I have a confession: when my kids were toddlers, I longed for the time when they’d be both be in school/preschool for part of the day so I’d have uninterrupted time to write. I adored them, of course, but if I didn’t get my weekly writing time, I started to feel lost, depressed, and pretty darned cranky. So when the happy day came, I celebrated, looking forward to 2 glorious hours of writing, 2 mornings a week. Practically heaven.
That’s why it was a really tough decision when, a few years later, we decided to take them out of public school. A combination of circumstances (this was just after 9/11 and the death of a close family friend) meant that one of our boys was miserable and depressed in the public school environment, where–like so many super-bright kids–he didn’t fit in, wasn’t challenged, and wasn’t happy.
If you’ve ever had a kid come home in tears or, worse, watched one spiral downward into hopelessness, you’ll understand my decision to try homeschooling, even if it wasn’t a great fit for me personally.
My biggest challenge was teaching my kids to write. I loved writing and storytelling, but I could not get my boys excited about it. I started to fear that I was teaching them to hate writing, rather than love it like I did.
Around that time, a writing friend introduced me to a local kids’ writing program/club called Druidawn. It used a roleplaying game (similar to Dungeons and Dragons, but simpler) to encourage kids to write. In D&D, players gain experience points through game play, which they use to “level up,” a process that makes their characters progressively more skilled and powerful.
In Druidawn, kids gained experience points by writing. Since they spent part of their writing club time playing the roleplaying game–in which the characters they’d created faced challenges, fought monsters, and completed quests–they had ready-made material to write about. My third-grader went from writing only when forced (and then, he’d write the bare minimum) to churning out reams of pages about his character, his friends’ characters, and their adventures.
I credit that experience with teaching him the love of writing he has today.Continue Reading