The kids and I had a writing club this summer. We didn’t originally call it a writing club. My intention was to just help them keep up their writing skills as their brains shriveled during the long summer months away from school. There was no mandate other than to write for the better part of an hour and then we would share what we had been working on. They could write anything they wanted, fantasy stories, scripts for comic books, poems, character sketches anything as long as it was something fun. I also discouraged them from spending all their time drawing pictures for the comic book, they had to be writing words. Ok, so maybe there were a few other mandates but it was all about the fun.
And it worked. After the first session the kids really embraced it. They started asking if we could go longer than an hour and they started calling it Writing Club. Then something crazy happened.
As we shared our writing my daughter came to the realization that she liked the way her brother wrote, but she didn’t like what he was writing so she hatched the idea for a collaboration. She would work out the plot and characters of the story and he would compose the actual text contributing to the plot and characters along the way. Now, I should point out here that, like so many siblings, my kids bicker with each other almost constantly. However, through the magic of Writing Club they established a détente that led to a productive – and happy – working relationship. Merran and I put our project management hats on and tried to figure out how this was possible. As it happened the arrangement the kids set up played off of their needs and strengths. Our daughter, as a younger sibling, wants what so many younger brothers and sisters want, the opportunity to be in charge, calling the shots over their older counterpart. Happily in our case, my son can be very accommodating and with their roles in the process clearly defined they actually made great progress on their story.
As much as I would like to take credit for this idyllic outcome I have to admit that the kids were the ones who really stepped up and made it work. I was prepared for difficult times where the kids might fuss over not having anything to write about so I kept a copy of Don’t Forget to Write by 826 National at my elbow. It’s a collection of 50 creative writing lessons and exercises that are guaranteed to get the creative juices flowing. As nice as it was to have them happily working as a team on a story they were both really engaged with I was secretly hoping they would need some help so I could crack it open and go through a few of the exercises with them. Alas, their creative energy was in ample supply.
Now that summer is drawing to a close I feel confident that between Writing Club and our local library’s summer reading challenge our kids’ reading and writing is in good shape for back to school.
Math on the other hand, well, perhaps I can come up with something by next summer…