Another day, another evening of pre-NaNo prep work with Minions v1.0 and v2.0.
In looking over the workbook pages to come, I saw what the next “assignment” was and instantly cringed. It was going to be too much like homework. While this is fine when you’re working in a school setting, which is what they are designed for, it’s not really ideal for a parent guiding their children through novelling. Since this is a first time through for us as a family, I’m keeping plans loose. It’s a learning process for sure. I don’t want this to be “work” for my girls, in the way that school is, so I’m doing my best to stress that this is fun.
Using the workbook as a jumping off point is presenting challenges I didn’t really expect. I look at writing as “yay! I get to have some fun!”, but I forget that this isn’t how most people would spend a free evening given a choice. I’ve found myself having to constantly remind my little proteges that “no, this isn’t graded”, “it’s just for fun”, “no, no one will read it and check for spelling errors” (in regards to the workbook specifically), and “it’s not for me, it’s for you to help you build something really good in November”. It’s an unexpected battle, but I think I’m getting there. Not that I mind helping when they want to know how to spell a word. I’m trying to impress upon them this idea of putting that inner editor away for now. Yes, it still counts in your school work, but this is not that. I think they’ll catch on to this eventually. For now, the idea that I’m not looking over their shoulders, correcting every uncapitalized sentence and misspelled word, is too new to really sink in.
That was my takeaway from last night’s exercises. Here’s what they did:
Summary of Pages:
- Great Book, Gross Book
- Create Awesome Characters: Main Character Worksheet (3 of 10 pages)
I warmed them up over dinner by telling them to start thinking about their stories for next month as we’d be working on specifics tonight. Minion v1.0 started off by arguing (again) how she wanted to work on the Pokemon fanfic (even going so far as saying how she could change the existing words to be not Pokemon related). I pointed out that by changing the world it was based on, the founding principles and mechanics would alter the story itself (I explained this a bit more plainly using specific examples to illustrate), to which she ultimately agreed. Not thirty seconds later, she shoots up in her chair and exclaims “I KNOW WHAT I CAN WRITE ABOUT!”. She had her “eureka!” moment right there in front of me. It was like magic. Pretty sure I was grinning. Minion v2.0 had decided a few days before what her project would be, so no battle (mercifully) there.
The first pages we did last night focused on listing books you liked and didn’t like and then telling why. Predictably, this was like pulling teeth. They are too young to know exactly why they liked/hated a book in any real detail (although this type of critical thinking ability SHOULD be fostered in school, but this is not the time or place for a diatribe on public education), so getting them to really analyze stories without feeding them answers was practically impossible. Throwing out a ton of examples and questions did get them started though. The open ended question of “why did you like this?” is hard for them as they haven’t had to look at literature critically yet. I threw out ideas like “did you identify with the character? How? Why?”, “were you able to see the settings and other characters in your head? Why or why not? How do you think the author accomplished that?”, and “why did you keep reading?”. This seemed to help some and soon v1.0 was off and writing. There’s only a year and a half difference between the two, but for the first time I can start to see real differences in where they are developmentally. It was much easier for v1.0 to think abstractly like this. In the past I couldn’t really see much difference in their skills in this regard. Here it became apparent. Hopefully this will serve to push v2.0 further in the right direction.
Oddly enough, neither were able to really list any books they didn’t like or tell why they didn’t like them. When I threw out some “would you read a book about ___” questions, you can imagine my amazement and delight when I said “would you not read a book if the main character was a boy?” and they answered “no, I don’t really care”. I was stunned, people. You know why? Because it means I’ve done a GOOD JOB teaching them that gender is a nonissue. I wanted to hug them both tightly and thank them for renewing my faith in humanity’s future. I imagine this point of view will change as they discover boys and hormones and dating and the unsavory side of being female, but that they have the foundations of equality already ingrained makes me extremely proud of myself, my husband, and them. But I digress.
The next section we started, Create Awesome Characters, was easier, though it still took some prodding on my part for them to fully answer their questions. The basics were simple; name, age, and species. It was a bit tougher to pry the more detailed appearance descriptions out of them. Minion v2.0 originally said her character was a fairy with butterfly wings. I had to prompt her into questions about hair (long? short? black? green?), skin (scaly? smooth? purple? brown?), eyes (apparently she has glittery eyes, which kind of freaks me out when I try to picture it), and height (are these fairies Tinkerbell-sized or Once Upon A Time-sized?). Minion v1.0 was simpler: a 12-year-old girl that looks strikingly similar to herself (but with soft or silky everything and dark eyes).
The last bit was “where do they live? Do they like it there?”. Their answers are interesting to me. Being a military family, we move a lot. It’s clear from their responses that this is playing heavily into their stories, whether or not they are aware of it. Minion v1.0’s character has just moved to Rhode Island (write what you know, right?). Apparently, said character has not yet decided whether or not she likes it there yet, much the way I think the author has not. Minion v2.0’s character’s location is the heart of her story. She lives in Magicville and wants to leave, but her parents say she isn’t ready yet. Locations are everything I suppose. At least, that’s true for these particular tales.
We ended with drawing their characters, which I will post below. It felt like a good stopping place. We’ll pick up tonight with more in-depth exploration of these protagonists. Minion v2.0 kept explaining and revising her character to fit her drawing, so I had to remind her that no one expected it to be exact and it wasn’t graded. It was just for her. I’m not 100% sure she accepted that, but hopefully it made her feel better.
All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with where things area headed. There’s no sign of losing steam as yet. Keep your fingers crossed.
Scott Huchton says
As the insider/outsider watching this unfold, I am highly entertained by this event. I expect your ‘busy’ Novembers, but now it looks like it will be a whole family event this year. So proud of all of you!!!