Mr. T’s homeschool conference loot: a box of 20 brilliant, blood-curdling books
…I have a favor to ask.
When I gave my How Do Kids Really Learn to Write workshop at the HSC conference on Friday, we had standing room only at the end, which was a thrill for me. Parents seem hungry for what I’m dishing out. They want to be encouraged that their kids don’t need to practice writing every day; that they don’t need grammar workbooks and writing prompts; that kids can develop into enthusiastic, effective writers, even if they don’t write a lot when they’re young. They want to hear that it’s okay to take dictation from kids rather than pushing them to write themselves; that casual discussions develop writing skills; that kids can skip five-paragraph essays and write nothing but video game reviews or poetry or Hunger Games fan fiction and become eager, talented writers.
Over the course of the weekend, several workshop participants stopped me to thank me. Invariably, their words were animated with a sense of lightness and relief, as if a burden had been lifted. Which made me know that I’m doing something right.
I want to reach more parents. It frustrates me that our school experiences and sellers of curriculum combine into a mighty force that makes parents fearful. That scares us into thinking that learning to write is a tricky set of skills that kids must endure, and parents must enforce. Writing should be a joy! It should be a natural extension of having something you are excited about, and are bubbling over to share with others.
Barry Lane, in But How Do You Teach Writing? writes,
“Too many teachers and too many curricular guidelines assume that writing is a set of basic skills learned through daily practice while forgetting the real deal: writing is thought, writing is expression, writing is about having something to say.”
I want to help parents understand this, and to give them tools for helping their kids. I’m trying to do that more and more on this blog, and I’m surely trying to do it with my upcoming book on facilitating writer’s workshops. I have a far heftier book in my mind, and scribbled away in notebooks, but I can’t get it all down fast enough.
Workshops and speaking engagements are one way for me to share my ideas faster. I’d like to do them more often. I’d like to be able to speak in bigger rooms, in more places. And I’m hoping you can help me with that. I want to build up the speaking engagements page here on my website.
If you’ve ever attended one of my workshops and it has been useful to you, would you consider writing a short, 1-5 line endorsement for me? Just a few brief words on how the workshop was useful, or how it may have changed your way of thinking? There are already a few on my speaking engagements page for inspiration. I’d like to add more. There’s nothing like a good testimonial to convince the unconvinced.
You can leave your feedback in the comments below, or you can email them to me. Just click on contact me over there on the right to send an email. I will only include first names and last initials with your quotes.
And if you haven’t been to one of my workshops, but reading along here has changed your thoughts on kids and writing, you can still help! Again, a short, 1-5 line endorsement explaining how reading here has helped you would be very useful to me. Thank you for considering it.
Oh, and if you’re local to the San Francisco East Bay, I’m playing with the idea of offering a workshop on an upcoming fall evening or two. If you might be interested in attending, let me know, and I’ll inform you of any plans.
I love to help parents relax about writing. Writing should be as fun as a box of 20 brilliant, blood-curdling books! If you can help me in my mission, I’ll be ever grateful.
I just from writing a comment on Penelope Trunk’s blog that mentions yours:
“…My son and I were on a car ride…We got talking about his imagination and all the stories he tells himself. He walks around the house, muttering and gesturing, all the time. Whenever he’s not on a task or game, he’s in that mode. I asked for one of his story ideas. It had tendrils of Stephen King in its weird slant. It was kind of unsettling, in a good way! However, This boy does NOT like to write. It seems to pain him, physically. He will talk a blue streak once he’s on a roll, though. I started taking dictation after reading the Wonderfarm blog. With her advice, my son dictates mini essays about his interests–essays that, in organization and clarity, trump what I used to read from Composition 101 students.”
Thank so much, Jennifer. Thanks for sharing your story. I love that your son now dictates mini essays based on his interests, and that you recognize how advanced they are in terms of organization and clarity. Yes!
Thanks too for sharing your thoughts on this on Penelope’s blog. (For interested readers: http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/2012/08/08/how-my-son-learned-to-type-in-ten-minutes/ ) I read along there although busy-ness of the past month has kept me away. Loved seeing my blog referenced in your comment there! And your post gave me a heads-up to comment too. So many parents feel guilty about taking dictation from their kids; must remedy that!
Keep going with that kiddo whose stories have tendrils of Steven King in their weird slant. Sounds like you have yourself a writer there!
Where did you get the box set of the horrible stories?
Would love to be in one of your conferences… any chance you are coming to Alabama??
You have been a life saver at our house! thank you for sharing your knowledge.
We got our Horrible Histories at our local homeschool conference, but I see them available online:
I haven’t started traveling to speak–I’m in California–but I’m hoping to start!
Thank *you* for reading along, Tereza!
I have been teaching the classical method for the past three years and I find somewhat dry and a bit of drudgery at times. I am thinking of perhaps getting rid of some of our curriculum and moving more toward self-directed learning. I love your blog and what you have to say has opened my mind (for which I am so relieved!) in ways to teach that are more natural and in rhythm with the way my family lives and learns. I am sad to know that it is very unlikely that you will venture to Canada to teach a workshop so…just wondering if you have ever thought about creating an e-book for such a topic?
Well you never know, Tamara, maybe one of these days I will make it up to Canada to speak. Could be fun to plan a family vacation around it! Canadians, please let me know about your favorite homeschooling conferences.
It’s great to hear that my writing has opened your mind to the idea of ditching some of your curriculum and moving into something different! I think you’ll enjoy that approach. As far as my writing goes, I plan to continue focusing on the topic of writing with kids–I have a book in progress, and my current plan is to release smaller e-books or guides on specific topics as I go. My guide on facilitating writer’s workshops will be released soon, and then I want to write one on taking dictation, because I think it can be such a useful technique for helping kids become writers.
Although my work tends to focus on writing, you can probably apply what I write about to other types of learning as well.
I wonder if you’ve heard of the new book Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert. It’s a more general book on homeschooling that focuses on the kids’ interests and helping them create their own projects. I’m planning to write a review of it here soon. You might like it! http://project-based-homeschooling.com/books
I haven’t had a chance to go to the conference in our area (I always seem to be booked shooting a wedding that day!) but I have heard good things. If you go to http://hems-ns.ca a wonderful woman named Stephanie runs and also organizes the conference. Maybe we can get you up here for next year – fingers crossed! I’m not booking a wedding any time in June so I can go for once. 🙂
Yes, I am excited to be able to ditch some curriculum. The summer has been a fantastic learning experience as I look back and realize all the learning going on with the boys on their own about black holes, plants, herbs, bugs and all types of science. We even made our own solar system pictures and it was so wonderful to see their brains work on creating their own system based on what they know about our solar system and it’s laws of physics. The Basher books and posters are our new favourites!
I will keep my eyes open for your ebooks. I think they will be such a breath of fresh air and inspiration – and I am always up for some inspiration!
As far as Lori’s book goes, I just got it in the mail a few days ago and have started reading it. I had read my friend, Dawn’s, review of it on her blog, http://totheoutskirts.blogspot.com, and was so excited by how the book has been a great addition to her home schooling that I ordered it asap. Dawn is an inspiration in her home schooling as well and I love picking her brain on her wisdom while the kids play.
I think between her book and yours to come, plus the great blogs, I will have some nice go-to spots for inspiration!
Tamara, you’re Dawn’s friend! Lucky you! She is a real inspiration, isn’t she? I’m envious of the time you must have together outdoors in your gorgeous neck of the woods! And I’m so glad you have Lori’s book. It seems like the perfect thing to help you move towards something different in your homeschooling.
I’m not sure about making it to Canada next June. Much as I’d love it, I think a convention tour will be something I’ll really have to plan for. (And have a few books ready to sell, to make it worthwhile.) But the idea of such a tour is intriguing. Something to work towards…
Patricia, I have said this before, but your writing is a voice that needs to be heard in education. It speaks to experience that so many home educating parents have; when kids are motivated and their work is important, they learn quickly and with joy. Inspired by your work, I am hosting my first young writers’ workshop this week!
Amy, hooray, you got enough kids for your workshop! Please, oh, please let me know how it goes. (Although you can’t expect too much from your first meeting. Did you see I added a bit about first meetings in the Nitty-Gritties section?)
Best of luck with your workshop! And thank you so much for the very kind words about my work. I’m going to quote you, if I may!