A little background….Mary and I met over 15 years ago in Tempe, Arizona when our husbands were in graduate school at Arizona State. We have been great friends for such a long time. God has blessed our families with kids who are the same age and sex and obviously, the call to homeschool. We now live in different states but try to get together several times per year. The kids disappear for the weekend, the husbands work on research, and Mary and I laugh, serve meals, and talk about all kinds of great stuff!
A few years ago we decided to meet weekly via FaceTime to work on writing. We wanted our oldest daughters especially to have more time together. What we didn’t realize was how effective our weekly meetings would be.
Using the IEW Level B Course, the kids would watch the DVD and work independently throughout the week on the writing assignment. On Thursdays we exchanged papers via email, and the kids would edit each others’ essays. On Fridays, we would Facetime. The kids would give each other feedback on their writing. This served several purposes.
- The kids were practicing editing skills. They looked for punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure errors.
- It took their writing to a whole different level as they were no longer just writing for Mom. They wanted to impress each other as well as Mary and I.
- They gave and received feedback. Each kid would talk about what they liked in the paper and suggestions for improvement. I believe this is a skill that we all need to practice. It takes a lot of humility to receive constructive feedback (i.e. not get defensive, thank people for their criticisms, etc). It also takes a lot of grace to give feedback (i.e. saying things in a way that won’t hurt someone’s feelings, pointing out what they liked, etc).
- It improved their vocabulary as they tried to incorporate as many vocabulary words into a paper as possible. There are many times when we brainstorm as a group a synonym for a word trying to come up with the best possible word choice to add variety to their papers.
- For Mary and I, it gave us the chance to see where our kids had gaps in their knowledge. Plus, we have both refined our own grammar and writing skills.
- Finally, it encouraged creativity. Their stories were funny and engaging. They tried to come up with different ideas that they knew each other would like.
Later we expanded Facetime to include Book Discussions. The kids would read designated chapters during the week. On Fridays we would discuss the book using a Literature Guide. If you look on the main menu, we have a whole slew of choices. Again this served several purposes: reading comprehension, critical thinking skills, and the chance to talk about some really great books! In some cases, we have assigned essays or book critiques after we have finished reading the book.
This year we are using the IEW Ancient History Course and reading a series of Ancient History historical fiction with three of our boys. The literature guides are attached below. This spring we plan to complete the Grammar of Poetry Course. It may be the only way we can get our boys to write poetry willingly!
Whether you get together in person or via Facetime, having your children work together with another family on writing and reading is a great activity!