A note about voice from a fictional student:
"She [Francie] started fresh on a new page.

'Intolerance,' she wrote, pressing down hard on the pencil, 'is a thing that causes war, pogroms, crucifixions, lynchings, and makes people cruel to little children and to each other. It is responsible for most of the viciousness, violence, terror and heart and soul breaking of the world.'

She read the words over aloud. They sounded like words that came in a can; the freshness was cooked out of them. She closed the book and put it away."

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, page 229
Teacher Carolyn Foley sent a letter to the parents of her students. It's worth reading in full. Here is a quote she includes which piggybacks nicely with what I said here and here.
Don’t worry too much about technicalities and misspelling.  (Some-times we over-stress spelling because it gives us something easy and clear cut to land on.  We mustn’t overlook what is being said.)  The school has primary responsibility here.  Grammar can always be repaired if sincerity and interest are present.  On the other hand no amount of “correctness” can cover up the empty world of a child who hasn’t been helped to get interested and excited about something, preferably many things.
I don't know if my English teachers' instruction about voice floated right over my head or if they didn't include it in their lesson plans. All I know is that I didn't learn it from them. What did sink deep was the importance of sounding smart and using correct grammar. But, as this article explains, an impeccably correct essay can be a painfully voiceless one. And who wants to read it? No one.

_The author says, "I would define voice in writing as the quality of writing that gives readers the impression that they are hearing a real person, not a machine."

Let's be teachers who help our students develop their voices, providing practice, encouragement, and models. If their personalities and passions are welcomed at the writing party when they are young, they will likely continue attending when they are older.

It's long, but this article about voice in writing is excellent.
Here's a quick children's lit. quiz. I'm going to name some main characters; you're going to name their author.


Murdley Gurdson
Princess Penelope
Wodney Wat

Okay. What's your answer?

Did you say Helen Lester?  Ding. Ding. Ding. You are correct!

Lester also has a book about herself. In Author: A True Story, she tells the good and the bad of becoming an author. Your young writers will see an experienced writer facing rejection, persevering, practicing, using the writing process, being frustrated, being inspired.

They will see that they are much like Helen (well, except that they don't receive royalties for their work). Knowing that they are not alone may make a very difficult process just a tad easier to bear.

If you're not familiar with Murdley and the rest of the characters I mentioned, go to E/Lester on your next visit to the library and fill your bag with Lester's books. They are the kind you won't mind reading for the 20th time.
Thank you, Ann Voskamp, for this reminder. To read the full post, go here.

Your sin can’t separate you (or your child) from Christ.

Your Father is bigger than your failures, your flesh and your faults.

And your strengths can’t save you (or your child) in Christ.

Your ego, your excellence and your efforts won’t ever be big enough to be a Savior.

Your sins aren’t enough to keep your child from God and your strengths aren’t enough to get your child to God.

Your sins aren’t enough to keep you from God and your strengths aren’t enough to get you to God.

Your sins aren’t enough to destroy your life and your strengths aren’t enough to determine your life.

Your sins aren’t enough to separate you – and your strengths aren’t enough to save you.

That’s the bottom line: Your sins aren’t enough and your strengths aren’t enough. You are not enough — for this parenting gig, this marriage relationship, this homeschooling year, this work project.

Write it on the wall, ink it on some skin, because Christ wrote it with His blood:

Grace is the only thing that is ever enough.

Because the thing is – every sin and every strength always falls short. Every sin and every strength is always both in need of exactly the same thing: the grace of God.

Grace is the only thing that ever makes a way.

You find yourself praying it at the sink, at the desk, at the door:

Life 101 is Parenting 101: You can’t control outcomes — you can only model how to become.

Because Life isn’t about controlling things – but about letting God control you. Parenting isn’t about controlling kids – but about letting God control you. Parenting isn’t as much about raising the kids — but about laying yourself right down.

You only parent as well as you know your Father.

You only live as well as Christ lives in you.

 Do you want books to help your students...
                        ...learn the elements of literary analysis?
                        ...study different genres?
                        ...improve their reading and writing skills?

I recommend Nancy Loewen's Writer's Toolbox series.  So far, there are nine:
  • Action! Writing Your Own Play
  • It’s All About You: Writing Your Own Journal
  • Just the Facts: Writing Your Own Research Report
  • Make Me Giggle: Writing Your Own Silly Story
  • Once Upon a Time: Writing Your Own Fairy Tale
  • Share a Scare: Writing Your Own Scary Story
  • Show Me a Story: Writing Your Own Picture Book
  • Sincerely Yours: Writing Your Own Letter
  • Words, Wit, and Wonder: Writing Your Own Poem

These books accomplish a lot. First, many of them include a stand-alone story. In Once Upon a Time, for instance, Loewen retells "Little Red Riding Hood."  The story can be read and enjoyed all by itself. But then she adds blocks to most pages which explain the tools necessary for that particular genre. Again, in Once Upon a Time, Loewen shows that fairy tales need setting, characters, plot, dialogue, warnings, magic, greed, tricks, secret, repetition, mistakes, problem-solving, and a pleasing end. Phew! That sounds like an overwhelming list, but she keeps the descriptions brief, and she positions the story, so that it illustrates each tool she is explaining.

At the end of the books, she reviews the tools, gives "Getting Started Exercises," shares "Writing Tips," and directs readers to a Fact Hound site which lists related books and websites.

There's no lack of nourishment for your language arts menu here. Focus on one book a month or intersperse a few of them with the other language arts activities you are doing. Whatever you choose, I'm pretty sure you'll leave the table satisfied.

For an additional idea, see the assignment in Inspiration.
"Writing the first draft was a tedious ordeal for me (and still is), but revising was like solving a puzzle: move this sentence, cut this paragraph, change this word, summarize this, stretch that—the challenge of revision was what writing was all about."
                                                                                                     ~Nancy Loewen, children's author
Monday: I took my girls to our church's youth camp, dreaming about the next three days of doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. No one to taxi. No meals to cook. For the one meal my husband would be home, I planned to use a gift card.

Tuesday: A friend from the camp called and said Rebekah hurt her knee. At our visit to the emergency room, hurt was further defined: fractured tibial plateau.

Wednesday: My husband and I took Rebekah to an orthopaedic specialist. He looked at her x-ray and said, "This is serious." After consulting with another doctor, he informed us we would need to go to a children's hospital for further evaluation. Because her break is on the growth plate near the joint, they didn't feel qualified to help her.

Thursday: I picked up my other two girls at youth camp and tackled the huge laundry pile. In the evening, I noticed Rebekah's leg was considerably more swollen than it had been. And it was hot. I checked her temperature. Fever. Back to the emergency room for observation and eventually a shot to treat a potential blood clot, not to return home until 2:00 a.m.

Friday: Off to a children's hospital in another state, where Rebekah had an ultrasound and a CT scan. The doctor told us that Rebekah needs inpatient surgery.

Saturday: A day to catch up on everything that wasn't done all week, including cleaning and helping my oldest daughter with one last shopping trip before she leaves for college.

Sunday: Rest!

Tomorrow: We move our oldest to college. We find out when surgery will be scheduled.

Now do you understand why there are no new posts on this site?!