Tag Archives: homeschool

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.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day will be a little different for us. We usually celebrate it by making or preparing Valentines during the day, then surprising each other with them at suppertime. Our grandma comes over for a special meal, and we end the day with a lot of chocolate.

This year, however, my husband will be working late, so the kids and I have been wondering what to do. The consensus is that we’ll have a special Valentine’s Day snack instead of a supper during the few minutes in the afternoon he can come home so he won’t miss it. And we’ll still end the day with chocolate. 🙂

There are lots of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find picture books at the library about St. Valentine, or look up information about him online. Share his story with your children.
  • Spend some time baking together!  Make Valentine’s Day treats from scratch with your kids. You can find all sorts of recipes to try at KidsCookingActivities.com and Kaboose.com.
  • Decorate a room in your house – Cut out paper hearts and tape them around the room. Our favorite room is our kitchen, and the paper hearts are going up all over the windows. Have the kids write messages on the hearts or the names of the people they love.
  • Create homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors.
  • Make valentines to share with the residents of the local nursing home or for children in the hospital.
  • Write a letter to a friend you don’t see very often.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

Seeing the Problem More Clearly

For much of her later elementary years, my fifth-grade daughter has not enjoyed “school.” While she has always loved hands-on projects and field trips, completing workbook exercises or reading assignments has been a tedious chore both for her and myself.

“Mom,” she would say as I was helping her younger brother, “I don’t get it. I neeeeed heeellllppp!”

“Wait a minute,” I’d reply. “Do what you can, and I’ll help you in just a minute.”

“But I can’t do it!” she’d continue to insist until I gave in. And just as I was in the middle of explaining the math concept, she’d interrupt with “I don’t understand!”

“I didn’t finish yet,” I would answer, trying to keep my cool. And we’d start again. And again. And again. She would fuss, and I’d become frustrated. And so have gone many of our school days for the past two and a half years.

Reading hasn’t been much better. I still have her read aloud to me, and while she knows most of the words and only has to sound out a few, she doesn’t read as much as I would like. And she certainly doesn’t read for pleasure.

But I think we’ve finally found the answer. As it turns out, a recent thorough eye exam revealed that she’s farsighted, and while she could make her eyes focus on her school books, she had to really strain to do so. The result: tired eyes, frequent headaches, and a dislike of reading.

It’s often hard for parents to know when a child needs that extra help, especially if your child isn’t in a regular classroom setting. I remember trying to look at the black board when I was in 9th grade, and squinting very hard to see it. That was my big clue that I needed glasses. But I’m nearsighted, and from what I’ve read, farsightedness is less obvious. Farsighted children tend to make their eyes focus anyway, straining their eyes and sometimes even crossing them to get the job done.

Well, now we know. The struggles I used to credit to my child’s  personality were actually due to poor vision. But now we’re both looking forward to a good second semester. 🙂

New Year’s Around the World

No matter if we’re home together or visiting other family members, we usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve with games, snacks, movies, fireworks, and of course, staying up until midnight. This year, as we get ready for the festivities, we thought it would be interesting to find out how the rest of the world welcomes the new year. Here’s what we discovered:

In England, New Year’s Eve customs are quite similar to our own here in America. Many people celebrate with parties either in their homes, restaurants, or pubs with friends and family. They also watch fireworks displays, and at midnight sing “Auld Lang Syne”. They count down with the clock and toast the new year. Sound familiar? It did to my kids!

But here are some other things we learned:

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, and it’s an evening full of traditions. One of the customs is called first footing, or being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. This “first footer” will bring all the luck of the coming year with him, but there are some criteria he must meet. Ideally, he will be tall and handsome with dark hair, but he cannot be a doctor, a minister, or a grave digger. It’s also traditional for the first footer to carry a lump of coal to signify life, comfort, and warmth, along with a cake to represent prosperity.

Omisoko, New Year’s Eve in Japan, is one of the country’s most important holidays, coming second only New Year’s Day. Buckwheat noodles, called toshikoshi soba, are eaten to ensure longevity and prosperity. Families gather to watch the Red and White Song Festival, a television program that features singers whose songs were popular during the year. As the clock approaches midnight, many people visit the shrines and temples. Getting up to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day is another important tradition, as viewing the first sunrise is considered a good and proper start to the new year. Popular foods for New Year’s Day include fish, fish eggs attached to seaweed, black beans, and kelp. New Year’s postcards sent to friends and family are delivered on New Year’s Day, and children receive monetary gifts in special envelopes.

In Mexico, Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated by decorating homes in red ( improved lifestyle and love), yellow (blessings and good employment), white (improved health), and green (improved financial situations). Families often celebrate with a late-night dinner of turkey and mole. If Mexican sweet bread is served, it was usually baked with a coin or charm inside the dough. It’s tradition that whoever receives the piece with the coin  will have good luck in the coming year. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten — one at a time with each chime of the bell – and a wish is made with each one.

People ring in the New Year in so many different ways! What interesting New Year’s traditions do you have in your family?

 

Photo by Matthew Hull

Late for Christmas?

I envisioned this December much differently. We would finish up with schoolwork early in the month, then sit back and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. We’d spend a day baking cookies for a friend’s cookie swap party, work on Christmas crafts together, look at the  various holiday light shows, and make some handmade gifts. And I would actually get my Christmas cards out on time this year.

But like everything else lately, Christmas hasn’t come like I thought it would. Our tree still isn’t up. The house isn’t decorated. We haven’t been out to look at the lights. I didn’t make any gifts. And I can’t even seem to locate our advent calendar.

Just days after we arrived home from a Thanksgiving visit with family, my oldest daughter had to go into the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Though my husband was able to get time off so we could take turns sitting with her, things at home fell further behind. It’s as if I’ve spent the last week or so just trying to catch up — trying not to be late for Christmas.

But it’s never too late to consider the real meaning of Christmas. That amid the hustle and bustle of holiday “have-tos”, the reason for the celebration is still there — the birth of Jesus, God’s Son come to earth.

And while we can remind ourselves, we can remind our children, too. Snuggle on the couch and read a Christmas story book. Set up (and even play with) a nativity scene together. Help them wrap a gift for a needy child in your church or neighborhood.  Talk about what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men as your driving in the car.

So even if the mistletoe isn’t up, the stockings aren’t hung, and the lights aren’t blinking on the lawn, you’re not late for Christmas; any time we think about God’s wondrous gift is the right time.

Fun in the Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it always goes by way too fast. If you’re like me, and the new school year of lessons, projects, and activities have kept you busy, here are a few ways you can take a moment (or a day) to step back and enjoy the season with your children:

Crafts:

My kids love crafts – and I do, too! While you may have thought of doing leaf rubbings, here are a few sites with even more ideas:

Family Fun – On this site, you’ll find thanksgiving cards, a leaf mobile, and more great ideas for fall.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts –  Crafts on this site include an autumn tree collage, pumpkin lollipops, a paper bag scarecrow, and apple stamping.

The Crafty Crow –  with links to other craft sites, at The Crafty Crwo you’ll find directions for creating a leaf picture alphabet, melted crayon autumn leaves, a plastic bottle owl, and marbled shaving cream autumn leaves.

At Danielle’s Place, you’ll find plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving, including  several paper plate turkey and a turkey potholder.

 

Picture Books:

When the weather becomes a little cooler, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up together with a good picture book. Here are a few of our fall favorites:

Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Countdown to Fall by Fran Hawk

 

Our family also has a few favorite activities we love to do year after year. They include: pumpkin picking, apple picking, attending fall festivals, having backyard picnics, and flying kites. This fall, we’re also going to explore a corn maze and cook up some yummy desserts. What does  your family  do to celebrate fall?

A Picture is Worth…a Lot!

Today, we visited with some new friends from our co-op. And during that visit, I was encouraged to move our photos off of the hard drive to places where everyone could enjoy them.

The family we were with reminds me so much of my own — about five years ago. Their young children, ages 2 – 9,  are always running, shouting, and laughing; it was so much fun to watch. As my friend showed me around the house, I saw some of the neat ways they’ve commemorated holidays, trips, and  occasions with their photographs  — things similar to those I used to do before life became so hectic. So, if time seems to be flying by for you, too, take a day or two or three, and try creating some of these special reminders:

  •  Instead of  just saving your family photos on the computer, display them with a digital photo frame. Some frames have a place for a thumbdrive, so you can easily change out the photos you display. Our friends have separate thumb drives for Christmas pictures (displayed during the holidays), vacation pictures (displayed before they go on vacation again), birthday pictures (showing all the birthday parties of a particular child), etc.
  • Decorate a frame: Buy an inexpensive photo or collage frame for your favorite holiday or vacation pictures. If it’s not the color you want,  paint it with some inexpensive craft acrylic paints. Hot glue fun reminders to the frame: sea shells, ticket stubs, small ornaments, etc.
  • Create a photo book: You can arrange your digital prints in a photo book in which you can add your own captions and text. These are available online at sites such as Snapfish or Blurb, or at local drugstores as well. You’re book can focus on one event or a whole year of events. You could even create a book for your child of photos they took themselves.
  • Display a scrapbook page: If you’re like me, you love scrapbooking but don’t have much free time to do it. Instead, try arranging some photos on just one page, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
Sometimes, when I mention to the kids something that we did when they were little, they don’t remember. But with photos available for the viewing anytime, I know they won’t forget!

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!