TOUCHDOWN: Writing Out-of-the-Box

As a homeschooler, thinking (and living) out-of-the-box is nothing new for me. I seem to live my life in search of unique ways to bring education to life for my children. Often times, brainstorming ideas with them takes up a majority of our time when preparing for an assignment. I want to teach them to think, be creative and think some more!

In our homeschool, writing is one of the toughest subjects for me to teach. I struggle with not wanting to tell them what to write… so much so, that I struggle with giving them any direction at all. I don’t know where the actual struggle is, as they are quite creative. They spend hours messing up every inch of table space building, crafting, experimenting; and they are master story-tellers, delivering well thought out plots. Yet somehow, this creativity struggles to wind its way down through the pencil held between their fingertips.

Writing PicFacing this struggle head-on, I have purposed to focus on writing this year. Recently, Bookworm Beauty had a letter writing assignment. A simple assignment to be completed in her writing journal. She asked if she would get credit for the assignment if she were to write a real letter to a real person to be mailed. Thrilled at her out-of-the-box thinking, I consented – with more enthusiasm than was necessary I’m sure.

Shortly thereafter, she handed me a photocopy of her letter for her notebook (my only request). I was awed. This was a well thought out letter. It wasn’t to her pen pal cousin. It wasn’t to a friend. It wasn’t even to a family member. The well written letter was addressed to Broncos Jersey #18 – Peyton Manning!

One must understand that our household tends to burst with a bit more energy in the fall… it isn’t the lower temperatures… it’s football season… and our energy further surges when the Broncos are playing. I quickly began a search for information on where to send fan mail for Mr. Manning; only to be impressed to find that had taken the initiative to do her own research. Bookworm Beauty’s envelope was addressed; enclosed was the hand-written letter, a picture of herself and a self-addressed stamped envelope. I have never witnessed such self-direction and self-motivation from her when completing a writing assignment of any kind!

This assignment was completed weeks ago and daily I silently wondered if she would get a response as she eagerly checked the mail… but joy comes in the morning! Mr. Peyton Manning came through. He had taken a few minutes out of his time to honor my 5th grade daughter. Everyone’s eyes lit up as she pulled out Staci Broncothree autographed photos of #18 himself; one for her, one for The Boy and one for Sweetness (requests Bookworm Beauty had made).

In the end, writing skills are important. Knowing how to write essays has its place – after all, you could end up blogging someday. Knowing how to write a personal narrative is necessary as you will certainly need to write a cover letter for a wanted position. But nothing can replace the skill of knowing how to write a personal letter… especially when you get the reward of a response!

Bookworm Beauty took this assignment a step further, learning far more than the curriculum guide aimed to accomplish with this writing assignment. She learned how to be personable. She learned what a SASE was. She learned how to take a risk. And she learned that famous people are real people too.

I’m thinking she looks a bit taller today… to her, she is no longer just a fan, she was important enough to get a response, and that is a definite TOUCHDOWN in my book!

Snowflake Blues

Snow is falling… Thanksgiving leftovers have been depleted and Christmas joy is beginning to fill the air. This is a wonderful time of the year filled with love, joy, laughter, wonderful aromas, and endless kid crafts.

I am usually a go-with-the-flow kind of girl. I’m not stricken with the “literal” bug and typically can overlook a majority of mishaps with grace. After all, I usually can surmise what people meant when they say things backwards, or misspell a word in their blog. Hey, we are all human… we make mistakes… and sometimes our brains work far faster than our mouths or fingers and another blooper has been released into the world. Unless, of course, you are the Dr. of the Psychology department where I spent over $50,000 for a degree… then I might expect the proper use of “there vs their”… true story… it happened… but I digress.

There are times though that being precise matters. When giving driving directions, a left turn vs a right turn is a big deal. When measuring ingredients, a tsp vs a Tbsp is a really big deal. When balancing your checkbook adding a debit instead of subtracting it… you get the picture.

This time of the year inspires innumerable crafts, but please… oh please… if you are going to lead my children in a paper snowflake cutout craft… fold the paper correctly! I cannot count the number of times my children have joyfully shared their wonderful winter creation with either a four-sided or eight-sided snowflake! Many people may think this is irrelevant, but even I, in my go-with-the-flow ways cannot overlook such an important detail.snowflake image

Let’s get just a wee bit scientific… water is H20. That means that one molecule of water has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bonded together in a very strong covalent bond. As the molecules attract to one another, the hydrogen atoms are further attracted to an oxygen atom of another water molecule creating a very strong hexagonal network. This is the basic reason that snowflakes are hexagonal and for a paper snowflake craft to be cut-out correctly, one must fold it into sixths. Yes, my younger children are in this just for the cool looking cutout piece, but this is a great opportunity to plant the seeds of truth and talking about the unique traits of snowflakes. Everyone seems to remind the children that snowflakes are all unique, no two alike, just like we are. Please remember to tell them why snowflakes are six-sided. I promise you; even the youngest kids will pick up on it and begin to understand that it is important.

There are several tutorials available online showing how to fold the paper in sixths. There are even some fantastic cutting patterns.

The children are signed up for a winter activity hour at the library later this week and guess what one of the crafts will be? We shall see how many sides the snowflakes will have… This is just one of the few things that really cut against the grain of my go-with-the-flow ways, almost as much as the primary colors typically taught… but that is a story for another day. What about you? What makes you cringe when it comes to homeschooling, activities, or crafts…?