by Kate Moriarty
It seems like everybody from our next-door-neighbor to our assistant parish priest is writing a blog these days. There are food bloggers, fashion bloggers, micro bloggers, mommy bloggers and a disturbing number of people who post nothing but cat photos.
Writing a blog is an excellent way to develop your creative and literary skills and it seems especially well suited to the homeschooling curriculum. A blog is like an online journal (the word “blog” is a contraction of “web-log”). Authors may write about any subject which interests them, and read what other bloggers have to say on the topic. Since starting a blog myself, I’ve discovered a wonderful community of homeschool mothers who blog about their experiences. Recently, I’ve set my nine-year-old daughter up with her own blog and found it to be an invaluable resource.
Here are five reasons why keeping a blog can be a valuable part of your homeschool curriculum:
1. It’s a great way to motivate your kids to write
I don’t know about you, but when I ask my daughter to write a report for me to correct, she tends to drag her feet and tries to get away with the bare minimum. When I ask her to write something that will be published and read by all her friends and family, she tends to put a lot more effort into her work.
2. You can use a wide variety of writing styles
It is good for children to practice writing in different genres. A blog post can be:
- Step-by-step instructions for a recipe, craft project or science experiment;
- A review of a book, film or cafe;
- An argumentative or persuasive piece (or, perhaps, an open letter) on a current issue (or something trivial and humorous!);
- A recount of a recent holiday or field trip;
- A reflection on next Sunday’s readings, or the life of a saint.
3. It sets up a regular writing habit
It’s true for all of us: the best way to improve our writing is to write. Dr Mary Kay Clark writes:
“Writing in the journal gives the child practice in putting on paper the ideas which are floating in his brain … Just let him practice. Let him become accustomed to the written word, its powers and its deficiencies … Besides a paper journal, there is also the possibility of keeping a journal on the computer, or even posting in a blog.”
4. A blog can open up learning conversations with the child’s ‘village’
A blog is an easy way for me to keep Matilda’s family and friends informed of what she is learning in homeschool at the moment. Often, these members of her ‘village’ will contribute to the learning. When a friend of mine, who has a background in science, read that Matilda had been learning about photosynthesis, she wrote a note in the ‘comments’ section, sharing links to some fun and educational songs on the topic. When we have dinner with our extended family, they will often chat to Matilda about her latest blog post. It is an especially good way for us to keep in touch with family members who live overseas.
5. Writing to a regular schedule allows children to practise meeting natural deadlines
One of the many blessings of homeschool for our family is the flexibility of the schedule. However, I still wanted Matilda to learn the skill of structuring her time to meet a deadline. In a blog, this can be as simple as writing “I post every Friday” on the “About” page. Nobody wants to let their faithful readers down!
Remember, Safety First!
So, now that I have you almost convinced, all you need to do is get started! Setting up a blog is as simple as setting up an email address or social media account. I use WordPress.com and am very happy with them, but there are other platforms you could use as well.
As with any activity, the number one rule is ‘Safety First’. For bloggers, as with super heroes, this means protecting your identity. Here’s how:
- Children should know not to put personal information like their street address or phone number anywhere on their blog.
- My daughter uses a pen name when writing her blog (“Matilda” , by Roald Dahl, is one of her favourite books)
- We use no identifying photos on the blog (although plenty of pictures of cupcakes and sunflower sprouts)
- I remain the ‘moderator’ of Matilda’s blog. This means I hold the password and must approve any comments people write before anybody else gets to read them. I also check everything Matilda writes before it’s published.
- Perhaps the safest option, however, is to establish a private blog. Most blog platforms have the option to create a blog that can be viewed by invitation only. In this way, a blog can be shared with a small circle of family, friends and fellow homeschoolers, without being on display to the general public. It is important to note, however, that the default setting on a new blog account is for a public blog and you will need to change the privacy options if you want a private blog.
A final tip – I always make sure Matilda does most of the composing and editing work with a pen and paper before typing up the final draft. This limits the amount of time spent in front of a screen and ensures she proofreads properly with a dictionary and without the aid of Spellcheck or Autocorrect! Also, if you do decide to start up a blog, drop me a line to let me know how you get on – I would love to hear from you!
If you have any queries or comments, please leave me a line at the end of this article, I will be happy to get back to you.