4 things you’re {already} doing to raise a writer

4 things you're {already} doing to raise a writer

EVERY homeschooling parent hits the skids now and then—and that’s when the questions pour forth: Am I a good teacher? Are the kids learning anything from me? Why is this so hard? 

Writing is a subject that can quickly make the most confident of homeschool moms feel like a complete and utter failure. And when you get into this funk, it’s easy to focus on everything that’s going south and fail to notice things you’re doing well. (And there are things you’re doing well!)

You may have the most resistant or reluctant writer at your kitchen table each morning, but throughout the day and week, that same child is learning from you as you live out these four important actions:

1. Equipping

What homeschooler’s house isn’t happily overrun with writing supplies? Most likely, your drawers spill over with markers, pencils, and crayons. These tools—along with paper, spiral notebooks, blackboards, and dry-erase boards—equip and encourage your children to express themselves in writing.

In pleasant weather, you watch them take to the sidewalk with chalk to draw pictures and write words. Letter magnets invite your littlest ones to begin forming words on the fridge, and older kids enjoy using magnetic word strips to compose sentences and poems. Even your teens type out stories on laptops and pour their hearts into diaries or journals.

A new school year is around the corner. Why not create even more writing buzz simply by investing in some brand-new school supplies?

2. Modeling

We know it’s important to model reading for our kids, but it’s just as important to model writing. When your children see you scratching out a grocery list, planning a camping trip on a legal pad, typing a blog article, taking sermon notes, or penning a letter to your sister, they’re internalizing the importance of the written word in daily life.

3. Cheerleading

Every day, you encourage your children’s attempts at scribbling, drawing, making letters, and using inventive spelling to write new words. This simple act of affirmation tells them that writing is both admirable and fun.

It’s not as easy to stay positive about their writing attempts as they get older (and their mistakes are no longer cute). But don’t stop looking for the good! Correction has its place, but your positive, encouraging words bring blessing into their lives and free them up to try new things when writing!

Encourage children to write

I love that you let your children be themselves—who God created them to be, not who you think they should be.

In her article How to Raise a Writer, author Cathy Lamb affirms: “A squashed spirit will produce a squashed voice. A squashed voice will never write.” In the best way you know how, you’re shaping your kids’ character, guiding their growth, and tempering their will without constraining their spirit.

You may not realize it, but you’re taking steps to call out the writer in your child!

4. Reading

I know this about you: You make reading a priority with your chldren. By reading aloud, making trips to the library, and providing your kids with books at home, you’re helping them make a connection between reading and writing.

Reading opens up new worlds of imagination, mystery, and adventure. Quality literature exposes children to rich vocabulary, vivid description, and engaging narratives. While strong readers don’t always become strong writers, a correlation does exist: Reading can have a powerful effect on a child’s interest in writing.

On the worst of days, you won’t recognize the seeds you’ve planted, watered, and tended. You’re way more likely to see weeds, thorns, and bare spots! But from time to time, whenever a tiny bud appears, you’ll get glimpses of the writer within. Just know that I’m believing with you for the day when that writer comes into full bloom!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

Photos: Kate Hiscock and Rolfe Kolbe, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Tickle your punny bone

crazy horses!

pun (n.)  A clever play on words that brings about a double meaning or a comedic effect. “I do it for the pun of it.”

. . . . .

SOMETIMES I just need a laugh. Don’t you?

Well, you happen to be in luck! If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that one of my favorite topics is words and the ways we can use them in our writing.

But words, whether spoken or written, can be just for fun, too! Fortunately for all of us, someone sent me a list of clever puns recently. I hope they tickle your funny bone and add a smile to your day!

  • What do you call a dinosaur with a extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
  • I used to think I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.
  • I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.
  • All the toilets in New York’s police stations have been stolen. Police have nothing to go on.
  • I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
  • Velcro – what a rip off!
  • There was an earthquake in Washington, D.C. It was obviously the government’s fault.
  • Be kind to your dentist. He has fillings, too.

Your Turn!

Got a clean pun you’d like to share? Post it in a comment!

Motivating young writers with author success stories

I’m pleased to welcome Samantha Gray as a guest blogger today!

Laid Back

WRITING IS a difficult task. Teaching children how to write presents an even greater measure of difficulty. While it’s not necessarily hard for children to learn to write, I do think it can be extraordinarily challenging for them to enjoy it or develop it into a craft.

Children—especially adolescents—can be quite stubborn about writing creatively: either they’re too shy to put their imaginations on paper, or they’re too overwhelmed by the task to know where to start.

Even when they do write, they can become discouraged by critiques in the classroom or from a parent. They don’t see the point in trying harder if their writing isn’t well received. They fail to understand the huge difference between critiquing and ridicule.

Sharing stories about writers’ humble beginnings is an effective way to bring kids out of their writing funk. Learning about another writer’s struggle can really help students realize they’re not alone, and that writing is a hard process for most people, even published authors. These stories give perspective to a sometimes-mysterious art form.

All writers start small

When I was a young writer, I assumed that most famous authors made it big with their first story, or that successful writers were just “born” that way. I didn’t realize all writers start from scratch, and that some of my favorite authors went through seasons of rejection and self-doubt before they ever caught a break.

The sooner kids understand that writing is a process, the less pressure they’ll feel to write flawlessly now.

Gain writing inspiration from real authors

The story of an author’s humble beginnings might inspire your kids more than you’d imagine.

No matter how you feel about J.K. Rowling and her legendary Harry Potter series, your children can learn a lesson from the infamous tale of how her story nearly eluded publication.

The author submitted the first installment of Harry Potter to dozens of publishing houses, all of which turned her down and dismissed her story as unreadable or uninteresting. She was nearly broke with a son to support, yet she persevered because she believed in the strength of her writing. Her book was finally accepted by a small press, and she soon became the sensation that we know today.

Did you know that Kathryn Stockett’s famous book, The Help, was rejected 60 times before it was finally picked up for publication? Millions who now cherish her story would never have read it had Stockett given up on finding a publisher.

Now, The Help is widely regarded as one of the best books from 2009, and we have Stockett’s perseverance to thank for it.

How could stories like these not inspire your kids to write?

Take the fear out of writing

If anything, the stories of writers like J.K. Rowling, Kathryn Stockett, and others (nearly every famous writer has a remarkable story about how they started) do a brilliant job of humanizing the art of writing.

It’s unfortunate how many children approach writing with the false belief that they could never write something worth reading, or that they’re not smart enough or good enough.

What they don’t realize is that every writer feels this way before they put their pens to paper. A few anecdotes about their favorite writers may be just the trick to dispel any hesitation. Don’t you think it’s worth a try?

How do you encourage students to write? Let me know!

. . . . .

Samantha Gray, who has attended both traditional and online schools for her college education, is a freelance writer who enjoys guiding readers through the sometimes labyrinthine process of pursuing a college education and a rewarding career. Please feel free to contact Samantha at samanthagray024@gmail.com.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

Photo: Amanda Downing, courtesy of Creative Commons.

July 4th writing prompts

4th of July Parade Paris Texas 2011

IT’S SUMMER. Your kids would rather ride bikes, toss a baseball, and run through the sprinklers than sit indoors “doing school.” Make writing time fun by taking clipboards, pencils, and papers outdoors, and inspire your kids with writing prompts that center on Independence Day.

  1. Copy, paste, and print out (or handwrite) these prompts on red, white, and blue paper strips. Place them in a jar.
  2. Have each child draw two slips of paper from the jar.
  3. Ask them to choose their favorite of the two. If you have a reluctant child, set the timer for 15 minutes.

Voila! A patriotic, short-and-sweet summer writing activity!

July 4th Writing Prompts

What does freedom mean to you? List five ways you can exercise your freedom.

Write a story using words from this Independence Day word bank.

Imagine watching a fireworks show with your family. In a burst of red, white, and blue, an urgent message suddenly appears in the night sky. What does it say? What will you do?

Write a story using these words: watermelon, fireworks, parade, thunderstorm, splash, race, disappeared, cousins, bicycle, dog. (Let younger children choose just 3-5 of these words for their story.)

Plan the perfect 4th of July barbecue or picnic. Make a list of foods you would serve. Then, choose one or two and describe them in detail to make them sound as tempting and mouth-watering as possible.

Imagine a 4th of July celebration that is filled with mishaps. Write a story that tells about three things that go wrong.

Write a letter to an imaginary friend who lives in another country. Explain why we celebrate Independence Day, and describe five things you like about living in America.

Write about your family’s 4th of July traditions. Where do you go? What activities do you do? What foods do you enjoy?

Create an acrostic:

  • Vertically on your paper, write either “INDEPENDENCE DAY” or “FOURTH OF JULY.”
  • Next to each letter, write a word, phrase, or sentence related to the holiday’s history or your family traditions. (For example, “J” could be Jefferson, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, or Juicy watermelon.)

If you could celebrate Independence Day anywhere in the country, which of these would you choose? What kinds of activities would you do?

  • Independence Hall, Philadelphia
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Baseball stadium with fireworks show
  • Small Midwestern town
  • On a yacht
  • Family reunion at the beach
  • Barbecue and swimming in your own back yard

Bonus!

Visit BusyTeacher.org for a collection of Independence Day printables and worksheets including 4th of July finger puppets, Old Glory worksheet, and a color-and-cut 4th of July visor!

Photo: Amy Claxton, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Summer fun: Online grammar and word games!

AS THE WEATHER warms up, sometimes you just have to keep everyone inside to stay cool. While babies are napping, why not let older children play a few online games to stretch their vocabulary, practice alphabet and grammar skills, or improve their typing speed?

Check out these three websites to find a wide variety of games to productively occupy your kids.

Sheppard Software Online Games

Sheppard Software features several free educational grammar games to play online.

Kids play the Grammar Tutorial before they snatch worms with Noun Explorer, whack robots with Verbs in Space, and zap flies in the Adjective Adventure game. Crisp graphics and just a bit of challenge make it fun to practice parts of speech!

SchooltimeGames.com

I discovered several amusing language arts games over at SchooltimeGames.com.

I confess that I enjoyed Fowl Words way too much! More than a language arts exercise, it’s actually a game that gives practice with typing speed as you race to spell words before the eggs crack.

The Boggle-like 3D Word Cube kept me occupied trying to get bonus points for using more than one side to form words. Must Pop Words was another entertaining word-building game that gave bonuses for starting a word with “Y” or making a 6-letter word.

I haven’t tried all the games, but I’m sure a kid can have fun poking around! (Heads up: Some of the games play a brief 10-second commercial before the game activates.)

ABCya.com

You won’t need to brave any commercials at ABCya.com. Instead, you’ll find an assortment of colorful games arranged by grade level from K-5.

Younger children can practice with alphabet and word games such as ABC Order and Sight Word Bingo (a favorite of my granddaughters).

Older elementary kids will have fun with Alpha Munchies (a typing game) and  Ice Cream Talk, which requires them to identify nouns or verbs in a sentence before playing a bonus round to collect scoops of ice cream.

I’m sure your children will find a game or two to suit their interests. (That is, as long as you can tear yourself away from your own favorites long enough to give them a turn!)

. . . . . 

Your Turn!

Have you found some online language arts games you especially like? What are your favorites?

Photo Credit: Amy Fleeker. Used by permission.

WriteShop Summer Special

SUMMERS TEND to be full of popsicles, play dates, and for a lot of moms, planning.

From now until August 15, WriteShop is offering a Summer Convention Special just for you!

Book D Bundle with FREE Time-Saver Pack!

Just $79.90 ($93.85 value) ::: Offer ends August 15, 2012

Visit WriteShop at the Virtual Homeschool Convention to take advantage of this great deal! In our booth you can also browse our other products, download samples, and chat with us regarding any questions you may have. The convention is open 24/7; if we have stepped away from our booth, shoot us an email.

Get familiar with WriteShop and learn what our writing curriculum has to offer your homeschool.

This Special Book D Bundle includes:

  • Book D Teacher’s Guide, spiral bound view details
  • Activity Pack (2-part pack includes both Student Worksheets AND Level 1 Fold-N-Go Grammar Pack) view details
  • Time-Saver Pack view details

Recommended Grade Levels and Placement Help

  • Ideal for students in 3rd and 4th grade.
  • May also be used with reluctant 5th graders (and even some 6th graders).
  • Parents also appreciate being able to use the program with struggling learners.
  • Start with Book D if your child has not learned punctuation or grammar skills and still needs help planning, organizing, and adding details to a story.
  • More reluctant 3rd graders should start with WriteShop Primary Book C.

 

For additional information, see:
More about WriteShop Junior
Book D sample lesson: Sample pages from the Teacher’s Guide and the Activity Pack.

Prefer a digital version? Purchase this Summer Special as a PDF download and save an additional $15!

5 summer writing activities from Pinterest

LOOKING FOR ways to keep your children {productively} occupied this summer without actually assigning schoolwork? Look no further! You can find tons of great summer writing activities from Pinterest.

Here are five fun Pinterest projects you can suggest to help stave off boredom.

1. Make Your Own Comic Book

Got boys? They’ll love these 10 tips for making their own comic books!

writing activities from pinterest, make comic book

2. Create Your Own Word Art

Using Microsoft Word, your kids can create word art in the shape of their choice. Encourage them to choose words that fit a theme, such as jungle words, summer words, or family words.

For added writing fun, invite them instead to use the text of a poem or short story they’ve written, highlighting key words in bright colors and interesting fonts.

writing activities from pinterest, word art

3. Write Eraser Stories

Collectible Japanese erasers come in loads of fun shapes, but you can also find budget-friendly $1 packs of cute mini erasers at places like Michael’s. Pick up an assortment and set your kids to writing eraser stories!

This engaging activity helps your child choose characters and situations as story starters so they can create a simple yet fun story. If you have a pre-writer (or a reluctant one!), make this an oral activity in which you write the story as your child spins his yarn.

eraser stories, summer writing activities, pinterest

4. Make an Inchie Book

Who doesn’t love miniature things? Combine arts and crafts with writing and encourge your kids to turn their tiny stories into tiny books!

writing activities from pinterest, make inchie book, tiny books, make a book

5. Make a Step Book

Step books are especially fun for younger children, as they lend themselves beautifully to counting books. Work together with a preschooler to create a step book just for him. Even better, suggest that your older kids make a step book for a younger sibling!

pinterest, writing activities from pinterest, step books, summer writing fun, summer writing activities, making books

Follow my Pinterest boards and explore my blog for even more writing ideas!

Your Turn!

What are some of your favorite Pinterest writing activities for kids? Feel free to share links in the comments!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

2012 Washington Homeschool Convention – Puyallup

This coming weekend (June 15-16) finds Debbie and me in the beautiful state of Washington, where WriteShop once again will be exhibiting at the annual WHO Convention at the Puyallup Fair and Events Center.

If you live in northwestern Washington, I hope you’ll join us! This is a great opportunity to get refreshed and recharged, explore the curriculum hall, and hang out with like-minded friends.

And as you begin looking toward the next school year, it’s also the perfect time to stop by our booth to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through WriteShop books in person.

At the convention you can:

Visit the WHO Convention site for workshop schedule, exhibit hall hours, and directions to the conventions. See you there!

 

Overcoming the {writing} procrastinator within

Daniella Dautrich returns as a guest blogger today. I always enjoy sharing with you her thoughts and experiences with writing!

. . . . .

pleasantly adriftLET’S FACE it: when it comes to writing, most of us, at one time or another, have procrastinated. Blog posts, reference letters, business reports, and articles find themselves sitting on the back burners of our lives.

Nothing speaks louder than “example” when encouraging children, especially older students, in their writing pursuits. This means that we need to take time to develop good attitudes and habits toward writing.

Bad Motivators

As a chronic procrastinator, I can attest to the failure of two false motivators:

Guilt

Self-deprecating thoughts such as “They’ve probably lost all respect for me by now” or “I’m always letting people down” are counterproductive.

Rather than truly change your procrastinating habits, they prompt you to take on the character of a grump. Now you’re upset with yourself—and more than likely affecting the mood of everyone around you, children included.

Remember, we want to be fully alive as writers, not crouching in self-made corners of guilt and shame.

Bribes

For true-blue procrastinators, the promise of rewards and treats at the end of a project simply won’t work. We may admire other people who are wired to work first and play later, to eat vegetables first and dessert later.

If you’re not wired that way, be honest with yourself. Until lightning strikes and your personality is permanently altered, you’ll eat the cookie before the project is done, every time.

Don’t make the chocolate chips (or molasses or peanut butter) your writing motivation in the first place.

Positively Proactive

That said, there’s still good news. At least three strategies have worked for me, and they can transform your inner world of writing as well!

1. Develop a sense of curiosity

Always be aware of the general topic for your next writing project. Think of questions, as well as questions your readers might ask, when you’re out driving and shopping, and when you’re busy at home with chores and yard work.

Keep a mental list, or carry a small pad to jot down notes throughout the day. When you have ideas to play with instead of a blank slate, the keyboard and computer screen lose much of their terror. (Remember, yesterday’s questions are today’s paragraph topics!)

Follow this strategy to keep your mind active, and you’ll hardly be able to keep yourself from sitting down and writing.

2. Develop a routine

Set a certain time of day to write, and ask your family to keep you accountable.

If you have an inconsistent schedule (bedtimes and waking up and mealtimes in a daily state of flux), that’s okay. Even a simple routine, such as reviewing your writing topic each morning and choosing the next day’s project before falling asleep at night, can be a powerful tool.

3. Keep a “success” list in a prominent place

This is not your to-do list! Only keep track of writing projects you’ve actually finished. Don’t forget to include several ostentatious checkmarks, stickers, or smiley faces.

Constantly refer back, remembering all you’ve accomplished. You might have heard that completing tasks can trigger endorphin release in your brain; whether or not that’s true, the knowledge of success is a delicious feeling.

Every project you finish will motivate you to move forward and complete more tasks. Let the race begin!

Samuel Johnson said: “A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.” We can all use more discipline in our lives, but I believe that curiosity and wonder, time for planning and pondering, and celebration of our achievements are all valuable habits in their own right.

Your Turn!

What do you think? How you overcome procrastination? Share your favorite tips below!

Thanks to Daniella Dautrich for joining us as a guest blogger. Daniella is a homeschool graduate and WriteShop alumna. A happily married writer and homemaker, she blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

 Photos: Jimi Glide and Karen Lee, courtesy of Creative Commons

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

 

Paint chip stories

palate

MOMS LOVE summertime writing activities that are creative, stress-free, and fun. Here’s one idea you can try today.

Paint Chip Stories

Paint chip samples often have interesting names. Some of these names are so descriptive, they could become elements in a story! Take a quick trip to the hardware store and pick up a handful of paint chips. Then, using the paint chips as inspiration, invite your kids to write some clever stories.

The list below also contains actual names of paint colors. If you can’t make it to the paint department, simply have each child choose five paint chip names from the list and write a descriptive story using all five. Alternatively, visit My Perfect Color to browse through the amazing selection of paint chip names and pick five favorites as a story springboard.

Example: Copper Mountain, Tent, Campground, Moon, Happy Camper

Painted Sky
Tropical Holiday
Wheat Field
Gentle Rain
Baked Scone
Pebble Path
Garden Wall
Tent
Icicle
Calm Air
Scotland Road
Moon
Cloudy Day
Cup of Cocoa
Puddle
Early Morning
Vibrant
Rain-washed
Ballerina Gown
Candlelight
Happy Camper
Secret Garden
Copper Mountain
Heirloom Lace
Scroll
Parakeet
Campground
Sandstorm
Cozy Cottage
Koala Bear
Pool
Treasures
Sunlight
Splashing

Your Turn

Share five paint color names you would use in a story. For added fun, tell your story’s main idea!

Photo credit: Bob Mical, courtesy of Creative Commons. Used by permission.
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