My career aspirations came and went in phases growing up. Like many kids, I had a short-lived desire to pursue fire-fighting as a preschooler. But that dream was dropped like a hot potato when it dawned on me that fire fighters actually had to enter burning buildings and didn't just drive around on snazzy trucks. This was followed by my "I want to be a hairstylist" phase. Every Barbie in the house that year received a pixie ala Liza Minnelli; it was 1973, Cabaret was still very big. And my presidential ambitions died a slow and painful death after one very poorly run student council race. We were only in third grade, but my already politically jaded constituents saw right through my "I'll get soda in the water fountains" campaign promise.
The desire to grow up to be a professional writer kicked in when I was around 10. I was in fourth grade, and my original 14-page book of poetry, "Give Me Liberty," bound with yellow duct tape and covered with stars and stripes fabric, was selected by our school's media specialist to represent Potomac Elementary at the Maryland Young Authors Conference in celebration of the bicentennial. I can still remember standing on stage at the state capitol proudly reading my Lexington and Concord themed haiku (yes, I employed a Japanese format for an unabashedly jingoistic poem) aloud for the panel of distinguished judges (senior media specialists from other schools, I'm guessing).
If there was a national competition for patriotic poets, I didn't advance based on my 17-syllable homage to the "shot heard round the world." And to be fair, the piece probably did need some finessing. But in 1976, there weren't a lot of after-school activities or summer camps available to nurture precocious poets, or any other youthful writers for that matter.
But times, quite fortunately, have changed. And if you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills.
For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8. Kids who attend the Young Writers Camp will have the daily opportunity to perfect their craft in the stunning east side gardens. I can't imagine a better environment than Olbrich, from the Thai Pavilion to the relaxing serenity garden, for inspiration.
The fellows and experienced teachers who will be serving as the program's "counselors" all have the goal of inspiring and supporting writers of all abilities. Every youthful Emerson, Thoreau and Veronica Roth-to-be will get the opportunity to dive deeply into the writing process. He or she will learn how to more easily generate ideas and become appreciative of good editing (who isn't?) all while exploring a variety of genres including poetry, creative nonfiction, personal narratives and short stories. Kids will also get to meet guest writers from the Madison area and contribute a prized work of writing (maybe even a haiku?) to the program's published anthology.
The early-bird registration is due June 1. So hurry up and register your budding Brontes. Because kids can be fickle when it comes to "What I want to be when I grow up."
But take it from an award-winning haiku practitioner. Having a mini-Moliere, as opposed to a junior Vidal Sassoon in the house can be a lot neater. And a lot less expensive, especially if your kid is a doll collector.comments powered by Disqus
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.