The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun

 

This week on DISCOVER:

 

I am SO excited to share with you Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, which hit bookshelves and online stores on October 16th.

 

Unbored, written and edited by Joshua Glenn of HiLoBrow and Elizabeth Foy Larsen, and illustrated by Tony Leone, is a 350-page DIY “activity guide and curiosity-sparker” for all things fun. The book is geared toward ages 8-14, but many activities involve adult participation, and you’re definitely going to want to play!

 

Top 10 reasons I love Unbored:

1.)  It’s about making (and remaking) stuff. Enjoying The Process. Make Magazine editor Mark Frauenfelder calls it, “the first kids’ book to truly encourage a hands-on approach to creating a personally meaningful life.”

2.)  It sends the right message: Let’s value discovery, creativity, sharing, and initiative. Let’s show our kids how to be omnicompetent. As Joshua Glenn explains,We live in a ‘throwaway’ culture; but there are creative, cultural, and economic benefits to taking things apart, figuring out how those things work, and learning how to fix them if they’re broken — or creatively improving things, even if they’re not broken. What we learn from the hacker movement is that you don’t have to accept the way things are, you can modify them. That goes for your own behavior, too.” Read more from Unbored’s 10-point manifesto here.

3.)  These are not reprinted and unmanageable undertakings. Unbored features cool, challenging, handy projects, each tried out by the editors themselves. Here’s a taste:

  • Make an exhaust pipe on a bike
  • Illusion knit a space invader scarf (yay for my dear friend, Anindita!)
  • Craft a cigar box guitar with toothpicks for frets
  • Learn the graphic history of pooper scoopers, trampolines, and video games
  • Start a band
  • Hack a board game
  • Create a stop-motion mini movie

4.)  It’s a “field guide to life” about doing things together. Reconnecting. Sharing Experiences:

  • Blog with the family
  • Yarn bomb your nearest bus stop
  • Hot-wire a Nerf water blaster with a remote control to blast people while under cover
  • Build a backyard fort

5.)  It’s a gender-neutral book with the graphics to prove it: boys knitting, girls doing carpentry. Anyone can develop expertise around their passions.

6.)  It’s platform independent. Unbored is all about what’s possible online, offline, indoors and outdoors. Back to Glenn & Larsen’s Manifesto: “Kids who ride bikes, do parkour, hike and camp, and otherwise roam and explore, not only develop their agility, flexibility, and dexterity, but they also gain the ability to adapt to a situation if it doesn’t turn out the way they expected. From their room to their backyard, to their school, neighborhood, and town, kids can leave their mark — become actively engaged. In doing so, they become activists who will change the world for the better.”

7.)  It’s about finding your scene and niche. Kids need to discover their passions and find groups with whom they share like-minded interests, both on and offline. This process of discovery fosters confidence, tolerance, and independence. Glenn and Larsen advocate for kids using social media, “as a way to support real-life community — not as a substitute.”

8.)  It’s well organized into four categories: You, Home, Society, and Adventure, and features contributions from a wide array of experts providing craft steps, trivia, best-of lists, and Q&As, all while teaching you how to break free from your ultra-organized life to allow some true innovation to break through.

9.)  It targets the right age group. Age 8-14 is a time of growing independence for kids, but also an opportunity for youth to foster deep connections and meaningful engagement with their parents, and why not bond both on and offline?

10.) It’s a great buy for anyone: kids, parents and parents-to-be, teachers, librarians, and any other adults looking for Fun Stuff To Do. Unbored incorporates, as Bloomsbury Press puts it,the best of the old (crafts, bicycle repair, science experiments), and the new (geocaching, yarn bombing, LED “graffiti”) — for boys and girls to do on their own and with their parents.”

Glenn and Larsen’s Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Funhas actually rekindled my decision to host a mini Freeskool event with my friends, where participants express a need, teach a skill in 20 minutes (Norse mythology, Twitter, origami), and leave full of laughter, food, and super cool new learning.

I’m also planning to bring Unbored to my family’s Christmas gathering, since we’re embarking on a new phase of project-based togetherness for the holiday season, with the Gift of Time valued over a Time of Gifts.

Need more cool-factor proof? Here are some early reviews, plus a few others:

“A parent-and-kids guide to doing things that are smart and quirky. Fun facts about condiments? Advice on starting a band? Yarn bombing, fan fiction, game hacking? It’s all there, illustrated.” — The Los Angeles Times Book Review blog, Jacket Copy

“Deliciously abundant… Any parent who has survived a school break or a summer vacation knows how difficult it is to keep their kids occupied, stimulated, and interactive. UNBORED is a 350-page treasure chest of games, computer fun, creative projects, nature hunts, lists, quizzes, science experiments, and much, much more. One family and childcare book we can’t praise enough.” — Barnes & Noble editorial review. NB: UNBORED is a Barnes & Noble SELF-HELP PICKS (BOOKS WE LOVE) selection for October 2012

“The coauthors of this book believe that young people are capable of much more than grownups usually think possible. And they are right! If you love outdoorsy, crafty, and adventurous stuff, then this book is perfect for you. It’s a guide to life — if you want an exciting and unbored life!” — Emma Kristjanson-Gural, age 12, in the magazine New Moon.

Unbored’s:

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