Tag Archives: literacy

National Novel Writing Month – November 2015

National Novel Writing Month – November 2015

Last year I heard about a cool program that encourages both children and adults to write. My children and I participated and enjoyed the process. Now this fantastic program is back for 2015.

National Novel Writing Month, November 1-30, is a great time to facilitate a love of writing without fear of rejection and failure. Educators, including homeschool families, can order a FREE classroom kit. I suggest gifting a donation to help continue the gift of free kits to those who cannot afford to pay or donate.

nanowrime final

The classroom kit includes:

  • NaNoWriMo’s Triumphant Chart of Noveling Progress
  • up to 35 “Contents Extremely Imaginative” NaNoWriMo stickers
  • up to 35 “I Novel” NaNoWriMo buttons

And, as a bonus this year:

  • one Writer Emergency Pack (created and provided by screenwriter John August)


Adults can participate here.

Children and classes can participate here.

Browse the sites. They have quite a few free and for pay resources.

I hope you enjoy the program as much as we do!

Stop Dilly Dallying! (Read the book!)


 Child Reading

Yesterday my son wanted to read (as usual) so we sat down with several of his favorite books. I asked him a question about the main character and he answered, then excitedly opened the book to the first page of text. I began to read, then paused to ask another question. He became impatient and stated firmly, “Stop dilly dallying. I WANT to hear the story.” I was taken back for a moment. After all, I am a teacher by trade and part of learning to be an “effective teacher” is knowing how to ask open ended questions and help children make connections while reading texts.

Even though we unschool, I still find myself going back to my old ways. Sure, it is okay for me to ask a genuine question for my information. However, my child just wants to hear the stinkin’ book and I really shouldn’t interrupt his enjoyment of reading. If I interrupt often, he may decide that reading is no longer fun or worthwhile. Truth be told, it really isn’t my right to interrupt a story. I would be irate if someone interrupted my favorite story! Why would it be okay to interrupt his favorite story? It isn’t. It just isn’t.

When I interrupt, even with the best of intentions, I am sabotaging a few things. I am breaking my son’s concentration which reinforces a short attention span rather than allowing a longer attention span to grow. No wonder children have such short attention spans even in upper grades. WE, teachers and parents, interrupt them constantly in order to meet our curriculum standards, our schedule, and our goals. (We also tend to use topics not chosen by students which means they may not be invested in learning the information, but that is a topic for another post.)


Children imagination


When I interrupt, I cause a break in the fluidity of the author’s story. How can a child learn the ebb and flow of a story or chapter without hearing stories, or a chapter, from beginning to end? Yes, we can list the parts of a well written story, but children can and should learn to write their own stories through reading and hearing uninterrupted examples of stories. Plus, the author would have noted any breaks the reader should take when reading the text. Besides, it is a reader’s right to use his imagination to help him understand a story. My questions can throw this creative process off balance.

When I interrupt, I take the fun out of the story. My child will ask me if he has a question. He will let me know how long he wants to look at an illustration and when he is ready to turn a page. It is not my job to interrupt. It is my job to be here to read with him, answer his questions, and discuss the information when he wants to expand his knowledge.


This topic is a difficult one for me, personally. I spent many years teaching canned curriculum easily fall to old habits. (Canned lessons are the curriculum for each subject which is pre-written by a large company. Though I could scaffold lessons to meet the needs of all learners, I still had to follow the topics and standards listed in the lessons.) Going forward, I will work to catch myself before I interrupt a story to ask questions. Yes, my child will learn the conventions of language, reading, and writing. No, I will not interrupt his enjoyment of books in order to teach the topics I prefer to teach. I must trust my child to let me know when he has a question. He will learn organically if I step back from the bossy behaviors which have become my pattern and let it happen.

Yes, I will “stop dilly dallying” and read the story.

*If you want to do this, too, but feel you must also interrupt at times, then please read the book aloud at least once before interrupting the story to practice reading and comprehension strategies.


If you want more information or to attend a reading training session or to get more information, please contact me at the link found here. Let me put my experience to work for you!


Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Review of George by Alex Gino

George for blog

George by Alex Gino will be available for purchase on August 25, 2015.

     I was recently given a copy of George written by Alex Gino. I was asked to give my honest opinion and respond to a survey. I liked the book so much that I decided to also write a blog post. I think teachers, parents, and children would benefit from reading this book.

     The main character in George is a transgender child who is working to cope with the labels and expectations given by society, though these feel extremely wrong. Hearing the wrong pronoun makes this child feel terrible. The need to correct the speaker boils internally, but what can be done? Will people understand?

Overall, I liked the way this topic was presented and the empathy Gino creates in the story. George would best match late elementary and early middle school readers, though everyone would benefit from the easy to understand explanations within this book.

One potential issue was references to pornographic magazines. Another concern was an up skirt comment which was sexist against males. Those raised with respect for autonomy will not look up another’s skirt. Some parents would be opposed to these topics and may use them as a reason to keep the book from their children. The main ideas of the book would not suffer if the author chose to take out these parts, though I would never insist that authors change their work.

I did enjoy reading George and would allow my children to read it. (Actually, my oldest child already read through 4 chapters.) As with any book that may have controversial topics within, parents should take the opportunity to have an open discussion about topics with their children. I would not use my couple of concerns to withhold this, or any book, from others. I feel there is a need to explain how a transgender child may feel and how to be empathetic to those who are not as society expects them to be.  George is a fabulous place to start learning.