12 Days of Christmas – A gift a day!

Twelve Days of Christmas

December 26, 2011 through January 6, 2012 mark the Twelve Days of Christmas. Celebrate with us by receiving a gift for the season!

Nutcracker ChristmasWriteShop is partnering with Homeschooling Today magazine to bring you a special gift on December 31, the Sixth Day of Christmas.

I can’t tell you what the gift is (don’t you love surprises?), but I can tell you that it’s something brand-new, and I promise you’ll be thrilled. Plus, we’re throwing in a terrific WriteShop discount coupon too.

How to Get Your Gifts

Go to www.HomeschoolingToday.com now to sign up on the home page for the Homeschooling Helper e-newsletter to receive our offer on the above date.

Homeschooling Today will send a special discount or gift from a different vendor each day of the Twelve Days of Christmas — that’s 12 different goodies — but only to their readers. Get your new year off right! Sign up now so you don’t miss a single one of these special offers.

And if you’re unfamiliar with the traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas, check out Marilyn Rockett’s excellent article. It will help you make sense of what “four calling birds,” “six geese a-laying,” and “eight maids a-milking” really mean.

Wishing you the richest blessings of the season,

StoryBuilders Christmas writing prompts

StoryBuilders Christmas Writing Prompts - Fun, printable card decks from WriteShop

Write Christmas Stories with a Twist!

What’s this? A ragged fir tree helps a stranger on a cold night? A weary homeless man discovers a wallet full of money outside a bakery? A bad-tempered candy maker finds a magic candy cane and disappears into a snow globe?

What kid wouldn’t love to write a holiday story filled with such hope, whimsy, or intrigue?

Award-winning WriteShop StoryBuilders card decks help to jumpstart a creative writing project by providing children with the basic elements of a story—character, character trait, setting, and plot—laying a foundation for a joyful writing experience with some clever surprises thrown in along the way.

During the holidays, use the Christmas Mini-Builder to occupy bored or antsy kids and teens with these fun Christmas writing prompts. For only $3.95, you get 96 cards to download and print, along with lots of suggestions for writing games and activities.

A Mom’s Story

Don’t just take it from me! Here’s a snippet from an email I got just this morning!

I just wanted to write a quick thank-you note for the Christmas Mini-Builder! My daughter, who is 11, is dyslexic and she tends to write as little as she can get away with when assigned a task. I printed out the story cards today and let her loose and she has written three short stories so far — and it’s only 8:20 a.m.! ~Erin

So what are you waiting for? Enjoy some stress-free holiday writing! Gather the family around, pass out the Christmas StoryBuilders cards, and let the writing fun begin!


Anyone want to buy a vowel?

Hoping someone will buy that extra “e” so we can fix this thing.

Photo © tvindy, 2008. Used with permission.

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Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Writing a holiday “how-to” paragraph

Holiday how-to paragraphs are a great December writing activity! Describe a familiar process such as wrapping gifts or setting the table.

As holiday decorations come out and the tree or menorah takes center stage, children can become increasingly distracted, sidetracked, and fidgety in anticipation of upcoming seasonal celebrations.

Homeschooling doesn’t need to fall by the wayside during December! The holidays can be a great time to assign writing activities that focus on the festivities, allowing children to immerse themselves in the fun while encouraging productivity. This month, have your kids write a paragraph describing a holiday-themed process where they explain, in a step-by-step manner, how something is done.

Process Paragraph: Choosing a Topic

Help them pick a process that isn’t too involved or complicated. With younger or reluctant writers, it’s especially important to keep the number of steps to a minimum. Also, the more familiar children are with the process, the easier it will be to write about it.

Here are some ideas to get them started. They can explain how to:

  • Wrap a present
  • Make latkes
  • Decorate the tree
  • Bake gingerbread cookies
  • Build a snowman
  • Be a “Secret Santa”
  • Set the table for dinner
  • Create a handmade greeting card
  • Make a holiday craft project
  • Play the dreidel game
  • String popcorn
  • Make a paper “countdown” chain

Process Paragraph: Writing the Rough Draft

Once your kids have chosen a topic (and narrowed it down to a specific task, if necessary), walk them through a few simple steps to guide and direct them.

  1. If possible, have them go through the process themselves before beginning to write. Take digital photos of them as they complete each step.
  2. Provide a graphic organizer to help them break down the steps of the process and plan the composition. Here’s a simple one that’s especially good for elementary ages. Here’s one can be filled in on the computer. Or download a free lesson sample from WriteShop I (grades 6+) that includes a Process Planning Worksheet.
  3. Next, have them begin to write the rough draft, explaining the most important steps first.
  4. Teach them to use transition words such as first, second, third, next, then, finally, or last.
  5. If the paper isn’t too long, or if the steps are too vague, they can expand each step by adding sub-steps, more detail, or colorful description.

Process Paragraph: Making an Instruction Manual

Edit the rough draft together to ensure the steps are logical and easy to follow, and check for spelling and punctuation errors.

To publish their how-to composition in a fun way, have your children create an instruction manual. Here’s how:

  1. Invite them to choose the photos they want to use to illustrate the process. They will need to print out 4-6 pictures. Let them tape or glue each picture to the top half of a sheet of notebook paper, using a separate sheet for each photo.
  2. Next, have them copy their corrected composition onto the sheets of notebook paper, writing the sentence or sentences that each photo illustrates.
  3. Finally, encourage them to design and decorate a colorful cover, including a catchy title. Assemble the instruction manual and share with family members.

Activities like this will keep your children happily writing, even during the busiest time of year!

Copyright © 2010 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr.

Household Tip #47: Wash in coleslaw

Lately, I’ve seen lots of tips for using common household products such as baking soda, car wax, baby oil, and dryer sheets. Vinegar makes a great window cleaner. Mayonnaise can remove water rings from furniture. But I’ll admit it never occurred to me to use coleslaw as a laundry aid. So glad I saw this “qualifcation”!

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Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Encourage thankfulness: Part 2

Cultivating gratitude in children and encouraging thankful hearts will teach them to be "others focused"

Yesterday, I gave some suggestions for cultivating gratitude in children’s hearts in Encourage Thankfulness: Part 1. Here are a few more ideas to try.

Dear God

A joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful. ~Book of Common Prayer (1892)

Give your child a small spiral notebook or special journal in which to write prayers. Encourage her to express gratitude and thanksgiving as part of each prayer she writes. She can thank God for:

  • Creation. I’m thankful for crisp snow, pink sunsets, autumn colors, grass and flowers, giraffes and snapping turtles.
  • Provision. Thank You for our house, food, clothing, toys, books, pets, family and friends; for Daddy’s job; that Mom can stay home and teach us; for hot water, warm blankets, and comfortable beds.
  • Gifts and talents. Thank You that I’m musical, athletic, smart. I’m a talented photographer. I’m good at building Legos, mowing the grass, baking. I know how to raise goats and plant a garden. I’m kind, loyal, faithful. I’m a hard worker. I can dance. I excel at computers, math, science. I love reading, writing, drawing, building with my hands.

Every day, help her look for ways to be thankful for big and little things. Find more ideas for keeping a Gratitude Journal.

Do Unto Others

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~William Arthur Ward

Invite your children to make a list of things they can do to express gratitude to someone who has been kind to them or to show kindness to someone who needs it. Once the list is complete, have them act on at least one of them. Their list can include things like:

  • Bake cookies.
  • Make a handmade card.
  • Mow the neighbor’s lawn.
  • Obey the first time Mom or Dad asks me to do something.
  • Do a favor without being asked.
  • Do one of my brother’s chores just because.
  • Invite Grandma over and make breakfast for her.
  • Write a poem for my auntie because she’s so kind to me.
  • Sponsor a child because I’m thankful I have a family.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or food bank because I’m thankful I have food and a roof over my head.
  • Fill a Christmas shoebox for a child who doesn’t have toys and treats, because I’m blessed to have so much.
  • Be kind to someone who doesn’t deserve it because God does that for me.

Operation Beautiful

All that we behold is full of blessings. ~William Wordsworth

A love note...Gratitude doesn’t always mean saying “thank you.” Simply stepping out of self-centeredness and considering others’ needs and feelings is a form of gratitude, too.

Your child can make people smile or feel better about themselves by placing a sticky note somewhere random. Write uplifting thoughts, kind words, and encouraging quotes. I love Operation Beautiful for this!

Finally, don’t just save gratitude for Thanksgiving. Help your children look for ways throughout the year to express thanks, turning the focus outward. By cultivating gratitude in your children, everyone will be the better for it.

30 Days of Gratitude

I Am Thankful (Acrostic Poem Activity)

 Photo: Matthew Cua, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Encourage thankfulness: Part 1

Ways to encourage children to express thankfulness and appreciation

It’s almost Thanksgiving. Around the country, we’ll soon be picking up our turkeys, baking pies, chopping aromatic vegetables for stuffing, and setting our prettiest table.

Even still, it’s hard to forget that we’re about to careen around the corner and crash right into December—that most commercial wonderful time of the year.

Do you feel like you’re walking on the edge of a knife, trying to maintain a thankful spirit in your home during the season of the “gimmees”?

You can cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your children, and the days or weeks preceding Thanksgiving are a great time to start. When the kids begin squabbling, acting selfish, or expressing entitlement, encourage thankfulness! Help them do a 180 and refocus, using one of these activities as a springboard.

Thank You For…

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~Marcel Proust

Writing a note of appreciation for a gift received seems obvious, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Who has made an impact on your children’s lives? Provide stationery and writing tools and have your kids think of deeper reasons they can express their thanks.

  • Dad. Thank him for making you feel safe and loved, for working hard for your family, for playing football in the yard, for showing you how to fix a flat on your bike, for teaching you about God, for playing Monopoly with you.
  • Mom. Thank her for being your teacher, for driving you to all your activities, for cooking tasty meals for your family, for showing you how to bake a chocolate cake, for helping you become kind and compassionate, for setting a good example.
  • Grandparents. Thank them for things you often take for granted, such as coming to your soccer games or school performances. Thank them for holding a special place in your life, for encouraging, supporting, and loving you.
  • Sunday school teacher. Thank her for caring about you, for teaching you about Jesus, for bringing donuts each week.
  • Newspaper deliverer or postman. Thank him for delivering your mail or paper every day, no matter how hot or cold or rainy or snowy. Thank him for being a dependable worker.
  • Pet. Thank your dog or cat for being faithful, friendly, loyal; for being a playmate; for providing companionship, entertainment, and smiles.

Encourage Thankfulness in Children

It’s Been Said

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Encourage your children to copy favorite quotes about gratitude and thanksgiving and pin them to a wall or bulletin board in their room. For starters, find gratitude quotes here and here. Then, have your kids try one of these ideas:

  • Copy each saying using neatest penmanship.
  • Write the quote on fancy paper using calligraphy or italic handwriting.
  • Type it on the computer, choose an appropriate font, enlarge the text to fill the page, and print it on pretty paper.

Count Your Blessings

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much. ~Estonian Proverb

Mount a large sheet of posterboard on the wall of your kitchen or family room, and keep a jar of colored markers nearby. Encourage your children to write things they’re thankful for, no matter how small. Pre-writers can simply draw pictures on the posterboard.

Alternatively, make a stack of sticky notes available on which they can record their words of gratitude. Provide a centralized spot for these thankful thoughts, or simply let the kids pepper the house with notes.

. . . . .

Gratitude is an amazing thing. It’s good for our health and well-being; it helps us choose contentment over want, self-centeredness, and entitlement; and it makes us easier to please. We can indeed be purposeful about helping our kids ditch their “me” mentality and become more others-focused.

You can find more ideas at 30 Days of Gratitude. And check back tomorrow for Encourage Thankfulness: Part 2.


Photos: Eren {sea + prairie) and Fern R, courtesy of Creative Commons.

1000 fans giveaway winners!

Congratulations to the winners of our 1000 fans giveaway!

Three happy moms have each won a $25 gift certificate to the WriteShop store and are excited to go shopping for new writing curriculum!

Our Winners

Comment #41: Lynne!


 Comment #28: Missional Mama!


Comment #9: Sara!


Winners have been notified by email. Congrats again, ladies!

Not so great

Adorable craft. Spelling? Not so grate great.

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Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!


1000 fans: It’s giveaway time!

This giveaway is now closed.

Today we reached a milestone: 1000 Facebook fans on our WriteShop page!

In honor of this momentous occasion, we’re going to give away THREE $25 gift certificates to the WriteShop store. Simply leave a comment below telling how you would spend your $25!

Enter to Win a $25 Gift Certificate

  • The giveaway will be open until midnight EST Friday November 18, 2011. Winners will be announced Saturday, November 19.
  • Share the love! Encourage your friends to *like* our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/writeshop
  • You can get up to 3 extra entries by posting on Facebook, blogging, or tweeting a link to the giveaway. You must leave a separate comment for EACH entry (4 entries max per person). Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.
  • This giveaway is offered to US & international residents.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. “Liking” WriteShop’s Facebook page is not a requirement for entering the drawing.
  • IMPORTANT: In order to enter the drawing, you must leave a comment on THIS post. To leave a comment, scroll to the bottom of the post. (If you are reading this via RSS, you will need to visit the actual blog to post a comment.)
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