Tag Archives: high school

Writing Opportunities for Teens

With a group of ambitious teens in one of my co-op writing classes, I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities for them to stretch their creative wings. If you have a young person who likes to write, here are a few outlets you might consider:

Writing Conferences – Sometimes writing conferences, such as Write2Ignite!, offer workshops for teens as well. This month, the classes at Write2Ignite! will be taught by author Vonda Skelton and graphic novelist Chris Schweizer. They’ll cover everything from creating characters, plotting your story, writing good dialogue, and illustrating your own graphic novel.

Publications – There are several publications both online and in print that are looking for teen authors. Here are a few of them:

  • DevoKids.com – This online devotional site for children features devotionals, recipes, and articles written by both adults and students.
  • Devozine – A devotional print magazine is written for teens – by teens. Students may submit devotions and poetry based on a theme.
  • New Moon Girls – This print magazine for girls features articles, stories, and artwork by girls ages 8 and up. Issues center around a theme.
  • Skipping Stones – An international magazine for students ages 8 – 16, Skipping Stones features essays, stories, letters to the editor, proverbs, and riddles, as well as artwork and photography.
  • Stone Soup – Written by kids, this features poetry, fiction, book reviews, and artwork by students up to age 13.
  • TeenInk – This magazine and website work with teens to publish their writing, art, and photos.

Self-Publishing – This year, some of my students participated in National Novel Writing Month. So, after a few more months of polishing their work, we’re going to self-publish them.

  • Lulu.com – This is the site we’re going to use. It’s simple to do, and we can keep the books as a private project so only family and friends can order them.
  • CreateSpace.com -This is Amazon’s self-publishing company and easy to use as well.

Advertise It!

Here’s a creative writing assignment that works well for both individuals and groups of students. I assigned this one to the students in my writing class at co-op, and it was a lot of fun – for them and for me!

The lesson in the writing curriculum we’re using focused on exaggeration in advertising and how words can persuade and influence us. We started out the class by looking through newspaper ads, picking out key phrases such as “One-of-a-Kind”, “Today Only”, and “Essential”. We discussed our favorite infomercials and other television commercials, and how the words used in those ads convince a lot of people (hopefully not us!) to buy the product.

Then it was time to get to work creating their own advertisements. Instead of promoting a product, though, the students promoted a place – a real tourist attraction in the U.S. For classwork, they advertised the Forty-Acre Rock in South Carolina.

The 40-Acre Rock is actually only 14 acres, and the visit consists of a moderately-strenuous hike to a large rock. Sadly, some of the rock has been covered with graffiti. I handed each student a sheet of paper with the basic facts of the attraction: a small beaver pond, the hike, free parking, no restrooms, wildlife in the area, and the big rock. From those facts, they were to write a short paragraph convincing travelers to stop by.

It didn’t take long for them to come up with some great ads! They then took turns reading them out loud in class. And though they all had the same facts to start with, each ad was unique!

Their homework was just as much fun. I provided the students with a list of unusual places to write about, and each student chose one, looked up information about it, and wrote an ad to entice tourists. Here’s what was on our list:

Carhenge (Nebraska)

The Seattle Gum Wall (Washington)

The Corn Palace (South Dakota)

The Barbed Wire Museum (Kansas)

The National Museum of Funeral History (Texas)

The Tree that Owns Itself (Georgia)

The kids had no problems reading their ads out to the class the following week. And in the process, we all discovered some places we’d like to visit – or not! 🙂

 

Photo by Kevin Rosseel

Teaching Poetry

This month, my junior high/senior high writing class is participating in the Young Writer’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Because they’re busy at home typing out their novels, I decided to use our class time to talk about another form of creative writing: poetry.

Now, my poetry consists primarily of rhyming poems that children would enjoy. But, since poetry is much more than that, I decided to look online for some extra help in teaching the subject. And I found some really great lessons.

One of the best sites I came across is PBS.org. Here, you’ll find a great page to introduce students to poetry. With Rules, Tools, and Form,  you’ll cover what differentiates a poem from other literary works, as well as a summary of why tools and rules are important in writing poetry.

From there, you’ll be directed to two more helpful links: Poetic Forms and Examples and Poetry Devices and Examples. Print out the page of Poetic Forms and Examples for your students, and they’ll have examples in hand of various types of poems, including acrostics, haikus, tankas, couplets, cinquains, limericks, diamonte poems, proverbs, shape poems, rap, and free verse. The page also contains the “rules” so students can create their own.

On the Poetry Devices and Examples page, you’ll find information about and examples of similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration, hyperbole, symbolism, onomatopoeia, idioms, puns, lyrics, feet, meter, rhythm, and mood. This page, like the Poetry Forms page, is clearly laid out and easy for both teacher and student to use.

These three pages proved to be a perfect introduction to our poetry unit. For a class without any true poets (myself included), these pages take the mystery out of writing poetry and turn it into something fun that everyone can do.

 

Photo by earl53

It’s a Novel Idea!

It’s that time of year again!  Time for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, authors and would-be authors from all over the world pursue a common goal: to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The official website, http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/, provides tips, tools, and support for those who want to participate.

What does that have to do with a homeschooling mom who’s already overcommitted with teaching her kids, driving them to activities, managing schedules, maintaining the home, volunteering, and the myriad of other things she has to do? While I do know of a few homeschooling parents who have actually completed, or “won”, NaNoWriMo (go, Moms!), what’s even more exciting to me is that the NaNoWriMo challenge is available for students – from elementary all the way through high school.

The NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program begins on November 1 and ends on November 30. During that time, students of all ages are challenged to write a novel, with you, as the teacher, establishing the word count goal.

Sound like a great idea, but you don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – the website provides all the resources you’ll need to get your child started – free! There you’ll find workbooks designed for elementary, middle, and high school students. These books take the young writers step-by-step in developing ideas for their stories, so that when November 1 comes around, they’ll be ready to write.

This year, my high school–level creative writing class will be participating together. They’re a little nervous, but they’re also very excited. As we work through the workbook together this month, they’ll be forming their characters, establishing a setting, and creating a plot. They’ll learn about brainstorming, using description, and writing dialogue. And in December, they’ll be learning about revision.

Do you have a child interested in writing? The NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program may be just the thing to get him started. Who knows, maybe you’ll write your novel, too!

Art Contests for Kids

 

There are a lot of art contests for kids online, and homeschoolers are encouraged to enter them as well.  Our school days at home are fairly relaxed, so contests provide some healthy structure to our work. By participating in a contest, children have a definite goal a deadline to meet. They also recognize the need to present their very best work, even if it means re-doing something that’s already completed. If they win, they experience the thrill of victory, and if they don’t, they learn how to take defeat in stride to try again another day. They learn, as Henry Ford stated, that “failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”  (Love those “failure/success” quotes!)

If you’d like to encourage your child to enter an art contest, here are a few to check out:

  • Constitution Day Poster Contest – This contest for ages 3 -12 celebrates the U.S. Consitution. Children are to create an 8 ½” x 11” poster showing how they have benefited from the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. A fun and creative contest, but you have to hurry – the deadline for submitting entries is October 1.
  • Teachers Against Prejudice is sponsoring an art contest for students in grades 1-4. The theme for the artwork this year is “Sharing Cultures.” Entries must be submitted by October 15.
  • This is My Math Art Contest sponsored by McGraw-Hill is for students in grades K-5. Young artists are to illustrate “What math means to me” and enter their work by October 29.
  • NRA Youth Wildlife Art Contest – Have a wildlife artist in your family? If she’s 18 or under, she can enter this contest with her best drawing or painting of an animal. The deadline is November 1.
  • Smilemakers Pearcasso Art Contest – If your child likes to play with his food at mealtime, this may be the perfect contest for him! Artists ages 5-18 are to create their artwork with pears! Entries must be sent by November 15.
  • Decide to Drive Poster Contest – For students in grades 5-8, this contest focuses on the importance of driving without distractions. Entries must be sent by November 15.
  • Frogs are Green Art Contest – Kids ages 3 – 12 are invited to enter this contest focusing on green living. The deadline for submissions is November 30.

A Little Help, Please

Tomorrow is our first official day of co-op, when all four of my children will have classes to attend. We joined the co-op two years ago, and it’s worked out well for our family. We’ve found friends there who could help us with our homeschooling adventure, and friend whom we could help out as well.

When we first started, my oldest son John was entering the eighth grade and my youngest was starting kindergarten.  While I still felt fairly confident about teaching the eighth grade curriculum, I knew I would have less time to spend with him now that all of the kids had lessons to do. His classes at co-op consisted of Geography and Physical Science, and he did well in both. He learned how to manage his time, keep up with assignments, and study for tests. The next year was even more challenging as he took Geometry, Biology, and World Literature.

This year, as he enters the tenth grade, he’ll be taking Algebra II, Chemistry, and American Literature. While I can help him with his homework, I’m not certain I could see him through the math and science courses successfully. But fortunately, there are other moms who can.

Part of the requirement at our co-op is that at least one parent from each family takes on a role, whether its in teaching a class, organizing activities, or helping clean up the facilities. This year, I’ll be teaching two writing classes and an art class. I love to edit the students’ papers and try new art projects, something that isn’t easy for some moms. So while we’re receiving help in some areas, we’re able to give help in others.

If you’re not part of a co-op but are overwhelmed with so much to teach, here are a couple of things you can try:

  • Contact other homeschoolers in your area and find out what their interests or strengths are.  Ask if they would be interested in teaching a class in a home or at a local church. You could either pay the teacher or perhaps trade off by teaching another subject yourself.
  • See if there are any upper level high school students who would be willing to tutor your child in a particular subject. Often high schoolers can do the work but charge a much lower rate than a traditional tutor.

We’ve homeschooled all of our children since kindergarten, but I’m not sure if we could have done it alone. So if you find yourself needing some assistance, don’t hesitate to ask. As they say, we can all use a little help sometime. 🙂

Lacking Confidence?

This past week, my 15-year-old went to the DMV to take the written test for a beginner’s driving permit. His birthday was at the beginning of August, so he had been asking me for a couple of weeks when we could go, so as soon as we had all the paperwork together, we went. But the night before we planned to go, his attitude suddenly changed.

“We don’t have to go tomorrow,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked. “You’ve been asking and asking to go.”

“I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

“Sure, you’re ready. You’ve been studying the driver’s manual, haven’t you? And, even if you fail the test, so what? You can always try again.”

“I’m just not ready,” he replied.

“You can’t get your permit if you don’t try,” I said. I was starting to get a little frustrated. During the past few weeks, I’ve been juggling a lot of the kids’ activities, trying to get everyone where they needed to be when they needed to be there. We had set aside this particular time for him to get the permit. I didn’t want to re-figure the whole schedule.

Though he wasn’t convinced, off we went, my son very nervous and myself just glad we were going. He took the test and came out of the DMV a proud owner of a driving permit.

I’d like to say that the lack of confidence has only been on his part, but lately, I can really relate. As we start another school year, I’ve been reassessing how we’ve been doing and what needs to change. But sometimes, I’m just not sure. There are so many opportunities available; which ones should we make time for? What activities are the best ones to be involved in? Are we getting too involved in extra programs? Should we stay home more? Are we spending enough time with the books? Are we spending enough time as a family?

There’s no single answer to the questions, as every child is different, their needs are different, and family dynamics are different. And for us right now, I don’t even have an answer. We’re trying a sports program for my daughter that’s requiring a lot of time and a lot of travel, but she loves it. Yet as our co-op gets ready to begin, so do the big assignments, and I know we’ll have to start working on those for the majority of each day. So as we begin a new year, I’m thinking, like my son, “I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

But like my son, even if I fail, so what? I can always try again. And I can keep trying until I find what works. After all,  that’s one of the reasons why we started homeschooling in the first place.

And as for my confidence as a homeschooling parent? I’m thinking that might come after they’ve all graduated…or made it through college…or have families of their own…or maybe just through a lot of prayer! 🙂

 

Photo by karlzbobarlz

 

Homeschool Reporting Online

 

As it is with traditional school teachers, record-keeping is a necessary part of the homeschooling parent’s job. But, if you’re like me, keeping detailed and accurate records (especially for my high school student and all his extra activities) may be something you have to work at. Fortunately, there’s now website available to make record-keeping much easier. It’s HomeschoolReportingOnline, and it’s just the tool I was looking for.

HomeschoolReportingOnline can be used by umbrella groups, co-ops, and individual families. There is a small annual fee for the service ($20 per year), but the services the site offers are well-worth the price. Through the site you can record grades, standardized test scores, and lesson plans, as well as keep track of attendance for the year. You can also maintain a detailed account of extracurricular activities for a student portfolio, such as scout awards, music performances, athletic events, and community service. And for those in high school, the site will even generate transcripts as they begin to apply to various colleges.

And the site is so easy to use! After logging in, you’ll be directed to a page featuring a quick overview of all of your students.  At the top of the page you’ll find links for editing your information, including your family and student information. You’ll also find a link for setting up the school years; I used this to pre-plan what courses my children will be taking in the years ahead, especially for my high school student.

Under each student’s name are more links for keeping track of their individual records. And there are how-to videos for everything you need to do, including setting up the school year, adding students, adding grades, and using the forms.

If you’re looking to reorganize/regroup your records for the new school year, check out this site. It might just be what you’ve been looking for too!

 

Photo by Jane Sawyer

 

Creative Collages

This year in our co-op classes, I have been teaching a senior high art class. We’ve worked on some interesting and challenging projects, but as the year comes to a close, I wanted to do some things that would be a little less time-consuming and really fun. One of those projects was creating collages.

The best part about collages is that children (and adults!) of any age can do it. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

  • Canvas (we used stretched canvases, 11″ x 14″)
  • Acrylic Paint (we used craft acrylics)
  • Paint Brushes
  • Sponge Brush
  • Cup with Water to clean brushes
  • Paper Towels for clean up
  • Newspaper for covering the table
  • Modge Podge (found at craft stores)
  • Items for a Collage: old game pieces or playing cards, coins, beads, dried or pressed flowers, fabric or lace scraps, old CD’s, words cut from magazines or newspapers, magazine or calendar pictures, old photos, silk flowers or leaves, broken crayons or pencils, dry pasta or rice, flower seeds, twigs, feathers, etc.

To create the collage:

1. Make a plan!  Help your child decide on a “theme” for his collage. The theme could be anything: animals, dogs, cats, space, nature, holidays, music, scouting, etc.  For example, one of my students created a collage with a meadow theme using dried flowers; another did a Biblical theme using a favorite scripture.

2. Paint the Canvas — Using the acrylic paints and paintbrushes, give your collage some background color. You can also paint the edges of the canvas for a finished look.

3. When the paint is dry (you can use a hairdryer to speed up this process), arrange the items you’re using for the collage on the canvas. Decide where each one will go.

4. With your sponge brush, dip into the jar of Modge Podge. This product works both as a glue and a varnish. Put some on the underside of your item and place it on the canvas (for larger, 3-dimensional items, you will need to use more). Then add more to the top, especially items that are very thin, such as pressed flowers or paper. Although the Modge Podge will appear white or cloudy, it will dry clear.

5. Go over the rest of your canvas with the Modge Podge for a uniform, glossy look.

That’s it!  Let it dry for a day or so (depending on how much Modge Podge you used), hang it on the wall, and enjoy!

The Homeschool Ball

This past month, our co-op sponsored a homeschool ball,  and this was our first year attending. And I have to say, it was a lot different than a typical high school prom.

We didn’t attend the ball last year because I thought it was only intended for high school students, and at the time my oldest was in 8th grade. But this dance is for the whole family! The high school students do receive special recognition, but everyone can enjoy the evening together.

As with any formal dance, the kids dressed up — boys in suits and ties, girls in formal dresses. My girls especially enjoyed this part, as they donned their prettiest dresses and had a friend fix their hair. Preparations also involved putting together a couple of dishes, as all of the families pulled together to provide enough food for the evening.

The dance itself was a lot of fun — English country line dancing. The instrumental music consisted of a keyboard and a violin player. A caller taught everyone the steps to each dance before it began, then called them out again as the dance progressed. The whole atmosphere was  casual and relaxed, as girls took off their shoes to dance without falling, older students danced with younger siblings, and friends danced with friends.

My children all danced every dance — all of them, including 7-year-old Luke! He and I were often partners, although he sometimes danced with his sisters as well. As we went through the dance, I would listen to the caller then tell him what to do, and he caught on very quickly. Who would have thought?

No, it wasn’t your typical school dance, and I was so glad! It was an evening of good, wholesome, family fun — one of those memory-making moments that remind you just why you’re homeschooling after all. 🙂