Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Top 10 Fiction Choices for Teens

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak    (WWII era)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee    (Great Depression era)

3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell    (American Civil War era)

4. Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi    (Medieval era)

5. Fever 1793 by Laurie Anderson    (1793)

6. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Chlodenko   (Great Depression)

7. Pirates by Celia Rees    (Reign of Pirates era)

8. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne   (WWII era)

9. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys    (WWII era)

10. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt   (1967) New

Homeschooled Olympians

Well, the Olympics have come to an end and my family will definitely miss the late nights shared watching swimming, gymnastics, and track and field while cheering for our favorite athletes.

As I watched the games this year, it became apparent that these were not just talented athletes in their chosen field, but many were also dedicated homeschoolers too!

2016 Rio Olympians: Simone Biles (gymnastics), Serena Williams (tennis), David Boudia and Steele Johnson (diving)

So I looked back and found that the US Olympic team has been full of homeschoolers for many years: Carly Patterson (2004 gymnast), Bode Miller (2002 skier), Michelle Kwan (1994 figure skater).

Of course, these are just a few of the many homeschooled Olympians. So I got to thinking, there must be more than the benefit of a freer training schedule that breeds success for these homeschoolers. Undoubtedly the following homeschool skills and lessons were also contributing factors:

1. Dedication: homeschool students are not passive learners who sit idly in a classroom and wait to advance with a class—they attend to their work with diligence to learn and better themselves daily.

2. Independence: homeschool students learn to depend on themselves for answers and success.

3. Responsibility: homeschool students are accountable for their own mistakes and successes...they learn to be ambitious.

4. Time Management: homeschool students value time and don’t waste it.  

5. Confidence: more than anything else, homeschool students have unbelievable confidence that they can do, learn, or be anything.

With all of this in mind, I’m eager to see where the next generation of homeschoolers leads us! Who will we see competing in the 2020 and 2024 Olympic games?

Choosing the Right Class for Each Student

Some children have a particular interest in writing and know just what class suits their ability and interest set. However, other students are less inclined to the written arts or have specific learning challenges. These parents often ask which Online Scribblers class is the best fit for their children.

The first thing to keep in mind is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to our children and learning. There are many different routes to take, but I want to share a few thoughts on the subject.

Beginning or Struggling Writers: 

Do not underestimate the importance of strong paragraph writing. Just because a student puts a string of sentences together and indents the line doesn’t mean that she understands the proper way to form a paragraph.  If your student can’t identify a topic sentence versus a body or closing sentence, then  perhaps Paragraph Writing Basics is your best fit. Similarly, a student should understand the importance of using details, transitions, and adjectives while maintaining a single main idea. If any of these concepts are weak or lacking, I suggest Paragraph Writing Basics for students of any age or grade level.

Reluctant Writers:

If you have a student who is adept at writing strong paragraphs, but he is struggling with confidence or is a reluctant writer”, consider enrolling in a creative  based course. Creative Writing courses allow for students to boost confidence and skill at the same time that they are having fun and learning to express themselves. Poetry, Short Story and Techniques of Creative Writing are excellent places to begin the process of building up reluctant writers of all ages.

High School Writing Students: 

Students in high school have the unique opportunity at Online Scribblers to experience genres that are often unavailable in mass curriculums. It is in high school that students often begin to dread the “work” of writing. The high school years are the best time to try something out of the box—perhaps journalism, journaling/blogging, creative writing, or even business writing.

These ‘new’ genres often wake up a sleeping interest or hidden talent that transforms a student’s idea of what writing is and can be in his life. This is not the time to back away from writing, but a time to embrace its full potential.

Writing is a Process

Writing well is not something that can be achieved overnight. Anyone who has stared at a blank sheet of paper and wondered where to start knows this.

Writing begins before the pen hits paper—or fingers hit the keys as it may be. Writing begins with thought. Thought becomes ideas and then the ideas come to life on the page. The form on the page is only the final step.

It is the careful training of how to transform thought into ideas and then transfer them to ink that takes time...and what makes writing excellent. This is the process that we often refer to as prewriting or outlining. It is also the process that most students avoid because it takes time and doesn’t really seem like “writing”. And it is a major reason why writing is difficult to is a daunting task to teach our children how to think and form ideas. But if we take the time to teach the process and insist on quality, our children will indeed be great writers!

Put Literature on the Curriculum!

As a voracious reader since elementary school, I have always preferred character driven, relationship laden stories to non fiction or action based thrillers.

Now, more than ever, there seems to be an excellent reason to make literary fiction part of a child’s regular curriculum.

In a 2013 study, David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano found that “reading literary fiction improves theory of mind.” Theory of mind in the world of psychology are the processes involved in a person’s understanding and expression of empathy and sympathy: those life skills missing in
much of today’s world.

The findings of the study, then, suggest that exposure to literature and creative characters who reveal complex emotions and relationships help readers to develop their own expressions, most notably empathy for others’ situations and feelings as well as intuitive sympathetic responses. Readers of literature are better able to understand their own feelings and those of others.

It seems logical.

After all, we have all seen the studies that show that repeated exposure to violent video games can increase a child’s predilection toward aggression and desensitization to it.

How wonderful that we have an equally powerful alternative to help us enliven and enrich positive emotional awareness in our students—and how appropriate that this successful method is traditional and “old school” as many things of high value often are.

Empowering our children with selfawareness, generosity, kindness, and the ability to form healthy and empathetic relationships might be as easy as placing good literature in their hands and on their curriculums!