Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Of Kiddie Blogs and Mommywork

For the unfortunate children who live beneath my roof, school work does not cease on the last day of school. Homework may end, but the Mommywork is just beginning! I haven't assigned any major projects over the summer (yet!), but instead of having a summer free-for-all we shift to a more laid-back, simplified version of the schedule and routine that has been working throughout the school year. This means that both boys must get dressed in the morning and eat breakfast regardless of whether they are enrolled in a day camp that week, they both must practice piano every day, and if they want to play with their iPods, Nintendo DS or Playstation games, they must complete one Mommywork assignment for me. I feel that this makes the transition back to school at the end of August much smoother, for one thing, and there's much less chaos in the house when everyone knows what is expected of him. Don't worry -- they still have plenty of free time to read, play with Legos, and splash around in Grammy's pool!

The first summer that I declared Mommywork, I picked up a couple of those summer skills workbooks from Barnes & Noble and insisted on a page a day. My shrewd Lars would flip through the book and find the easiest page possible, something he knew backwards and forwards already and did not need to practice. In subsequent summers, I've focused on skills that I knew they needed to reinforce, like memorizing multiplication facts or long division coloring worksheets. This summer, I'd like both boys to practice writing and keyboarding. 

Writing assignments are particularly onerous for both of them, and they haven't been able to take full advantage of word processing time savers like copy, cut and paste editing because they were plucking away at the keyboard with their index fingers, searching out one letter at a time.  I purchased a copy of Type To Learn 4 a few weeks ago, and they've been learning the layout of the keyboard and which fingers go where as they work through the typing game lessons, but in order for their speed to improve they are going to have to reinforce what they are learning through additional typing practice.  I briefly considered asking Anders to type up my grocery lists or copy pages from a book, but then I got the idea of introducing kiddie blogs!  I found the perfect free Blogger templates for each of them and set up their blogs while they were at school, as a surprise.

Lars's Blog
Anders' Blog

As I'd hoped, both boys were elated to have their very own blogs.  Little boys who would have grumbled and complained of child abuse if I asked them to write so much as a paragraph scampered off eagerly to separate computers and began typing away unbidden.  Bliss!

Lars's and Anders' blogs are set up under my Blogger account, and the boys are set up as authors, but not administrators of their blogs.  That means they can post whatever they want, but they can't waste time messing around with their blog layout, template, widgets etc. like I did last week.  I set them up as closed blogs, viewable by members only, and sent invitations to their relatives and close friends.  Their blogs do not generate RSS feeds, are not viewable to search engines, and are not listed on Blogger.  This way, if either of them should happen to post something foolish (remember what happened when other kids found the notebooks written by Harriet the Spy?), it's not out there on the Internet for the world to see, and I can go in and edit or delete anything before too much damage is done.  The downside to this is that anyone who wants to read their blogs needs to physically go to their blog site periodically to check for new posts.  You can't just subscribe to email updates for a blog that does not generate any feeds.

Troll Image courtesy Blogrulon
The other parental safeguard I enacted is that all blog comments are moderated by the administrator (me) and no comments will post until I approve them.  This would be even more important if their blogs were visible to anyone with an internet connection instead of members-only.  Kids need to work on their writing in a supportive environment where criticism is constructive, and the last thing they need is some anonymous "troll" to come along and blast them with hateful comments.  (In case you're not familiar with the trolls of the 21st century, Kristen Lamb has a great post about them here). 

So far, Lars and Anders have posted about LEGO Ninjago and about the Avengers movie we saw recently.  They are spending more time searching the Internet for images of LEGO figures than I would like, but at least they are writing.  It's kind of like the dialogue journal Anders' class was doing throughout the school year, where they had to write about something of their choosing once or twice a week and then their parents or their teacher would write back to them in the notebook.  The difference is that they are honing their typing skills as well as practicing writing, and that they are getting responses and encouragement from relatives all over the country instead of just from one person.  They were positively gleeful about the comments they read this morning before school, and I know they will be excited about sitting down to write some more after piano lessons today.

I'd like to encourage them to branch out a bit, so I'm thinking of making up some index cards with writing prompts or topics that they can choose from, such as "Why Kids Should Rule the World," a book review, Instruction Manual for New Parents of Boys, Best/Worst Thing that Happened to Me Today, etc.  Maybe they can alternate their LEGO advertisements with my non-LEGO prompts!

Do your children write blogs?  If so, what do you do to supervise their interaction with strangers on the Internet?

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