Creative Communications

Thirty Writing, Speaking, and Drawing Projects for Homeschoolers
Book cover: 'Creative Communications: Thirty Writing, Speaking, and Drawing Projects for Homeschoolers'
Sandra Garant
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Number of pages: 
139 pages
Grade / Age level: 

"This book is actually a description of how and why I taught my three children to write. I read a few 'teaching chldren how to write' books and had no desire to use the suggested exercises. They seemed meaningless and out of touch with our daily lives. I wanted my children to use writing, drawing, and speaking to handle specific situations successfully. I wanted them to be able to write conversational letters, to take phone messages, and to learn to ask thoughtful questions. I wanted them to communicate their thoughts and ideas clearly to others and to be able to determine the best means according to each situation." (quote from the author in "Why I Wrote This Book")

This is a book of projects to encourage communication - and especially writing - in practical (and often fun) ways that are especially appropriate for homeschool families. The book is divided into three sections...

The first section "Pre-Writing Projects" includes seven projects to encourage those just beginning-to-write-a-little to be well-prepared for writing by playing word and memory games, writing name tags, learning manners relating to meeting and talking to people, labeling household items, telling stories, singing songs, writing lists, etc. Far from being a list of projects, this twenty-five page section includes quite a bit of detail, adequate descriptions and many ideas for implementation of these projects. You'll also find examples of particular people working on their communication skills and ideas for gaining the cooperation of reluctant writers. I found these descriptions quite creative and it is obvious that the author has really used these ideas in her own family.

Section Two covers ten "Short Projects for Ready Writers" which includes projects such as composing prayers, having a pen pal or a "cyber-pal" to write to, writing menus, making greeting cards, taking telephone messages (and other aspects of telephone communication and etiquette), special story-writing ideas and a family newsletter project. One of the appendices also includes a listing of websites where children can find Catholic pen pals on the Internet. This section also includes tips for parents on "When Is Your Child Ready to Write?", "Communication is Worth the Work" and "Ready for Informal Grammar". I think the ideas are very practical and very homeschool-mom friendly.

Thirteen "Advanced Projects for Real Writers" are covered in Section Three. These include projects of a more advanced nature which "require spelling and grammar skills, but ... also require planning, thought, and some technical skills." These are designed for those old enough to do a good deal of independent work with parental approval but minimum parental supervision/assistance. Projects range from learning to express spiritual beliefs and convictions to writing tests and study guides, from practicing proofreading skills to simple computer programming and audio/video productions. (To give you a better sense of this section, the following is a list of the project titles: "Wearable Words", "Study Guides", "Writing Your Own Tests", "Journals with a Theme", "Magazine and Newsletter Submissions", "Proofreading Skills", "Instructional Aids", "Memory Book", "Family History", "Calendars", "Action Letters", "Computer Programs" and "Radio and Video Production".)

In addition, you'll find: extensive tips and explanations on the whys and hows of teaching writing - including helping children to be motivated to write and a short essay encouraging teens to use communication skills to do good within the community and gain valuable experience. Appendices include twenty four "plot situations" to get started on writing assignments, a listing of "How to" Books and Websites relating to the projects; suggested supplies, an overview of copyright laws and Fair Use Policies, simple grammar rules and sixteen pages of writing samples from the author's children (which help to illustrate some of the project ideas given in the text.

Most of the content is very practical (and family-oriented) in nature. Religious content extends to ideas and examples (within the various projects) that would be of interest to Catholic homeschoolers, such as writing letters to television stations to encourage moral programming and helping spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. I find the author quite creative in using ordinary experiences as good learning opportunities. I'm looking forward to digging into some of the projects with my own children this fall.

The author is a Catholic mother of three, a free-lance writer, and has been homeschooling her children since 1989.

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