Human Right 26 - The Right to Education. That reminded me of a true story my mom told me.
In 1998 my mom met a lady named Kate from South Africa. My mother went to visit her in Africa during the Christmas season. Later I learned that Kate, Chadd and his sister Shelly Bain had established an orphanage called Izulu Orphan Projects. This organization was made to educate, feed and support 1700 rural South African orphans, as well as children with HIV and widows. The first Izulu Orphan Projects Christmas party was held in 2002 with a small group of just 80 orphans. Today the organization takes care of 2435 orphans and widows in 737 households. The primary focus of the organization is education.
Read this story about one of their successful students named Sinquobile: Sinquobile lives with her grandmother, younger brother and two other orphans. The family survives on 1,600 South African Rand which equals $135 per month. Her mother died in 2002 and her father is unknown. Her school reports were always outstanding so the organization obtained a full scholarship to a local private school as well as her to retain re-education for a BSC in Accounting in 2014. Sinquobile is a good example of what a Young Ruler child with little to no future Prospect can achieve with the right mentorship and guidance.
The Izulu Orphan Project purchases and distributes school uniforms and essential school supplies. They also pay all the primary and high school fees. They train teachers and give them guidance. Lastly they provide extra enrichment activities for the orphans. The organization also has a feeding program for families with a low income,that make less than $120 a month. They feed the children a daily hot meal as well as a monthly food parcel distribution program for no less than 220 impoverished families. When families live in sheds, the organization helps them build brick houses with a proper roof, window and door. Izulu Orphan Project also has a safe house for victims of domestic violence, abandonment crisis, and disaster. There they can stay a few days until the organization finds a proper home for them. The most popular event is the Orphan Christmas party. Last year more than 3000 children and caregivers came. Each year every child gets a new toy, stationery pack and a healthy lunch with a sweet snack.
There are three main ways you can help. You can either donate money, sponsor a kid or volunteer your time and skills. This is the website you can use to visit the organization: I can't wait until my mom takes me there, where I can see all the children with my own eyes.”

Art by Basia Panko, June 2018

“Education in Africa: The Sad Truth. Luck of Education in Niger” by Basia Panko 06/01/2018
"Some of us in America don’t like going to school, but actually, we are very privileged to have a proper education. …"

City Dreams, MoMa, June 2018

Brooklyn Bridge, June 2018

(Project started by Kate, Chadd and his sister Shelly Bain)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Values of Playing Board Games

Board games have something for everyone.

By playing board games from an early age children have opportunities to develop language and communication, math and thinking skills in a fun way. Children who engage with and learn fundamental academic skills from great board games have the chance for better academic outcomes than children who do not have that opportunity.

The best board games are well worth anyone's time. 

Classic board games are a low cost, easily available and common teaching tool that help develop vital learning skills in young children. They also, perhaps most importantly, make learning fun.

Games such as “Pictionary” and “Scattergories” develop important communication skills whereas games such as “Scrabble” and “Boggle” develop important vocabulary and early word learning skills. An added feature of any board games is that it teaches young children turn-taking skills, turn waiting, learning how to win humbly, and how to lose gracefully.

We live in a golden age of board gaming. If you grew up with “Scrabble” and “Clue” (which are okay games) and “Risk” and “Monopoly” (which are a bit more painful), you may understandably believe such things are limited in scope and of interest only to kids or eccentric adults. If you still think of “Chutes and Ladders” and “Candyland” then you should know that the world of board games has changed a lot since we were little.

Modern board games offer:

Simplicity (Hive) or complexity (Twilight Struggle)
Abstraction (The Duke) or narrative (Tales of theArabian Nights)
Silliness (Galaxy Trucker) or seriousness (Puerto Rico)
Co-operation (Ghost Stories), semi-co-operation (Celestia) or backstabbing (Game ofThrones)

10 Reasons to Play Board Games with Kids

Taking Turns
Turn Taking is one of the first things you learn about playing games; times when you get to act, and times when you wait. Drawing cards, moving bits around on the board, grabbing the dice - these are things you shouldn’t be doing unless it’s your turn. Playing games teaches kids that there are appropriate times for everything, and this will extend outside of games to real life.
Game Suggestion: Tsuro, or other games in which each turn is pretty short.

One of my favorite things about getting kids into a board game is that, they don't sit in front of a screen. Playing games can provide rich face-to-face interaction that’s hard when your kid is playing a computer game.
Game suggestion: Krosmaster Arena
Math Skills
Not every board game requires math, but a vast number of them do rely on at least some basic arithmetic, adding pips on dice, tallying up scores.  Some require more complex ideas, evaluating probabilities, keeping track of modifiers, like in Sentinels of the Multiverse. Playing games will give your kids practice, improve their math skills and set them up for STEM careers down the road.
Game suggestion: Numbers League or any game with numbers.

Mental Swiftness
There are all sorts of benefits to exercising your brain when you’re older, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start young. Playing games is a great way to keep your mind flexible and active.
Game suggestion: Ghost Blitz or Set

Thinking Ahead
More complex games require you to think about not just what you’re doing this particular turn, but what your long-term strategy is. It doesn’t help to capture your opponent’s pawn if it means they’ll take your queen in the next move. The ability to think ahead while playing games will help your kids think ahead in real life, too.
Game suggestion: Pirate Dice, Robot Turtles, Twin Tin Bots or Robot Turtles, for younger kids

Actions and Consequences
Actions have consequences: your actions can have positive and negative consequences on both yourself and on others. Games give you a closed environment in which the cause-and-effect can be more easily tracked, but they help develop a mindset that will help you think about the consequences of your actions in the real world.
Game suggestion: Zooloretto Mini - a series of simple choices affects you and the other players.

Making Difficult Decisions
After kids understand that actions have consequences, the next step is the ability to make difficult decisions. Games often require you to choose between equally rewarding (or punishing) options, and playing them builds your ability to decide what criteria are relevant and what to ignore, and how to balance risk and reward.
Game suggestion: Tahiti - carrying more stuff means you get fewer actions, resulting in difficult decisions.

Cooperative games are on the rise, and they’re particularly great for parents. With these, you can ignore the age-old dilemma: Do I go easy on my kids, or teach them to get used to losing? Instead, this new(ish) batch of games is all about working together toward a common objective. Knowing how to make the most of everyone’s strengths is as important in the real world as it is in cooperative games.

Being a Good Sport
Nobody likes a sore loser or a big-headed winner. Playing competitive games with your kids lets you model how to be gracious, whether you win or lose. They’ll come to see that what you love is the play, not just the win. Teach them the difference between in-game attacks and personal attacks.
Game suggestion: Flash Duel - a bit of direct competition can teach a valuable lesson.

Building Relationship
By getting kids hooked on games while they’re young, you’ll have a stronger relationship with them. Then when they become teenagers, you won’t have to worry about them getting into trouble somewhere because they’ll want to hang out with you and play games.
Game suggestion: Pretty much anything fun that everyone enjoys! Fortune & Glory 
To help you find more information about some games check

Switch Screen Time to Family Tech-Free Time

Basia testing a new IPhone, 2018

In this digital age, children are spending more time interacting with a screen rather than a parent.
Technology has become an integral part of everyday life and has changed the way students learn or parents work. Technology has the potential to add value to our families, but it can also erode a sense of togetherness and hinder a child's emotional growth.

Basia in Apple Store, NYC 2018

“Average Kid Spends 6.5 Hours a Day Looking at Screen. 
That doesn't include the time they use screens 
for school and homework.”
- “Screenagers”
The documentary which explores how learning, playing and socializing online affects teens' developing attention span, fragile self-esteem and moral instincts. “Screenagers” examines the real risks of failing in school, social isolation and digital addiction. Ultimately, the film explores solutions to handle screen time and provides parents with tools to help young people develop self-control and find balance in their digital lives. 

Read more interesting facts from studies on mice, preschoolers and students.

Connect with your Kids
Consider Family GAMES, SPORT, TALK, 
Tech-Free Activity Time

The TABLE is an excellent place for families to reconnect.

A well-worded QUESTION is the quickest way to connect after a long day.  Use small, silly, innocent question to start conversation, eg. What funny thing did you see today? What surprised you? What made you to think?

Good start “DINNER GAMES”:

This classic game was practically made for the dinner table. Have one person think of a sentence or phrase, and have him whisper it into the next person’s ear. When the last person hears the phrase, she repeats it to the group, and the person who started the game can see how close she got!

Fruit and Vegetable Game
One family member (the leader of the round) thinks of a person known by everyone at the table. Then, others ask the leader metaphorical questions to try to guess the person. For example: “If the person were a vegetable, what vegetable would she be?” “If he or she were a fruit/animal/color, which one would she be?” The idea is to stick to figurative rather than literal thinking. Whoever guesses the person first gets to be the leader of the next round.

Alphabet Game
As a group, choose a category such as animals, countries, singers, or “people our family knows.” One family member starts the game by naming a person/thing from that category that starts with the letter “A.” Then the next person names a person/thing that starts with the letter “B,” the next person finds something for the letter “C,” and so on.

Two Truth and a Tall Tale
Ask everyone at the table to say three things about themselves: two true things and one thing that’s made up. The rest of the table will guess which is the tall tale. Sometimes this game is easier if everyone gets a chance to write down their three things before sharing.

Play OLD GAMES - All Ages, Anytime
Battleship, Jackstraws (pick-up sticks), Checkers, Chinese Checkers (with Marbles), Parcheesi, Othello, Mancala, Spotted, Domino, Farmer, Qwirkle, Connected 4 (Four in a Row), Memory game, Pass the Pigs, Zeusn on the Loose, Jenga and more. 


Friday, May 4, 2018

Trip to Peru: Lima - Cuzo - Sacret Valley - Machu Picchu - Puno - Lima

 Basia with llamas, Peru 2018

Check our pictures

Join me and my family on a trip to Peru to open new windows of understanding, knowledge, and wonder. Learn history and archaeology in an exciting way at the famed “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu. Study about the construction of this mountain citadel. Explore other Pre-Inca Ruins as Pachacamac, burial ground of Sillustani, or Incan sites such Moray, a remarkable agricultural center that demonstrates the ancient Incan's mastery of high-altitude crop growing, or Maras, known for its nearby salt evaporation ponds, or Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, or Temple of Wiracocha and many more.

In Peru you can also experience unique cross-cultural opportunities, such as meeting a renowned Peruvian ceramicists who work with traditional techniques and designs. Learn about the importance of llamas and alpacas to the Peruvian way of life. Cuzco, with its blend of Inca and Spanish architecture, promotes further historical discussion, plus, you can meet with a local family who shares secrets of Peruvian cooking. Travel by chartered boat out on Lake Titicaca to the magical floating reed islands of the Uros people, where you can explore the islands and meet with the local families who live there. Our family adventure to Peru is geared for families with kids ages 10 and older.

Below you can find itinerary of our trip to Peru. It was rather an intense journey, because of several walking tours as well as some early started and long days, but it was truly unique and memorable experiance.

DAY 1, Depart for Peru
Overnight stay: in Lima

Lima, Peru’s vibrant capital, founded in 1535 by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro.

DAY 2, Lima City Tour
Overnight stay in: Lima

In the morning we took a tour of Lima, with its 2000 years of history. The sightseeing started at the colonial center of the city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its historic buildings surrounding the splendid Plaza Mayor. We viewed the impressive Palace of the Archbishop with its fine carved balcony, the opulent Government Palace, official residence of the President, and the 16th century Cathedral of Lima whose first stone was laid by Pizarro. We continued to the 17th century Monasterio de San Francisco complex with its magnificent tiles, ornate carved ceilings, exceptional paintings and world-renowned library.  

In the afternoon we visited the archaeological site of Pachacamac, Pre-Inca Ruins, one of the largest religious center in pre-Inca times on the Peruvian coast. We tied to uncover the ancient mystery of the Pachacamac Temple with the help of our knowledgeable guide, explored the remarkable religious compound and discovered its intriguing history and 200 AD origin. We marveled at the majestic pyramids dedicated to the Sun and the Moon and admired the architectural precision of the buildings while learning about the customs and traditions of the pre-Inca civilization.

In the evening we stopped over magnificent Larco Herrera Private Museum with the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian masterpieces and enjoyed a stunning exhibition of gold and priceless jewels. The museum is located in an 18th century restored mansion, built over a 7th century pyramid and surrounded by gardens.

DAY 3, Fly to Cuzco, Chinchero Weaving Demonstration
Overnight stay in: Urubamba Sacred Valley

Precaution: Due to the high elevation, travel in the Peruvian highlands may cause some passengers to experience the temporary effects of altitude sickness. To avid that we were drinking lots of water and coca leave tea, walked slowly and took time to rest.

In early morning we departed Lima and flu to Cuzco, ancient capital of the Inca Empire and the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America. Upon arrival, we drove through the rugged mountainous region with its magnificent panoramas, along roads with farms and small villages to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We stopped in Chinchero to enjoy an authentic Peruvian lunch (sope de quinua, papa rellona, cuy cnactado, Inca Cola, pisco sour, pisarones), followed by a demonstration of the ancient Andean tradition of making textiles from naturally dyed handwoven alpaca wool. Remarkably, the source for the vibrant colors are dyes that come from plants, minerals, and insects. We had a chance to wander around the complex and shop for souvenirs among the fine textiles and other local treasures. In the evening, we ate more of Peruvian delicatessens (ceviche, chope de camarones, causa a la lemana, carapulca, chichi, coca tea, tres leches, tuna and lucuma) and enjoyed the live music.

DAY 4, Sacred Valley & Ollantaytambo Ruins
Overnight stay in: Urubamba Sacred Valley

In the morning we visited the impressive Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, an ancient complex of temples and terraces towering high over the valley, the last stand of the Incas in their defense against the Spanish conquistadors. We marveled at the architecture of the Incas in this well preserved settlement, considered a living museum of 15th century life.
We also visited Ollantaytambo village and its surroundings. The village is the best surviving example of classic Inca town planning. Many of the original Inca walls, compounds, and irrigation channels date back to the 15th century or earlier. Ollantaytambo is so well preserved it serves as a veritable replica of a typical community during the reign of the Incas. We strolled along the river and took a peek in the buildings, a unique glimpse into the life of this long-lost culture.

In the afternoon  we explored Maras and Moray.
The excursion begin in Moray, Inca’s Laboratory, a remarkable agricultural center that demonstrates the ancient Incan's mastery of high-altitude crop growing. We were astounded by the large complex of perfectly circular depressions in the earth that historians believe were used to study climatic conditions. As we descend each layer, the surrounding temperature descends as well, degree by degree, making for a unique and highly sophisticated thermos-graphic tool.
Next, we traveled to the colonial town of Maras, known for its nearby salt evaporation ponds in use since the time of the Incas.
During the tour, we had an opportunity to see the local farmers and shepherds working with native crops and animals all along the valley. This was a unique chance to peer into the daily lives of the indigenous people.

In the evening we enjoyed traditional dinner with a Peruvian Family in their countryside home.

DAY 5, Discover Machu Picchu
Overnight stay in: Cuzco

Very early morning our driver took us to the Sacred Valley's Ollanta Station to board The Voyager Train that travels through misty peaks to the astonishing ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas", designated by UNESCO as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Machu Picchu was virtually unknown to the western world until Hiram Bingham's re-discovery in 1911. Together with the group we hoped on the shuttle bus up to the ruins for exploration of the trail system and surrounding ruins. We were able to hike along the famed Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to the Inti Punku, the Gate of the Sun. This is a walk of one mile distance, and approximately 1,000 feet vertical gain. The view down to Machu Picchu from the ceremonial platform there is a classic. We viewed the unforgettable wonders of this 15th century retreat, abandoned nearly 100 years later with the arrival of the conquistadors, saw the highlights of the site including the imposing Temple of the Sun, the House of the Priest, the Sacred Plaza and the intricately carved rock likely used as a sundial by the ancient Incas. The images of this significant archaeological site will be a long-lasting memory for us.
We returned to the Sacred Valley in the early evening.

DAY 6, Full Day in Cuzco
Overnight stay in: Cuzco

"Imperial City" of Cuzco was once a capital of the Inca Empire and now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This lively city, rich in history, reveals remains of both the Incan and the Spanish presence.

In the morning we joined the tour, offering a glimpse into the other side of life in Cuzco. On this tour, we visited a local market and tasted fresh-baked Chuta bread. We stopped at the Cuzco cemetery to learn more about Andean life and death and met with a local "shaman" (holy man). After the cooking demonstration we enjoyed a delicious meal.

In the afternoon, we joined the Highlights of Cuzco excursion that took us to the impressive Colonial Cathedral with its collection of over 400 paintings from the Cusqueña School in addition to an impressive collection of colonial art, including Marcos Zapata's depiction of The Last Supper displaying Cuy, or Guinea Pig, as the main course. We continued on to visit the Temple of the Sun, which walls and floors were allegedly once covered by sheets of solid gold. This temple was once the most important religious site of the Incas. From here we traveled to Sacsayhuaman, located on the northern slope of Cuzco. This impressive fortress, which consists of individual stones weighing well over 100 tons, took over seven decades to complete and is a prime example of Incan military architecture. From here we could admire and enjoy fabulous views of Cuzco.
We concluded the day at the Kenko amphitheater, a mysterious limestone formation decorated by intricately carved depictions of mythical entities.
During the tour, we had the opportunity to visit a local shop featuring alpaca clothing and accessories, and a local jewelry shop, featuring gold and silver necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings.
We also made to Inca Museum.

DAY 7, Raqchi & Puno
Overnight stay in: Puno

A long drive day.
We departed Cuzco early in the morning, enjoying spectacular scenery as we drove through the Andes mountain range and the Andean plains to Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. In this area, South American camelids (llamas and alpacas) graze on the immense plateaus and plains. On a route we visited the 15th century Temple of Wiracocha, with its elaborate stonework, the largest Inca temple ever discovered. Today, Raqchi remains home to many farmers, ranchers and artisans. Then, we arrived at pristine Lake Titicaca sitting majestically at 12,500 feet above sea level, backed by the snowcapped peaks of Bolivia's Cordillera Real range. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and South America's largest fresh water lake.

While still on the way we met children at a local school before arriving in Puno for overnight. A school visit was a highlight of the trip especially for my daughter Basia. She practiced her Spanish while the kids practiced their English. 

DAY 8, Excursion to Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca
Overnight stay in: Puno 

In the morning we headed to the port to board a small chartered boat to cruise out onto Lake Titicaca. Our destination was a fascinating floating reed island Uros community in Puno Bay. The Uros live very much the same as their ancestors did and still follow the ancient customs and traditions. These islands are completely man-made structures, using the totora reeds from the lake to build the islands and houses. We had time to explore these unique islands and talk with some of the residents.

In the afternoon we took a tour to the Sillustani Tombs, the pre-Incan burial ground on the shores of Lake Umayo. The tombs here were built above the ground in tower-like structures called chullpas, vestiges of the Colla people.
In addition we visited Carlos Dreyer Museum featuring paintings by Carlos Dreyer, as well as Incan and colonial artifacts and art. We also went to the Coca Museum and Customs.

DAY 9, Fly to Lima, Farewell Dinner
Overnight: Lima

Very early morning we drove to Juliaca airport to flight back to Lima.
Jullaca is the largest trade center in the Puno region.
Upon arrival, we were transferred to our hotel in the Miraflores district.

Later on we explored some more of the city with the local tour guide, visit the Mercado Indio, a popular open-air market which features the best of folk art from all over the country and made our final shopping.

That night we had a special Farewell Dinner with Peruvian specialties.

DAY 10, Depart Peru

Early morning we transferred from the hotel to the airport for our departure flight.

Related Reading

“Insight Guide Peru” by Insight Guides, GUIDEBOOK
Panoramic in scope, this illustrated overview brings Peru to life in color photographs and vivid essays on history, archaeology and culture.

“Lost City of the Incas” by Hiram Bingham
This first-rate adventure story by the man who brought Machu Picchu to the attention of the world 100 years ago is not just a gripping tale of exploration and archaeology, it also sets the scene for any visitor to the site. Hugh Thomson (A Sacred Landscape, The Search for Ancient Peru) provides the introduction to this Centenary Edition. 

“Stone Offerings”, by Mike Torrey
Torrey captures the dramatic setting, solitude and intricate construction of the Inca site of Machu Picchu in 100 striking color photographs taken over a few days at summer and winter solstice.

For more information check websites