One of the best things — a true fruit — of homeschooling, to me, is being able to glean information from other homeschoolers about how they are doing things, how they have overcome problems, and how they have gotten their kids excited about learning. We have a community that seems to be inherently supportive, and generally homeschoolers are eager to share what has worked well for them.
The “& More” in the title is about something I’d like to share with you, so we’ll veer from general sharing to a specific topic. I have several homeschooling friends who have talked to me about how their kids have problems writing essays, how they seem to freeze and their minds go blank. This really resounds with me. I’ve been a writer and editor for more than 30 years, but I am NOT a creative writer. It just doesn’t flow naturally. And, probably not surprisingly, neither is my son. I have a nifty little formula and writing style, though, for those of us who are a little more at ease with reporting straightforward facts, and I’d like to share it with you.
If you have a hesitant writer, introduce them to newswriting and the “Inverted Pyramid.” This is probably the most basic, building-blocks part of journalism taught in college, and yet it is also very graspable for a young writer — particularly middle-school age and up. The inverted pyramid is merely writing/reporting your story with the most important facts at the top, narrowing to the least important at the bottom. And, it is easy to start off with five basic questions.
Let’s create a scenario that you could work through with your child. Say you ask them to write a report on the church service this coming Sabbath. But wait…
SIDENOTE: Does it seem odd to have an assignment that incorporates the Sabbath? Think about the last time you read your local Union Conference magazine. Did you notice interesting articles about a special children’s service at one church? Or maybe a Sabbath outreach mission? Or possibly a Sabbath concert offered to the community? Somebody who attended wrote those. I see multiple benefits to a Sabbath report for our kids, including better listening and observation skills in church, and maybe even the planting of tiny seeds of interest for future communication work within the Adventist Church. Back to the report…
Besides making sure they take their notepad and pen to church, have them write down the 5Ws the day before:
Who … was involved?
What … happened?
Where … did it happen?
Why … did it happen?
When … did it happen?
Now they have a ready-made list of things to look for. They will probably want to take a church bulletin for themselves to help glean information, including the name of your church, address, time of service, and participants. You could also have them listen carefully to the sermon, and make notes about the main point and primary Bible text used.
They might also look around to see if there are things they think might be interesting. Is the sanctuary decorated especially for Easter? Are there any kids in attendance? Was there a special part of the program aimed at kids? Were there guests present? Any special music? How about a potluck after church?
Young writers will not necessarily think of all those things, but you can help them come up with a list during the preceding week, and have them jot down things they will look for to incorporate in their story.
Another useful thing is to add a quote from someone who was there. Maybe they’d like to interview their best friend to find out what their favorite part of the service was. Remind your child to write it down word for word, and include their name and age. Or, maybe after the service they could tell the pastor what they are doing (the pastor will probably think this is fantastic, by the way), and ask how the pastor picked the sermon subject. There again, they can carefully write down the response, as well as the pastor’s name and title.
Your pastor would probably be delighted to answer a question or two for your child. Kids showing active engagement in church is good news!
Now you can take your sheet of facts home to work on later. It’s easier to write when the event is fresh in your memory, so consider having your child start in on Saturday night or Sunday, and take some time off during the regular school week.
First, have them organize the facts into three groups:
- those that they will definitely include in the article (i.e., 5Ws, sermon title or theme, etc.),
- those that are interesting but not terribly important (i.e., the special music performer was visiting from another church),
- and those that are related but not necessary (i.e., there were four casseroles at potluck).
Create an article outline. Your outline (and, next, your article) will follow the inverted pyramid. Put the most important information is at the top. Since you’ve already organized the facts, this will be easy.
Time to write!
- Start with a strong leading sentence.
- Give all the important details. These are the from the first group of facts in their “organize the facts” list.
- Follow up main facts with additional information. These draw from the second group of facts.
- Finish your article. Leave the reader with an interesting point, or maybe an invitation to attend an upcoming event at the church.
Here’s a very short sample article, but one that a middle-school age student could easily put together. It might give you ideas for an easy writing assignment for your child.
“Reaching Up, Reaching Out” was the theme for a special community outreach planning day at Mount Bountiful Adventist Church, 123 Happiness Lane, in Somewhere, Alaska, Saturday, March 12, 2017. Members gathered to discuss ways to share God with the surrounding community. (See the 5Ws in the first paragraph?)
The special Sabbath program included music, praise, worship, and a chance for members to share ideas for reaching out to their neighbors. Joe Schmoe, pastor, said that he was excited to see nearly every member present, and appreciated how important outreach is to the small church.
The Juniors and Earliteen Sabbath School classes joined to present a skit about helping children in the neighborhood. “It was pretty neat to think of ways to help,” said Janey Doe, age 12. “I hope that we can help some other kids.”
After church the members enjoyed a potluck, and discussed how they might use food and nutrition to reach the community.
Everyone is invited to attend a follow-up planning session for outreach, Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m. in the fellowship hall.
Newswriting is factual and tends to be chronological. It also helps young writers start to decipher what is fact versus what is opinion, and what is important versus what is “fluff.” And, it helps them develop organized thought. It is a skill which you can help your child develop, which might ease the fear of “coming up with something to write about.”
There are many other types of writing — creative, essay, research, etc. — which may be developed in the future, but newswriting could be a good place to start.
Thanks for letting me share!
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered,” Proverbs 11:25 ESV.
“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.