By Barbara Spalding, Guest Blogger
As parents, we hold a tremendous power; a great educational influence that most of us don’t truly tap into. Our children are eager to learn, curious to explore and excited to discover new things. Perhaps the grunts through homework or the emphatic plea not to chaperone the school dance leave us believing that our roles are secondary, mundane and certainly not exciting or appreciated. This is far from the truth, although requires some homework on our part, some extra patience and the willingness to look for fun learning opportunities.
Tips to Encourage Parent Involvement
Let’s take creative writing as an example. Fortunately, my family has some very creative personalities, including two nieces and my son. Although, having a wild imagination doesn’t always translate into a creative writer without some coaching…it just means that no ride home is ever boring – or quiet for that matter. So how do you encourage writing to an overactive imagination (and mouth)? Sometimes the brain is spinning new idea after new idea so fast, that stories aren’t ended before new ones begin and often children with lots of creativity struggle with selecting a single point of focus. For others, just getting started is the largest hurdle. Now mind you, these challenges exist for the child who easily thinks the strangest things up, isn’t shy about storytelling and possesses a bit of creativity…never-mind the child that isn’t quite so innovative, not as interested in fictional characters, nor creatively talented. Parents are challenged with the task of helping our young writers emerge and here might be a few opportunities to get their thoughts on paper regardless of natural creative talents:
- Select a “hot topic”. For instance, if your daughter is into fashion, perhaps focus on a recent fashion trend. If your son is curious about the environment, present him with a topic of high debate to consider for himself. Another example of a debate: Present the fact that some states have required that Happy Meals no longer carry toys, because of the influence it has on children. Ask your son or daughter to write a letter to either agree with the decision or disagree, detailing their position.
- For children with younger brothers and sisters, have them write a children’s book with favorite characters, animals or even family events. Have them recall the stories they asked to be repeated over and over (“Grandpa can you tell me about that time you…”). Have them share this story with their younger siblings.
- Start with an art project or drawing and then have your child create a caption. From there, you could ask that they expand it to a paragraph or short story. Point out in museums that sculptures and paintings each have captions explaining the masterpieces, some with a little longer summary.
- Similarly, share a photo from your childhood and ask that she write a caption or story to go with the photo. (Options: magazine pictures, coloring pages, famous artwork)
- Throw out an opened-ended statement like “If I were the teacher, I’d teach…” or a popular “If I were President, …” and one of my favorites, “The best thing my mommy taught me was…”.
- Ask your child to prepare a meal plan and grocery list. For instance Monday could be meatloaf, and ask that he include the ingredients for meatloaf, side dish, bread, dessert options, etc. Might give you a better idea of favorites and some extra hands-on help in the kitchen considering the “buy-in”.
- Most Embarrassing Moments. Have your child interview family members for their most awkward, silly or embarrassing moments and then write up an article for the family to share. (Keep in mind to encourage kindness in journalism and not to embellish the facts for a funnier story unless permission is granted.)
There are plenty of resources available on encouraging creative writing. These are just some starters; some things that have personally worked for me. Remember to keep it simple, non-intimidating and fun. I must also mention that often kids are uncomfortable with sharing their work and/or public speaking. These issues are separate from writers block or just getting your child started, so I discourage you from automatically reading their works aloud, forcing them to speak in front of a group or mandating pieces are shared (with exception of #2 and #6 as it would be discussed with your child in advance). Ease into these once your child is writing. Perhaps after a couple of really good pieces, you suggest he/she pick one to read aloud. Ask permission before publishing their work on your Facebook page, etc. After all, we teach them to get permission and be courteous. Be an example. Writing thank you notes, posting to a blog, writing your local legislator and sharing a recipe card are excellent true-life examples.
About the Author
As a mother with a life-long passion for learning and teaching, Barbara created an online resource for parents to reach beyond their child’s classroom with Homeroom At Home. Designed to encourage parents and caregivers to explore beyond homework at the kitchen table, by offering tips, suggestions and mini at-home lessons for private, public, chartered or home-schooled children. Barbara is happily wedded to her soul-mate and share a South Jersey home with their two children. Her strong appreciation for art and culture, as well as a deep rooted respect for education has drawn her to share her philosophy of everyday learning and discovery with our local parental community. Please follow Homeroom At Home on Facebook and Twitter, and visit our main website at Homeroom At Home.