Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm done bartering with God. House hasn't sold, but I've put my name in writing over the phone, which is as good as my written commitment to teach a writer's workshop class for an hour and a half once a week waaay over on the other side of Hotlanta. I'm really excited about this opportunity and am already seeking ways I can be a blessing to these kids.

In preparation for my class, I've unburied a lost but not forgotten college textbook as well as dusted off my Writing Bible. Lucy Calkin's book The Art of Teaching Writing is my favorite book about a writer's life and about bringing that life into the classroom. It is from this book, in fact, that I borrowed the quote you see on my blog header. One of Calkin's mentorees is Nancie Atwell who authored In the Middle, another fabulous book for the writing teacher.

Aside from my header quote, there are other treasures in Calkin's book:

"James Dickey's definition of a writer--'someone who is enormously taken by things anyone else would walk by'--is an important reminder to those of us who assume that we begin to write by brainstorming ideas, listing topics, and outlining possible directions for a piece. Writing does not begin with deskwork but with lifework" (3).

"Writing [is] not a process of recording details but one of making significance of them" (5).

"And yet, as a writer I have come to know that significance cannot be found, it must be grown. Looking back in my notebook I find a brief entry about how my son Miles uses one of my cotton T-shirts as his 'pretend blanket,' replacing his orginal blanket, which has disintegrated. My inclination is to dismiss the entry as trivial, as something only a mother could care about, but then I remember the writer Vicki Vinton saying, 'It is an illusion that writers live more significant lives than non-writers; the truth is, writers are just more in the habit of finding the significance that is there in their lives'" (7).

[from poet Theodore Roethke] "'If our lives don't feel significant, sometimes it's not our lives, but our response to our lives, which needs to be richer'" (7).

I value the point about the blankie because I have some blankie pictures and words of my own roaming around my head waiting for a perfect blog post. Sometimes I feel I write about nothing, but all of my "nothings" are significant to me, and I hope I write about them in a way that brings significance to the few who read this.

I suppose writing about nothing would be something akin to a show about nothing. I find myself in Seinfeld moments at least several times a week, if not for the mere fact that I utter the words "Serenity now!" quite often throughout the day. There have certainly been moments like that this month with only a skeleton schedule called "Summer School" in play. I am excited to once again begin school with the kids. In fact, I'm contemplating completely changing the daily schedule that I tweaked so carefully. I'd like to incorporate some writing workshop time in my little academy just as I envision for my other endeavor.

It would certainly call for a schedule change. Learning Adventures is the unit study I intend to use this year, and as a unit study, it tosses in a smattering of subjects every day. It's been difficult for me to get a handle on this type of schedule. In the past both in my 2nd grade classroom and in my homeschool, I have always taught one-on-one in the morning and electives together in the afternoon, alternating the days I teach Science and History. This has worked beautifully...not as much prep, not as much changing from one thing to the next. I'm thinking of reworking the unit study to accommodate this same type of schedule. Will take some doing, but since when have I taught any type of curriculum as is?

I talk about schedules a lot, don't I? Sometimes I think I really just need to loosen up. I was discussing this with a friend the other day--how once upon a long, long time ago I envisioned myself as this mom who would be a Fun Mom when she had kids. One who would play Hide-and-Seek on a whim, one who would run out to blow bubbles to elicit giggles, one who would form Playdough into imaginative creatures. But somewhere along the way my smile was frozen into this hard line on my face, my brow furrowed, and I became the Rule Enforcer. I hate being that kind of mom.

I was reminded of the magic of being a kid today at the movies. During the summer, our local theater does free movies every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Today we took in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. It was a good movie with messages of believing in yourself and of not forgetting to have fun, to find the magic in things. Kind of goes along with that Finding Significance thing in a writer's life...


Arby said...

I created a Writer’s Workshop program based on In the Middle that was a huge success in the parochial school where I taught English. It resulted in two literary magazines published by eighth grade classes. Unfortunately, my high school classes were too large to make the same program work. That same program worked to good success with homeschoolers; although, we never published. I say, go for it! Fit it into your program.

Tisha S said...

I too, have fleeting remembrances of that fun mom I wanted to be. As a matter of fact, growing up that is all I wanted to be. Now, even though we do a lot together, I too find myself the firm one.

I have to remind myself sometimes of the fun stuff that we do...I'm not mean all the time. :-) And I know you aren't...your kids are wonderful.

(note - please forgive me writings. I was never a writer and English was my worst subject)

dclouser said...

You have certainly put into practice the teachings of that book. Your writing is fabulous - you will be a blessing to those kids in Hotlanta for sure! I'll tell you, it's a pleasure to read something that isn't filled with spelling and punctuation errors. And, by the way, you sound like a fun mom to me taking your kids to the theater (and lots more that you do with them, spontaneous or not!)

CrossView said...

If it helps, as your kids get older the rules have become second nature and the fun happens more. But with all you do with your kids, there's no doubt that there have been many wonderful memories made for them!

Congratulations on the workshop! I know the kids will benefit from your teachings. And maybe you need the drive time to mentally prepare as you go and decompress on your way back?

We live in Podunk. Everywhere we go is like a drive across Hotlanta. =/