A Novel Idea – Genre

What Is Genre?
It’s a category.  In stories, they would be broken down into the type of story. Here are some examples:

1. Mystery – Something is out of place. A crime has been committed. A person is missing. A character or object suspiciously appears. Someone is not who they appear to be! Whatever the source of the mystery, it is a problem requiring detective work. The main character/hero/protagonist will be the detective and look for clues, interview suspects, and search until the answer is discovered.

To keep the sense of mystery, don’t tell the reader what is happening behind the scenes. Let them discover clues along with the main character. To keep your readers wondering and turning pages, use misdirection. Bring in something or someone who seems important but isn’t. Or someone who seems guiltier than they are! Your reader will sometimes guess correctly, sometimes be surprised, but they will be intrigued by the process. These false leads, or misdirection, are called “red herrings.” That term comes from when hunters would train dogs to follow a trail. They dragged herrings (fish) across the fox trail to teach hunting dogs not to be distracted by other interesting scents, but to keep pursuing the fox! Your reader doesn’t know which trail is the right one, so they are kept guessing!

Plot twists are a great tool for mystery writing. You were sure the story was going in a certain direction and suddenly, a new piece of information comes to light. What you suspected is proven to be impossible. Maybe your reader isn’t back to square one, but their curiosity is refueled! In the end, a good explanation of “who done it” finally comes out, and the pieces of the puzzle fall together.

You can go back to your draft and insert little clues that may help the detective, once you have figured out the end. Rewrites are as important as the first writing, and maybe more so! As you write your first draft, you are just thinking it through. Changes and modifications will bring your story together when you have all the pieces of the puzzle in front of you.

Don’t make your clues too obvious, or give too much information early on. To keep a mystery a page-turner, let every chapter bring a new question that must be answered. You will want to “map out” your plot in advance of writing the story. There are way too many details in a good mystery to try to keep them all in your head while you write. Because it’s important that all loose ends are neatly tied up by the conclusion, you’ll need to be able to see what threads you’ve left for the reader. Before your final copy goes to the presses, be sure there are no questions left unanswered.

2. The Narrative may relate a personal story or be told as a biography of a real or fictional character. This can be as simple as what happened on a walk home from the park, afternoon tea with Grandma, or an adventure. It can take place in a police station or courtroom, a living room or a hospital emergency room; anywhere. This genre has many subcategories.

a. One is a “Coming-of-Age” story, where the protagonist goes from childhood to maturity through life experiences and lessons. It often involves overcoming a weakness from within that is reflected in a change in their character. Overcoming may take the form of learning to be compassionate to others, bravery in the face of fear, or finding that through hard work they can achieve what seemed impossible. There may be external victories but the key achievements in a coming-of-age book are the ones that happen in the heart of the main character.

b. Fables often have animals playing the part of humans. These are usually quite short and have a point that is obvious.  Aesop is famous for these! Rudyard Kipling also used this method in his Just-So-Stories.

c. Parables use an illustration from life, even of inanimate objects, to teach a meaningful lesson. Jesus used these story-illustrations frequently, in the Bible. One example is the Prodigal Son. The young son didn’t want to submit to his father but wished to make his own way in the world. He left home with his inheritance and lived a wild life, wasting all his money. He ended up homeless and starving before coming to his senses. When the prodigal returned to his father to beg forgiveness he was welcomed home with open arms! This parable shows how we often make foolish choices, but that God, our Father is always waiting for our return, willing to forgive us.

d. Allegories are stories that can be interpreted to find a hidden meaning. Examples of allegory are: “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan which is an allegory of the Christian’s journey to salvation, and “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis.

e. Satire is a type of allegory, but according to the dictionary, uses humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity, vices, or show corruption in government. An example of satire in literature is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and Animal Farm by George Orwell.

f.  Parody is another subgroup of the narrative genre that could be allegorical or a fable. Parody takes something that was already written and changes the story around for comedic effect. An example of this would be Shakespeare’s supposed version of The Three Little Pigs, as told by comedian, John Branyan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxoUUbMii7Q

3. Historical Fiction. While it could be argued that this is also a kind of narrative, it requires much more research to do. You will need to understand the times you write about. Your characters will need to act in accordance with the culture and speak as they would have in that time and place. Clothing, speech, and custom need to be consistent unless you have time travelers involved. Until you have familiarized yourself with the time, place of your story, and customs of that era, you probably shouldn’t write a piece of historical fiction.

4. Science Fiction and Fantasy can also be a mystery, coming of age story, romance, or action-adventure tale. Because Science Fiction or Fantasy go beyond reality, into different times and worlds, it is all the more important to create an emotional bond and common ideals with the characters. If the personalities of the main characters are too foreign, the story will not be relatable. If the players in your tale have personalities or issues that your reader can identify with, your audience will be able to suspend their disbelief at the peculiar circumstances and surroundings. Just remember to be consistent. As they say in theater, “keep in character.” The difficulty in these genres is creating a believable alternate world. It may involve studying science and technology or other ancient cultures and languages for inspiration. JRR Tolkien, who created entire worlds and new languages, was an expert in ancient language. In order to prepare for such writing, begin by reading books of the same genre to get a feel for what is needed. It is important not to copy someone else’s world too closely, so take notes of new ideas you come up with while reading. You can practice by writing shorter scenes and illustrating them. As you “see” your world unfold you can add more detail in the rewrite and add chapters.

In each of these, stories that create an impact and resonate with the audience contain universal truths. Hidden in the best stories, these gems are not expressed blatantly. The reader comes to realize these things, as if on their own. Allowing the reader to find the truth for themselves without preaching to them, has a greater impact. Universal truths will be evident in the plot and conclusion of the story. Look for themes that many can identify with. Examples are: Pain of rejection, hope, loss, desire to win and tenacity, overcoming, love returned and love unrequited, curiosity and fear – getting yourself in too deep and wondering how you’ll get yourself out again. Write from what you know and have experienced. It’s okay to weep over your writing or get angry at the characters as they play out. Laugh along with them, too! As Hemingway said, “Write one true thing.”

A Novel Idea – Introduction to Creative Writing

As we begin, we meet in the middle.

Have you thought about writing a book or short story? Stories represent a snippet of life taken from the most interesting or meaningful moments. But if you have ever tried to sit down to write “the Great American Novel,” or a short story and found yourself staring at an empty page, not knowing how to begin, try beginning in the middle. Something devastating or exciting has just occurred or is happening as we meet our hero. In the modern story, the reader needs to be drawn in by the first page, or you have lost them. So, compel them to continue!

Each character we meet has a past. As we meet them, we don’t know what that is yet or what motivates them to behave as they do. Learning about the heart and mind of your characters is part of what drives the story.  Besides their individual histories, the situation they find themselves in when the tale begins is the hook, line, and sinker to reel in your audience.  A crisis or difficulty presents itself that they must overcome. The crisis may be internal or external. The enemy might be a force from without, or “inner demons.” As the plot unwinds we discover these personalities as they interact to either cause trouble or overcome it.

The best stories are described well by sidekick, Sam Gamgee, in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers.  “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

What elements do we need to create such a story? Below is a brief overview of the essential ingredients in a great tale. Each will be covered at length, in future posts.

1.  Genre
The genre ( the type of story) you choose to write will greatly influence your setting, your plot and your character development. Will you choose historical or science fiction, action, drama, or mystery?  And as a subset of those, will it be a romance, a coming-of-age story, or an epic, heroic tale? There are more choices than these, of course – but it should get you thinking about how you want to relate your story. Once you decide the genre, you will need to determine the “voice.”  Will you speak as a narrator who sees all and knows all, or as one of the people in the story – telling your own tale? Will you speak objectively in the third person about something that happened to others or tells the tale as it is happening (present tense) or as a series of past events? Try each of these and see which may fit better for your purposes.

2.  Setting
This includes not only the location and a description of our opening scene, but the year/month/time of day, atmosphere (not merely weather but mood), and the economic, political and social situation the character finds themselves in when the story begins.

3.  Plot
The sequence of events in our tale is what makes the plot – which is not necessarily chronological. As the story unfolds it may revert to a back-story about a particular character somewhere along the narrative to give us greater understanding or context. The plot includes the situation the character finds themselves in, their problem, and the steps they take to resolve it. The plot has a beginning, a middle and an end. The plot of the story may be over a period of hours, days or years. Of course, the more pages you write, the more detail you can have to your plot and the more time you can easily cover. But a greater number of words do not necessarily make a better tale. As Mary Poppins used to say, “Enough is as good as a feast.” We do not want to become tiresome in the telling! The pace of the story and need for detail will depend in part on the genre.

THE PLOT involves:
a. The Problem
b. The Plan to overcome the problem
c. The Predicament: Things get worse before they get better.
d. The Pinnacle: The problem is overcome!
e. The Peaceful Resolution – a satisfactory tying up of loose ends (unless of course, you are writing a sequel).

Each of these aspects will be examined in detail in a future post.

4. Character Development
We must care enough about our main character to be rooting for them throughout the story and cheer for them as they overcome their struggle! Creating a realistic character involves a working knowledge of them – as if they were real people to you. They can be based on living people that you know or have heard about, or you may make them up entirely from your imagination, or even create a new character as a mixture of aspects of a few people. Characters can even be elements that are not physical. Inner “voices,” memories of people that are no longer around or internal fears can become as much of a character as one represented with a name. “Tell-Tale Heart,” a short story by Edgar Alan Poe, is a good example of this. Because the story is a horror tale, the ending is not a happy one and the voice that haunts the main character defeats him in the end.

Each aspect of the character needs to be explored. This is done by creating character sketches, which will be explained in a future post.

5. Dialogue
Conversations may be within the heart of the main character or between two or more individuals. You may also choose to speak directly to the reader of your story. Whatever you decide to do, you must be consistent throughout. The setting, the culture, the age, and the genre will all affect how characters speak to one another. More details and options on how to do this effectively will follow.

6. Theme
This is optional. Not all stories have a message but all stories come from a certain world-view. The theme is a deeper truth that is relayed through the telling of the story. Stories can have a world-changing effect, convincing the reader or even a nation, to change their beliefs or behaviors. The abolitionist movement during the Civil War was spurred on by a little book called, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  Have you ever read a book that profoundly influenced what you thought about a subject or changed your life? The great books will move our hearts and the best ones change us forever, for the better. What books have most influenced you? What kind of influence would you like to have on the world, through your writing?

There is no better time to begin!

Economic Life Lessons For Kids

While math concepts may seem obscure, kids have no trouble understanding money; at least the spending part! The more difficult concept is the true value of money. Each dollar spent represents someone’s work and time invested in what was purchased.

So, how can we teach kids to appreciate the value of money? From a very early age, we can begin by not automatically replacing what gets broken through carelessness. The child should work to earn its replacement. Though this is a hard lesson, it is best learned early.  If they break something of someone else’s, they should work to earn the replacement item, without receiving any other compensation. This will teach them respect for personal property.

Private Property 

In order to be consistent with this, children must be allowed to keep treasured items (such as a new birthday present or special toy) only for themselves. If forced to share, the lesson of private property’s value is undermined. Sharing only really counts when it is from the heart anyway. Doing so always brings a risk.

The Scriptural lesson, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” means that we need to honor their things as we hope they will honor ours.  But will children ever learn to share this way?

As they see our example of generosity in giving and of sharing our things with them and with our friends and taking a risk that the item may not be returned or may be broken – we can also teach that a heart of love will share, not expecting anything in return. This is what love does. However, you cannot force love. For our part, we will always either return what was borrowed or replace it, because it is the right thing and the loving thing for us to do. Leading by example is much better than forcing them to share their things and possibly causing the opposite effect than you desire.

Thankfulness for gifts and for opportunities to earn money should be taught very early. Seeing the world through eyes of gratitude can transform the character of a child. Our example of gratitude both to God and to others that bless us can guide them.  “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.”   1Thessalonians 5:18.

 

Earning Opportunities for “Wants”

Chores do build character, and some should be done without pay. Certainly, those that have to do with the child maintaining their own room and hygiene should be. But if they work for someone else, you have the option of giving them some income from it. If they have a wish list, they can begin a savings account and watch the balance grow toward their short-term goals. It’s best to start with shorter term goals so they can have the satisfaction of seeing them achieved. It will inspire savings again. As they get older, they can handle longer term goals.

Entrepreneurship

Finally, they can start up a small business of their own. Our homeschool group has had “market days,” where the kids bring in crafts and creations and baked goods they make, to sell. Everyone brings their spare change or dollars to take turns seeing what all their friends have made!  Lemonade stands, mowing lawns, pet care, babysitting or housecleaning for a neighbor – are all good early jobs for kids. Encourage them to track their expenses as well as their income, to see what the profits are. How can they improve the profit? Advertise? Cut costs? Improve the quality of their product so more will sell?  All these questions help children to understand the value of money and see how time is exchanged for it.

Allowance or Stewardship?  

I don’t like the idea of allowances. Many people do give them, but to me, it smacks of entitlement. If you do delegate a responsibility that requires funds, that is different. A stewardship is something that will need to be accounted for later and brings good lessons with it. If your child is able to do what has been asked of them with the money provided and has some left over (because of wise choices – not from purchasing low-quality things), they may be allowed to keep it as a reward for a job well done. Handing over some household management in purchasing (as they are getting a bit older) is also a great way to help them develop confidence. Stewardship is a Biblical concept that can be reinforced through this practice. We are given much by our Heavenly Father to manage here. When we do well, He will say “well done,” and reward us. We can be imitators of Him in this way too, as we train our own children.

5 Things A Parent Should Never Say

It doesn’t matter how old we get, the words of our parents carry a lot of weight. The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, said: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Prov. 18:21  Our words can build a child up with hope for the future, or destroy their spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul said that love believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love never fails.  We are entrusted with these little ones for a short time and someday will have to stand before our own Father in Heaven who entrusted them to us. How will we fare, then?

“You will never amount to anything.” In The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, you see the destructive power of a father in Denethor’s harshness toward his younger son, (Faramir) while praising his older son.  The idea, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” also comes across as a wound that is incurable to the soul. One child cannot be like another. They are their own selves with unique gifts and personalities. All through Scripture we also see how favoring one child above another causes family discord and even hatred between siblings. One example in Scripture is that of Joseph and his brothers. They were so jealous of their father’s special treatment that they sold their brother to slave traders! If we can learn from other’s mistakes, and treat each child as a unique but treasured gift, we do well and may save the soul of a child.

What can we say instead?  “I see so much potential in you! You have gifts and talents different from your brother and I look forward to seeing what God does in your life.”  Love believes all things.

“I wish you would just go away.” Sometimes it feels like our child or our children are the problem. Their needs can seem overwhelming. Exhausting. This is especially true if they have special needs we feel incapable of meeting. We may feel our own inadequacy so keenly that we lash out at them, as though they are purposefully denigrating us.

But through God, we can do all things. Though some children are more challenging, they are still precious to God, as are we. This is where we as parents and caregivers need to put our own inadequacy into the hands of our great God and Father and remind ourselves that He can use all things for our good. Even our weakness is a means to prove himself strong on our behalf.  It is true that sometimes we need a break. Take a walk or go out to dinner and have a few moments of normalcy to recover from the stress, leaving the child in the care of someone who is trustworthy. Our children should never have to bear the weight of our difficulties or feel responsible for us! We must be the adults.

Instead of dumping on the kids we need to let them see the love of Christ through us so they know their value. To wound one of these little ones who trust in him is a very serious matter. Remember, that no matter how young or old they are, our children have hearts that can be hurt just as ours can. We need to see them as our Lord does. Believe God for the strength and love that we need. Save the angst for prayer. He can handle it all.  We can be a blessing to our children this way, overcoming our own weakness in the process.

“You’re stupid. ”  Though my father never actually said those words, I felt it in his looks and impatience. If I couldn’t figure something out, he would give up on me. I did hear that kind of teasing from other kids and believed it, reinforcing my fears and insecurity. It made me afraid to try new things or ask a second question if I didn’t understand something. “There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Proverbs 12:18. If a child doesn’t know something they ought to know, this only means they need to be taught. It isn’t that they are stupid, but they have been deprived of knowledge. And that is easily fixed.

Foolishness is another matter entirely. It is choosing something harmful when you know better. For that, there can be discipline. But even discipline should be with a view toward bringing them back to wisdom – not a final verdict on their future.

“Ugh. Just look at you!”  Our culture is so appearance based that we can easily fall into this. We can think our children’s appearance is a reflection on us. But when they become old enough to make their own decisions about hair length or color, style of clothing, etc… we need to give them the grace that we give ourselves to choose what we like. Parents can often speak damaging words about a child or adult child’s worth in regard to their appearance. Perhaps they are overweight or have a physical flaw that we would fix if we were them. “Maybe you should get plastic surgery/have your teeth whitened/lose a few pounds/change your hair…”

If it were up to us, we would do that for ourselves. But respect and grace must be given when there isn’t a matter of sin. If you want a relationship with your children as they grow up, you have to let go of controlling their appearance. Very young children need guidance. Young adults need to be able to make these choices for themselves. If you don’t like it, keep your opinions to yourself unless you want to create a rift between you and them. Is it worth it to lose the person? If you have raised them with guidance, they already know what you prefer. It may be a test to see if you will accept them for their own choices, or perhaps they really prefer another style.

As children grow, they need more and more room to make the decisions that concern their own life and direction. As parents, we need to love them for who they are, give them the grace to grow, and keep our opinions between ourselves and God. God will give each of us the eyes to see what really matters and the ability to love them, as he does.

 

 

6 Steps to Orderliness

Training children through housework  bring so many benefits! Implementation of these skills can make their lives less stressful (no more lost shoes or game pieces).  Also, the skills they develop will bring greater understanding academically while developing character.  Sound hard to believe?  When the following steps are consistently implemented, the difference will be life changing!

It seems we often don’t “see” our surroundings until company is  coming over. In order to handle such a large load of responsibilities,  we shut out what is right in front of our eyes, in order to focus on the task at hand.  But much study is wearying to the body, for both parents and kids. When you take a break, do something physical. And while you’re at it – create order!

Before Jesus fed the 5,000 the first thing he did was instruct his disciples to create order. He ordered them to have the people sit down in groups and in sections, because he would be passing out food soon. To try to hand out bread and fish in an unorganized crowd would be chaotic and distracting! Our God is a God of order and peace; not of confusion.  As his beloved children, we can imitate our Lord’s example and follow in his steps.

In the same way, with our young disciples, we can “line up our ducks” before we begin to work. It really streamlines the process and gives more of a sense of accomplishment as you see smaller tasks *done* section by section. Each task completed creates its own mental reward! There are a few secrets to efficient cleaning, and as you are teaching your children, give them these gifts of training with the  Steps to Orderliness!

1. Line Up Your Ducks

Before I wash dishes, they are stacked according to type – so I can load the dishwasher more efficiently – seeing how to best use the space available on the rack.

Set aside regular times for maintenance so the job never becomes too overwhelming. You know best when friends are most likely to knock at the door. You may want to post a note on the door saying, “Come back at 3:00,” for instance, if your children are particularly easily distracted!

Create a cleaning caddy to carry from one bathroom to the next so you have all your tools with you, as well as cleaning gloves for everyone.  Make sure it has trashcan liners in it.

Be sure to eat something before you start – so hunger pangs don’t pull you away from the task, half-finished!

Be dressed for the work you will be doing; hair up and out of the way and clothes that can get dirty, will be needed.

2.  Think Categorically

Whether the task is schoolwork such as organizing an essay or doing complex math problems, or you are teaching your children how to sort and fold laundry, put away groceries, or pick up a messy bedroom – the key skill for any organization task begins with categories.  Sort them according to kind, then into sub-categories within that group as needed for the purpose you have.  Not every task requires as much scrutiny (lest we develop OCD characteristics!).

In the refrigerator you would keep uncooked meat separate from fruit or cheese or leftovers (for health reasons). In a bedroom you would want to keep toys separate from clothing and books. For a very young child, you may not want to be more specific than that. But as they get older and lost pieces could bring tears, you will want to keep sets together. Games should be kept with their pieces. LEGOs all in one box, or (if your child is concerned about it) each set in their own box. It becomes a greater task when they get older and for this reason, start as young as possible with this training so it doesn’t become overwhelming later.

When your children learn to help you with household tasks, you are not only training them but providing valuable opportunity for important talks about life. As they become adept at the skills, still work with them when you can so this opportunity isn’t lost. The work will be done more quickly, as “many hands make light work!”  My granddaughter and I sometimes put on the radio and dance while we clean too! It makes for great memories and takes the drudgery out of housework.

If it is still just too much, you may want to think about thinning out and donating some of their stuff. With ownership comes responsibility. They need to care for what they have, in order to gain more. If you can’t bear to give it away, pack away some things for a while, as they learn to be faithful with a little.

When you have many young children, turn picking up toys into a game.  Remember Mary Poppins? Definitely use music, challenges and races to accomplish a task! It may come undone in a minute, but they will still be learning something in the process.

Someday, when the science teacher begins to explain Genus and Species, your kids will have no problem understanding that concept!

2. Top down

Yes, you dust before vacuuming!   When washing or dusting, the rule is begin at the top and work your way down. Ceiling fans or light fixtures first (with an extending duster), tops of window frames and door frames, then pictures on the wall and any cobwebs, before bookshelves and tables. Finally, the baseboards (if you have them). Otherwise the dust or dripping dirty water will cover your finished work! Do it by example and have them follow your lead. When done, be sure to carry your supplies out of the room and put them away (or to the next room to clean). The task isn’t done until the supplies are away.

3. Line upon Line

Working in rows is not only neater, it shows you where you’ve been. Wandering in circles can lead to wasted time. After categories are organized or the room is picked up, vacuum in rows. In the lawn, mow in rows. In the garden, work weeding in rows (from the back to the front). When washing a floor, mop in rows from the back to the front – leaving yourself an exit!  No need to walk back across a clean floor to rinse the mop, bring the bucket with you and work yourself out of the room.

Clean windows, one pane at a time, in rows (from the top down), ending with the sill from one side to the other.  As you create trash with your cleaning, have a bag handy to catch it so you don’t create more work for yourselves on the floor. Show the kids how thinking ahead like this and working in an orderly fashion saves time. You may want to “do it wrong” once and have them time you, before doing it right.

Washing cars has the same principle. From the top down, in rows. It’s an easy and repeatable concept.

Have small boxes or bags for items that need to be transported to another room. After finishing your present task, drop off the bag/box of items at the door of their proper location. The owner of that room will need to put things where they belong before play-time.

4. Clean, dry, and serviceable

In the Air Force, we were instructed to make sure our area, ourselves, and our clothing were all clean, dry, and serviceable. This is when you know you are “done.”  Years later, as a mom raising four young kids, I had to take smaller victories. It is good to voice your satisfaction as small task is finished and the tools are put away. Taking a moment to revel in the accomplishment will model this for the kids! They will learn to delight in a task well done, too.  This website has some great organizing solutions!

5. Anticipating messes before they happen.

Before taking out the Lego set, put a towel or other cloth underneath for the “play space.” When they have finished, they may display their work on a shelf – but the sundry parts and pieces can be easily swept back up into the cloth and deposited in the LEGO box!

Put an empty laundry basket or box on the inside of the front door, if you don’t have a mud room (or even if you do) for shoes that are just coming in. You may, as the Koreans and Japanese do, have slippers just inside the door to put on. This does keep a lot of dirt from being tracked through the house and lightens your work load, as well as theirs.

Keeping an artificial grass-type mat or other door mat outside will scrape off most of the dirt on visitor’s shoes. You can also have a softer mat on the inside of the door to get finer dust/dirt off.

Put a few extra shopping bags  (a bag in a bag in a bag) attached to a seat handle and centrally located, in your car. These are ready to receive trash after a drive through meal. Once you arrive home, have one of the kids grab the inside bag to throw it away and you have an empty trash bag in your car! It’s a good idea to keep a hand-held mini vacuum in the car stored under a seat (that can plug into a cigarette lighter) for quick clean ups, too. Before entering or exiting, make sure all coats, shoes, and books – etc – come out with the kids and make it to their destination before they are released to play! Your home and your car are places you live in. You don’t have to allow such disrespect of your living spaces and you can instill this situational awareness quite young, without having to yell.

When your child is brushing the dog or cat, have them do it outside if possible. At least on a hard floor that is easy to sweep.

Ask your kids to be detectives and find ways they can “save work”!  Be sure you brag about them to their dad at dinner, when they do.

6. The Big Reward: Projects

Paying your children for doing a task well is surprisingly unmotivating. Nothing gives a return as much as satisfaction of a job well done. Once your children have mastered (or are on the way to mastering) these skills, they are ready for bigger things! Projects.

Painting a room, building a shed, landscaping, bike or car repair, sewing or cake decorating, they have qualified to take the next step into the adult world of quality production!  Celebrate every accomplishment along the way, with gentle reminders of the Steps to Orderliness – so they become second nature.

Now, I’m off to practice what I preach.  Blessings to you and your family, today!

Do All Things in Love

We are instructed in Scripture to do all things in love. Our first priority is the Lord. But how do we know we love the Father? By loving people (1 John 1). Loving God in all we do means training our children and showing them what the Father is like.

” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  – Deuteronomy 6:5-7 

Traditional methods of education tend to separate parent from child, and in the classroom, the teacher from the child, for pragmatic reasons; to fill their heads with as much information as possible in a small amount of time. Sadly, this also tends to kill the desire to learn in the hearts of many children as they feel pushed by expectations of the impersonal system. When homeschoolers try to mimic the public school system in their approach, they lose a great opportunity to teach as Christ did.

I prefer the term, “home education” to “home school” because we are not a school. Learning is part of life and we walk the road together. Companionship in instruction shows the child that they have value, not merely by what they parrot back from a book. It also gives us as parents an opportunity to really see where our children’s strengths are, so we can direct them “in the way they should go.” Adjustments do need to be made from time to time in order to meet their needs, gifts, and callings. It is so exciting to see these developments as we walk closely with our children through the learning process.

Whether it is teaching a child to cook, clean house, pray, read Scripture, work a long division problem or write an essay, if we do all things as unto Christ and show His love for these young disciples, we are His ministers and ambassadors. After all, it is not only our students that need to hear “Well done,” at the end of the day. We want to hear it from our Father, too.

My top 10 Picks for Webucational Youtube Subscriptions! (Middle-Schoolers)

In this digital age, webucational programming is readily available, providing engaging and accessible resources to the homeschooling family, at little or no cost!

My granddaughter is turning 10, and beginning 5th grade. Some of the educational channels we enjoyed are far too childish in their approach now. One thing that was most difficult to find was a quality Bible teaching that didn’t talk down or mix fantasy characters into Bible stories.  I’ve also been looking for something a bit more theological, and found one that is a great launching point for serious Bible study!

The Bible Project is a channel  I highly recommend this for ages 10 and up.  It would be supplemented with reading the Bible (as would any good theology source).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=KOUV7mWDI34&list=PLzqvZvU_c95EXuOia1644oaxMzQof7UYN 

For deeper thinkers and harder questions: The One-Minute Apologist is a great platform for important conversations.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMj3sKKn6a4

After finishing the amazing series, “Brain Games,” I found this gem on Youtube. Smarter Every Day will definitely make an impression.  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6107grRI4m0o2-emgoDnAA 
This science and illusion site makes you think outside the box. It inspires wonder. 🙂 Brusspup:  https://www.youtube.com/user/brusspup

Vi Hart calls herself a “Math Musician.” She uses math to make music and also creates doodle art while discussing math concepts. Very engaging!  https://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart 

What You Ought To Know has been a favorite for years! Great for middle schoolers and older.
 https://www.youtube.com/user/WhatYouOughtToKnow/playlists?sort=dd&view=1&shelf_id=2

The Story of US, put out by The History Channel, is riveting stuff!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV8np9i-6F8&list=PL3H6z037pboHLqNBBXjHTqaxpW6yhOINU

A favorite among homeschooling families:  TEDEd has a lot to offer. Some discussions may not fit your worldview, so look it over first.   https://www.youtube.com/user/TEDEducation/videos

Crash Course is very useful, though at times calls for a worldview discussion afterward. This is suitable for ages 10 and up.
https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse 

They also have a course for elementary, that some middle schoolers will still appreciate: Crash Course Kids.  https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcoursekids

What are some of your favorites?

My Top Picks of Free or Cheap Web-Sources for Elementary-Middle Schoolers.

We try to buy the best resources for the least money we can. But even the best curriculum may not give clear enough instruction for the student (or parent) to be able to master the material. I’m a visual learner, myself. Often I need an illustration of the problem worked out in front of me with a clear explanation of the instructor is doing what they are doing! It is also helpful to let someone else take on the time-consuming drill. Here’s a short-list of my favorite go-to online resources that are free or very inexpensive!

1http://www.mathantics.com  The videos are also available on Youtube, but the website has exercises and additional worksheets for a small fee. All videos on the site are free. The worksheets are well worth the small investment, though!

2. Kahn Academy has free instruction, and not only in math! They also have an introductory course in computer programming in JavaScript as well as other subjects. We use this as a supplement often, but it can also be the curriculum!   https://www.khanacademy.org/ 

3. For Spelling and Vocabulary (grades K-8th)  http://gradespelling.com/spelling-vocabulary-word-lists/  
This has lists, definitions,  games, review and tests and costs nothing!

4.  Free literature, biographies, and books about nature and history available at www.mainlesson.com.  Search the bar on the left by author, title, or genre to find the selection of free materials. You may also choose to purchase “Gateway to the Classics” which opens more options, but some of those may also be viewed for free. Here is an example of one we are using this year, on American History:  http://www.gatewaytotheclassics.com/samples/display.php?author=evans&book=america&story=_contents

Here is another sample of a book available on “Gateway to the Classics” which may be accessed as a sample.    http://www.gatewaytotheclassics.com/samples/display.php?author=burgess&book=bird&story=_contents

5.  Printable worksheets for free!!! Pick your grade and your subject. Instruction is also available.  https://www.education.com/worksheets/

Worksheets specifically for music – http://www.abcteach.com/directory/theme-units-music-8843-2-2

Printables for handwriting:  http://www.abcteach.com/directory/subjects-handwriting-20-2-1 

Handwriting Bible verses:  http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/free-handwriting-bible-verses

For reading comprehension and more!  http://www.k12reader.com/subject/reading-skills/  

6.  Grammar for 5th grade and above – review and practice.  This is pretty comprehensive!   https://www.englishgrammar101.com/ 

Another resource for Grammar, organized by topic! Click on a highlighted number for the lesson with answers.   http://www.dailygrammar.com/glossary.html

7.  Writing style and structure, available here!  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ 

8. Geography:   http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/USA_Geography/USA_Caps_L_1024.html  This link is to learn States and Capitals of the USA, but in the heading, you can pick any country or topic related to geography.
Also, http://geology.com/world/world-map.shtml  will give you clear maps of any part of the world.

9. Latin Charts:  http://classicalsubjects.com/resources/basiclatincharts_color.pdf  

Vocabulary from Henley 1      https://www.memrise.com/course/198250/henle-first-year-latin/    (Just click on the lessons, you don’t need to “join.”  Save the bookmark!
Also, Vocabulary from Henley 2:
https://www.memrise.com/course/519657/henle-second-year-latin/

10.  Bible – audio.  Choose the version you have, and listen while you read along. This will help your children absorb more of what they read because they won’t be stumbling over words. You can also open the text in another window if you want to read online.  https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/ 

11. Science:
I have recently found this interactive series of lessons in science. It is perfect for teaching several grade levels at once. The kids love it!!!   https://mysteryscience.com

12. History:
This resource includes more than history, but their library of collected videos (free) is a great addition to any textbook!  https://brookdalehouse.com/ 

Next time, I will post my Top Ten Picks for Educational Youtube Channels!

What are your favorite educational sites? Post in the comments below!

 

Step by Step Techniques to Teach Poetry Writing

Poetry expresses what you think and feel using choice words to evoke emotion or create a picture. It can express a thought clearly or be deeply symbolic. When beginning poetry instruction, it’s best to become practice clear expression of thoughts until the various forms become easy to use. There are ways you can make the process less difficult, especially when teaching it to children!  Children 10 years and older should be able to follow this process. Each step should be done in order, on different days.

 

Day 1. Begin by listening to a sad poem, then a joyful one, then a reflective one. Ask, what kinds of words used to bring out those different feelings? What kinds of pictures do?
An example of a sad poem:  https://lyricaltruth.blog/2010/04/25/as-you-sail-away/
a reflective one: https://lyricaltruth.blog/2010/03/18/the-pretender/
and a joyful one:  https://lyricaltruth.blog/2010/04/20/the-power-of-your-name/

Poems that resonate in your heart will show feeling through the setting,  the actions and posture of the characters in it – not merely tell how you feel.

Day 2. Listen to lyric poetry with different rhyme schemes and rhythms.  Sometimes the rhythm of a poem will also express feelings. For instance, the Limerick is made for silliness!

Example:
I once had a teacher named Snood
who acted disgustingly rude!
With his nose in the air,
he would burp, snort, then stare
as if we had the bad attitude!   –  Jane Clark  5/15/17

Do: Look up a few more limericks then try to write one of your own!

Day 3. Poetry with the same number of counts for each line will be much more serious. Variety in length in the lines will express emotion or movement.  A well-written poem will have rhythms (meters) on each line that work well together.  Read them aloud with feeling. Take note of certain words that are emphasized and syllables that are stressed.

For an exercise take this poorly metered verse and try to reword it to sound better to your ears, while maintaining the meaning. Clap out the meter while saying it.

Under circumstances
isn’t where I belong.            * Try eliminating the contraction.
I have to take some chances
that I might get it wrong.  

You don’t want to emphasize the ‘nt of a contraction when saying the poem aloud!

Day 4. Give another example of a rhyme that “doesn’t work” because of stressed syllables. See if your child can spot the problem before explaining it.

Look at yesterday’s poem with one word added to the first line.

Under the circumstances
is not where I belong.
I have to take some chances
that I might get it wrong.

Why doesn’t this flow as well?  The meter would have forced the second syllable of “under” to be stressed.

unDER the circumstances…

The normal pronunciation of that word stresses the first syllable, though. This is the kind of forced fit just won’t work.  If you create a rhyme and you have a wrongly stressed syllable, you can rearrange the words, eliminate a word, or change the word (to a synonym) to fix this problem.

Practice coming up with couplets today.
Two lines in a row that rhyme with each other. In the following piece of verse from a poem I wrote in middle school, I used two couplets followed by a rhyming line that matched the first couplet.

“Of all the teachers in school,
the nicest one is Mr. Wool!
The kids don’t know why
He wears a bow tie
but on anyone else, it wouldn’t look cool.”

Day 5.  Find a  lyrical poem that is already familiar, and change the words. Use the same rhyme scheme as that poem such as –  1st and 3rd line rhyming and 2nd and 4th rhyming – also called ABAB. Other good choices for beginners are ABCB, with only the second and fourth line rhyming.

Find your best words using a thesaurus. See if there are compatible rhymes for it by going through the alphabet and adding the first sound of each letter to the ending sound of your chosen word. If it doesn’t have good rhyming choices, pick a different word or rearrange the words in your line of verse so a good rhymable word appears at the end.  The trick is to find rhymes without making your sentence appear forced. Sometimes, to maintain your meaning, you must force a sentence, as Robert Frost does in “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
“Whose woods these are, I think I know…”
So if you must, don’t worry about it! Even famous poets have done it.

Day 6.  Create your own poem using the techniques you covered on day 5.
Is there a saying you use often? Is there a quote you really like? Is there something you really want to express? Use one of these as a launching point and try to say it several different ways. Choose one that has an ending word, easy to rhyme. If you are teaching a middle schooler how to write poetry and they are having a tough time, give them a few ideas to re-word and work from. When it comes to creative writing, it does help to “prime the pump.”  The more they do it, the easier it becomes!

 

 

Learning Logs

Note taking is a crucial skill that is rarely taught.  While shorthand or abbreviations, keywords, and pictures are useful when listening to a talk and making notes, you can become bogged down if you try to write everything that is said!

Photo by Jonas Lowgren

If you are listening or reading to learn, a learning log will be helpful! My daughter brought this idea home after listening to a lecture on note taking at Northern Virginia Community College. She found the method invaluable to her success!

This simple method is superior to the pre-printed “learning log” worksheets available online because the purpose is for your child to “think,” not to have some other source ask their questions for them.

 

The Learning Log

1.  Fold your notebook paper in half.  At the top of the page write the name of speaker or book topic and the date.

2.  In the first column (left side of the fold) at the top, write “Source”. On the right side of the fold at the top, place the word: Response.

3.  You may also want to have a narrow column for referencing the page /paragraph or minutes into the talk.  This can be left of the margin.

4. Don’t bother to take notes on things you already know and have no issue with.

5. As the speaker or text addresses something you want to remember (and don’t already know enough about),  put their quote or keywords about it on the first line. Be sure to number each source reference. If you have more information to locate the original idea (such as a page number or name of a famous person being quoted), write that down too.

6. On the right side of that quote or information – under “Response”, write your question, comment, disagreement, or points you want to look up in reference to point one.  Label responses with the corresponding number.  Quote #1. will be lined up with Response #1.  Continue doing this for each point you want to examine further.

For each session of study or lecture, be sure to come up with at least four details in your learning log. The purpose of this is to interact with the text or the speaker on paper, thus keeping your mind in active learning mode.

If you really feel you need to have the full context of the speech, record it while taking your Learning Log notes, to reference later or to listen to while doing a mindless task.  Extensive notes are rarely gone over again. However, if you do write down questions or disagreements with the text or speaker, these will be interesting enough to you, and sufficiently brief, to encourage you to review them, filling in the missing pieces to your learning.

Note taking does not have to be daunting. The Learning Log just may be the tool you’ve been looking for!