i want to offer you something here

August 8, 2013

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The other day I gave two workshops at the HSC Adventures in Homeschooling Conference in Sacramento. Speaking about writing with people who actually seem to want to listen is one of my favorite things, right up there with sweet peas, and Conor Oberst warbling in my earbuds. I love it when people raise their hands mid-workshop, to share a personal story about their kid that proves one of my radical notions about writing. I love it when they rush up afterwards, or sidle up shyly, to ask a question or to let me witness a fabulously melodramatic sigh of relief.

And I love this especially: Between workshops, I drove over to some nearby shops for lunch. Pulling into the parking lot, I trawled past a man who had been in my workshop, walking alongside a woman, presumably his wife or partner, who was slung with a baby and holding the hand of an older child. Being Sacramento, it was hot, so I had my window down, and I could hear the man talking. And he was talking about my workshop, with a tone I would have to describe as enthused. I continued through the parking lot, turned into a spot, gathered up my bag and started rolling up my window, only to hear the family walking behind my car. The man was still enthusing. It was the sweetest gift, like someone had left an anonymous bouquet on my desk. I put my hand over my heart. I couldn’t help it.

I wish I could speak with all of you in person. Barring that, I want to offer you something here. I want to offer words that might occasionally, if I’m lucky, get you talking too fast to someone you love.

I want to know what you’d like to see here. Talk to me, dear people!

Some possibilities:

  • my typical musings on writing and kid-driven learning: The rambling ones that I usually write, which have you following me down the convoluted path of a crazy notion, with some random inspiration (Hawkeye! Bon Jovi! Verlyn Klinkenborg!) to keep things interesting.
  • how-to posts: I have a love/hate relationship with this type of post. You know, How to Do __________ in 5 Easy Steps. Supposedly digital readers like numbered lists, and posts broken up with lots of headlines, but that sort of writing always feels so bloggy to me, so ooh-I’m-making-a-numbered-list-so-you’ll-be-more-likely-to-PIN-it! I also feel uncomfortable blatantly telling people how to do things. I’d rather give you some basic ideas and let you fill in your own blanks. Still I can’t deny that posts I’ve written in this style–posts like How Do Kids Really Learn to Write, My Handy-Dandy Process for Helping Kids Write Nonfiction Based on Other Sources and Host Yourself a History Fair –have been some of my most passed-around posts.
  • personal essay-style posts: These would be posts not about writing per se, or learning, but about life in general. Random musings that might even, if I do them well, make a reader think or feel. They’re the format I love writing most, but I’m not sure they’re as popular with readers. (Too wordy! No practical application!) Still, if I want to make the point here that writing matters, perhaps I should go beyond writing about it, and sometimes just do it myself. (You can read some of my previously published personal essays here, if you’re the sort who likes wordy writing with no practical application.)
  • blog series: I’ve done a few of these. The Dictation Project series, and the recent Become a Writing Mentor to Your Child series (for which I still plan a few posts in the fall.) After giving my workshop based on How Do Kids Really Learn to Write, I’m considering a series aimed at busting each of the myths from that article, one at a time, as I do in the workshop.
  • a question post: This is something I’m planning to do soon–a post in which readers can ask anything they wonder about kids and writing, and other readers and I will do our best to offer suggestions. The idea is that the post would be linked in my blog sidebar, so readers could continue to add to it, and it would evolve to be the Dear Abby For Parents With Concerns About Writing.
  • virtual writer’s workshop posts: A new idea I’m tinkering with. Basically, I’d occasionally post kids’ writing here–submitted by you–and you and I would offer positive feedback on the writing, as encouragement for the young writer, and to practice our workshop feedback-offering skills. It would be a way of showing you how wonderful and simple a writer’s workshop can be.
  • a forum: I’m curious about whether a forum about writing might be useful here. It would be a place for people to post questions or share their experiences about their kids and writing, and for readers (and me) to respond. I’m not sure whether there are enough readers or interest here to make such a format viable. Also not sure whether it’s something I’d have the time to manage.
  • teleconferences based on my workshops: This idea came up recently when tweeting with a Twitter friend who said she wished she could come to one of my workshops. I have no idea how to set up one of these things, and even fewer ideas about whether readers would actually want to participate in one.
So readers, what can I offer you? What would be useful here? Do you have other ideas which I haven’t mentioned? Talk to me, please, my sweet peas.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura August 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I don’t think I’ll be much help … all I can say is I love what you’re doing and I’m sure I’ll feel the same about whatever you continue to do 🙂 Love the idea of a teleconference. This blog and your book have been incredibly helpful to me in teaching my kids to write – and they’ve loved the learning!

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Thank you, Laura. If your kids are loving their learning, you are on the right track!

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Gina August 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I like all your ideas! An online conference would be great. There are free online conference sites you might be able to use. A forum is another one I really like.

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Thanks, Gina! I am becoming more intrigued by the idea of an online conference, because many readers seem interested. Hmm…

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Emmie August 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I love all of these ideas. The virtual writer’s workshop or the teleconference would be really great! But I think I would pretty much love whatever you share. If your cyber-senses were burning today it’s because I wrote something on my blog about your lovely space here. I got the book in the mail and it made my day! Have a great weekend.

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Thank you, Emmie, and I’m glad that you got the book so quickly! Off to read about myself on your blog. 😉

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mamaraby August 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm

All of the above? Especially the virtual conference. It’s next to impossible for me to get to one (especially a non-religious one) given ,y husband’s work schedule/child care thing. Anything to help me become a better writing/learning coach would be much appreciated.

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Thank you, mamaraby. Lots of readers seem to share your interest in a virtual conference. We’ll see!

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Kelley August 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I love what you do and I hope you keep doing more of it! Although I hate to wait for your next post, your blog posts are just FULL of information and well worth the wait. You clearly put an awful lot into your writing. I find it informative and inspiring! Love getting ideas about working with my kids but hoping I can become a better writer myself along the way as well. 🙂

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Thanks so much, Kelley. I appreciate you recognizing what goes into these posts. 🙂 Your own desire to become a better writer yourself may be one of the best things you can do for your kids and their writing. So long as you pursue it, even a little!

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tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations August 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I don’t usually buy workshops online (I rather find FREE information online) but I would definitely purchase a talk from you. You and your posts have been so helpful to me. Your posts have put my heart at peace to finally rest and know that my kids will learn how to spell, write and everything else they need to. I would love to go to a conference to hear you speak, but that is pretty impossible right now with little ones. A TED talk would be fantastic!! I can see you doing one in the future. Write it down! You will be doing one soon. 🙂

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm

You are so kind, Tereza, as always. I had to laugh about the TED talks. Wouldn’t that be a wonder?! Around here, TED talks are what we call the rambling monologues of our youngest. Ted, you see, is a nickname for his full name, although not the one he goes by. So when he starts to yammer on, it’s a TED talk. 🙂

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bridget August 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I am so sad to have missed your talk at the conference. You are the one inspiring me to allow my child to just hear me read even more. It would have been lovely to meet you in Sacramento. Your posy on how kids really learn is what got my ATTN the most. As a homeschool family with a pg kiddo, your words help me know we are doing the right thing for her! Thanks for all you do.

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Bridget? Were you at the conference?

“Just” letting your daughter hear you read more can do so much for inspiring and creating a writer. Keep at it!

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Lori August 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I enjoy all that you do and love your usual musings. Sauce you couldn’t possibly do it all and preserve your sanity, I’d say I’d like to see you continue to muse, but add more personal essay posts because I love that sort of writing myself, and do the question posts. I agree that a forum might be a bit too much work, so this might be the next best thing! 🙂

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Lori August 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Don’t you just love auto-spell when it enters words like “sauce” for “since”?! 😉

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Lori, thank for the encouragement on the essay-style posts. And I’m thinking the same thing you are about the question post. It might be a good test to see if a forum would be worth it.

Sorry about the auto-correct thing. I used to have a plug-in installed that allowed commenters to edit their posts for a brief amount of time. I took it off because it seemed to be making my site lag, but I will look into alternatives. It makes me cringe when I leave a typo somewhere and I can’t change it!

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Alison August 10, 2013 at 3:37 am

I’m kind of with all of the above. I think the thing I would particularly enjoy seeing would be the virtual writers’ workshop posts: actually seeing kid writing (incl viewing the spelling etc) is really helpful, as would be getting your take on it.

I also love the longer posts – while encouraging kids to write seems to have become your main ‘thing’, doesn’t mean that we’re not also interested in how you write, and what you think about how others write (e.g. the essayists series).

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Thanks for the encouragement, Alison! If I do the virtual workshop, I think I would ask parents to submit work that they’ve helped the child fix in regards to conventional spelling, punctuation and such. My reasoning is that when we offer feedback in my workshops, we focus on the content of the writer’s work, not the mechanics of the writing. In fact, we rarely even see the writer’s work, as they read it aloud. I think it’s important for kids to understand that the content is the most important aspect of what they write. Proofreading should be something held off for polishing work to be shared with an audience–but all too often, kids are required to focus on the mechanics first. This can make writing seem overwhelming and not fun–which makes many kids dislike it. On the other hand, if you encourage what they are writing about, this is enough to inspire many kids to continue, which makes them write more often. In this case, the mechanics seem to work themselves out over time–although often at a slower rate than they might in a classroom.

So my goal would be to have us encourage young writers on the content of their work, in the hopes of inspiring them to keep writing.

Still, I think I understand your desire to see what, say, an 8-year-old’s writing might look like. Maybe we can explore that in a different type of post. It would be interesting to look at the range of writing that might come from different kids of the same age. If nothing else, it might help parents see that writing abilities are as varied as the kids themselves. Focusing on what each kid is doing well is the best way to help them keep at it.

P.S. Thank you for being interested in my longer posts–the essayists series in particular. It means a lot when people appreciate those posts, which mean so much to me!

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Cathy August 10, 2013 at 10:27 am

I second what others have said — all of the above! But whatever you’re inspired to write or choose to focus on, I’m sure I’d enjoy reading. I’ve especially loved your blog series, and I think a teleconference would be great.

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Cathy!

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Lise August 10, 2013 at 10:43 am

I gladly read everything you write! I love the idea of a virtual writer’s workshop. Theoretically, I love the idea of a teleconference, or some sort of online workshop, but realistically, I’d probably end up deciding I don’t have time right now and would miss it (seems to be how it goes these days for those things.) The series were super helpful for me; I liked how in-depth you could get over time.

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patricia August 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Thank you, Lise! Especially for the insights about the reality of a teleconference. (I definitely would want to explore the option of having a recording available later, as I rarely find time to participate in live teleconferences myself.)

I’m glad the series have been helpful. I also like being able to dig into a specific topic more deeply. In many ways, the series have served as early drafts for sections of my book–and the instant reader response is invaluable.

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Kerry August 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Here I am on another of my late night, can’t sleep visits and I’m thinking all of these are great ideas. I’d especially like the virtual workshop. I’m planning to start a writers workshop this fall, small at first just my 4 and one other family, and I’d love to have some ideas on feedback as we go. I’m pretty nervous about it, and would love the chance to see how it’s done.

I’d also love some of the more personal essay style posts. I love blogs so much, I think, because you get a little of the personal with the business. It makes buying products and services more like buying beer from the old guy at the corner store who always makes sure to have your favorite brand in stock and has pictures of all of his grand-kids hanging behind the counter, the stories behind which you’ve heard enough times to commit to memory, and who sends you out the door with a baggie of stick pretzels, free of charge, for your kids because he knows how much they love them.

I’m sure whatever you choose will be great and I’ll be here late at night, reading away when I should be in bed.

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patricia August 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

Ah, Kerry, I love your late-night comments!

I’m thrilled that you’ll be starting a writer’s workshop! Try not to be too nervous about it. Remember that the kids’ work and ideas will pretty much carry the workshop, once you get going. Yes, you will need to facilitate them, but you don’t need to be a teacher. Have I invited you to share comments or questions on my workshop book’s community page? http://patriciazaballos.com/community/ You might enjoy reading AmandaXC’s comments there; she’s had a successful workshop experience with her group!

Love your analogy about what blogs do for you. I’d send your kids a bag of stick pretzels if I could!

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wanderingsue August 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

Huh, I don’t know, it’s all working for me. Whatever makes you enjoy it, man, so you keep doing it!

I commented somewhere back in the archives a day or two ago, and then was lying in bed thinking, gosh, I kind of poured it all out there, didn’t it? Not that you need all my personal dramas. And then I remembered that “Agony Aunt” was one of your potential offerings, and laughed out loud. Just, about my husband rather than my kids’ writing! 🙂

We’re in the very early stages of home ed yet, but I’m very excited about running a writers’ workshop, in maybe two or three years, and would love to hear more of other people’s real-life experiences. Rookie mistakes and gory details.

Catch you soon!

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patricia August 12, 2013 at 10:35 am

Well, wanderingsue, the good thing about leaving comments in the archives is that typically the only ones to see it are me and the random other person who happens to visit that post.

(But if you ever leave a comment and then decide you’d rather remove it from public viewing, you can always let me know and it will be gone with the check of a box. Poof!)

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Gabi August 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Hi Trish,
How wonderful that you are inspiring so many people with your blog and workshops. I enjoy the personal essay style post and your insights about child driven learning and writing. I think a question post and child writings post would be great too. With a teleconference workshop format you could reach many more people. Continue the good work. 🙂
Gabi

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patricia August 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

It’s always wonderful to see you here, Gabi! I hope you and your family are well.

Thanks for the feedback. I’m becoming more and more intrigued with the teleconference idea, as a means of reaching more people, just as you say.

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christi August 14, 2013 at 7:10 am

Hi Patricia, i am new to hs and have 2 boys ages 6 and 10. I found your blog last spring while researching hs and it was truly an inspiring moment for me. I then found lori pickert’s blog through you and between the two of you, i’ve found my groove with hs’ing. So, thank you!

That said, i love all your posts, but especially like the ideas of the reader questions and the virtual workshop. Really though, i’ll read whatever you write. Just keep writing. My oldest has a minecraft blog and i have learned through you to read his posts without even noticing the “technical” stuff. He has a wonderful voice that he’s been able to keep despite a bad public school experience and i see he already writes better than most adults. Who cares that it’s about minecraft…He’s writing and enjoying it. I learned to appreciate that from you, so write whatever you choose. I’m all ears:)

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patricia August 14, 2013 at 11:30 am

Christi, thank you for writing and sharing your story! I’m so pleased that my blog has been helpful to you, and that it led you to Lori. Her approach is such a great model for homeschooling.

It’s fantastic that your son has a Minecraft blog–and that you recognize the strength of his writing voice! I tell parents all the time that they should worry less about the subject matter of their kids’ writing, and focus more on helping them find writing that’s engaging. That’s what will help them develop as writers–and you’ve figured it out. “He already writes better than most adults.” What more is there to say? 🙂

Hope you’ll continue to come back and share your experiences here.

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