Summit Writing Academy Blog
From college entrance essays to pre-written presidential speeches the written word has the power to change lives.
Love letters, angry letters, words well chosen, careless words thrown on a page - they all have consequences. Lives change.
Getting words down on a page is easy. Getting the right words down is hard.
For that reason, encouraging your student to get words on a page each day is important.
Making space in your student's schedule for unhurried thoughts leads to better writing.
And good writing changes the trajectory of a life.
Think of what a difference one degree of change makes.
Build in the time to think and write words that matter.
Letters to friends, family correspondence, job applications, essays, blogs and journal entries.
And the words of every day; grocery lists, emails, texts, social media posts.
The regular writing of anything and everything opens doors to opportunities.
How are you helping your student create time for the habit of writing?
I love this time of year. A time to press the refresh button. A time to regroup and change direction if needed.
What I've learned about myself over the years is that I do best having a year-long theme. Some people have resolutions - a lot of them. Usually created out of expectation, because 'everyone' makes new year's resolutions right? Unfortunately, there is also a sad expectation that resolutions are meant to be broken. Watch for the memes, comics, and articles coming in the new year. I bet you'll find a bunch about broken resolutions.
I find the idea of a theme more successful. It allows adjustments for the unpredictability of life. Having a theme for the year makes decision making easier. If an opportunity comes up and it aligns with the theme, it can be considered, if not, it's an easy no.
Last year my theme was personal well-being.
I determined to increase my physical activity and participate in an activity that was for me - just because. I'm happy to say that I accomplished both of those things. My exercise bike saw significantly more activity than the previous year, and in September I signed up for piano lessons (it's been about 20 years since my last lesson). Now, when you think of a whole year and all the things that happen in the year, accomplishing two things may seem insignificant, however, just doing those two things made a positive impact not only on my life but my family as well.
I'm looking forward to building on those habits in the coming year.
This year, my theme is margin.
I know that building bigger margins into our family will mean saying no to most things, even good things. However, it also means that we'll be able to relax and enjoy the things we say yes to. It means that there will be white spaces on our calendar and that's okay. We'll get pushback from some people who can't understand how we can say no when we're technically 'available'. That's okay. As my daughters move through the last half of their education at home, I want time to nurture relationships and choose our experiences wisely. That's something that can't be scheduled for later. I'm excited to see what opportunities and experiences open up because of those white spaces in our family life.
If you'd like to read a great book about adding margin to your life, I highly recommend a book titled "Margin" by Richard A. Swenson, MD. If you're not religious, note that there are references to God, however, the principles in the book are worth considering.
As you reflect on the past year, I hope you see your wins.
Moving forward into the fresh start of 2019, what will you choose for your theme?
Language is rich. In fact, in our classes we search for “Chocolate Words” - rich, delicious words that create a picture in your brain. Because everyone has a different set of memories, the same word will conjure up slightly different images in our brains.
Imagine something as simple as a “blue house”. Not much description. I bet a picture popped into your brain. Because there wasn’t much to go on, your brain filled in the gaps using your memories of houses and shades of blue.
Sometimes when you’re writing, it’s good to leave details to the reader’s imagination.
And… sometimes you, as the author, need your reader to know exactly what that blue house looks like. The details are critical to the storyline.
When details matter, it’s time to pull out the “Chocolate Words”.
Did the house have a porch, steep stairs, a wrap-around veranda? Was it a bungalow, two-story or ranch style home? Was the paint fresh or peeling? Was there any trim around the windows? If so, what colour? Was the house in good repair or neglected? Where was the house located? Town or country?
Here’s a fun and interactive game to play this summer; perhaps on a rainy day or hot afternoon when you wouldn’t want to be outside anyway. :)
- Markers, pencil crayons, or crayons
- A stack of plain paper (even the back of one side used paper)
How to Play:
- One person,“The Describer”, describes an object or scene.
- The other players, “The Artists”, draw and colour the object or scene as it is described.
- When the drawings are done, see how each person imagined what the describer was describing.
- There is no ‘right’ way to draw the object or scene.
If you want to extend the activity, talk about what “Chocolate Words” the describer could use to help the artists more accurately draw what was in the describer’s mind.
Although no physical writing is done, this pre-writing activity is a great way to get reluctant writers thinking while having fun. When it comes time to write, they’ll already know how to extend their descriptions. :)
Hope your day is amazing!
Working memory is “ ...the ability to hold on to new information so we can turn around and use it in some way. Working memory allows us to hold information without losing track of what we’re doing.” Peg Rosen, Understood, for learning and attention issues
If you’ve ever gone to bed thinking “Oh right! I was going to do …. today.” You’ve experienced the effects of a poor working memory. If you’ve used a timer to remind you of cookies in the oven or stuck a sticky note to the door with a reminder - you’ve used tools to help you overcome working memory deficiencies.
Forgetful or Disobedient?
When this happened to you, there probably wasn’t anyone chastising you for not getting ‘it’ done.
However, your child has probably at some point ‘forgotten’ to do something and so you meted out consequences for their ‘forgetfulness’ which you saw as them being disobedient.
Now, I’m not saying that kids are never disobedient, they are, however disobedience is an issue that needs to be addressed differently than working memory issues. :)
Because your child is engaged in the task they are currently doing, they may actually not remember what you’ve asked them to do.
This has to do with their weak executive function skill: working memory.
Frustrating for you because you feel like you’re constantly nagging them to do what you asked them to do. Frustrating for them because they actually did forget, but they’re being punished as if they’ve been disobedient.
How can you help your child develop their working memory?
- Keep your instructions short and simple
- Have your child repeat the instruction back to you
- Have your child set an alarm to remind them to switch activities. (If setting an alarm on a device, change the label of the alarm to instructions of what to do when the alarm rings.) When the alarm rings, follow-up with your child to see if they have switched tasks. Not to nag, just to follow-up. ;)
- Offer encouragement when they make the switch prompted by the alarm. You could say something like “Hey! That’s great that you started your writing assignment when your alarm rang. That sure is helping build your working memory. Have you set the alarm for the activity you’ll do when you finish your 30 minutes of writing?”
What support techniques have you used to help your child with their working memory?
Please share! Your ideas may encourage and help someone else. :)
Have an awesome day!
P.S Write yourself a reminder to register your child for an upcoming Summit Writing course or monthly subscription. :)
Are you enjoying the spring weather? In our house it’s time for hatching chicks and planting gardens. Time for running outside… barefoot. Academics are done during the hotter parts of the day so that the outdoors can be enjoyed when the temperature is perfect. What’s it like at your house?
With thoughts of spring and new beginnings also comes reflections of the past school year and planning for the one coming. It may be my favourite time of year. :) Are you planning now for next year?
I love planning. Each year at this time I feel like I’ve been given another opportunity to start fresh. An opportunity to regroup. We’re heading into the teen years and there’ve been a lot of changes over the past six months. Changes I’m excited about but didn’t plan for last year. Not because I didn’t plan, but because all of a sudden learning needs are different.
The beauty of homeschooling is that we’ve been able to pivot. Have you had to pivot this year? Have you had to make adjustments to your grand plan because your kids matured beyond what you had accounted for in your original planning?
In a nutshell:
- Gather possibilities (hopes and dreams)
- What would it take?
- Draft a schedule (plan for success)
- Make it happen
- Connect and evaluate
Hopes and Dreams
Each year I take time talk to my kids about their hopes and dreams. We talk about where they see themselves working when they’re ‘done school’. I pay attention to what has captured their attention consistently. What captures your child/teens attention? What do they spend time on when they have ‘free time’? Is that a possible career direction? If so, what skills and academics are needed for that career? I can hear some of you saying, “But my child changes their mind every week!” No worries.
What would it take?
Even though it’s at least four years until my oldest graduates, we’ve looked at the entrance requirements for areas of study she may pursue. We’ve looked at schools that are homeschooler friendly. I’m not up for fighting a system that is not homeschooler friendly and feel that once she has a year of post-secondary education under their belt she’ll have more options. You may feel different about it - that’s okay! Again, the beauty of homeschooling is that we can do what works for our family.
So now you have an idea of where you’re headed. Knowing where you’re going makes it easier to say ‘no’. You’ll be saying ‘no’ to things that don’t contribute to achieving your end goal. It doesn’t mean there is no fun, it means that you’re intentional about which activities you say ‘yes’ to.
Planning for Success
How does this work with multiple kids? What if they’re all heading in different directions?
Again, one of the benefits of homeschooling is that it offers the opportunity to create your own timeline. We have certain activities that we do during certain seasons because to do them other times would mess up someone else’s schedule and create stress for the family.
Think of your own mental health too! If driving a child to an activity several times a week will cause you stress and lead to you yelling at your kids, having huge piles of unwashed laundry and eating pizza every night because you don’t have the energy to keep up - don’t do it. It’s okay.
Drafting a Schedule
After figuring out which activities/subjects/projects I’d like my kids to do for the year I create a draft schedule. Can we fit everything in and still have margins? We budget time for snacks, lunch and quiet time. We budget driving time and the time it takes to get ready for the activity. I didn’t always do that and everyone was stressed. So, although it seems like we could cram in another subject. I don’t. It’s not worth the stress. Every family will have different tolerances. Spend some time finding your happy place.
One thing that really helped me be more realistic in my expectations is a family planner. Actually it’s one of those huge planners with space for four people to write their schedules side by side. We call it “The Four” - original eh?! In “The Four” everyone blocks out the times that they’ll be doing activities that affect others. Things like playing piano, using the exercise bike, snacks, meals, quiet time, family activities etc. Whoever writes their piano practice time in “The Four” first gets that time. I block off my work time on “The Four” so the kids know when I’m available to help them with their studies. They also write on “The Four” when they’ll be doing their chores. This helps me not nag. Even if they’re not doing it exactly when I would have liked it done. I figure that done is better than not done, regardless of the time it gets done… as long as it’s before supper. ;)
Everyone also has their own schedule book as well. In their own schedule book they make their own plan for the day based on the predetermined list of things they need to accomplish in the day. Since they’ve been doing this I’ve really noticed a change in the atmosphere of our home. Less fussing, less nagging and more just ‘getting it done’. Have you used schedule books with your kids? What system has worked for you?
Making it Happen
I know that some of you may be wondering about actual instruction time and planning lessons etc. The truth is, I make a general plan at the beginning of the year. I get familiar with the material and we regularly talk about what they’re learning. If they are stuck on a concept we work it through together.
Because we’ve worked hard to get to the point where the kids are working fairly independently, this works for us. Early on, we discovered that requiring ‘x’ number of pages, chapters etc done per day didn’t work for us. Instead, we have time blocks. We have a goals for the year and they diligently work towards them by putting the time in every day.
Is it working?
One thing we’ll be adding this year is narration. We’ve dabbled in it this year but I’m excited to learn more about how to use narration to connect with my kids and help them solidify their learning. I’m looking forward to reading “Know and Tell” by Karen Glass https://classicaleducationbooks.ca/product/know-and-tell-the-art-of-narration/ Have you read it yet? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
I’d love to hear how you plan your homeschool year at your house.
Hope you have a fantastic day!
P.S Are you reading a book ‘just for fun’ right now? I love reading and am always looking for new ideas… I’d love hear your book recommendations. :)