CAS Ideas Continued: S

As you all likely know at this point, S is the portion of the IB CAS experience that stands for Service! Honestly, I think this part of your CAS experience can be the hardest to be consistent with, especially if your school does not have any service clubs to help you out. If your school does have service-based clubs and you’re just not in them, JOIN. I have been a member of Key Club (shoutout to all of my Key Clubbers) since freshman year, and it is a club in which I have made the most friends and connections with my community. You can also look into clubs like Be A Leader or Interact. These clubs are often national or international, so they are backed by a big parent organization. Key Club, for example, is backed by Kiwanis. Also, I know for Key Club at least, there are more clubs before and after high school so you can still work under Kiwanis. In college, you can join Circle K, and elementary students can be a part of Builders’ Club. And, of course, you can join Kiwanis as an adult and continue to serve.

Even if you do not want to join a service club (which I very highly recommend because it makes completing this part of CAS so much simpler), you still have to complete your S portion to receive credit for CAS. So, here are some ideas that I have seen done or dreamed of doing for you to serve your school, community, or even the world.

Clean-Up: Y’all, Earth Day is a week away! One of the best ways you can serve your community is by cleaning up trash around your neighborhood. Everywhere you go, there is going to be litter, and all that trash is bound to harm the animals or plant life around you. Besides, no one likes to see trash around their home or business. Get together a big group (maybe all the Diploma students in your grade?) and choose a day a week that you go out and clean up the area. Just a couple hours a week can make an amazing difference- and save the planet!

Tutor: Considering you are enrolled in one of the most difficult academic programs in the world, I am going to assume that you are competent in at least one subject- enough that you can tutor someone else. Tutoring is one thing, but if you’re going to use it as CAS, I would suggest you spice it up a bit; try to connect with an organization or tutor people of a certain demographic. I think an untapped service destination is really the homeless youth in communities, so try to find a way to tutor kids who may not have a home to go to. Or connect with a local school (preferably not your own) and offer up your services.

Walk Dogs: *cough* this also counts for Activity *cough*. As long as you are not making any money from it, you can call this service. I would suggest you look around your neighborhood and ask your neighbors if they would like you to get their dog some exercise. Exercise is so important for animals, and unfortunately so many people do not give their dogs enough of it. Another great place to find dogs to exercise is an animal shelter. You can ask if you can walk their dogs and I almost guarantee they will say yes. Some shelters now will even ask you to take pictures with the dogs and post them on social media to help them get adopted (Always ask before taking pictures of dogs- or anyone for that matter)!

Write: There are two demographics of people that I often find need a lot of love: the elderly and the ill. I am sure you have probably seen those homes for the elderly who need special assistance, and coming from someone who has worked in one, it can be sad. Some people in these places do not have family come to see them often, and they get incredibly lonely despite all the hard work those in the home do to make them feel comfortable. Ask the proprietors of any place you wish to write first, but I think a great way to engage these people is to make them your pen-pal. Letters can be personal and powerful, and they are a great way to socialize with an elder. Also see if you can write to people in hospitals as well, especially kids! Kids with illnesses need a lot of support, and they always light up when they make a new friend- even through letters!

Make Something: Depending on your skill level and what you’re interested, you can use things you make for your Creativity portion as CAS. I have a friend who is painting rocks and selling them on Etsy to support a local children’s hospital. At a Key Club event, we made dog toys out of old T-shirts to donate to an animal shelter. Just remember: if you are selling something, you will have to explain where that money is going. I would also have at least one experience where you work with a group- a group of elementary kids in a poor neighborhood, for example- to make a craft.

Volunteer for One-Time Events: Things like community events, parades, and fun runs can all count for CAS if you decide to volunteer to help organize or work the event. Go to Volunteer Match or look up a race/ event online and click the Volunteer section, and you will find plenty of opportunities that you can schedule as you like.

Partner with an Organization: You can volunteer at hospitals (if you are 16 or older), daycares, and libraries regularly in order to meet your CAS requirement. Choose an organization you are interested in or already love and serve them in any way they may require. This is a great way to make contacts and help your community in a big way- these organizations help a lot of people every day, and you can be part of that!

There is so much more that you can do for service, but I am purposely not including many ideas because this section is really up to you guys. You need to search out causes that mean a lot to you, and be creative with how you get involved. My next post is going to be tips on all parts of CAS, like how to stay motivated with your projects, what you should be getting out of it, and a little bit of why the IB wants you to complete this.

Once again, this is not an exhaustive list of all you could do for CAS, but it is a good place to start! I hope I got some of the creative juices in your brain flowing and I’d love to hear your ideas!

Until next week,

Brainiac Blonde


CAS: Activity Inspiration

This is the second part of my CAS series (!!!!) to help inspire you guys with some ideas and a little bit of reflection over what I have done or have thought about doing for CAS. As you likely know if you are in the IB Diploma program, or if you have read my first post in this series, the ‘A’ in CAS stands for activity. As in physical activity.

I played sports when I was younger, and specifically I was in club soccer for about eight years. I still enjoy a pickup game every once in a while, but I am definitely in no shape to play competitively anymore! If you do play a sport at school, recreationally, or with a club, you should definitely include that as part of your CAS experience. There is no reason to stress yourself out about doing more physical activity if you are already physically active; just make sure to write meaningful reflections about your sport and why you continue to play it or what it means to you.

In any case, let’s get into the list!

Run/Walk: I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear, but running is quite possibly the most accessible physical activity to you. You can literally run anywhere- on a treadmill, around your backyard, through your neighborhood, etc. Just make sure if you are out running that you wear reflective clothing at night and always run safely! Don’t get hit by cars and always watch all around you.

Dance: I am by no means a dancer, but I’ll admit there’s a song that comes on every once in a while that really makes me want to get up and jump around. But I am a strong believer that for this section of CAS, you should do something that is comfortable and fun for you! If you love to dance, dance!

Sign up for a community recreational sport: These typically come up around the start of a season and they are a great way for you and a few of your friends to get involved with your community while being active! You can typically find these rec teams on the website for your town or neighborhood.

Train for a Fun Run: Now this one is a little different than running because it is a one-time event, so you just have the 5k, 10k, etc. However, I would strongly suggest training for these, and remember that most all of them will require you to pay a registration fee. However, they have some really crazy events to make it more interesting, like throwing colors at you (Color Run) or blowing huge bubbles around you (Bubble Run).

Go to a Trampoline Park: If you have never been, a trampoline park is basically an indoor free-for-all. There are a bunch of connected trampolines and then typically they will have a foam pit or other small obstacles. It is super fun and a really different route for physical activity!

Join a Gym: If you can afford it, it may be beneficial to you to join a gym. I personally have not done this (because money is tight and cannot motivate me enough to get out of the house) but others find going to a location where others are being physically active motivates them to partake in more physical activities or try new workouts.

Swim: If you do not have a swimming pool at your home or school, then you might be able to find a pool at a community center or gym that you can swim in. Swimming is great exercise because it is fairly low impact, so if you have bone or joint issues, it may be a good fit for you. Always consult your doctor is you have these issues though, as they should know best what is healthy for you as an individual.

Try Yoga: It has been popularized a lot in the last few years, so depending on how you feel about it, you may be interested in trying yoga. You can go to classes at your gym or maybe your community center, or you can check out a book or start following a YouTuber who has follow-along routines.

YouTube Fitness: YouTube can be a great resource for activity ideas. There are a lot of people on YouTube that are really dedicated to fitness and they make some really cool workouts frequently. Just make sure to stay safe and always think of your health before completing a video.

There’s a ton of other options, but these are just a few that I have found that I thought were interesting or would be fun to do! I also made this list keeping in mind different comfort levels with activity in public versus at home. Everyone has their own feelings about gyms or being in front of people when they work out; some do not mind, but others are self-conscious. There’s no rule with IB saying you have to do anything specific for any part of your CAS portfolio; do what you are comfortable with, and keep track of your physical activity so you can reach your goals!


CAS Ideas For the New Diploma Student

As I said in my last post, the CAS requirement for your Ib Diploma can make or break your experience in IB. For some, the requirements for CAS are a no-brainer, but for others they are an added stressor. Either way, CAS can be a fun and engaging experience for any student, and all students should always be looking at what they are already doing to see if some of their everyday activities count as CAS. After all, there are three pretty broad categories: Creativity, Activity, and Service. You could do anything really, but for today’s post, I am going to outline a few ideas for each section of CAS, as well give some anecdotes on any projects I have tried and how they turned out! This first post is going to be just Creativity ideas (because this least is super long…) but I will be posting the lists for each individual section close to each other!

The first part of CAS is Creativity, which is arguably the easiest requirement to fulfill. You can honestly do anything for this requirement, but for some people that’s the issue. With so many options, it seems hard to find one that no one else is doing. Still, the thing I think the IB is looking for in reflections on this portion of CAS is real connection with your activities, so even if you think it is ‘basic’, but you are passionate about it, you should use it for CAS!

Let’s get into some ideas:

  • Art: wow, real specific, I know. What I mean by art is painting, drawing, sketching, etc. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t seem all that creative, it is more about what you are painting/ drawing/ sketching, not the fact you are painting/ drawing/ sketching. As long as you enjoy what you are doing, art is an incredible outlet for your creativity and feelings!
  • Music: if you play an instrument in a band, at school, or just on your free time, that can definitely count for CAS. If you’ve been playing forever, maybe try to write your own music or learn to play without sheet music. Maybe you can even adapt your favorite existing song to be played on your trumpet/ accordion/ violin 🙂 The point of CAS is not to just keep doing what you are doing. For this section especially, you should look for new ways to do what you do or how you can apply skills you already have to new areas.
  • Writing: YOUR WORK FOR YOUR ENGLISH CLASS DOES NOT COUNT. CAS is more about things you do in your free time (I know, I know, what free time?) that are not graded or required by your school. That is why it is so hard for some students to complete, because they lack motivation to get started on things outside of what is required, even if it is totally their choice what to do. This project is pretty self- explanatory; writing poetry, lyrics, short stories, or hey, even your personal memoir, is applicable to the Creativity portion of CAS.
  • Journaling: IB loves reflections; they want to know what x feeling you had when you did y thing on z day. You can write a journal like a diary, or you can get a bit more artistic with it and make a Bullet Journal, which is basically a planner on steroids. Bujos are super fun and if you want to see one, all you have to do is go on Tumblr or Instagram and search for a studyblr/ studygram. They will no doubt have plenty of aesthetically pleasing pictures for you to get inspired from.
  • Cooking: It does not matter how many restaurants you live near, or how many Blue Apron copycat companies come out, cooking will always be an essential skill. If you are super into sweets and decorating, baking is the way to go. If you want to know how to make a hearty meal from scratch, ask your parents if you can take on a dinner a week. Cooking for yourself will not only fulfill some of your CAS requirements, it is a great way to feel accomplished and to better understand the process of food preparation for your own health. This is personally my favorite CAS activity I do. Every week, I make some sort of homemade snack for my Theory of Knowledge class, and everyone involved enjoys it 🙂
  • Blogging: If journaling is not really your thing, and you are interested in the tech side of things, you should definitely consider blogging. Blogs can be run from social sites like Tumblr (which is really an anti-blog, but I digress) or blogging sites like WordPress or Blogger. Personally I prefer WordPress because it has a super accessible interface and all of your content stays in one place. It’s more difficult for others to copy your work with a traditional blogging site. While your blog can be about anything, I use my site as a way to present my CAS and IB experience, which sort of kills a few birds with one stone. Plus, I enjoy the set- up of a blog as compared to paper journaling.
  • Website Creation: I actually know a few people who have done this for various reasons; I actually just made a website for my school’s National Honors Society, and it turned out really amazing. I had lots of fun with it, and I think a lot of people would be surprised at how easy it can be. You can use website building services like Wix or WordPress and customize off a template, or you can buy a domain and start from scratch. For your first time, I would start with a building site; you can start off a free template and not have to buy a domain. Their interfaces are also super easy to use, and if you want to get more into it, you can enable CSS and other coding programs so you can edit and have more control. After you get the hang of it, you can totally start from scratch, but any way you do it is a fun and rewarding experience.
  • Film: If you are in IB Film, just note that the films you make for class shouldn’t be used for CAS. Use creations you made on your own time, without a grade requirement. In my opinion, this just looks like you put more effort into your CAS experience when you go this route. Film can be anything from a thirty-second stop motion to a full length feature film (which wow, that is INSANE). Whether you turn in the final product or all the pre-production to IB, the combination of creative skills used in film is a lot, so be sure you develop storylines or ideas you really enjoy!
  • Photography: It seems like a lot of people (at least in my little corner of the world) have gotten into photography lately. I think that is amazing; I really enjoy seeing everyone’s pictures, especially when they capture moments between friends and just capture that human spirit. Or dogs, dogs are great too.
  • Sewing/ Crochet/ Knitting: While photography has been exploding recently, sewing, crocheting, and knitting all seem to be suffering in popularity, and I really don’t know why??? If you do these things, you can make yourself clothing or blankets or pillows, and I don’t know how it can get much better than that. This is a project I have been working on for CAS, and I have already made a shirt and hemmed quite a few pairs of jeans! It is the most validating thing to put something on that you designed and put together from scratch, especially when it looks great on you!
  • Makeup: I don’t care what anyone says, makeup is art. I have seen girls’ eye shadow that belongs on the ceiling of a cathedral- just gorgeous work. And it is on their face.  Makeup is really cool, and I would suggest you take lots of pictures to show off the creativity that goes into makeup. If more stage makeup or special effects are your thing, think about costume design!
  • Portfolios: Whatever you end up doing for CAS, you are going to want to be able to prove to the IB that you did it. Most of the time, that involves taking lots of pictures or sending in audio/ visual files. I think another way you can really show your creativity is by choosing an interesting outlet for your portfolio. Try making a website, an Instagram/ Twitter/ Tumblr just for your CAS experiences, or put together a scrapbook. Putting all of your CAS activities together can actually count as another CAS activity. Inception!

This is only a tiny sliver of ideas you can use for the Creativity portion of CAS! I hope you found something that sparked your interest, or maybe even inspired you to make something completely new. If so, like this post and comment! I want to know what you guys are doing for the Creativity portion of your IB CAS journey!


Brainiac Blonde

International Baccalaureate: A General Introduction

It is officially 2018, everybody. 2018.

Its almost too hard to believe this past year went by so quickly and, for many of us, torturously. For lots of you out in the world, the New Year brings in your second semester of the school year, and you are definitely not ready to go back if you are anything like me!

If you are a high school student, or nearing the end of your public education requirements around the world, you may have heard of a two-year program called International Baccalaureate, or IB for short. IB is an international organization for education that provides high school juniors and seniors (11th-12th graders) with a rigorous curriculum that is standardized through the program all over the world. The goal of IB is to teach students higher levels of science, mathematics, art, history, etc., but also to create global citizens who can understand each other in the realm of scholarship and an international workforce, regardless of cultural barriers.

For those who know of IB, the program may seem especially daunting, but it can be broken down into two different pathways depending on a student’s goals. One of these is the Certificate pathway; students do not take a full schedule of International Baccalaureate classes, but instead take 3-5. These classes groom the student for the IB exams in each course of their selection, and their passage on the exams determines whether the student will earn their certificate from the International Baccalaureate Organization.

The second pathway is the full Diploma pathway. Students (known as candidates) take six classes at the IB level, one for each group. These groups are Studies in Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Sciences, Mathematics, and Arts ( In order to acquire their diploma, candidates must pass the tasks and exams given with each of their six classes, gaining an overall score out of seven in each course. These points are added together for a coursework score out of 42. However, the maximum points for the diploma program are 45 points. These extra three points are earned as a result of an Extended Essay.

The Extended Essay is a research paper fully conspired and conducted by the candidate, expounding upon information addressed in any one of their courses and distantly advised by an outside source (teacher, specialist in the information, eyewitness source, etc.) Like many other parts of the IB curriculum, the Extended Essay is student-led, and advisors are not to have too much hand in the creation of the paper. The paper is sent to the IB graders and given points out of three, which are added to the course score for up to 45 points. These two requirements are the only criteria included in the points for the IB Diploma, but an additional requirement is not graded, but evaluated.

The Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) portion of the IB Diploma program is one that puts many off from the Diploma pathway, while simultaneously drawing students to it. CAS is a constant requirement throughout a students years in the program, creating a portfolio of actions the student has taken to be creative, physically active, and involved in their community. Activities can fit into one category or multiple, and are reflected upon afterwards by the student. The student also must partake in a CAS project, which involves all of the categories in one activity of the student’s own idea, and must least at least a month in duration from inception to the end of the activity. (If you would like a post about CAS ideas, information, or tips, like this post or ask a specific question in the comments!)

The IB program lasts two years in total, so the subjects a student chooses will remain for the last two years of their high school education. There are some classes that cover their curriculum in one year. These classes can still count for the diploma program; so long as one class from each of the six groups is completed, and the student partakes in CAS and writes their extended essay, they are eligible for the full Diploma program.

As this is a general overview, not all information about the Diploma Program or IB is contained in this post. If you are an IB student, or thinking about becoming an IB student, like this post or comment for more content relating to IB!

For more information on the organization, you can also visit the IB website.

Happy New Year!

-Brainiac Blonde

The Light Between Oceans Review

Rating: 4 Stars

As the second book I would review as part of the Hooked To Books Challenge, I decided to go with one I had heard a lot of buzz about lately.  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman was recently made into a film, featuring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.  I’d seen the trailer on television, marked it in the back of my mind as interesting, and basically forgot about it until I saw the novel in Barnes and Noble.  The summary seemed interesting enough, so I bought it on sale and took it home.

The Light Between Oceans is the tale of a man, Tom Sherborne, and his wife Isabel, who live on the isolated island of Janus Rock in Western Australia and care for the lighthouse there.  After three unfortunate miscarriages and much despair, a man and child wash ashore during the storm.  The man is dead, but the baby is alive.  A cardigan makes the couple think the mother must have drowned.  Instead of reporting the deaths and returning the baby ashore, Isabel convinces Tom that the child is a gift from God, and that they must raise it.  A few years later, happy with their daughter, Tom and Isabel go ashore on the mainland to find that the child’s true mother is not dead- but in fact has been waiting for her child all along.  

How could you not be interested at that prospect.  I had never heard such a plotline, and was instantly intrigued.  The novel did not disappoint- well written and insanely suspenseful, the pages seemed to breeze by without my noticing, even as I dug deeper into the conflict between Tom and Isabel’s guilt and their love for their newfound daughter.  

The only reason I would provide The Light Between Oceans with four stars instead of five is because the ending was so heart-wrenching, and not in a way you are used to.  Often in novels, when something goes wrong or it ends in a way you were not expecting, it is justified.  However, I felt the characters, near the end of the novel, just let things happen.  The daughter- Lucy-’s feelings towards her biological mother were of fear.  She wanted to be with Isabel and Tom.  I felt that was justified- the people that raised her were her parents, regardless of blood.  The other mother suffered, and it is saddening what happened to her family, but I feel none of the characters were thinking of what was best for the daughter.  You feel so terrible for her, and for Isabel and Tom who had loved her and cared for her, only to watch her be taken.

The novel truly makes you think about what it means to be a family.  Blood never made a difference to Isabel and Tom.  They loved their ‘daughter’ like none other.  It never made a difference to Lucy either, who was in paradise on Janus with her ‘parents’.  Readers are used to feeling distressed in romance novels, where a loved one dies.  But reading The Light Between Oceans bring to light a different kind of love- the bond between parent and child.  It is unmarked territory, and M.L. Stedman set her flag there beautifully.  I definitely recommend anyone read it, especially if you are wanting to know what that parental bond feels like.  

Dealing With Summer Assignments

As I mentioned yesterday, it is officially summer where I live in the United States.  For me, that means lots of swimming, hanging out with friends, working, writing, reading, and…

Doing summer assignments.

Now I know some of you may not know what those are, so I’ll explain.  When students sign up for a class they plan to take in the following school year, the teacher/ professor may provide a summer assignment.  For my teachers, the summer assignment was meant to cover curriculum we lacked enough time for in the school year.  These are usually introductory lessons on the subject, with homework for practice on the lesson.  It is common for summer assignments to be short- maybe two or three pages- but they can also be difficult to complete.  Many summer assignments can be quite involved, requiring research papers or analyses of the lessons you covered.  

I am in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at my school, so I have a few summer assignments.  One for Mathematics HL and another for Film.  While the Math doesn’t seem too complicated, I also have to write a report on the contents of the chapters in the book I was required to read.  For Film, I have to choose and watch four movies from a list, writing a journal and analysis for each, then choosing one for an in-depth theme analysis.  

At first blush, it seems like a lot, but I find myself lucky.  Some of the AP students I know have six summer assignments- with the same workload.  And I could sit here and complain, but that doesn’t get my assignment done.  I’m sure many of you can relate to the struggle of summer assignments, so I wanted to share my method of dealing with them today!


Step 1: Make a Schedule

This step absolutely must be the FIRST thing you do when you have all of your summer assignments together!  You need to read the instructions of each thoroughly, then make a schedule for when you should have each assignment completed.  When I did this, I included both of my summer assignments on the same days, allotting so much time each day for each one.  The other thing I made sure to do was leave a few days blank; just one or two every two weeks.  This meant that I had free days to do summer things, like dedicate a day to shopping with friends or going to an amusement park.  If you have a planned family vacation, I recommend planning that time with a summer assignment that you may actually enjoy.  If you have any that just require reading, I would go with those.  You can read your assigned book on the plane, by the beach, etc.


Step 2: Use Any Resources Offered To You

The point of the summer assignment is that you are familiarizing yourself with the course material so you don’t end up floundering the first semester.  If a topic is particularly difficult for you to understand, use your resources! A lot of assignments include links to helpful websites where you can learn a bit more about the topic.  For mathematics, I recommend Khan Academy.  It’s free, and videos on any math topic you can imagine are easily accessible and simple to understand.  Youtube is also a fantastic resource for other subjects; John Green’s channel Crash Course has a pretty good spread of history, psychology, and the sciences.  Plus, he makes everything funny, so it’s a bit more bearable.


Step 3: Don’t Kill Your Summer

I think this step is the hardest, because it almost feels like you can’t help it.  With so many assignments, I think a lot of people work hard for the first month then just give up.  They waste their free time by overworking themselves.  This is one of the few times I will say you should work smarter, not harder.  You are going to be challenging yourself all year! Schedule some time for yourself, to de-stress from last year and prepare for this year.  Hang out with friends and family, go shopping, have fun! Just make sure you are balancing work with fun, and taking advantage of that awkward, ‘I’m not doing anything today’ time.  Your summer assignments are not made to torture you! They’re meant to keep your mind sharp and cover the key topics of your future course.  Use them to your advantage, not your detriment.

Best of luck on your assignments,

Brainiac Blonde

Getting Yourshelf Together

Well, well, well… So we meet again.  It has been so long since I have had a chance to sit down and write a blog post! Final exams really threw me for a loop this year, but I am glad they are over with!  Here in the United States, it is officially summer, and I am so pumped to get some more posts onto this blog and try out some fun new projects.

As you can probably guess (from my terrible but well-planned pun), today’s post is about organizing your bookshelf!  I just re-vamped my own and snapped a picture of it on Instagram, so check it out and give me a follow while you’re at it, @brainiac_blonde  .  My bookshelf has always been a huge mess, as I add new books to it probably every weekend.  Until now, I hadn’t really thought about the best way to organize it, and I figured there must be one of y’all who felt the same, so I brainstormed and tested a bunch of organizational methods to share with you!

To get started, you first need to pick your organizational strategy.  This is the order in which your books will be displayed.  There are a variety of ways you could do this, but here are some of the ways I thought to do it:

Method 1: Alphabetizing

Pretty boring, but effective when you’re trying to find a certain novel.  Order the books, regardless of any other factor, by the author’s last name.  If you’d like to change it up a bit, order them by the title of every book, in A-Z format.  Books with numbers in the title are traditionally placed after Z, but you can place them before A if you prefer.  

Method 2: Genre

This one is a little more challenging to put together, but you can group your books according to genre.  If you have a wide variety of books, then starting off with fiction versus non-fiction groups may be the way to go.  But if you’re like me… Fiction tends to dominate your tastes.  If this is the case, you can order by subgenres.  For example, one shelf for fantasy, one for sci-fi, one for dystopian, etc.  You could also do this for nonfiction; a shelf for biographies, one for nature, one for self-help, etc.  

Method 3: Aesthetics

I think this one is actually really fun, and if I had more books with similar designs, I would totally do it!  To arrange your shelves by aesthetics, you order your books according to their color.  How I would go about this is fill your shelves going by the colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.  Then, after violet, bring in all the neutral colored books, starting with black then ending with white.  I’ve seen this done on Instagram quite a few times and it is just so satisfying to look at.  How convenient it is when searching for a certain book, I don’t know, but at least you’ll get a few pictures out of it. 🙂

Method 4: Personal Preference

This is how I organized my shelf, and it’s been working out really well.  The key to personal preference is knowing what books were your favorite, or what books you are always in a mood to read.  I made four stacks of twelve books, ordering them by which ones I liked and which ones I was iffy on.  Then I just put them on different shelves.  Simple.  

The second step to putting together a bookshelf is the shape of the stack.  Now, you could go with a typical horizontal stack, where the spines of the books are backing outward and the book is vertically standing.  However, this leaves a lot of space unused above the books.  The way I stacked my books was half vertical, and the other half stacked on top of one another.  This way, I could have stacked them all the way to the top of the shelf, and fit more books in one section.  Having a variety of stack shapes also makes the shelf a bit more visually appealing and easier to navigate; the titles aren’t all sideways and facing the same way and smushed- they’re varied.

I hope you get the chance to put some time into your bookshelf; seeing all of your favorite novels all lined up and pretty can improve your mode by tenfold, believe me!  Plus, it always feels great to be organized!  Thanks for reading and watch out tomorrow for another post!

Love, love, love,

Brainiac Blonde

Review 1: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

After receiving the IB Booklist last summer, I started stocking up on all the books required for my program.  Atonement by Ian McEwan (by the way a review and reading aide is coming soon), Beloved by Toni Morrison, and yes, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  The interesting traits of Satrapi’s novel, compared to the other texts in the IB curriculum for English, is that it is an autobiographical piece.  Satrapi writes of her childhood in Iran during the early 1980s, during the Islamic Revolution.  In addition to her diverse genre and topic, Satrapi also stuns with the medium of her autobiography: a graphic novel.

At first blush, I was unsure of reading the novel.  I had never read a graphic novel before, and the topic of the Islamic Revolution, in my mind, seemed too dark to draw pictures of.  However, my reservations were soon dismissed.  Persepolis is a fantastic example of catering to the audience.  In order to reach more people with her story, Satrapi illustrated her childhood.  People who didn’t like to read or didn’t have the time could still learn about the Revolution and truly understand what was going on.  

Despite having such an economy of words and limited color (the drawings are in black and white), Satrapi expertly crafted Persepolis’ setting, characters, and historical context into an understandable narrative, illustrating the innocence of a childhood that was stolen by national strife.  Taking place in the latter part of the 20th century in Iran, Satrapi describes her country as a Westernized society, filled with western pop culture.  Bands and artists like Iron Maiden and Michael Jackson.  But on the other side of the coin was the government’s fight for theocracy and a strict social order, trying to turn their people away from western ideals.  With her own parents at the forefront of the fight against the new government, Satrapi grew up in a home filled with freethinking, foreign literature, and civil unrest.  Her life at home and the ideals she had learned from her parents clashed with those she learned in her now gender-segregated school.  The introduction and mandate of traditions like the veiling of women and religious practices greatly affected Satrapi’s view on her religion, her country, and even herself.  

I do not want to spoil anything in the novel, because it is truly a short read.  Thus, I believe it is a book you should read for yourself.  I could tell you all day about the Revolution and what was going on, but Satrapi wrote Persepolis to bear witness to the events that took place.  She was there, and her account is a story essential to wrapping your head around what was happening in Iran at the time, and even now. Satrapi’s greatest achievement in writing Persepolis is changing our point of view.  In the west, and particularly nowadays, we tend to see media bashings of Muslims and people from the Middle East.  We have a grossly biased view of how people live, and Persepolis has challenged and disproved all of these prejudices.  It is such an important read, and an important point of view, in today’s world.  A truly well-thought piece from start to finish, and a high recommendation from me for your next literary endeavor.  

If you read Persepolis, let me know by commenting on this post and telling me what you think!  I’d love to know what you got from Satrapi’s story- I may have seen it too!

Much love,

Brainiac Blonde

How To Effectively Beautify Notes

Notes are always a huge topic of interest in the studying community.  We go on Pinterest and Tumblr and Instagram and see all these colorful, neat, goddess-like notes that people write, and we try to mimic that.  If you are anything like me, and you have tried to write notes like these… You know it doesn’t end well.

And maybe that’s for the best.

Now, I love looking at those ravishing pages as much as anyone else, but over time, I’ve realized that that is just not me.  I am a messy thinker.  I know I am actually learning when my papers are scattered, when there are arrows pointing every which way, and when there are side-thoughts next to almost every bullet point.  I write fast and furious, because that is how my brain works with my hand.  I used to think this was terrible, that because my notes weren’t color-coordinated and lined up all perfect, I was without.  And I made the mistake of trying to change my habits.

For two months, all of my notes were written in different colors and in pen.  Not only did it take forever (I was spending an extra hour on each subject), but I was not seeing any improvement in what really matters: my understanding.  Writing my vocab in pink and dates in purple did not help me remember them anymore than it had when I was writing in plain old pencil.  I was also getting frustrated with how many little mistakes I was making in pen that I couldn’t erase.  Overall, it was just a super stressful experience.

But it wasn’t all a loss.  I was paying more attention to what I was writing, being more concise, and making the whole page a lot neater and easier to read for later.  When I switched back to my pencil, I carried these habits with me. And so far, it has been beneficial to me.  My memory is quicker, I’m retaining more info… It’s pretty great.

Now, let’s get this clear: I am NOT trying to say that those goddess notes are not good notes!  Those are the notes we all aspire to, and I commend those who are able to make their thoughts look that beautiful and concise on paper.  However, not everyone can do that, and you shouldn’t bash yourself for that! Your notes are for you to learn, not showcase!  Write how you want to.  Also, don’t do what I did and drown your notes in color.  Write key words in color, or highlight them, but don’t write an entire page in neon green gel pen.  It really does not help, believe me…

But seriously, guys.  Try some new methods, get some new notebooks, and get started.  Do what makes sense to you, because these notes are for you. If you are a beautiful note-taker… Hats off to y’all, you’re my daily inspiration. Keep doing you!

And for those of you like me, you rock too.  Keep taking notes and learning and enjoying what you are writing down.  That’s what really makes a winning notebook!

See you!

Brainiac Blonde