Not That Story Again!

Homeschooling, Teaching Writing  /   /  By Jenn Stefaniak
Stone Soup Magazine
November/December 2016

bored readerI don’t know about you, but sometimes I get tired of reading the same old stories, with the same old archetypal characters and plots.  The predictability of story lines is the reason I stopped reading Fantasy novels a couple of years ago. Oh, I’m sure I’ll return to my favorite authors, especially once that fifth book is released, for which I’ve been waiting three long years. But for now, they’ll stay on the shelf.  Well I hate to admit it, but this boredom sometimes extends to my children’s work. If I have to read another variation of Steve’s (from Minecraft) conflicts with creepers and Ender dragons, I might have to ban all Minecraft games and paraphernalia from the house. Out of sight, out of mind, right?  I won’t need to go to extremes, though, because I realized that there is more to creative writing than stories and poetry. To freshen the kids’ writing, I decided to switch gears every once in a while.

My children love music, and they often belt out a popular tune, replacing the original lyrics with their own.  It turns out that this is a fun writing activity. After they choose a song, we take one verse, usually the chorus, and make up new lyrics for them. The goal, since this is writing instruction, is to ensure the lyrics make sense and follow the rhythm of the music.

We have been studying ancient civilizations, and no matter which culture we study, the kids have a particular interest in the daily lives of the children.  History studies are a great time for them to pretend to be one of these children and write to an imaginary pen pal from the period. They are not only writing historical fiction but also synthesizing what they have learned in order to write the letter in a realistic way.

In relation to letter writing, greeting cards are a fun way to practice creative writing. I provide the kids with a focus, such as birthday cards, and allow them to create blurbs geared toward different age groups and themes. For example, they might create a birthday card greeting for a 6 year old who likes Legos. The kids get practice writing for a particular audience and writing with a theme. I might even save some money by having them make up a set of Christmas or other holiday cards.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent that has witnessed a few adventures played out around the house. Mine are partial to traipsing through the kitchen casting spells on one another, or on me if I get in the way, so I thought, “Why not let them write a script?”  I’m sure to give them scene limitations, so I don’t end up with an epic, and when done, they act it out and revise it where necessary.

By letting my kids explore different genres, it’s helped them avoid boredom with their writing and allowed them to discover other creative writing forms that excite them.

About the Author

Jenn lives in Massachusetts and is a homeschooling mom to her two children, Luke and Lia. In her spare time, she teaches writing at a community college, reads voraciously, hikes, runs, and generally spends as much time as possible outside with her husband and kids.

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