Are you a homeschooling mom or teacher looking for ideas to inspire student writing?

Would you like suggestions for teaching grammar in context?

Do you need a writing mentor for your student?

You will find all of this--and more--at By Degrees.


Let me tell you.

I think back to my elementary years in public school, trying to recall the writing I did. A dinosaur report in first grade. An “if you were an alien” prompt in fourth grade. A retelling of Swiss Family Robinson in sixth.

In junior high and early high school, I remember gagging on rules. A compliant child, I worked hard to memorize every detail, much of it making no sense to me. An exercise in futility, really.

In ninth grade, my English teacher announced a pop essay. I had never heard of one and had no idea where to begin. I panicked and failed.

Except for one teacher in my senior year who briefly talked with me about style, the goal of English instruction, at least as I understood it, was correctness.

Ironically, I chose to be an English major in college.

It was there, in my education classes, that I learned the framework and potential for good writing instruction.

At my first teaching job, I relegated the grammar books to the closet, pulling them out as needed for reference.  I explored real writing with my eighth graders, nearly wearing out their fresh little fingers with page after page of writing projects, determined to build their confidence as writers. Grammar served us; we didn't serve it. At the end of the year, we celebrated progress.

Later, I began homeschooling my three girls. Before they had the dexterity to write stories or observations, they dictated them to me. I determined to give them what I didn't have: a voice.

Then I broadened my reach to include other homeschooled kids, many whose moms equated writing with penmanship or spelling.

This blog is a compilation of my teaching ideas, old and new, all aimed at inviting kids to discover what’s in their hearts and brains and to transfer those treasures  to paper. You’ll see I mention grammar. It’s important because it’s a tool for making meaning, but I choose to present it apart from a list of rules and a red pen. Instead, it points to the magic, the power, the beauty of language.

After all of these years, do I consider myself a writer? Hardly. Those days in school left a strong impression. But I keep reading and observing, learning and practicing, passing what I gain to students (and their moms), so they can discover their voices and flourish without the handicaps. Maybe one day, I will, too. : )

Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your visit!

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