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Covert Creative Writing, Free Range Kids, Transition from Public Ed

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 10 No 22 March 19, 2009
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.


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Guest Article
-- Covert Creative Writing
Helpful Tip
-- Experiment Night
Winning Website
-- Free Range Kids
Reader Question
-- Transitioning from Public School
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Covert Creative Writing
by Karen Lange

Parents often shy away from teaching writing. They may not feel
equipped, the writing in their curriculum has no pizzazz, or the
kids just aren’t interested. Time can also be a factor; till the
basics are covered, there’s no time left for writing. This series
will explore a few ideas that can get the kids writing without
making a big deal about it. Sometimes it seems that the more
attention we draw to a subject, or a child's need for development
in that area, the more resistant or stressed the child is. A
little ingenuity can go a long way in helping a child move forward.


Part One - The Journal

Packaged in the traditional manner, the idea of a journal might
not hold much appeal, especially for reluctant writers. Trying
a new twist on journaling might be the answer. Journal writing
can be a great way for kids of all ages to record their observa-
tions about life. A journal can also be called a diary or blog,
and is a way to record thoughts and dreams, document events, log
hobby or project info, or catalog musings for posterity. It is
a non-judgmental sounding board and can help the writer gain
perspective in stressful circumstances. Journal writing is
personal writing. This means that no rules apply, and personal
style and preference are the only guidelines.

Keeping a journal is a good way to practice writing. Students
may not adhere to grammar rules and have exemplary penmanship
while journaling, but it will help them to feel more comfortable
expressing themselves. Any amount of this type of writing will
exercise those writing and thinking muscles. Naturally, this
will benefit them as they get older.

If you tell kids that they must write in a journal and then
dictate what must be included, they probably won’t be too excited
about it. It might hold more appeal, though, from another angle.
Try one of these ideas on for size. They can be adapted to kids
of most any age, except for the little ones, who of course, can
grow into it.

Keep them well equipped. I made sure that my kids had an ample
supply of writing material -- nifty kid sized notebooks, stickers,
fun markers, colored pencils, pens, and other dollar store type
items. I didn’t require them to write in the notebooks, but all
three of them (two boys and a girl) did at various times. My
oldest son was interested in birds, and wrote notes on birds
and birdhouse dimensions. He also kept track of his sports card
collection and wrote an occasional story. My second son wrote
continuing stories about a cartoon character he invented and lists
of dinosaur facts. My daughter used hers to draw in, and to record
thoughts and lists of her collections.

I think their journal efforts succeeded because I did not pressure
them. Kids are often more creative when we give them tools, time,
and space. When my middle son was about 10, he started writing
stories in his notebook. The stories were good, but they lacked
punctuation and the spelling left much to be desired. It was hard
not to correct him, but if I hadn’t allowed him this writing space,
he would not have written at all. Fast forward fifteen years --
not to boast, but to encourage -- this son is now a writer and a
graphic designer.

Can’t see your kids jumping right into journaling? Simply supplying
them with a journal might not make them sit down and write. But
then, a different angle might work. Don’t push, just supply gentle
suggestions. Often they resist your ideas and then come around
later. (My kids often did.) Do they like sports? Suggest they record
a team’s stats. Are they interested in frogs? Maybe they’d like to
draw pictures of frogs in the pond and label them. Are Legos their
passion? How about listing their various Lego creations? Are you
going on vacation? Choose an interesting scrapbook or notebook for
paper souvenirs and to record notes from the trip.

Does your child do best when interactively writing with you? Try a
dialogue journal. These journals share experiences between two people.
One person writes about experiences or issues and the other person
responds. It is like an on-going letter to a friend. Younger children
may express more when they dictate their thoughts. As they get older,
encourage them to write a few sentences, and in time, they’ll assume
writing their part. Note the areas where their grammar needs work,
but don’t correct them unless they need to clarify for understanding.
Avoid squelching the flow of writing and work on necessary areas in
regular lessons.

If they are into computers, suggest that they write a blog, or an
online journal. Blogs are everywhere, about everything, and share
thoughts for the public to read. Suggest a topic and rough guidelines
such as paragraph length, if necessary. Younger students might blog
on why they want a puppy, older students could lobby for a later
curfew. Hobbies or current events provide good topics to blog about.
Find a safe blog online to use as an example if you like.

It may take some experimenting to see what gets and holds your kids’
interests when it comes to writing, but it is worth the effort. If
kids are interested, they generally benefit from any kind of cross
training in the area of writing. Just like every little part of a
nutritional diet makes a healthy body, practical snippets of writing
will build good writing and thinking skills. We’ll be exploring a
few other 'covert' writing ideas in the future if the journal angle
doesn’t grab you or the kids. Stay tuned!


Karen Lange and her husband Jeff homeschooled their three children
in grades K-12. She is a freelance writer and the creator of the
Homeschool Online Writing Co-op for teens. Visit her website at
www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com or email her at writingcoop@yahoo.com


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


Another Testimonial for ClickN' Read Phonics

"I absolutely love your program. It has allowed me to home school
a child who has special needs. My son was is 13 and labeled with
a learning disability and short term memory loss. When I brought
him home to home school him this year I didn't know what I was
going to do. Aware of his disability and my inability to teach a
child with special needs I cried out to God for answers and he
lead me to ClickN' KIDS.

The progress for my son has been amazing. He is on lesson 68 and
getting high scores. He has not only improved in reading but
spelling and keyboarding as well. Best of all it has helped his
self confidence. I am so pleased with this program. Having a program
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It has also eliminated my frustration of having to drill and review
because the program does that for you. Thanks to God and ClickN' KIDS
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Helpful Tip

Experiment Night

"Hi! -- Once a week I let my 5 year old daughter choose up to 5
ingredients to create her own 'experiment' in the kitchen. Tonight
(March 16th) she wanted water, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and
dill weed. She writes down the recipe with the amounts (including
fractions) and I ask her questions and write down her observations
and responses. She LOVES this! It has become her favorite thing to
do. I've found this to be an excellent learning tool for her -- she
gains writing skills, learns her fractions, and so much more. She
loves to adjust the recipe as needed as it progresses. Tonight she
also decided to add flour and then green food coloring. She even
left some out on the front lawn (next to her special green wooden
box she painted) for the leprechauns to find in the morning. We
also had to save the extra leftovers for her to show her brother
in the morning when he wakes up.

Thanks for the wonderful newsletter!" -- Jaynee


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

"Free Range" Kids Blog

I enjoyed reading several pages/articles at this blog and thought
some of you might, too! A lot of what she had to say resonated
with me -- and I know homeschoolers have suffered through the
anxiety of ever letting our children roam free in the community
during school hours. The video about dangerous cookie dough is
priceless. Check it out if you have time -- and I'd love to hear
your feedback on this topic of 'free range' kids!


-- Heather

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I would like to know if anyone has successfully moved from public
to homeschool for older aged children. My son is 12 and I have
taken him out of the public system and we are taking a 'time out',
so to speak, in order to rearrange our conditioned views of what
learning is and how it should be done. The conditioning being that
'curriculum is the only way' -- this is the biggest hurdle for my
kids to comprehend at this point. I also have a 9-year-old daughter
who is very self-motivated whom I have taken out of school as well.
My 10-year-old daughter will finish this year at the public school
while I get into the groove of homeschooling the other two.

Any experience, ideas, thoughts on acclimating a public schooled
middle school boy to a freestyle in-depth unschooling approach? I
would also appreciate comments on dealing with my own conditioning
and what seems to be societal programming that if we aren't working
six hours a day all with pre-set curriculum, then we are doing
something 'bad'. Thanks!" -- Saundra

Our Readers' Responses

"My son is 2 1/2 so I'm not using 'curricula' yet myself (just
feeding his interests as best I can). But I do want to pass on
a personal experience regarding textbooks. My husband used to
work for a well-respected textbook company. The company seemed
to always be getting the projects late (by the time they reached
his department), and the bottom line was their deadline. He would
routinely find mistakes, such as a photo of a grizzly accompanied
by a caption labeling it a black bear. His notes regarding
mistakes were often copious. But the closer the deadline was (or
the further they had passed beyond the deadline), the sloppier the
editors would get. My husband, who's a perfectionist, used to be
driven crazy by this.

My point is -- the 'education machine' here is not perfect, nor
infallible. And the worst part is, our children will often assume
it is! Good luck." -- Lauren


"Hi Saundra –- I can’t say from personal experience (since none
of my kids have ever been to public school), but I have talked to
several mothers who are going through the same things you are.
Even though my kids never went to school, we have a lot of public
school teachers in the family and I have felt pressure to explain
myself in ways that satisfy them. My first suggestion is that you
take some time to relax. Look up articles on 'deschooling' on the
Internet. Read some good literature. Take some field trips. Do
some things to 'connect' with your kids. As far as your plans for
the coming years, you can definitely let your middle-schooler lead
the way. Have him take some time to write down a list of like 10
things he’s always wanted to know about. Then discuss the topic
with him and together come up with 10 specific questions he wants
to find the answer to. Sometimes this step takes a little research;
sometimes it doesn’t. Then have him research and find the answers
to his questions. If it’s a science topic, make sure he includes an
experiment or observation or something to solidify the information.
If it’s history, he can research specific people, write reports,
read diaries, etc. The creativity isn’t really in what you do for
'school', it’s in what you record. A good book to look for at the
library might be 'Write Your Own Curriculum' by Jenifer O’Leary.
You can get it used at Amazon.com."


-- Mandi


"Saundra -- Been there, done that! :-) Congratulations on your
move to homeschool! First, take a deep breath and now enjoy the
pleasure of setting your own pace and getting to know your children;
their learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. I
would say the first month is about getting a feel for your own
family's rhythm and natural routine. Let your child read! Bring
them to the library and let them pick out books that interest them
and encourage a variety -- science, biographies, history, fiction.
If it makes you feel better to have them write summaries of what
they are reading a couple of times per week, have them do that --
we do. This also gives you a chance to figure out what curriculum
you want to use and what would work best for you and your children.
You might decide you all enjoy textbooks and workbooks or packaged
curriculum units. You might decide to follow Charlotte Mason type
homeschooling methods (which we do, but I add things here and there
that I feel my children need or we would enjoy). The first year
will be a year of trying things and getting a feel for what you
like and what works well -- versus never trying that method or
material again. I encourage you to try the library, inter-library
loan and the internet. Read about the classical curriculum (The
Well Trained Mind), Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Unschooling,
and other types of approaches, and then decide what you would like
to try out first. If it doesn't work out as well as you thought it
would -- we've all been there. Just remember, you are one step
closer to finding what works for you. Try Cathy Duffy's 100 Top
Picks for Homeschool Curriculum to give you an overview and rating
of curriculum choices out there.


Order Rainbow Resource's curriculum catalog - look on the internet.
Good luck and enjoy your kids and yourself! You are going to be
amazed at how much better you get know your kids, yourself, and
things you never learned in school when you were there!"

-- Katie from Katie's Homeschool Cottage


"I recently (just 4 weeks ago!) pulled my 14 year old out of school.
We have 7 kids total (one 18 year old, three 14 year olds, two
3 year olds, and a 6 year old). My choice for pulling one of our
14 year olds out of school was agonizing. I am still struggling
with it, but I can tell you that I wish I would have done it YEARS
ago! He was not happy; at that age they have built friendships
and made a social scene for themselves -- and he really struggled
for the first 2 weeks or so. Now that we are a month into home-
schooling, he has realized that he is actually learning and it is
not the 'end of the world' as he originally had thought. Much to
my surprise, I think that we will continue through High School.
He will be a freshman next year and while I am frightened by the
thought of homeschooling through High School, but I know that the
alternative is Public School and that just was not working -- so
we will make it work. I love every minute of it so far, and I am
thrilled with my decision. We chose to use structured curriculum
and will continue to do so through High School so that I know his
credits and grades can be tracked and accounted for completely. I
think that is a personal decision though, and for me is the best one.

Good luck in your choice Saundra -- it isn’t an easy one, but it can
be done and it can be done successfully. Aside from schooling him,
get him involved in some outside activities, whether it be a home
school group that goes on field trips together, or playing some sort
of sport with a park district or local facility. I know for my son
these things were important in the adjustment, because at that age
they have already been exposed to these social activities -- and my
son felt like he was going to be left out of a lot of things. I
needed him to feel like he was still a part of the human race and
could still communicate with the outside world. I think this
decision was also because he will see his brothers and sisters
participating in different activities and I didn’t want him to
feel like he can't be included just because he didn’t fit into
the public school learning environment.

I hope some of this helps in some way. I am far too new at this
to be giving advice, but I can tell you what has worked here in
our home over the past month while we have adjusted to this major
change in life. Good luck!" -- Dorothy L.

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a 6 year old son that had been in public school up until
October 2008, when we began homeschooling. In kindergarten and
1st grade, at the public school, he received speech classes. He
substitutes the 'w' sound for the 'r' sound. I was told that he
could not receive any more speech therapy because the 'r' sound
isn't considered a problem until the child is 8 years old and
still can't pronounce it.

My question is this: Has anyone ever used or tried anything at
home to correct this? His previous speech teacher sent home some
exercises that involve him 'growling' when he says the 'r' sound,
but I still hear the 'w'. I was told of 'Straight Talk #1' (a book
to use at home), but I'm not sure what to do. He also stutters.
He started at about 4 years old, but only for about 2 months and
then all of a sudden he stopped. Then, about 8 months ago, he
started again and continues to stutter. He gets sooooo frustrated,
but I've been told to just leave it alone. Thanks." -- Leslie


Do you have some experience or practical wisdom for Leslie?

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

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Next - Greg Landry Science, TruthQuest History, Speech Therapy
Previous - Am I Doing 'Enough School' with My 7-Year-Old?

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