I love writing. It’s one of my passions. And all of my children love writing too. They observe me sitting at the computer with my head down, in a world of my own, tapping away. Then:
“Hey! I’ve finished. Read this and let me know what you think.” I step back and the girls crowd in, eager to share what I have created. I watch their faces.
“What do you think? Is it OK?” I ask anxiously.
“I like how you…”
“Yeah, that’s really good!”
“I love it!”
I can always rely on my family!
My children have noticed how much I enjoy playing around with words. They have seen me jumping up and down with excitement when I have been successful in finding the right words to express my thoughts. And they have wanted to try too. They have wanted to write.
All my girls have their own blogs. I created mine, and then they decided they’d like to have blogs of their own too. It is great. We share so much.
“I can’t think what to write a blog post about, Mum. Any ideas?”
“What do you think, Mum? Do you think it makes sense? Does it have a central idea?”
“Oh! When did you write that? I’ve just discovered your new post. I love it!”
We are all very critical of our own work and very encouraging about each other’s.
We all want to improve our writing skills. And when I want to improve something, I usually visit the library or a shop and get hold of a book.
I have borrowed most of the how-to-write books in our library. My girls have borrowed a few too.
Last term Immy said, “Mum do you remember those writing exercises you did with the older kids some years ago? Could you do something like that with Charlotte and me, please?”
I remembered: I borrowed a library book. I think it was called Word Painting. It had lots of information about bringing writing alive, creating images in the minds of readers.
So the other week, I went away to search for a suitable book to use with Imogen and Charotte. I just happened to find the exact same book I used years ago (though I think most how-to-write books contain something worth sharing). And this is what we did:
I skimmed the book looking for sections the girls would find interesting and useful. (I don’t necessarily believe in wading through everything in a book, working through it in order.) Here’s what happened:
I read an interesting section out loud. I stopped every now and then and we discussed the ideas and tried out some examples.
I asked, “What writing exercise sounds appealing? Do you have some ideas?” The girls went away deep in thought. Soon they were tapping at their computers. Sometimes it was difficult to begin and a couple of times, Charlotte and I had to do some brainstorming. But her imagination soon moved into gear. Intense looks of concentration appeared on the girls’ faces as the words started to spill onto the computer screen. I could see they’d entered that other magical creative world.
A few days passed: “Are your stories finished? Do you want to share them?” And the girls hurried off to collect their netbooks and find the right file. I read their pieces out loud and we discussed as we went. We pointed out the bits that worked and tactfully made suggestions for improvements. The girls didn’t mind these suggestions. That is the whole point. We’re all working to improve our skills. Alterations were made until Imogen and Charlotte were satisfied with their work.
So far we have discussed such topics as active and passive verbs. We’ve described smells (have you ever tried to describe a smell?) and sounds and tastes, and abstract things like feelings and emotions. We’ve used specific nouns, added action to all our imagined scenes, and reduced our surplus words… We’ve ‘shown’ not ‘told’.
And when the stories are finished, the girls post them on their blogs.
I’ve noticed a few unschooling principles in action here:
Children learn a lot by sharing family passions. They are eager to try out things that they can see adults doing. It is quite OK to use books and do a ‘course’ of learning if that is what children want to do. My writing course was very amateurish but it fulfilled their needs and they had a lot of fun. And their writing turned into real work because they published their stories on their blogs. There is so much satisfaction gained from working on something that will ultimately be shared.
I have been working with Imogen and Charlotte who are 16 and 13, but I have written with the younger ones too. Years ago, Felicity wanted to write poetry and we spent a long time playing about with words together. She even entered a poetry competition and won a prize. But that is another story!
All the kids have had a lot of fun writing.
And that I think is the secret. Everyone has to want to get involved and to have fun. They have to want to write.
But if they see you writing and see how much fun you’re having, chances are they will want to write too!
Charlotte’s exercise, One Bar is Too Much Soap
, can be found on Charlotte’s Web
Update: 30th September 2012
As you can see, I wrote this post a little over a year ago, so I thought I’d bring you up to date with what’s been happening around here as far as writing goes.
We are all still writing!
We all took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November, and we were all winners. even Gemma-Rose who was 7 at the time. The girls participated in Script Frenzy in April and successfully wrote some stage play scripts, though I decided to give that challenge a miss. The older girls couldn’t get enough of NaNoWriMo and have been involved in two further novel writing camps so far this year. And November is almost here once again. We are all gearing up for it, planning our novels, getting excited… will we all be NaNoWriMo winners once again?
Earlier this year, Imogen (17) completed her first university unit: Introduction to University Learning. It is a unit designed to teach students the techniques they will need to successfully complete a tertiary degree.
One of the skills the students worked on was essay writing. Now I had never insisted Immy do any formal essay writing while homeschooling, but it didn’t matter at all. Her tutor told her that school essay writing is totally different to what is required at university level. Imogen was not at a disadvantage. She and all the school leavers were taught the correct and required way to write an essay as part of this introductory unit. Imogen soon learnt what she needed to know, and her tutor couldn’t find fault with her assignments. He said he wished all his students wrote as well as she did. (Now that isn’t a proud mother moment. It is shared with the intent to encourage any other unschoolers who don’t insist their children do formal structured English assignments!)
So what is Imogen doing at the moment? She has started a Bachelor of Arts degree: Professional Writing and Editing, and so far is enjoying herself immensely and doing well!
Some of my other writing posts:
A Few Deaths, an Epilogue and Heaps of English
A Novel Writing Adventure