We are slowly getting back into the rhythm of home-edding alhamdulillah. (I miss my stitching!) I’m honestly not an unschooler (don’t hang me!), so while I do enjoy down times and vacations, I do get a litttle anxious and start stressing about how much more we need to do. I’m not the kind who expects the kids to do a lot of written work, but I do want their days to be productive. It doesn’t help that I always want to do more with the kids – we always have a million projects we want to delve into, homeschooling and otherwise.
Marz has been working on her writing. She has been doing reports on Science and History and although she needs to work a little harder on her spelling (it’s more carelessness than anything!), I think she has done well in this area, alhamdulillah. She likes doing research and enjoys ploughing through different books, compiling information and writing it all out. Alhamdulillah our local homeschooling co-op run by my friend Umm Aymun has helped a great deal in this respect. The bi-weekly meetings have given her a sense of purpose and urgency in writing things out well and on time.
I’ve been encouraging her to do creative writing for a change – fiction is something I know she longs to do, but is hesitant about. She likes learning about other people’s experiences, how they do things and what motivates them, so I got this book for her when we were last in Singapore – Writing Magic – Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine. (She is the author of Ella Enchanted, which won her a Newbery Honor in 1998.)
Levine encourages budding writers to read voraciously and to surround themselves with inspiring words. It isn’t a dry how-to book – it has writing tips and prompts in the book peppered with the author’s personal thoughts and experiences. Marz loved reading not only about the creative process, but about the significant incidents in Levine’s that shaped her as writer. She especially identified with the part where she says that there is always a niggling voice of doubt in her that tells her that her writing is not good enough. (I tell you, this girl is really her mama’s daughter!)
Writing Magic shows how one can get ideas for a story as well as how to develop and revise it. It guides writers on how to add details and dialogue and appropriate use of words. It even gives some advice on how one can sell one’s work. Levine is quick to show becoming a writer is not a bed of roses – she herself has had work rejected. However, these are setbacks that can help a writer grow further.
Levine writes in a personable way that really reaches out to her readers. She tells them not to throw any of their work away or to abandon ship when the going gets tough. She is encouraging and takes her readers’ dream seriously and helps them believe in themselves. I like that this book has fired Marz up – she looks forward to tackling the exercises and spends a great deal of time plotting out her stories.
This book is a gem for us. If you’ve read or used this book, I’d like to know how you and your children found it :)
On the way to The Hidden Playground…
My rowdy ruffians, bless them, love playing together. They especially like the outdoors and can spend hours in the garden, climbing the fig tree and checking on the plants and insects. They have a few favourite haunts out of home, one of which is a lovely place they call “The Hidden Playground”. Nestled in a quiet residential area, it seems almost mysterious. This park is very well-maintained – the gardener seems to have taken pains to keep it clean (trust me, no mean feat in this country!) and also to retain its woodsy charm.
Some adults meet there in the evenings to rest and talk after a long day or simply to imbibe the peace and tranquility, but it is otherwise hardly frequented by others, at least not on weekdays. Many might not find it anything special – it is rather old-school as far as playgrounds go. There are two swings, a simple climbing facility and a cement slide so old it is worn smooth. It is a spacious place with a slope to race up and down and two little gazebos for shade. Nothing out of the ordinary, you might say. However, its appeal, I believe, lies in its simplicity. My girls find The Hidden Playground a place of promise – where they can dream up ideas and adventures. This secret hideaway is where they can cavort and frolic to their hearts’ content.
There are bushes and hedges that border the upper slopes of the park and at the far end is the kids’ favourite spot. There is a cavity in the hedge, just small enough for a child to crawl into. At the base of this little hole are two strong branches that have grown horizontally, just above the ground. This is a perfect hiding spot! A child can squeeze into the ‘cave’ and crouch on these branches and remain concealed. They will be covered by the leaves and their feet will be raised off the ground and unseen. They played hide-and-seek with The Dad Man and giggled gleefully when they took him completely by surprise.
My kids do have some toys, but they seem to have the most fun when they make their own or use un-toys (more on this later in shaa Allah) and when they don’t use any props at all, except for their own imagination. I posted three articles from National Public Radio some time ago and these gave me a deeper appreciation for children and improvised play. If you are interested, you can read them here: Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills, The Evolution of Play and The Best Kinds of Play.
It is wonderful watching the kids play sometimes – as they interact with each other, create their own rules and make their own decisions, I see how they are, in fact, practising at their adult roles and I cannot help but wonder what they will become, with the permission and help of Allah.
I love this part of the park – this tree bordered by the rocks looks so very pretty with the wooden bench close by.
It has been a while since I stepped out with them to the park. There has been so much to do lately but in shaa Allah I think I will try to take some time off with them this weekend.
I think we need some Hidden Playground magic… :)