Author Archives: Anne Russell

How to Read Books for College

27 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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In college, there tends to be a lot of required (or strongly recommended) reading. Whether there are regular reading quizzes, book reviews due, or information for finals, there is always something to read, and being able to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible is important. With that, here are my tips for reading through college-assigned books:

How to Plan for Reading:

Have a plan.

If you have a specific goal and a specific plan to go with it, your process will be far easier than trying to panic-read at the last minute. For example, if you have to read a 10 chapter book and write a 5 page response, and you have 6 weeks, until it’s due, you can break it up this way:

-Week 1. Read first 3 chapters, and make notes.
-Week 2. Read 3 more chapters, and make notes.
-Week 3. Finish book, and make notes on the last few chapters.
-Week 4. Compile your most important thoughts together.
-Week 5. Write your first draft, and get feedback from writing center and/or professor.
-Week 6. Edit and submit.

Compare the above plan to the no-plan version:
-Week 1. Read first chapter.
-Week 2. Do nothing.
-Week 3. Do nothing.
-Week 4. Do nothing.
-Week 5. Realize that the project is due. Do nothing.
-Week 6. Total panic and last minute cramming.

Set a timer.

One of the quickest ways to ruin your reading time is getting distracted. Decide how much time you need to spend on reading, and set a timer for that long. Keep reading until you’re finished, or your timer goes off. During this time, have your phone/social stuff turned off or silenced, and don’t let yourself do anything else. Your focus will be so much stronger, and you’ll find that you get through reading much faster.

Pick some background noise.

If I am in a seperate room from everyone, and just need to filter out weird sounds (say, the dishwasher, distant conversations, tea boiling), I like brown noise or rain sounds. If I’m in the room with other people, I like to do calming music with words to cover the sounds of conversations (typically something by Ella Fitzgerald). You might be different. This is a good time for experimenting. Try some soundtrack music one day, and white noise or something similar the next day. What works best for you? Don’t choose music that you want to start belting whenever you hear it; remember: the point is to be less distracted.

How to Read for Learning:


Read with the end in mind.

This will help with the first tip. If you’re writing a review, think about the main points, and whether or not you agree with them. If you’re writing for a test, think about what might me on said test. Also, pay extra attention to sections that relate to parts of lectures. If your professor talks about a specific composer, and your textbook has a section on that same composer, it may be worth a second read-through.

Take notes as you read.

I will use a pencil and underline important quotes, write in questions or one-sentence thoughts, and other pertinent thoughts (thanks to Amy Crider for getting me started on this one!). Then, when I’m looking back at the book later, I can easily find what I want to talk about.

Underline or circle information or points that line up with your goal (see tip one of this section). With books that have exams coming up, for example, underline or circle important names, dates, and ideas, so that you can find it for studying later. This method saves much pain in the future, even if it seems weird at first.

There you have it. Those are my top tips for reading effectively for college. What are your favorite ways to read more effectively? I would love to hear about them in the comments section!

Fly Me to the Moon – Anne’s Earworms Episode 31

25 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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I love Tony Bennett’s interpretation of “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words).” He takes a typically peppy song, and makes it sweet and slow. This reflects the lyrics in a fresh way, transforming the song from the breathless romance in Sinatra’s an Buble’s versions to a soulful serenade. It begins with trepidation, but builds into a passionate plea, maintaining both simplicity and a feeling of completeness.

The orchestra is sparse, complementing Tony’s singing without overpowering it, almost as a duet. It contains a touch of saxophone, and a bit of strings, and a little jazzy piano, each one having a simple, slow part. Tony Bennet takes a typical song and makes it unique, which is truly inspiring for any aspiring cover artist or musician. Enjoy!

Daydream Believer – Anne’s Earworms Episode 30

05 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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Thursdays are the longest days. By the time I finish school, my private music lessons, and teaching private lessons, I want nothing more than to go home and sleep. Often, I’m discouraged, and occasionally I’m just hungry.

This Thursday was much the same as many Thursdays. I was tired and ready for home, but the traffic at 5 mostly involved sitting. That’s when I first heard “Daydream Believer.”

The song opens with Davy Jones singing of the troubles of the working person, who must leave fantasies and dreams to go to work. But the songs turns to a celebration of a positive attitude. He chooses to be a daydream believer, who lives life looking forward, rather than dwelling on things that he has to leave or things that he doesn’t have.

This is the way that I want to live. I don’t have to choose between dreaming and living. There are certainly sad things in life, but I don’t want to spend every waking hour dwelling on them and worrying.

Since then, I’ve learned to enjoy the Thursday drive home. Instead of wishing that I was at home, I try to enjoy the time I have sitting. Thursdays are still long, but they don’t have to be discouraging too.

2017: An Honest Evaluation

02 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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I put goals in two categories. Either they are passing successes (only achieved if I complete the goal exactly as I had it written) or they are a total failure. Since I seldom deem anything perfect, my goal evaluations are mostly negative and discouraging.

I don’t want this to happen this year. I want to look at 2017 honestly. I want to enjoy the success and learn from the downfalls. So that’s what I’m going to do today. Here’s how I did on my goals from 2017:


  1. The Reading Challenge. I ended up reading 33 books from the main list, plus 5 from the advanced list (I couldn’t help myself). I learned about some new genres, especially steampunk, found some new favorite authors, and had some laughs about terrible books that I read just for the challenge. I also read some books that didn’t fit on the list, just because I wanted to try them. Overall, the challenge helped me with what I wanted, which was consistent reading even when I was busy and an expanded reading repertoire.
  2. The Writing Challenge. I did not do this well. I think my biggest problem was finding a time to consistently write every day. If I try something like this again, I should figure out a better system before I begin.
  3. Anne’s Earworms. This was a fun way to find new things to write about. Although I only wrote 29 Earworms. I enjoyed trying to find new artists and songs, and finding interesting ways to talk about old ones. I want to keep doing these posts, so I can improve in consistency and in creativity.
  4. The Bible in a Year. I did it! I had to do some catch up days, but I completed the Bible in a year. With this I wanted to prove to myself that I could, to grow closer to God, and to learn more about the Bible. This upcoming year I think I’ll do a different Bible reading plan, but this one was awesome.
  5. Audible. This challenge was an unqualified success. I loved listening to audiobooks, and I found a few series that I listened through. Even now I’m still listening, currently swimming in a fantastic reading of Sherlock Holmes.


Overall, I did well on my goals. I have room to improve, and successes to celebrate, and I’m ready to move on to a few new goals. The biggest problem I had in 2017 was having too many goals to balance, so I’ve decided to cut back from so many year-long goals and try a few quarterly goals. Here are my three goals for January, February, and March of 2018:


  1. Find and complete a new Bible study. Since my school semester is starting up again in a couple weeks, I want to find something to keep me in the Bible even when I get busy.
  2. Read for 20 minutes. 6 days a week. This will help me continue to grow my mind and stay relaxed.
  3. Raise $8,000. I am currently saving money for a study abroad program to Salzburg in the summer, and I’m also saving to stay in college debt-free. Because of this, I’m trying to raise some money by teaching, hosting murder mystery parties, and the like.


What are your 2018 goals? I would love to hear about them in the comments!


The 12 Days of Christmas (Straight No Chaser) – Anne’s Earworms Episode 29

29 Nov 17
Anne Russell
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My dad introduced this song to me several years ago. I love it because it’s clever and unpredictable, but still pleasant to hear. I love A Capella groups, and this adds in an element of fun to a classic holiday song. Enjoy!

The live version:


The non-live version:

On Making Cards

25 Nov 17
Anne Russell
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David had an awesome habit of writing me sweet notes. He would recruit my mom to help him actually write the words

This week is my first week off from school (yay!), so I decided to go through a large box of papers that has been growing for years. I expected to just get rid of old school papers and laugh at all of the things I thought I would still need in 10 years. I was completely surprised.

Since I was old enough to keep papers, I kept many cards that people gave me. Some are for Birthdays, some are get-well cards or thank-you cards, and some are just-thinking-about-you notes. At the time, I kept them because I wanted to have a lot of papers and be mature, but now I’m realize just how valuable these cards are to me.

Some of the cards are from people that I haven’t seen in several

A thank you card from my French teacher. Not surprisingly, this one is in French.

years; some are from people that I see every day. But even the ones from people I may never see again are encouraging to me. My teacher wrote me a thank-you card in French for a plant that I got her at the end of the year. I haven’t seen her since I stopped taking French (3 years ago), but the card reminded me that I could do crazy things, like learn French, and reminded me of my desire to travel to new places.

The cards from my family help me to appreciate them more. My brother David used to write me sweet notes all of the time just to be sweet, and reading them again reminds me to love my siblings every day, not just on special occasions or when I feel like it.


Finding these cards encouraged me to write cards intentionally. They don’t just represent days that people are obligated to write cards. They represent relationships, people who care enough to take time out of their lives to encourage someone else. They are wonderful on the day you receive them, but can also be treasured years down the road.

Our family did a “Regency Week.” We all tried to speak in authentic Regency era speech, and this was a note from my sister in that style.

An encouragement from a mentor on my 16th Birthday

If you’re a card-writer, be encouraged. You might have even more impact than you realize. If you’re not, now would be a good time to start.










Se Tu M’ami – Anne’s Earworms Episode 28

04 Oct 17
Anne Russell

This Italian art song is one of my voice songs for this semester, and my favorite so far. I usually listen to the version by Cecilia Bartoli and Gyorgy Fischer.

“Se Tu M’ami” (“If You Love Me,” in English) is unrequited love from the other side. The singer is being pursued by a shepherd, and she likes him and finds his favor wonderful. She is sorry for his suffering over her, but she doesn’t think that he’s her only option. It’s clever and emotional, and I like listening to the music in another language. Enjoy!



My Fall Break List

02 Oct 17
Anne Russell
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This week is my fall break. I’m looking forward to enjoying some out of the ordinary activities, but I don’t want to let break fly by without accomplishing anything or getting proper rest. I often end up frustrated because I’m either not doing enough or I’m doing to much. So this break, I’m planning out what I’m going to do more than I have in the past. I’ve organized the things I want to do into three categories:

  1. Family time. This one is super important. Even though I live at home, it’s hard to balance time with family with school, teaching, homework, music, and church. For this category, I’m trying to have some one-on-one time with each of my family members this week.
  2. Odd jobs. This category includes things like larger school projects (I have three papers to write this week), home projects (like giving my room a thorough cleaning), and weird random tasks (like making up some shampoo or whatever I have on the “I don’t know where this goes” list).
  3. Just a break. It’s called a break, so I might as well take a break. If I don’t plan ahead for resting, rest time becomes a work-myself-into-an-frenzy time. A new thing that I want to do during my recreation time this break is spending some time worshiping through enjoying his creation. One of the ladies in my public speaking class gave an excellent speech on this topic, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
This break, I want to spend time doing things that I enjoy, without freaking out because I’m not being productive enough for my myself. Whenever you have your next break, I hope this list helps you plan your break better, and enjoy it more.

Can’t We Try – Anne’s Earworms Episode 27

13 Sep 17
Anne Russell
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This is one of my favorite duets of all time. My mom showed it to me a while ago, and I still love listening to it. Dan Hill has done this song with several chicks (it’s most famous with Vonda Shepherd), but I love the Celine Dion version.

Can’t We Try has so much passion, and it tells a tragic but hopeful story. The harmonies are phenomenal, and I just love Celine Dion’s voice!

Why I Chose Boyce

19 Aug 17
Anne Russell

I wrote this essay as an entry for the academic excellence scholarship at Boyce. The topic assigned was “the importance of theological education,” but I didn’t have much to say on the formal education side. With the help of my mom and an amazing English teacher, this paper was born. I hope you enjoy it:

Why I chose Boyce, by Anne Russell

I do not think that Boyce is for everyone. I do not need to go to a college campus to learn theology. I grew up homeschooled, and my parents taught me how to study the Bible, and how to learn from books without supervision. For me, Boyce isn’t about the information and books. I can find good books online, or by looking at the library. I go to Boyce because of the professors.

The first dual credit class I took at Boyce was with Dr. Crider. Dr. Crider taught me that a personal pursuit of holiness is one of the best gifts you can give to the people you serve. He also leads the chapel orchestra. By watching how he talked about the music and how he prayed for the group, I have learned that even instrumental parts can be acts of worship and to treat every part as important.

I took several classes with Dan DeWitt. From Dr. DeWitt, I learned that not everyone who disagrees with me is foolish, and that two intelligent people can look at the same evidence and have two different conclusions. Because of Dan DeWitt, I can love Alex Rosenburg’s book The Atheist’s Guide to Reality and think of it as a brilliant book, even while I disagree with it. I have lost the insecurity that demands that I belittle other points of view.

From Mrs. Crider, I didn’t only learn how to write a paper, I learned how to love words and to long to do my best at everything I did. I learned the value of asking for help because she was (and is) always willing to help me when I had writing problems.

From Dr. Lewis, I learned that growth requires intentional change. I learned to care more for other people: to take time to talk to them and learn about them, to rejoice when they did well, to invite them into my life. From him, I learned that it is more important to do my best than to be the best compared to everyone else. I learned to appreciate when other people did well, rather than feel jealous or sad.

From all of the professors who took time to invest in me, I learned the power of investing. I have grown so much in learning to be friendly because I saw how kindness and genuine interest in other people can transform their lives. My teachers have done much for me, and I long to do more for others.

I can find books on my own. I can find sermons online, and learn music theory from YouTube. I can learn theology by reading theology books. Theological education is important to me, but I do not love Boyce because of what I’m learning; I love it because of the people that teach me.