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.

Mars 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. Mars 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 Mars 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 :)

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