Archive for the ‘Words!’ Category

Capturing their words

A recipe for loving language

Hi Julie,

After we spoke yesterday, I hurried to the kitchen and grabbed a dog-eared recipe box; it’s the container for one of my most prized possessions. Inside the box are dozens of index cards. Each card is written with the beautiful words spoken by my two sons during the first six years of their lives. This box is a powerful portal into a time when their words were filled with awe and wonder. With the box in hand, I quickly ushered my youngest son to the couch. Together we opened the lid and began our journey.

As my son and I laughed at the silly and candid phrases that he had spoken, I began to realize that somewhere along the way I had lost the joy of my sons’ words. Now at ages 12 and 13, I’m usually telling my boys to be quiet and stop talking so I can think! Does it seem odd in this digital era to capture the words of my children on paper cards?

A recipe for loving language

Well, I will forever treasure the holding of these cards and eagerly passing them between us as we sat reading. Hopefully, the cards will inspire a new sense of wonder in their more grown up voices. 🙂

Thanks again for our talk.


Wild Words

Wild Words revised

Brave Writer mom, Venessa, writes (about the Wild Words Faltering Ownership project):

Emily and Ivy have been collecting words. While playing around with them they came up with fun sentences. Ivy found that the jellybean jar was a great place for new words.

They really enjoyed this activity!

Thank you for the great writing project ideas!



Faltering_Ownership_Natural_StagesFaltering Ownership
11-12 year olds (age range is approximate)

Developmentally appropriate projects.
Step-by-step instructions.
A weekly and monthly plan.

The Writer’s Jungle provides you with the essential tools that enable you to be an effective writing coach. Faltering Ownership is the product that gives you a practical routine and 12 month-long writing assignments.

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NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program 2014

NaNoWriMo Participant-2014-Web-Banner

November 1st is the start of NaNoWriMo!

What is NaNoWriMo?

From their website:

National Novel Writing Month happens every November! It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!

That means participants begin writing November 1 and must finish by midnight, November 30. The word-count goal for our adult program is 50,000 words, but the Young Writers Program (YWP) allows 17-and-under participants to set reasonable, yet challenging, individual word-count goals.

In 2013, over 300,000 adults participated through our main site, and nearly 90,000 young writers participated through the YWP.

Click here for more information about the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program.

Sign up today!

Natural Vocabulary Development

Spelling words

The quickest way to grow as an educated person is to master the vocabulary of a particular field. That really is what we mean when we say people are “educated.” They know the verbiage that goes with that field, they know the people who comment and write about it, they know the critical players in the field (whatever field of expertise they are in—inventors or football stars!), and they know especially the language of the specific domain.

For instance, your kids are often expert in a particular video or computer game. When they talk about it, don’t you feel a little out of your depth? That’s because your kids are experts and you are a mere novice! On the other hand, your knowledge of a particular area (birth? tennis? art history? literature? gardening?) trumps your kids’ I’m sure!

The point is this—growth as an educated person is all about mastery of language and how it relates to a specific field. The more you read, the more nuances you’ll master. It’s one thing to say: “What a pretty night sky” (a novice’s appraisal) and another to say, “There’s Cassiopeia! It’s a constellation in the northern sky, named after the queen Cassiopeia from Greek mythology. You can recognize it by its unique ‘W’ shape and how it’s formed by five bright stars. See it?”

The tendency in homeschool is to overvalue “academic” vocabulary and to under-appreciate the vocabulary your children naturally acquire in their areas of “common” interest. For instance, you want to claim “genius status” for the kid who loves astronomy, but you overlook the child whose enthusiasm for fashion makes her an expert in fabrics, necklines, and designers. Yet the exact same set of skills goes into “expertise” for both. Both of these fields offer your child the opportunity to deepen a vocabulary around a particular field of interest. Knowing the language, the insider-jargon, the methods for evaluation for whatever research is being done, the successes and failures in the field, the “celebrated persons,” the career opportunities that go with that field—all of these lead to a level of competence in that subject domain that empowers your child to be “smart.”

The mastery of a particular area of interest leads to the ability to replicate that style of inquiry for other areas later in life (both personal interest and academic). Not only that, you can use your child’s natural interests now, for spelling, grammar, writing style, and exploration in a way you can’t conjure with bored children being dragged through history or science that doesn’t engage them.

When my daughter, Caitrin, spent several years deeply invested in fashion, we made spelling lists of words that were particular to that field. Words like couture, stilettos, boutique, sleeveless.

Caitrin kept a daily blog for a year writing about fashion and modeling her individual outfits each day. We took a trip to Chicago to see the stores of designers she had studied in her magazine subscriptions (Vogue, Elle, etc.). We watched Project Runway with religious regularity.

Caitrin acquired a vocabulary far superior to mine in that arena and we used her passion for that field to learn about how you take a subject area deeper. She is less interested in fashion today, but as she focuses on what she loves, she finds the names, ideas, and language that go with those subject areas because she knows (instinctively) that that’s how you demonstrate intelligence and credibility when you talk about any subject.

Try it! You’ll like it.


Take back our power in language

Play with words

It’s about time we take back our power in language. We are not controlled by Mrs. Cox, the ghost of public school past sitting on our left shoulders. We are free. We are at home. Let’s figure out how to make writing a freeing, liberating, sparkly experience, shall we?

You know how we let our kids take apart an old phone or toaster to see how it’s made, to learn how to use a screw driver, and to have the satisfaction of working on a “real” household item? That’s a great thing, isn’t it? Little screws lying on the ground, bits of wire, the metal tray, the coils that heat… It’s amazing to see it in pieces and to marvel at the fact that someone knew how to put these bits of metal and wire together to make a tool that burns our toast! Taking the toaster apart is more effective to teach us about the toaster than studying it in a book or even making toast, right?

Some of us have rooms dedicated to art exploration—a similar freedom to discover. We might keep an easel, paints and brushes available any time, a tray of pastels or colored pencils, and stacks of scratch paper.

Still others of us will collect musical instruments—percussion and piano, recorders and flutes, and two kinds of guitars! Or maybe we’re the kind of family who has a whole slew of balls, frisbees, hockey sticks, hoops, and goals available to practice a favorite sport or to learn a new one.

We know that play and exploration produce learning.

By contrast, we’re reluctant to play with, take apart, explore, and mess with language. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the grammar hangover from school where teachers are more about accuracy than inspiration.

Flip the script.

What if your house had an accuracy-free play-zone for words? What would be in it? How about a variety of writing utensils (gel pens, fountain pens, markers, sidewalk chalk, calligraphy quills, crayons, lipstick)? How about some unique writing surfaces (butcher paper taped in a big sheet to a wall, dry erase board, chalkboard, clipboard, various sizes of lined paper, cards, notecards, postcards, an iPad, a mirror, colored paper)?

How about making a stack of notecards with all the words you like—a whole big mixture of words you collect for a week, one per card?

How about putting individual punctuation marks on notecards (a comma card, a period card, an exclamation point card, a quotation marks card, a question marks card – or several of each!)? Then use your word notecards to make a sentence and lay the punctuation marks where you want them to go. Walk around the room and lay them out on the floor. If you want, you can use big poster boards rather than tiny notecards.

Begin by punctuating it all wrong, first. See what happens when you start a sentence with a period or an exclamation point? What if you put one in the middle of the sentence?

What new uses of these marks can you think of?

Are you getting the idea? Language is not meant to be treated like an antiseptic vaccine. It’s a toy! Play with it! See what happens. Discover how the pieces of language and writing work together to create meaning and joy, communication and inspiration.

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Top Image by Virginia State Parks (cc cropped, tinted, text added)