Family is coming over! The house needs to be cleaned! Is the menu finalized and the shopping completed? Wait. And, I still need to teach my children?!?
Welcome to the homeschooling life! Sure, some moms will say, "We just take the whole week off." But, why? Why not use the natural excitement of an upcoming holiday to inspire more from your child? You can do this!
Thanksgiving can fill a busy schedule to the brim. I understand, but do not despair. There are plenty of independent (and fun!) writing activities your child can do this week.
Here are FIVE quick and easy writing ideas to spark your brain and inspire your young writer:
Write every day. Really?
The advice is common. Teachers encourage homeschooling parents to keep their children writing every day. However, the typical homeschooling mom runs out of ideas. Normal.
The good news is that others have already traveled the road you are on. Personally, I have succeeded and failed in this area. Let me share a successful writing method with you: The Quick Write - Summary Writing Practice
Every child is different they say. Well, the irony in my family is when all three of my boys were younger, they shared the same distaste for one subject in particular: WRITING! As a teacher and a mother, I often felt discouraged. Many times I wondered where I went wrong.
While some teachers cringe as distracting holidays grow closer, I like to embrace the moment and utilize it for good. Good writing, that is!
Halloween is upon us and if your little ghouls and goblins are having a hard time sitting still, start your day with, "Today we are learning all about CANDY!" It is a powerful word - CANDY - and should not be used lightly. So, be prepared to bring the candy out and have some eager learners by your side.
What better time to work with candy than Halloween? Instead of you having to go out and buy it, your kiddos will be bringing it home for your inspection. Perfect!
So, once you know the stash is good-to-go, try some of these ideas to incorporate candy and writing.
1. For younger children, start by having them alphabetize the different candy they collected.
2. For children a little older, with eyes closed, reach in and grab one candy. Write the letters on a piece of paper. How many words can you make? (For example, HERSHEY BAR: her, she, he, bars, yes, see, bear, etc.)
3. With empty wrappers, create a fun comic strip. I love this idea below from Our Thrifty Home.
4. Write a narrative story-telling-adventure from the perspective of a piece of candy. Where did he start, what did he see, what happened to him, and did he survive?!
5. Make a "Candy Board" with various candies. Use it to write out a story, make a yummy note for Dad, or cheer up a friend. Here is an example of one.
6. Develop a Facts and Opinion paragraph or essay on any candy of your choice. It can be a real eye opener to realize most of our arguments are often opinionated even though we know the facts are more convincing. (For example, there are both facts and opinions I can write about Three Musketeers. Facts: chocolate, sweet, fluffy center, made by Mars, etc. Opinions: delicious, best chocolate bar invented, satisfying, etc.)
7. Construct a Comparison and Contrast paragraph or essay on two different candies. Use a Venn Diagram as your graphic organizer.
8. Jot down you Halloween night escapade. This makes a perfect journal prompt on November 1st. And, best of all, you child is capturing his or her fun memories for you to keep.
Whatever you do, plan to have fun! Some of the happiest childhood memories are centered around fun holidays and celebrations. Drop the dread and have fun instead. It will be spooktacular, I'm sure.
There is something quite charming about the word gigglemug. Recently, I learned it is an old Victorian slang term for a person who always shared a ready smile and happy disposition with others. Well, there you have it, my goal is to be a gigglemug for life!
Something that put a smile on my face this weekend was making a new, and healthful, recipe. Sitting on my counter were four somewhat-old red apples. You know the kind: too soft for anyone to take a good, crisp crunch out of. Not wanting to toss them, I headed for my computer. Google led me straight to a low-carb version of Apple Dump Cake.
The steps were simple enough. Her recipe called for four cups of sliced apples, but I only had two. No worries. I just planned to cut the recipe in half. After coring, peeling, and slicing the apples, I put the dry ingredients together. Since I had no clue what Swerve was, but I did have unrefined, all-natural Coconut Sugar in the pantry, I substituted the two. Cinnamon Stevia? I'll have to get some of that! For the interim, I just used the unflavored Stevia I had on hand and dashed in some extra cinnamon powder for flavor.
After mixing the dry and wet ingredients together, I sprayed a loaf pan with coconut oil and dusted it with cinnamon sugar which I keep in a special shaker all its own. Smoothing it out as best I could, into the oven it went for 20-25 minutes. I'll say, it is not the prettiest cake or bread, but it was pretty tasty. My boys described it as a spongy, sweet apple bread. It paired beautifully with my dark roast coffee!
Well, that is just lovely, right? But, what does this have to do with writing?
Everything. And, you just read my journal entry, summary, or descriptive essay.
Life is always happening. Sometimes it is exciting and sometimes not. Some days are just simple. However, from all experiences, we likely have something to glean and something to share with others through writing.
Parents, as you inspire your child to write this week, think about the simple things that happened over your weekend. What were the details? How might you use those to create a fun writing assignment? And, perhaps most importantly, what made you and your children gigglemugs?
Is your child getting enough writing instruction and writing practice at home?
Since I do not believe a student can write "too much", I'm going to say most everyone can step up his or her writing game. For starters, all students should write, in some way, every single day.
Fifteen minutes of additional writing per day will substantially improve the quality of your child's writing ability. Just 15 minutes for grades third through eighth. So, if you normally spend ten minutes a day requiring your child to write, increase that to 25 minutes. By the end of the year, you will see a remarkable improvement. Be honest, are you not writing every day? Well, on those "non-writing" days, add 15 minute writing activities. Trust me, it is a wise use of your time.
There is plenty of research to back me up on this, too. Sure, many of us may disagree on how to teach the best writing lessons, but we can all agree that students must write to improve their writing abilities . And, honestly, today’s students are not writing enough.
Oh, of course, there will be griping and whining - probably on both the student and the parent side of things. However, better swimmers swim for hours and better runners run for miles. It is the practice that precipitates improvement.
And, before I sign off, it would benefit us all to understand why daily writing is so important. Dr. Steve Graham has done plenty of research and enough writing of his own to authoritatively state that more writing results in better reading comprehension. As well, frequent and consistent writers increase their ability to both learn and retain information. Aren't those things we all want for our children?
Get creative, have fun, and increase your child's writing at home this week. Do you need ideas? I can help. Visit me at www.writeonwebb.com.
In the 1970's and 1980's, I spent my school days sitting in a wraparound school desk with a metal bin below my seat for my heavy, brown paper-bag-covered books and Pee-Chee folders. For most of the seven hours in a school day, I sat peering over another child's head transfixed on the green chalkboard and the lecturing teacher in front of me. Or, of course, I may have been silently completing my busy-work on purple-inked, dittoed worksheets. It sounds terrible, I know, but I loved it. School was my thing. I was a high-achiever and people-pleaser. My impeccable attendance was demonstrative of my love for the traditional classroom. Didn't everyone feel this way?
Clearly, not all students did. Can you relate?
The biggest differences between then and now are a whole lot of options from which to choose. Classroom education has come a long, wonderful way, but so has the option of homeschooling our children. Both can be done exceptionally well.
Just as the classroom model worked well for my mode of learning, the homeschool model works beautifully for others. As a teacher, I have had the privilege of experiencing both platforms. For 13 years I taught elementary aged students in a small, lovely neighborhood school. For 13 years, I have also supported families choosing to homeschool with the accountability component of having me, a credentialed teacher, oversee their program. And, yes, of course I had to homeschool our own sons at some point, right?! Right! There are numerous, valuable things I learned and loved about all of the teaching experiences I had with other's children and my own. But, what I love most is that I had the freedom of choice.
There are plenty of strong-minded people who can make compelling arguments on both sides of the educational coin; however, the choice is not only personal: it depends on the individual child. That is truly the catalyst to spark any decision a family may make.
So, whether your child sits facing a Smart Board in her neighborhood classroom or on a beanbag in the family room reading from her Kindle, it is critical we teach and learn how to live life in a way that makes us most proud of the choices we have made for our children and ourselves.
It is my assumption we might all like to hear our children someday say, "School was my thing, and I loved it." With the freedom of choice, hard work, and the support of others, we have every chance to make that happen.
For any educational encouragement, lesson ideas, or writing inspiration, please visit me at Write On! Webb
Poor kid. All she wants to do is tell a story or explain an idea. However, every clause is critiqued - every sentence scrutinized.
Sometimes it is perfectly okay to let our children express themselves for the sake of sharing their thoughts. How liberating!
One writing activity my boys didn't fight me on was the "Paired-Shared Journal" we did. It never got "corrected"!
Here is how it works. A parent grabs a notebook or composition book. She writes the first entry. Simple.
One year I wrote on our first day of school, "Derek, if you could learn about anything you wanted this year, what would it be and why?" I left the crisp, glossy notebook on his desk. The assignment was to write back to me within 24 hours. As I recall, Derek's response was all about squirrels (spelled squerrels). I had no idea he was intrigued by squirrels! Not only did I get a little peek into my son's passions, but I started the ball rolling. Certainly, by later studying squirrels, I had a perfect opportunity to teach the correct spelling, too, but that came later.
He would leave our journal by my bedside after he wrote it in each day. By morning, he would find it once again on his desk. After he responded all about squirrels, I asked more questions. At times, he asked questions. As the year progressed, our topics did as well. Sometimes things got personal. Derek quickly learned this was a quiet, safe place for us to "talk". When his older brother hurt his feelings, he wrote to me about that. By the end of the year, I had captured far more than writing lessons. These now worn, dull, bended pages remind me of a time and a boy who was once nine-years-old and loved bushy-tailed rodents. Priceless.
Pair up with your child this year and make your own "Paired-Shared Journal". Your child has some great ideas and thoughts to share. Discover them.
1. Plan some fun for the whole family. ✅
2. Clean, reorganize, or complete a project needing attention at home. ✅
3. Spend time in the fresh outdoors on a daily basis. ✅
4. Spend overdue time with friends or family members. ✅
5. Read a book (or listen to one) purely for enjoyment. ✅
6. Take pictures and journal your summer memories. ✅
7. Sleep in or stay up late... or both!✅
8. Spend time in cool waters while enjoying the warm sun. ✅
9. Serve others. ✅
10. Find inspiration, wisdom, and advice intended to rejuvenate, prepare, and excite you for a new school year.
At the start of any summer, I just jump in feet first with the top nine "to-dos" on my SUMMER checklist. Quickly, I begin enjoying the change of pace and scenery of my life. The kids are home and so am I.
Midway through July, I begin to get antsy about a new school year - new lessons - new ideas - new opportunities - new students - new families - a new season.
While I am still in a relaxed mood, with my journal by my side and coffee in my hand, I like to read books, blogs, and posts by moms and teachers who inspire me to get creative and who breathe new, fresh motivation into me.
Since I'm still in "vacation-mode", it doesn't feel like work, but I know it is working on my heart and mind equipping me for what is to come: THE BEST YEAR EVER!
Please don't underestimate the positive power that other moms can provide in your life. Let's talk. Let's share. Let's grow. Together we are MomStrong! www.facebook.com/groups/118470985432746/
Want to join me? If you have a favorite inspirational book for moms, or for educators of all kinds; perhaps a great daily devotional, or anything that sparks your fire, please share it in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The book images above are personal choices and not affiliates of mine.
Whether midway through elementary school, or well into the middle school years, there are four common mistakes many students make when writing for any academic assignment.
Mistake #1: He didn't understand the writing prompt.
Poor guy. He felt prepared, got a good night's sleep, and even had a healthy breakfast. Yet, when he read, "Using evidence from the following articles, construct several explanatory paragraphs in your expository essay," he was lost. Students today are expected to know the differences between expository, persuasive, descriptive and narrative writing styles.
Mistake #2: She didn't organize her thoughts before writing.
Can you blame her? The stress of writing a five paragraph essay can be overwhelming to most 12 year olds. Most young writers just want to jump in and start writing. However, an organized paper makes all the difference. What is the main idea? How can that be supported? Was it wrapped up in the end? These simple organization skills can make writing easier, too. Much like Google Maps, knowing the correct direction can make all the difference in getting there.
Mistake #3: He didn't read his own work once he finished.
Done! And, he's out of there. So many young writers simply can't wait to be finished writing. Once the pencil stops, they think the process is over. However, so many kiddos could improve greatly simply by reading what they wrote. Was something left out or incorrectly spelled? Did that sentence even make sense? When students learn to read and revise their very own work it empowers them as writers.
Mistake #4: She isn't using academic vocabulary.
"Cool" is just easier to spell than "intriguing", right? That is what many students will say. Students are incorrect in thinking that properly spelling common and boring words is more important than misspelling a more academic and interesting word. The fact is strong vocabulary choices take writing to a whole new, more mature level.
Yes, it is a lot to learn. Yes, it takes a good deal of valuable instruction. Yes, it needs to be consistent. Yes, young writers need encouragement and personal feedback. Yes, there is help for anyone thinking, "My child needs better writing instruction."
Would you like to claim your child's seat for my next online writing course? I can help.
Author: Melissa Webb
CA Credentialed Teacher