This past week I had the privilege of leading a series of "Blogging for Beginners" workshops for the elementary and middle school students participating in the Greater Madison Writing Project Young Writers Summer Camp.
It was fun to sit among the roses and wildflowers for a couple of hours (the camp is held at Olbrich Gardens) and share my thoughts on identifying your audience and how to come up with fodder for posts. Then, I closed each of the sessions by asking the kids to come up with a few ideas for topics they think they might be interested in blogging about.
Many of their proposals were sweet, but somewhat expected given the age of the attendees. I heard lots of pitches for blogs about the Brewers, feline friends and middle school gossip. But some of the ideas, like the ones that follow, really made me sit up and take notice.
One camper, Nancy Drew's self-professed biggest fan, suggested a site where other Drew-o-philes "could talk about our favorite books on-line, offer tips for solving mysteries in our own lives, and discuss who we think Carolyn Keene (the pseudonym of the series author) really is." The young lady who suggested this blog also thought it would be great to host a contest guessing in which state Nancy's fictional town, River Heights, was located.
An eleven-year-old girl suggested a blog dedicated to kid kitchen fails. You know, stories of peanut butter sandwiches gone awry. Videos of chocolate chip cookies that spontaneously combust. I offered to pen a guest post recalling the one and only time in third grade that my mom let my best friend and me loose in the kitchen. We somehow managed to flip the Bisquick box mid recipe and ended up making something that could be best described as early fusion cuisine (half strawberry shortcake, half chicken pot pie). Sometimes the unexpected convergence of flavors is delicious. This was not one of those times.
A sixth-grade girl thought a blog dedicated to summer camps that don't, but should, exist would be very useful. She had tons of ideas for her weekly posts. A camp that just lets kids sit around and read all day. A camp that teaches kids how to French braid. A camp where you hold baby animals, but never have to clean up after them.
An extremely energetic nine-year-old boy was charged up to start an online kid's discussion that focuses on international current events. He planned to cover the situation in Gaza, Russia/Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak in Africa. "Wouldn't kids from around the world want to know what a kid in the US thinks about all these things?" he asked. "There really aren't enough kid websites out there that deal with world affairs." I think he may be right about this being an untapped market. And how refreshing to meet a fourth grader who cares, and is so knowledgeable, about something besides Minecraft.
Perhaps my favorite blog idea came from the youngest child I met that day. According to this eight-year-old, unicorns actually lived at the same time as dinosaurs, but because their bones were so fragile, when they died out, they left no fossils. He proposed to start a blog that would encourage scientists to look for evidence that the famed one-horned, flying mythical creature wasn't so mythical after all.
Yes, 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.
And just as importantly, in a world of depressing current events, there is little that makes me smile broader than entertaining the idea that unicorns may have once frolicked with leprechauns and mermaids. So I'm off to do a little myth busting of my own.comments powered by Disqus
New Year's resolutions are hard to keep. In fact, something around 90% of people fail every year! But one way that you can increase your odds of victory is to get other people involved.
Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?
If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.
I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.
On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.
You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.
If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.
At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).
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"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
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?"
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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?