June 21, 2023
By Annie Yorty
Waiting has never been my strength, so you can probably imagine I’ve flunked the “waiting for God’s timing” assignment on several occasions. If you have ever been at the bottom of the class in this subject, read on to learn how God used teaching language arts to my daughter to show me His ways.
I taught Alyssa, my daughter who has Down syndrome, to read in the summer after she turned five. Of course, it didn’t happen with just a wave of a magic wand, but my intense efforts paid off quickly. At the same time, we worked on readiness for writing. Fine motor tasks usually prove difficult for people with Down syndrome, so we focused on developing muscle strength as well as the cognitive components of writing.
First grade came and went. Alyssa learned to create a spindly facsimile of letters.
Second grade came and went. Alyssa demonstrated the ability to lightly trace the letters of her spelling words. She could dictate a story to me and would painstakingly trace what I wrote. Though she had many thoughts, she still could not produce a single written word from her mind.
I redoubled my efforts in third grade. Every afternoon, we sat at the kitchen table to write sentences with spelling words. She would dictate the sentence she wanted to write. I would prompt her to sound out each letter and write the letter associated with that sound. I was willing to accept any spelling if she would only produce something.
Alyssa passed the midpoint of third grade, and I lost hope she would ever write. We worked so diligently, yet she couldn’t get it.
What was I doing wrong?
Since then, I’ve learned we must strike a delicate balance between pushing our children and waiting for their readiness. This is God’s approach with His children as well. Sometimes He prods us to move ahead, while other times He waits and prepares us behind the scenes.
Though I’m not a trained educator, I will share with you some helpful tips for teaching the reluctant writer, most of which I learned by doing many things wrong. You can read much more about my homeschooling journey with Alyssa in my book, From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome.
5 Tips for Teaching the Reluctant Writer
1. Think outside the box. Since God knows every inch of territory both inside and outside the box, begin by asking Him for wisdom. Ask Him to help you sift through advice you receive from every side—friends, colleagues, Google, books, experts. As the parent, remember your expertise on your child trumps everyone else’s (except God). Ask questions, especially “Why not?” when your idea is dismissed as impossible.
For example, phonics was the box that imprisoned Alyssa’s writing. After she succeeded, I finally understood she did not learn to read or write by sounding out words.
2. Persevere in what you know to do. Looking back, I see things I would have changed in my approach with Alyssa. Age and wisdom have taught me to lessen my focus on the goal and increase my sensitivity to my daughter. Nevertheless, God tells us to persevere in doing good.
Alyssa’s inability to make firm letters told me she needed to continue both fine and gross motor strengthening activities. We tend to focus on the hands with writing, but the trunk and shoulder muscles must be strengthened as well. You might consider switching or beginning with cursive writing because it may be physically easier to write than block letters.
Whenever a task is difficult, I advise breaking it down into smaller parts. This helps you to troubleshoot the problem and allows your child/ren to show their capabilities.
For example, writing may be divided into different skills such as letter formation, copy work, content, spelling, and others. For a child who cannot put words on paper, offer the option of verbalizing the content. Write what she dictates and allow her to practice handwriting as a separate skill. Depending on the ability of your child, spelling may also be dictated.
3. Celebrate micro-successes. Often, our instruction emphasis leans toward weaknesses rather than strengths. Focusing on failures comes naturally, but it’s also a recipe for discouragement for the homeschool parent.
Ask God to help you design instruction to promote small successes. Use the strategies I mentioned to divide tasks so at least one capitalizes on a strength. Use trial and error to find a balance between challenge and ease so your student can incrementally achieve. Create a visual reminder of successes along with verbal encouragement to your child.
4. Ask for help. God created us to live in community so we can support one another to live for Him. Seek help and advice within your community of homeschoolers. If you have access to a university hospital, you may be able to obtain an educational assessment to pinpoint specific issues and suggest useful strategies. One of my favorite online resources is SPED Homeschool (SPEDHomeschool.com).
5. Remember the academic outcome does not determine your worth. God loves you with an everlasting love that does not depend on your child’s achievement. He is with you and inspires your creativity to meet the needs of your reluctant writer. His grace covers our parental deficits as well as our children’s weaknesses.
When God moves, He often bumps me out of the way. All I can do is stare, slack-jawed, at His work.
After I poured years of blood, sweat, tears, and prayers into writing, Alyssa independently produced her first sentences in the privacy of her own bedroom. Belle from Beauty and the Beast was the subject of her first literary masterpiece.
By God’s grace, Alyssa became a writer of much longer stories for His glory. She also spells well and writes in cursive. Near the end of From Ignorance to Bliss, you’ll find a chapter about Alyssa written in her own words. She would love to hear your thoughts after reading it.
Here’s a sample:
“I came out of the womb as a squalling and squirming bundle of joy one March morning in 1989. A nurse swaddled me and put a cap on my head. I was put on a bed with a pink blanket with stuffed animals surrounding me. I looked like a papoose with short brown hair, hazel eyes, tiny fingers, and skinny legs.”
Homeschool moms easily fall prey to discouragement because we invest our lives in a “project” that often will not pay off for years or even decades.
“Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap,
About the Author
"Annie Yorty, award-winning author and speaker, encourages others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life.
I invite you to connect with me at newSongpress/contact.html or Facebook.
We see trees...
--from the beginning of the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, where God created trees pleasing to see and with food to eat. Two special trees were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)
The Psalms begin with a majestic reference to trees and how they can inspire us to live holy lives. (Psalm 1:3)
Early in the New Testament trees show us to spiritually produce good fruit. (Matthew 3:8-10)
The Bible ends with powerful declarations and reference to the Tree of Life. (Revelation 22:1-3 and Revelation 2:7)
Looking for a good book to help your children…
Trees in the Bible: Learn About Trees While Exploring God’s Word by Kimberley Payne teaches children (ages 7-12) about trees and having faith in the Creator God. Each chapter includes a Bible story from the viewpoint of the tree. This book integrates faith and science, with suggested projects.
When hiking in the woods, it’s such a thrill to look up high and see beautiful treetops against the sky…to treasure God and His majesty here on earth.
In CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, we read about trees dancing and defending God’s creation. Also, author JRR Tolkien made trees significant in Lord of the Rings. Both these famous Christian authors knew the importance of trees in God’s creation. It’s said they were keen on everyone protecting our environment, too. The Bible says we are to be wise stewards of the earth.
Both were devout, brilliant men. I am sure they intended important Biblical connections to their use of trees in their allegory stories. Chronicles of Narnia begins in a “wardrobe” made by a tree and it’s a tree that’s the first thing Lucy brushes up against when she enters the land of Narnia…just before she sees the lamp post in the snow…God’s light, right? And don’t we all want to enter a land that’s embraced by the Tree of Life?
(Isaiah 55:12 NIV)
I invite you to see these fascinating National Geographic and TEDx talks on YouTube to learn about this exciting scientific discovery and why we need to protect our forests. (Just tap titles to connect.)
1. How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other in the Forest
2. Nature’s Internet: How Trees Talk to each other in a Healthy Forest
FUN WAYS TO LEARN THROUGH DISCOVERY
- It’s astounding to see how different tree leaves and needles are in shapes, shades, and sizes. The variety alone is such a testimony of God’s creativity! With your children, consider exploring trees in a nearby park or while hiking, and use Google Lens to identify the trees by their leaves. This can lead to other tree images online and links to continue their research and writing. (New to Google Lens? Look on your smart phone app store or see some YouTubes. It’s easy and free to install.) Your children may also want to use an Internet search engine, such as Google, to type in--Images of maple trees (or whatever trees they are studying).
- As another writing assignment, your children and teens may want to research trees and their healing properties. Willow tree bark has been used for pain treatment long before we had aspirin. In the Amazon jungles certain types of Pau D’Arco trees have been highly regarded for centuries for healing tumors, inflammation, pain, fever, and even viruses. And maple syrup? I thank Native Americans for long ago tapping into sugar maples and discovering this delicious treat that is packed with good minerals. God has also bestowed inflammation-reducing polyphenol antioxidants in pure maple syrup that can help strengthen our immune systems. So many of our medicines are derived from plants and trees, too.
- Another research topic for children to write about is how trees help flora and fauna around them. For instance, oak trees are homes to an amazing array of insects that birds depend on for food. In fact, the oak tree is home to more animals than any other European tree. All of us oxygen breathers depend on good, fresh air provided by trees. The YouTubes I mentioned are a great starting point for this topic. In The Magic and Mystery of Trees, by Jen Green, children can read how trees provide homes for mammals, birds, insects, and even fish. This comprehensive book has beautiful illustrations and is sure to captivate children as they discover more about trees.
(Psalm 104: 16-17)
- Consider reading fun facts about the African Baobab tree (https://www.edenproject.com/visit/things-to-do/rainforest-biome/baobab) and our Sequoias in California. (https://www.savetheredwoods.org/redwoods/giant-sequoias)
Both trees can live for 3,000 years! Perhaps your young writers want to write a “compare and contrast” about these two spectacular trees.
For the child who wants to write an adventure story
- Following a family read aloud of the classic, Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss, your children may be excited to include trees in their writing. The Robinson’s treehouse was amazing and can stir young readers’ imaginations.
- Ah, another great research topic…treehouses throughout the world!
- The classic Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne has charming tree homes for several of his characters, too. Young illustrators can have immense fun drawing creative tree homes to accompany their stories.
Dear readers, please consider how children in your lives can have enriching experiences with trees. They may love helping to plant small trees and watching them grow in your yards.
Have they swung on a rope to splash into a deep, beautiful lake, with the rope strapped to a sturdy tree branch? Maybe they have a fun place to read in the shade of a favorite tree. How about rocking in a hammock that’s tied between trees in your yard or when camping?
- As you shape an assignment that interests your children, I invite you to consider Bible verses such as Psalm 92:12-14. (NLT)
For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age, they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
I will grow strong like the Cedars of Lebanon.
By following God, I will grow like trees that grow by God’s house,
I will continue to grow under His care, in His garden.
I will live a ripe, old age, like trees that continue to produce fruit.
May I produce fruit of the spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-23.)
May I remain vital, important, and ever-growing as I cling to my Lord…
My rock and my salvation.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 “…blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…like a tree planted by the water…its leaves are always green.” (NIV)
Psalm 1:3 Those persons are “…like a tree planted by streams…whatever they do prospers.” (NIV)
The Tree of Life in Scripture often is mentioned as eternal life with Jesus. “I am the vine, you are the branches…” (John 15:5) A Bible study on this could start with Genesis 3:22-24 and Revelation 2:7. (Plus Genesis 2:9 & Revelation 22:1-3 mentioned earlier in this post.)
- Psalm 3:18, Psalm 52:8, Psalm 96:12-13, (and Psalm 1:3 mentioned earlier.)
- In Proverbs, the tree of life is linked to wisdom. Proverbs 3:18 Wisdom “is a tree of life…” Proverbs 15:4 “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life.”
- Matthew 7:15-20 (and again, Matthew 3:8-10)
- 1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” (NIV)
Developmentally speaking, children can easily memorize Bible verses, poems, and songs. By learning these treasures "by heart," they can draw on them all their lives.
(Psalm 119:105 KJV)
When I was young, I read Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees” and frankly, assumed it was written by a woman. Not so! Mr. Kilmer lived from 1886-1919 and was tragically killed in WW1. His beautiful legacy, “Trees” is in the public domain, and as I close this post, I share it with you.
By Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Blessings to you,
Victor Survives Being a Kid!
With Palm Sunday and Holy Week/Easter soon approaching, let’s use as our guide, Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw, written by multi-award-winning author, Josie Siler.
A variety of story frameworks lend to beautiful stories. In this one--
7 Tips to GET ROLLING…
2. Next, make the animal’s problem loud and clear… in this case, a “broken” hee-haw! When Howie tries to hee-haw, like all the other good donkey-folk do, his only comes out Hee-haw-hee-ha-la-la-lay-lu-yaaa. Can you see where this is going? And don’t young readers love to make animal sounds!
Okay, so he has a problem. Now what?
3. Show how the problem is making life hard for the character. Show how the main character feels about all this. You want your readers to connect on some levels and care about your character and the problem. Help your readers identify with some of the frustrations and make connections with troubles in their own lives.
4. This is a good time for the young writer to restate the big problem/challenge. Show the struggle with trying to do right (hee-haw “correctly”) and not knowing what to do.
5. Usually, this character needs to have a hand (or hoof) in fixing the problem, usually a big hand, but when writing with a Christian perspective we know the even Bigger Hand, and yes! Jesus helps Howie with his “problem” along with Howie. Stay tuned to read how.
Young Christian writers can strive to show this God-given grace in their stories, too.
6. Now is a great time for the character to share the problem with someone trustworthy. Howie laments while his mom listens and tries to reassure him. Young writers should pick a wise soul appropriate for their story. Here is a nice place for the character to feel better…but the problem still lurks.
7. By the way, with animal stories, it can be charming to include other animals in the illustrations and story. Sometimes Howie is seen with a cute chick and chicken.
2 Tips for the BIG CHANGE OF SCENE…
Show that the main character is on a MISSION.
2. They are brought to Jesus. The coming-to-Jesus scene here is especially precious because Jesus tells Howie, He needs Howie’s help. The readers’ own souls can awaken here. How does Jesus need their help?
And they can super relate when Howie responds that he is not worthy. Even Moses was worried about speech problems when God summoned him to go forth! Don’t we all have our issues of feeling inadequate? But with God…
2 Tips for the BIG AH-HAH MOMENT…
2. Make the BIG AH-HAH MOMENT fill your readers with joy. The message to the readers is that we are each created just the way God intended and God has special plans for each and every one of us.
I am excited for your young writers to see what Ah-Hah moments they create with their stories.
Please encourage them to pray to God about this.
Howie is “only human” and is still afraid that others will laugh at him. Jesus is about to ride on Howie as He enters Jerusalem and cheered on by a great crowd of palm branch wavers. But Howie finally understands that he was made to praise Jesus.
AREN’T WE ALL!
2 tips for the EXCITING, SATISFYING ENDING…
1. Writers should show how their character has solved (or learned to live with) the big problem and be better for it…brave and courageous, wiser, or whatever character traits they are aiming to present.
2. The problem resolution should be great for the character and very satisfying for the readers. There should be special sparkles at this moment that also encourage the readers for challenges in their lives.
2 tips for A GREAT TAKE-AWAY…
Howie learned--He was intentionally created, and for a purpose.
Readers should appreciate this about themselves, too.
2. As in this story, young writers can add a special prayer at the close of their stories, for their readers to pray for their own lives. Words such as …I want to be wise and use the special talents You have given me…
May you all have a great and lovely journey helping children and teens write fiction stories, with a Christian perspective!
INVITATION TO SHARE
for the title featured in this post.
Josie Siler’s award-winning children’s picture book (for ages 2-7),
Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw
is a superb Easter-time book! Plus, it makes a sweet touchstone book for discussions with older youth.
It is available at End Game Press, Christian Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.
Victor Survives Being a Kid
For this post, I have interviewed a multi-award-winning author, who writes with a focus on animals. Here’s what she shares about helping children and teens write—with a Christian perspective and to include animals in their writing. The tips here will be for nonfiction. An upcoming post will address advice for fiction writing with animals.
Denise Lee Branco, author of Rabbit at the Sliding Door: Chloe’s Story and Horse at the Corner Post: Our Divine Journey, writes true animal stories to honor these marvelous creatures. She says,
"Every animal comes into our lives for a reason."
- How have these animals enriched their owners’ lives?
- What lessons have they learned from these special animals?
- What are the milestones in their taking care of these animals that helped them learn loyalty, responsibility, caring, and joy?
- In what special, endearing, or funny ways do their animals communicate to them?
- How well do they observe their animals, so they can understand them better?
Before young writers take pen to hand, Ms. Branco suggests handling a pet’s favorite toy, collar, or looking at photos, such as pictures from the adoption day, to remember special scenes to then write about.
It helps to have a theme. Ms. Branco is an ardent animal advocate.
Her theme is the...
Ms. Branco encourages young writers to develop each scene based on the writer’s theme.
Her goal is to help others grow in respect and appreciation for God’s wonderful animals.
So, one of her key writing strategies is to…
- Show interesting details about her pet, and then
- Show how she felt in reaction to what her pet has done.
This is a good strategy for young writers to intentionally use, too.
For instance, if a child has been in the hospital, how did the child feel and what did the child do when finally arriving home and being greeted by a family pet?
Facts also can help readers appreciate these stories better, by getting an overall view. Young writers may want to use an Internet search engine to gather statistics about their animals of topic and include some important facts in their writing. Your local SPCA, BestFriends.org, and Rabbit.org may be a good place to start, says Ms. Branco.
She also encourages young writers to write a “Gratitude Letter” to their beloved pet. It is good practice for children to learn to write what they appreciate or love about an animal and to explain why.
Young writers can find ways to also express their thankfulness to God for His creation and how their special animals enrich their lives.
Many churches have a special service each year for the blessing of one’s pets, both big and small. Children may be fascinated to attend such a service in your area, and then write about this experience. In early October, in honor of Saint Francis, (patron saint of animals), Christian churches worldwide bless animals and have special prayers for creation.
If your young writers would like to share their writings about animals that includes a Christian viewpoint, I invite you to send them to me by July 1st. I am sure it would be fun for us to see some of these in an upcoming post. You are invited to send these via the contact page on newSongpress.net. We look forward to seeing these stories!
Her books make beautiful gift books for teens and young and older adults!
I invite you to click here to go to www.newSongpress.net and sign up on the home page for my periodic newsletters.
May you all have a great and lovely journey in helping children and teens with nonfiction animal writing, with a Christian perspective,
Victor Survives Being a Kid!
Recently, I was involved in a town history day where children created sand paintings based on historical photos from the heyday when trollies zipped through our towns and hilly countryside. I can’t say the results of their artwork would have been much improved if their parents first took them to the nearby trolley museum or popped them on a restored trolley for a jolly ride. However, certainly the project would have taken on a great deal more meaning for the children if they first were enriched by personal experiences with the project theme.
Let’s Hear Their Voices
When it comes to writing, we are much more likely to hear the yearned for young writers’ voices, if they have a “dog in the fight.” We want our writers to be engaged and care about their writing topics. Let’s give them lots of opportunity to become empowered before they write. Don’t we all write better when we know a great deal about our subject?
What Does This Look Like?
We all know we live in an age of TMI--too much information. Young writers can also get overwhelmed if they are given too much information as they learn about a topic. An adage to authors is--write about what you know.
2. Begin prewriting with introducing the topic and then let the students think about what they understand and know about the topic.
Encourage them to make a chart or list of keywords and memorable experiences they recall about the topic. They could draw a web outline, with the main topic as the center circle and connecting smaller ovals with keywords. Sometimes this is called mapping.
3. Let them talk about the topic.
Here might be a great time for you, as the teacher, to note students’ working vocabulary for this topic and make some fun and creative side lessons to expand students’ vocabulary for this writing unit. How about having several new words of the day and cheering for students when they apply them in their conversations? If you are in a group setting, this can become a team competition. Create acrostics and crossword puzzles with the new words. Give them extra credit points or rewards for correctly using these words in their journal writing. (Click here for more ideas on word games to help young writers build their vocabulary.)
Learning how to write as Christians includes learning Bible related words. For instance, I have seen teachers ask children if they have any prayer requests, and then get puzzled looks by unchurched children who then ask, What is a prayer request? Even with our own children, we should check they have a kid-friendly understanding of Christian related words.
Next, challenge them to talk about and write questions they have regarding the topic. Then, brainstorm ways they can learn more in the areas that interest them. Interview a neighbor? Watch some YouTube videos? Here’s a great opportunity to read both fiction and nonfiction articles and books that enrich their understanding of the topic. It may include family read alouds and audiobooks, too.
Encourage young writers to keep a daily record of their findings and questions. A spiral notebook is sufficient, but digital apps such as Notes on a cell phone can work well too.
Prewriting is such an important stage of writing and as teachers, including homeschool teachers, interact with your students about their entries. Use this as a springboard to create more dialogue, because the more the topic is verbalized, chances are the easier it will be for children to write the desired assignment.
Imagine rushing to a water fountain when your whole insides shout for water. As soon as you drink the cold water you feel refreshed. Here’s the challenge. If your goal is also to help youth write with the importance of a Christian worldview, how can you help them have a thirst for Jesus, who is the Living Water, at least as keenly as they have for cold, refreshing water from a water fountain? To top it off, how can they take this fervent faith into the topic which they are preparing to write about?
As they share with you the information and stories they are discovering in their research, find the poignant moments to ask questions such as--What does the Bible teach us about this? Do you remember a time in (specific Bible lesson) that (for example, King David) experienced this? What do you think Jesus would do? What do you imagine His disciples might think? What do you think God is wanting you to learn from your research?
Give students a chance to reflect on these questions and verbalize their thoughts. Then encourage them to add their ideas into their journals, to save them for working into their writing assignments. Remember what I said about writer’s voice? We need to be so careful here that children and teens know they can write about their faith in a genuine way, and not fall in the trap of writing because it sounds good and religious. The last thing we want to do is encourage them in phony faith growth.
Recently, I was talking with a small group of kindergartners about God knowing our hearts. One little girl piped up, “Of course He does. Jesus is in my heart.” Now that’s the joyous voice fresh from a young person’s perspective!
7. Make Scribble Pads Handy
As to notebooks, your students may each love having a pocket-size notebook, in addition to a larger one, perhaps even ones they make, but certainly ones in which they can personalize the covers. If you write, even emails or texts, then you know that there are special moments when we get inspirations, some with Holy breath, and it’s so important to jot down some key ideas right then and there.
So, it can also be true for children and teens. You might try keeping a handy, small notebook for yourself and share parts with your students, so they see this practice being modeled. You can also tell them how those special moments occurred. For me, I can just be standing and all of a sudden many ideas rush into my head. Like a special delivery.
Which leads me to another important prewriting aspect, and that is to regularly pray before writing. I hope you can start each writing session this way. We all need to get at least a sip every day from the Great Fountain, before we begin a project, and some of us need to gulp. Most importantly, pray for God’s guidance in how He wants the project to develop. Pray for the people for whom you are writing. May our writing be for His Glory.
One Final Prewriting Tip...
9. Use Touchstone Texts
Ralph Fletcher is a renowned author of many books to help children learn to write, such as How Writers Work: Finding a Process That Works for You; Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words; A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You; Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices, and Writing Workshop, the Essential Guide. (Click here for his books on Amazon.)
One of the points Ralph Fletcher encourages are mentor texts. In my teaching experience, we also called these touchstone texts. Depending upon the writing focus, a teacher would begin each writing workshop reading aloud an excerpt from an article or book--to enhance students’ exposure to good literature and the writing focus being addressed. Students can use the mentor text to whatever degree it fits for their own writing.
When we take home a stone from a hike and touch it while we are back home, it reminds us of our hike. Similarly, the touchstone text is one you and your children can come back to, to remember a lesson or idea you have introduced to them for their own writing.
In another blog post, I will write about prewriting with a focus on fiction and poetry writing, to help you guide your students in creating better story characters, plots, and verse. Helping them learn how to write as a Christian will be included.
You are welcome to contact me at newSongpress.net with any questions or ideas you may have about prewriting for children and teens with a Christian worldview.
Victor Survives Being a Kid (An uplifting book for middle graders) Click here for Amazon's paperback or Kindle version.
This blog post has three great ways to help your children and teens write during the Christmas season and in preparation for the new year. May you be blessed by all three key ideas. Many of you are teachers in classrooms or in your own homes, or you are parents of school-age children, or perhaps you are reading this to encourage others who teach children and teens. Thank you for your passion in blessing children and teens. I pray you find much peace in this, especially during this holy Christmas season and as you prepare for the new year. I pray my words are inspirational in your personal situations.
I suggest you encourage children and teens to write a letter… Maybe to share it with grandparents, or just to write it to themselves… So, they also can look over their own accomplishments, hopes, challenges, and struggles during the past year. This reflection time can be valuable for young people and help them set their sights on goals they desire for the coming year.
As a family or small group, you may want the writers to look over photos of events they have participated in for this year. Maybe there is a calendar that can be helpful, or cards they have received over the year to help jog their memories and heartfelt thoughts about their lives during the year and get them thinking about what goals and accomplishments they are seeking for the coming year.
Maybe they can tuck in small notes in the cards you send to loved ones. Maybe they want to send special cards of Christmas cheer and thank you notes…such as to Christian radio stations or podcast hosts they enjoy, their teachers, pastors, Sunday school teachers, and coaches. One year, not too long ago, I sent a Christmas card to Queen Elizabeth. I have so admired her, and her broadcasted Christmas talks over the years. You can imagine my sweet surprise one day early in the new year when I went to my small-town, post office mailbox and took out an envelope that had a regal look to it. Sure enough, I got a reply! Such a blessing!
Writing down our goals and hopes for the new year can be powerful. People report that we are more likely to accomplish our goals if we have put them in writing. You can guide young writers in your life to think about their goals and hopes for the coming year, and organize them to be spread on a calendar, so they have a good idea of when to start working toward each goal and how long it might take to work on it.
They can begin to write down steps they need to take to reach these goals.
Here are some suggested categories for writing annual goals--
1. Pray for God’s guidance before writing.
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (KJV)
2. Reread any previous annual plans for 2022 or the year-end letter I have suggested.
3. Plan achievements for hobbies/sports/clubs.
4. Build ideas for stronger relationships with family/friends.
5. Faith growth…Establish daily/weekly routines for prayer, church, Bible reading, memorizing Bible verses, and Christian youth groups. (Biblebee.org has great programs for youth to memorize Bible verses. Click here for details.)
6. List books to read. (Reading helps make better writers.)
7. List skills to learn…such as swimming, playing a musical instrument, fishing, model building, furniture restoring, baby-sitting, gardening. (Click here for a blog post I wrote for how to start gardening.)
8. List outdoor aspirations…such as camping, hiking, and cycling.
9. List places and people to visit.
I suggest you build in weekly and monthly intentional review times to see how they are progressing. This should be written into the 2023-year plan. I want to encourage that these review times be ones with prayer, and perhaps your young writers can keep a prayer journal as they share with God their progress, and try to listen to His guiding as to how they should continue and maybe even modify some steps and aspirations.
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”
I hope these suggestions bring all of you joy in your lives, and the lives of the children and teens you know.
At this time last year when I wrote my goals for 2022, I included two personal goals—to travel to Colorado and visit my family there (Covid-19 issues had blocked that dream for three years), and to arrange my time and technology to listen to more audiobooks. (Thank you to my friend, Crystal Daye, dayelightpublishers.com, for providing her annual planner.) I truly think that by penning these aspirations, I made sure to fulfill them. I am so glad that I did. As you wrap up your year and look to the next, I hope you also find some special dreams and hopes that become a sweet reality in your lives in 2023. You may want to write them down. 😊
Victor Survives Being a Kid
If you would like to receive more of these blog posts, to inspire you with your teaching children, please click HERE. Thank you for being a part of this journey, with the love of Jesus.
Please see last month’s blog post about a special writing contest being offered for children and teens. Deadline for entries is March 1, 2023.
Click HERE for details.
Many children and teens like to write stories
Here’s a way to give their stories some structure…
Jesus often taught in parables. Throughout time, people have loved to hear stories, and it can be another great way to teach readers how to do things well. Plus, your children or students may want to add inspiring or inquiring words to share their faith in their stories.
Here’s an example you can share in teaching this approach--
Each time Olivia pulled her arm back under the water, she scooped water with her hand, fast, fast, to get it out of her way. Then she rammed her bent elbow up out into the air, cleared her arm from the drag of the water and reached forward again for another watery slice.
No time to look at others. No time to pause, but in her brain, Olivia pleaded with God to give her strength. Words from Isaiah 12:2 lit her mind…the LORD is my strength and my song…
The shouts from the crowd on the side bleachers reverberated against the walls. Tick, tick, tick.
Dan flip turned first when he reached the far end of the pool. Before any bubbles could pop, Olivia flip turned. Her feet shoved off the wall. Think skills. Think skills.
Everyone splashed and glided through the refreshing water to claim the 50-yard finish line. Olivia and Dan led the pack. Then they both stretched an arm to touch the other end of the pool at the same second. Astonished, they laughed and slapped a high five. Olivia squeezed her eyes for a quick prayer of thanks.
Your children/students can make a list of things they enjoy doing and know very well. For instance, walking a dog, setting up a tent, cooking, or riding a bicycle. In my story, I captured the steps for swimming the front crawl, as some call it, freestyle. My challenge to your writers is to first think, picture, and then write the steps of how to do something and then turn it into a story. Did you notice that the story format caught your attention, but when I switched into expository writing to explain, the action was gone! Maybe you even noticed a slowdown in your interest?
Jesus knew people LOVE stories. He taught with many parables, which are short stories that teach a lesson or religious principle, such as the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus used this story to help us learn about God’s awesome love for all of us. Through the powerful messages in this story, we also learn how to care for and help each other.
Parents and teachers, you can tell the young people in your lives, they don’t have to write a story every time to explain how to do something, but they can try it to see how their readers really pay attention to what they are teaching. Plus, they might have fun! They can even add in some humor, like--
My sheepdog stepped in the gooey, white glue I forgot to close and move out of the way.
That may sound more interesting than just writing--
When you are done with the glue, make sure to close it and keep it safe.
In my swim story, if a cut away from the action was desired, a funny antic by someone on the bleachers could be added.
Your writers can also add in more details than I did, such as what their characters look like and say to each other.
At the end of their how-to stories, writers can recap and list the important steps.
Like a recipe format, list all the needed supplies. Then list the steps in the correct order for making their creations or completing their skills.
(If your young writers are writing about their cooking projects, there are several kid-friendly recipes in Dig Deeper: a Discussion and Activity Guide for Victor Survives Being a Kid. It’s a free download and the recipes can show children and teens a format for writing their recipes. Click here if you want access to the free download. Also, at the end of this post I will refer to one of the recipes, from an earlier blog post.)
My friend, Silvia Ferrara, had an excellent idea, especially for young children with big imaginations. Write how unicorns brush their teeth. Sounds like a fun picture book to me! Then, I recommend young writers list the steps they use for brushing their own teeth. One could even turn this into a compare and contrast with how a unicorn vs. the writers brush their teeth. Children do need to learn how to write compare and contrasts! 😊 Now perhaps your young writers want to turn their how-to assignments into something preposterous first, have some fun, and then add on a more serious version that pertains to their personal experience.
Another story format is a personal anecdote, where the writer gives details of personal experience while creating a project or skill set.
We often see this in videos on YouTube. Because we are seeking for our children/students to develop their writing skills, here is a personal anecdote approach for a how-to- on furniture restoration. It was created by Amber Hale, a multi-passionate entrepreneur who writes on her two blogs, is a health coach, a social media manager for businesses, and also enjoys thrifting vintage items for resale.
This project may interest older youth and inspire them with their own creativity. They may also be motivated to sell their products or give them as gifts.
I invite you to click on this link here to see more…but don’t forget to see about the CONTEST and the example of recipe writing mentioned at the end of this post, for Fried Ice Cream, 😊 as well as an invitation to subscribe to my newsletter for staying posted on writing ideas for your children and teens.
An important focus of new Song Press is to inspire Christian parents, teachers, and pastors to guide youth to be young authors. If your children/students are interested in starting a blog, you can go to kidslearntoblog.com to read about different programs such as Edublog and Kidblog.
Your young authors also might like to query other bloggers about being a guest blogger on their websites. They can ask the bloggers for a copy of the guidelines so they will know the topics that are of interest to the blogger, the preferred length for a blog post, and other details.
Now to learn about our…
From now through March 1, 2023
First, second, and third place winners plus honorable mentions
We look forward to publishing parts of winning submissions in an upcoming blog post, so children and teens can have the joyful experience of being young Christian authors who are published.
Send your How-to entry via Contact on newSongpress.net. You may also send a brief summary and you will be sent an email with instructions on how to send the complete version. Please include child/teens’ name and age in each entry. Enjoy!
If you are not already a regular reader of these blog posts, I invite you to sign up for my email newsletter, to receive periodic blog announcements to help guide children and teens in their writing. Click here to do so.
For the promised recipe for Fried Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce, click here.
Your children or students probably have some happy and exciting memories from their adventures this summer. However, I do not think most students want to be required to grind out an essay of what they did over the summer. Still, I do think they often want to remember their fun memories. Through prewriting, they can be inspired to share them creatively.
- Before picking up pencil or laptop, I encourage you to give them opportunities to talk about these treasured times with a caring listener…which could even be a beloved pet!
3. Take time to look at any “touchstones” (memorabilia) from their recalled experiences this summer…brochures, photos, emails, posts, journal writing (if they accomplished this). Maybe revisit the location by seeing more on the Internet.
5. Prewriting is a fantastic time for enrichment. Children can be gently encouraged to share what they learned from their experiences as well as what they are wondering about. As part of their faith walk, they can be asked what they think Jesus wants them to learn from all of this. This pondering can again be recorded in keywords, to help them with their writing assignment.
6. Prewriting certainly can allow for drawing, coloring, or painting. Many children process their verbal ideas this way.
7. Some children may do well with a caring soul interviewing them. I suggest first writing a dozen or so key questions such as--
- What experience did you have this summer that you really enjoyed?
- Who did you do it with? How did that go? Did you have a special job or goal?
- Where was it? Was it your first time there? Would you like to go again? If you did, how would you like it to be similar/different?
- Why did you go on this adventure/have this experience?
- When did you need to start planning this with your family? What did you need to do to prepare? If you do it again, how would you plan for the next time?
Before the interview, show this list to each child or teen to think about before starting the interview. You can audio record the session, or involve a peer or older student to record the answers so they also experience authentic writing with a purpose. If you are working with a group, each student can write his answers and then share them in a group before they start writing. Or students can be partners, taking turns interviewing each other, while the interviewer writes down key thoughts.
Parents, I applaud you for all the positive, memorable experiences you have blessed your children with this summer. Honestly, they might be writing and talking about some of these memories for the rest of their lives. As their ideas bubble up, let them share. If they only want to write a poem or song this year, God may lead them to turn those memories into a play script another year.
The main thing is to embrace the experience, and then see how God wants to water that garden to grow. Last spring, I was involved in a town history day where children created sand paintings based on historical photos rallied up from the heyday when trollies zipped through our towns and hilly countryside. I can’t say the results of their artwork would have been much improved if their parents first took them to the nearby trolley museum or popped them on a restored trolley for a jolly ride, but certainly the project would take on a great deal more meaning for the children if they first were enriched by personal experiences with the project theme. Parents and teachers, thank you for all the “in the field” experiences you provide for children and teens in your lives.
Fried Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce
Here’s a delicious dessert that will require working with a grownup’s help, especially when frying. It’s so yummy, but also requires patience since the ice cream needs time to freeze and refreeze. Either prep it one day and fry it the next, or start it at least 6-7 hours before eating.
Please note: Before cooking, always read a recipe through so you can anticipate what ingredients and supplies you will need and so you make sure you understand all the steps and timing needed. Reading a recipe is a type of functional reading…reading that helps us learn how to do things…a very important type of reading to practice. Have fun! Enjoy!
(Recipe inspired by recipes from Darlene Brenden, Jeri Zieman, and Villa Cocina.)
1 quart vanilla ice cream
3 cups crushed cornflakes cereal or 2 cups each crushed cornflakes cereal and sweetened shredded coconut finely chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 egg whites or 2-3 eggs or 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups canola oil or other preferred oil, enough for partial emerging and stirring 1-2 balls at a time
Optional Toppings: whipped cream, slices of banana, strawberries, cherries, chocolate or caramel sauce, colored sprinkles
For Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, cubed
½ cup evaporated milk
- Step 1. Scoop ice cream into eight balls. (Tips: Dip ice cream scoop into hot water first. Also, really pack each ball while scooping.) Place on no-stick pan or pan lined with parchment paper and freeze until firm. (At least one hour, up to three is good.) Exercise patience, so doesn’t melt when fried! :)
- Step 2. Put cornflakes in sealable plastic bag and crush to smaller flakes but not powder. (Use three or two cups depending if you will add coconut flakes.)
- Step 3. Combine cornflakes and cinnamon in a bowl. (Optional—Add sweetened coconut flakes.)
- Step 4. In another bowl, beat egg whites till foamy. (Can also use whole eggs or whipped cream with vanilla flavoring.)
- Step 5. Roll ice cream balls in your preferred liquid coating. Then dip balls in cornflakes. Cover ice cream completely. Repeat if needed or desired, but be quick. (Some cooks freeze the balls before re-dipping.)
- Step 6. Freeze again until firm—about three hours.
Read and follow these cautions before frying with hot oil:
Work carefully with an adult. Have lid for fryer or heavy saucepan. Kitchen should have fire extinguisher. (Note: Never use water to put out a fire caused by cooking oil. Put lid on fryer or pot to reduce fire. Baking soda puts out oil fires too.) When the hot oil is not needed, cover the pot and put away from heat source.
- Step 7. In deep fryer or heavy saucepan, heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius)
- Top with optional toppings. Drizzle sauce.
For Caramel Sauce:
- Step 1. Heat sugar in heavy saucepan at medium heat till partially melted and golden, stirring occasionally.
- Step 2. Add butter.
- Step 3. Slowly add milk and stir for about eight minutes or until the sauce is thick and golden Keep warm.
My name is Eliana Rice. I’m eleven years old and have loved writing for as long as I can remember. I first started writing actual stories in kindergarten, though they weren’t very good. I have written a few short stories (one of which I won an award) and am working on a seven-book series. I have many interests and hobbies. A few of them are crochet, dance, writing (of course), reading, and piano. I have two brothers, two dogs, a mom, and a dad. Our home life can get slightly crazy at times, but I love my family and I am glad to call them my own. I am a Christian and I believe that God has gifted me with the ability to write, so I try to give back to Him with my gift. My hope in writing is to inspire, encourage, and share the Good News of God.
Rights and Wrongs
By Eliana Rice
“Ow!” Kathlynn yelped as she stumbled over a tree root. But she got up. She had to. Her family’s future was on the line.
Kathlynn pressed on, dashing as fast as she could, pushing through the forest underbrush. Her dress had already snagged on multiple branches, and she knew that her mother would have a fit, but she couldn’t think about that. Her father’s life was at stake.
Within a few minutes, Kathlynn reached a small clearing in the woods. Her house, a small stone cottage, stood warm and inviting a few feet away.
Kathlynn’s mother looked up. “Kathlynn! What in the world are you doing? You’re a mess! Why, your dress is torn! You must clean yourself up …”
“Mother!” Kathlynn interrupted, panting. “They’ve found out! They’re coming for Father!”
“Heaven's child, calm down! Whatever are you talking about? Who’s coming?”
“The Queen’s guard!”
Her Mother's face went from shock, to horror, to grim.
Several months earlier, Kathlynn’s father had sneaked into the Queen’s palace and stolen a jewel from her crown.
Kathlynn frowned. She wouldn’t think about right and wrong. The deed had been done and there was nothing Kathlynn could do about it.
Kathlynn jumped slightly at the sound of her mother’s voice, snapping her out of her reverie. “I’m sorry Mother. What were you saying?”
“I said that we need to leave immediately. The Queen’s guard could arrive at any moment. Go fetch your brother and pack your belongings. We’re going to your grandmother's house. Her mother’s face was so stern and serious that Kathlynn didn’t dare argue. She scurried off without another word.
“Mark! Mark! Quick!” Kathlynn yelled, throwing the door open.
Mark, Kathlynn’s sixteen-year-old brother, looked up from where he sat at the table. “Kathlynn, what is it? You look awful!”
Taking a deep breath, Kathlynn spewed out the story in a hurry. “…So, we both need to pack our things and help Mother and Father with theirs! Mother says that we’re going to Grandmother’s house.”
Mark nodded and stood. “Let’s get to work.”
Kathlynn and Mark packed their things and soon the family was ready to go. Kathlynn’s father sighed and looked back at the family’s home. “I’m sorry about all of this. I didn’t intend for things to turn out this way."
Kathlynn’s mother nodded. “We know. None of us anticipated this. Now, we best get walking. Grandmother lives a rather long distance from us.”
Kathlynn squared her shoulders and took a deep breath before turning her back on the house. There was no use looking back.
The family took a short cut through the woods since going through town would be too risky. The trek was long and tiring and Kathlynn nearly collapsed with relief at the sight of her grandmother’s cozy house.
Kathlynn’s grandmother met them at the door. She didn’t greet them with her usual warm smile. Her grim expression matched Kathlynn’s mother’s inch for inch. “I heard the news in town. Come in, come in.” Kathlynn’s grandmother had already known about the jewel theft from Kathlynn’s father and while she was extremely disappointed, she had agreed to keep it a secret to protect the family.
Kathlynn had always loved her grandmother’s big, airy house. It seemed safe and secure to her. That night in her bed however, she couldn’t seem to shake the terrible feeling that her family wouldn’t really be safe or secure if they were traitors. With a sigh, Kathlynn rose from her bed and headed for the kitchen. She lit one of her grandmother’s spare gas lamps, before she realized she didn’t need it. For in the kitchen, Kathlynn could just make out the faint glow of another gas lamp. Kathlynn entered the room and found her father sitting at the table with his head in his hands.
He looked up with a frown. “You should be in bed.”
“I know, but I can’t sleep.”
“Neither could I. Have a seat.”
Her father sighed. “Why can’t you sleep?”
“Everything! You and Mother have always taught us that stealing is never right, and that God doesn’t want us to steal.”
Kathlynn hesitated, but her father nodded at her. “Go on.”
“Why did you steal from the Queen?”
“Kathlynn, you know the answer to that already. We need the money.”
Her father looked thoughtful for a moment, but then he shook his head. “I suppose you are right, but it’s too late. If I turn myself in now, the Queen may very well have me executed.”
Kathlynn sighed. “I know.” She pushed away from the table and stood. “I’ll go back to bed now.”
“So shall I,” Kathlynn’s father agreed, but he didn’t. For a long time after she left, he just sat and stared into space. Finally, though, he put the lamp out and went to bed.
Bang, bang, bang! Kathlynn awoke with a start the next morning at the noise.
“Madam Dellham, by the power of her Majesty the Queen, open this door!” a deep voice boomed.
Kathlynn caught her breath. It was her worst nightmare come true. The Queen’s guard had arrived. Kathlynn stumbled out of bed and collided with her mother in the hall. Kathlynn saw the terror in her mother’s eyes and felt her own heart beating with anxiety.
“Kathlynn,” her mother whispered in a hoarse voice, “Hide!”
Those two words sent Kathlynn rushing back into her room. Her heart still raced fast and strong and her mind swirled with fear.
“Madam Dellham! Open this door!”
Kathlynn darted under her bed and listened with anticipation as her grandmother answered the door.
“Good morning, Madam. I am sorry to wake you, but as part of the Queen’s guard, I must ask if you have seen or heard from a John Dellham.”
“Oh! I, well, why do you ask?”
“He has been convicted of treason. I am here because he shares your last name, and I wonder if you know him.”
“Well, I haven’t seen him. I’m sorry.”
“Are you sure?”
“Wait!” a new voice interrupted.
Kathlyn gasped. It was her father! “Don’t lie on behalf of me, Mother. I’m here.”
Then with his deepest voice the guard said, “Then, by the authority bestowed within me, I arrest you in the name of her Majesty the Queen. Come with me, sir. Do you still have the diamond?”
“Very good. Come along.”
Kathlynn couldn’t be still any longer. She wormed her way out from under the bed and dashed for the living room. “No! Father! Please!”
But the only one still in the living room was her grandmother. “Grandmother! Where did they go?”
“They’re gone, Kathlynn. They are going to the palace.”
Deep sadness was etched in her grandmother’s face and Kathlynn burst into tears. Mark and Kathlynn’s mother entered the room, and everyone watched from the doorway as Kathlynn’s father was led away by the guard.
Kathlynn watched until the guard and her father were out of sight, tears continuing to soak her face. “Father! No!”
After the third day of her father’s arrest, Kathlynn decided to stop looking back. She knew that it wouldn’t bring her father back. Instead, she busied herself with helping around the house as much as possible.
Kathlynn’s favorite chore was washing the dishes and that was what she was doing when she suddenly heard the front door creak open. With a frown, Kathlynn dried her hands and went to investigate. Her mother was taking a nap and Mark was supposed to be washing the family’s laundry out back.
“Are you done with the laundry, Mark?” Kathlynn asked, while entering the living room. She gasped with shock at what she found. There, standing in the living room, was her father! Alive and well!
“Father!” Kathlynn shrieked with joy, sinking into his open arms.
Mark and Kathlynn’s mother heard her shouts and what they found left them both shocked and filled with happiness. After everyone finished hugging and crying tears of joy, Kathlynn’s father settled in to tell his story.
“The guard who arrested me took me right to the Queen. She had me sleep at the palace while she decided what to do with me.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about right and wrong. I had believed that what I did was wrong, but because I did it for the right reason, that made it okay. But that isn’t true. Wrong is wrong and because I tried to help my family by doing wrong, I got myself and all of you into even more trouble. I’m very sorry and I hope you can forgive me.”
“Of course,” Kathlynn replied, smiling. She couldn’t believe that she had been the one to help her father. And what her father said cleared things up in her mind. Kathlynn felt as though the whole family had been through a lot by her father’s actions. The family sat in solemn silence, all thinking about the past few days.
Kathlynn’s mother suddenly clapped her hands, ending the quiet. “Alright everyone, let’s get ready to go!”
“Go? Are we leaving?” Mark asked.
“We’re going back to your grandmother’s! We need to tell her the good news!”
Everyone smiled and started getting ready.
Kathlynn noticed that she felt happy for the first time in days. Grace, forgiveness, and joy, she thought, are wonderful gifts from God.
Joy in His Peace,
Consider science writing as a great place to start in accomplishing this goal as a Christian.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Genesis 1:1 (KJV)
"All things were made by him;" John 1:3a
Have you been searching for an engaging science book for kids with a Christian worldview?
Lightlab: Lessons for Kids to Explore the Nature of Light and to Know Jesus, by Suzanne O. Shera.
Suzanne O. Shera earned degrees in Optical Engineering and Physics and worked in research. After being a full-time mom, she has been teaching science and math to various age groups and has served in Christian outreach programs.
In her book, Suzanne Shera passionately shares the Gospel message to children and teaches them about light as a powerful tool, with excellent hands-on experiments. She teaches that as light is indispensable to human survival on earth, Jesus is essential to our relationship with our Father in Heaven.
To top it off, Suzanne Shera is a wonderful mentor for those teaching the twelve lessons in her book, as you can see on lightlabetc.com. We had great success with this program at our church both with in-person, hands-on science, and Facebook live videos. You may see In the News tab on newSongpress.net for more details.
Lightlab is intended for children ages 8-12. Children learn about the nature of light and Jesus as the light of the world. Each of the twelve lessons focuses on the characteristics of light, with engaging hands-on activities and Bible studies that encourage reading God’s Word to know who He is and how He wants us to live.
The book is designed for students to write in, somewhat like a Scout handbook, and can be used as a springboard for longer writing pieces.
Because of the exciting, hands-on science, and engaging Bible lessons linked to the science theme for each lesson, students are enriched with deeper understandings and then eager to write about their learning.
I also highly recommend the three books--
Indescribable: 100 Devotions for Kids About God and Science, How Great is Our God: 100 Indescribable Devotions About God and Science, and The Wonder of Creation: 100 More Devotions About God and Science, by Louie Giglio with Tama Fortner. These super-popular devotions are available as books, eBooks, and audiobooks. A Spanish version is available, as well as educator’s guides.
The exciting, kid-friendly devotions focus on the wonders of the universe and honor our Creator God in order “to help kids discover the incredible creation of our indescribable God,” – Publisher Thomas Nelson
How wonderful for children to see God’s creativity with topics in space, earth science, animals, and our human bodies, along with fascinating text and superb illustrations.
Wonderful conversation starters and of course, ideas for children to write about!
Children and teens can delight in growing fruits and vegetables and keeping a journal of all their tasks and things they wonder about from their experiences. Yummy berry patches and fanciful teepee-style bean poles can add to their fun. Gardening is a great way for children to see consequences of good or bad behavior. What happens if they don’t water faithfully or pull weeds which can choke out the good vegetation? What happens if they pluck the fruit before it’s ripe…and how long must they wait for new fruit again? Do they give extra thanks to God before a meal when it includes foods they have helped grow? Sharing extra produce with friends and neighbors can teach children generosity of spirit. So many life lessons can be learned from gardening.
If you live in a small space, or want to start small, you can consider using large pots for gardening or building a salad table with your children. The University of Maryland at www.extension.umd.edu has good information on building a salad table. See the article, “Growing Vegetables in Salad Tables or Salad Boxes.”
From your children’s or students’ experiences and journal writing can come all kinds of further writing possibilities – poems, inspirational fiction, devotions for kids, letters and emails to family members, speech writing, persuasive essays, compare and contrast essays, research reports, how-to and explanation writing, and more.
If you would like to learn how to start a vegetable garden, I invite you to a blog post that I wrote for SusanUNeal.com (Healthy Living Series): 15 Tips for Starting a Vegetable Garden. Just click here.
Children may be intrigued to write about God’s all-wise creation of the relationship between clown fish and sea anemones, or other wonders in nature. Clown fish, a small ocean fish with bright colors and stripes, find protection inside the poisonous tentacles of certain sea anemones, which live attached to coral reefs. How? Whenever the clown fish bumps up against this amazing fortress, it secretes a special substance in their mucous coating on their bodies, until this coating is so thick the clown fish can swim around the tentacles, safe from the poison and hidden from bigger ocean predators. They also feed on food undigested by the sea anemones, kind of like table scraps for a pet dog.
How do clown fish help their hosts? The clown fish’s bright colors attract other creatures, which can then be caught and eaten by the anemones. Some scientists report that clown fish also chase away creatures harmful to the anemones, as they “stand” on guard. Sounds like a pet dog again. 😊 Clown fish help their hosts further, by cleaning the sea anemones and freeing them from parasites.
If you would like to learn more about this mission, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter to keep you up to date on periodic blog posts.
About Heidi Vertrees author/educator
God has blessed me with many opportunities to teach hundreds of children, as a teacher in public and private schools, in churches, and as a mom, homeschool teacher, workshop and camp leader, Bible club leader, and swimming instructor.
I am a licensed teacher, earned a BS in Journalism with Honors from the University of Colorado and a MPA from the University of Denver. I have written articles, short creative writing assignments, and curricula for multiple national and international publications. Victor Survives Being a Kid is my first novel.
I wrote Victor Survives Being a Kid to help children experience God, good humor and courage, and the love of family even while going through major changes. It’s a high adventure novel particularly for boys and girls ages 9-12, is set in Colorado, and told through the eyes of Victor Ortega when he is in middle school, looking back over his fifth-grade year. Children delight in the Spanish (with translations) sprinkled in the story. A free, in-depth teacher’s guide is available (complete with Q&A, talking points, research and project ideas, and recipes) on newSongpress.net.