Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Homeschool Gazette Story (Newspapers and Reporters Unit Study)

One of the best unit studies we ever did resulted in a wonderful way of sharing what we were learning and writing with other homeschoolers around the world. This is taken from our web site Homeschool Gazette. We no longer accept submissions there, nor do we have a newsletter, but you'll find some creative ideas and encouraging information. ~Kathy

Since age seven, Josiah took off with reading. He loved 3-2-1 Contact, Ranger Rick, and Highlights magazines. His favorite was Reader's Digest, in which I had to rip out any unwanted articles that I preferred to hide from him. I so enjoyed seeing him curled up with a book, and hear him chuckle at something funny he had read.

Writing was a different story. He had a vivid imagination and could sometimes narrate his ideas, but he seemed to balk at attempts to write on his own, outside of simple thank you notes and short letters to grandma. I felt he needed a reason to write.

An inexpensive work book caught my attention in a homeschool catalog - Newspaper Reporters (an introduction to newspaper writing), published by Teacher Created Materials. At age nine, Josiah, and Gideon, seven, began a unit study on "Newspapers and Reporters". My idea was to study various aspects of good writing related to newspaper and magazine type articles, try writing their own similar articles using our word processor, culminating the study with a newsletter filled with their writings to share with family and friends. The boys thought it sounded like fun. It worked out to be one of the best ideas I've ever had!

Grandma sent a Sunday paper from Ocala, Florida. We lived in Washington state at the time and I wanted a different perspective on the news to study from. We used the workbook but only as a guide to meet our own desires and needs, feeling free to skip parts that we had no interest in (like writing sports stories) or that were redundant, unnecessary, or unappealing to the boys. It had some great ideas though that we had fun using.

Before long, the boys compiled articles, poems, ads, puzzles, cartoons, and a contest. Josiah wrote a humorous piece after reading the Dave Barry columns. He wrote a feature article on traveling through New York state, requiring research. Gideon dictated an intriguing work of prose about springtime. We studied layout, headlines, art, advertising, weather, proofreading, interviews, and editorials. Some of Josiah's work was half narrated, which helped ease his way into writing on his own.

At the time we were ready to embark on our own newsletter compilation, a real live computer had just arrived in our living room! The timing was perfect. Our study turned to computers and learning how to set up our newsletter using Publisher software. We turned out our first Homeschool Gazette soon afterward. The computer became an instant love, and Josiah absorbed knowledge incredibly, as if by osmosis. The newsletter turned out so nice, we all had the idea to continue it, making it a publication that our friends (most all homeschoolers) could participate in. [We published it faithfully for close to five years. Josiah designed and maintains this web site, and other homeschoolers from around the world are welcome to participate.] But best of all, Josiah is a writer, and an editor. When he gets an idea, he can whip out an article on the computer and he enjoys it.

During this particular time of study, we concentrated on writing and language arts. Only a smattering of math was accomplished apart from facts review. We read a lot together, and discussed what we liked about the articles we read and what we didn't like. I also participated by writing some of my own articles to share with the boys. It was a very enjoyable time for all of us. As a side note, I have heard home school moms say to me, "But you are so creative. I could never do what you do!" Perhaps they are afraid to try. We are ALL creative, and just need to act on our ideas. Relax, and let your God inspired creative ideas go wild...

P.S. Our boys are presently 22, 19, 16, & 13.

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