My daughter has been pitching blog ideas to me for some time, but I have been a little less than enthusiastic knowing just how much work goes in to a blog. I had two prerequisites. First, her spelling needed to improve to the point that editing it wouldn’t be a full time job for me. Second, she needed to come up with a topic that would be sustainable over a period of time. But she finally managed to pitch the right idea at the right time. I’ve been trying to think of ways to focus more on writing and she came up with the idea of doing a monthly e-zine about science…The Science Mouse.
It seemed a perfect match. And given the topic, I didn’t mind turning over half of her homeschool day to her new endeavor. That’s right. At the moment, we are doing bible, math and blogging. That will change as she gains independence in her endeavor, but it really is amazing how much she has learned even before her first edition has been posted.
What is a blog?
The most interesting part of this to me has been teaching the blog as its own genre with its own structure and purpose. She is actually writing an e-zine, which is sort of a cross between a blog and a magazine. She has been looking at some different blogs and magazines to see how they are set up and has used that to inform some of her decisions. She chose to go with self-hosted WordPress and spent some time thinking about her domain name. Although this was essentially a gift to her, the little bit we have spent on setting her site up has not gone unnoticed. And let me tell you, reading problogger with a ten year old is an interesting endeavor, but we’ll get back to that in a minute.
A flair for design
My poor Mouse spent hours looking at different templates for her e-zine and sorting through what plug-ins she thought she would need. We are not worrying about coding at this point, and she only has a vague understanding of what a plug-in even is, but she is learning the basics of WordPress and trusting her mother’s advice on the rest. She has learned how to insert links, position photos and a little about how to format the text. For the first time, we have talked seriously about copyright law and she is beginning to see intellectual property on par with physical property as she thinks about what it would be like to have someone take all of her hard work without even asking.
She has learned about different ways to get images for her entries and quite a bit about photoediting as she and I designed her first cover. When my parents come up for the birth of the baby, she is even hoping to come up with a sort of mascot to appear on every cover.
The art of the caption
Caption writing is an art in itself. I never thought much of it until we sat down to write her first one. I wrote a couple as an intern which were published in HydroReview, a magazine about hydroelectric dams. They seem easy because of their brevity, but a good caption packs a lot of information into those few words. That is something we will definitely be working on more in the future and I hope to see improvement as we take more time in future issues to concentrate on caption writing.
How to conduct an interview
Looking at some different magazines and blogs, Mouse quickly jumped on the idea of interviewing someone in the field for each edition of her magazine (provided we can find someone). She already has an interview lined up for this issue and a likely candidate for the next, but before she actually started trying to think up questions, I think she thought this would be one of the easier parts of putting together her e-zine. How hard can an interview be? You just ask questions, right? For the first time, she is thinking hard about what kinds of answers certain questions solicit and trying to figure out how to ask questions that cannot be answered simply by “yes” or “no.” She is also trying to think from her prospective readers’ perspectives.
Mouse has had sort of crash course in the world of publishing. She has learned about queries, deadlines, the need for a theme list and the importance of editorial guidelines. She has been thinking about the kinds of features she would like to have in each issue, and how to create a sort of personality for her publication. And her very first lesson was the difference between personal and professional emails. My daughter loves smilies, pretty fonts and multi-colored text. She was a tad disappointed to learn that these are not appropriate for a professional email.
Half the work is marketing
In a way, children are born marketers. She is excited to tell her friends and relatives about her project, unlike me. I’m always a little self-conscious about talking about my blog with people I know. Mouse, on the other hand, wants to design business cards to pass out to any and everyone she knows. And as I noted above, reading problogger with a ten year old has been interesting. I read his blog occasionally, and take tips here and there, but “making money blogging” is not exactly my primary goal here. I just want to improve as a blogger.
But now my little Mouse wants to come up with advertising rates, analyze her statistics and figure out a sort of marketing plan for her little project. She has been learning about affiliate links and Google AdSense. She wants to know more about search engines and how to help people find her e-zine. She reads this stuff and wants to do all of it. I’m just trying to pace her. After all, somewhere in there, she has to write some actual content.
And did I mention science?
After all, it is a science e-zine. She has been willing to write more than she usually will, and I have noticed an improvement in both her writing and her spelling. I think mostly because now she cares and is actually paying attention to what she is doing rather than just trying to get through the assignment. But she is also looking at the piles of books we check out from the library differently. She looks at the illustrations and the text with an eye for whether or not it would be a good item to review.
Whether or not she has learned any more about the solar system than she would have had we just stuck with our normal routine I cannnot judge, but she has certainly taken ownership of her learning. And that is all I have ever wanted from the beginning.
Oh, and if your child would be interested in contributing to her e-zine, she can be contacted via her contact form. She has been developing a theme list and talks a little about what she is looking for on her about page.
homeschool homeschooling home education blogging