From the series: Life on Dog Hill

I’m a lucky momma to be able to spend every day of summer vacation with my kids. This time enables me to deepen our familial bonds and strengthen academic skills. Instead of sending them back to school needing to play catch up, I keep my kids learning over summer break so they go back to school more prepared than ever.

This summer, focus for my sons Ryan, aged 10, and Serg and Alex, 18 year old twins, is simple: reading, writing and math. Pretty old school, don’t you think? Fortunately, their older brother studies advanced mathematics at NC State University and he tutors the older boys in Calculus, insuring they start the senior year already proficient in the subject. And my 10 year old? He’s doing linear algebra.

My contribution is in the areas of reading and writing. Reading is always core summer curriculum so this summer I’ve put more emphasis on writing. For starters, the twins are working on their respective personal statements for the college application process. Not only do they have to make a strong first impression, they have to differentiate themselves in the first couple of paragraphs from thousands of other applicants.

With Ryan, our summer writing projects are especially exciting. Our big writing project is a collaboration on a young reader fiction novel; yes, we are writing a book together! We meet to discuss his story ideas and from that discussion, I outline the flow of chapter which he then drafts. We review his draft together and make corrections to grammar and spelling. The review also gives me the chance to point out key aspects to the art of story telling, like the importance of character development, inclusion of detail and the flow of story. At this point, I take his ideas and run with them. What fun!

Fiction is my favorite genre, both as a reader and a writer, and working with Ryan gives me an excuse to write about three boys going on a treasure hunt in Egypt. Now that is a story line I never would have considered on my own! Since the book is a long-term project and it often takes me several days to a week to expand a chapter and revise, smaller writing projects provide Ryan a chance to practice what he’s learning on a regular basis.

This week’s short story got an A+ from mom. Earlier in the week we gently collected bark from our favorite pine tree and then studied the bark to look for pictures. Ryan chose his favorite piece of bark and painted the picture he saw in it. That painting then became the illustration for the story he wrote to go along with it. The picture is posted above, now here’s the story…

The Little Chick

by Ryan Callaham-Bishop

“Your mom is old, so I won’t be able to get food for you anymore,” said Momma chicken.

“You won’t get food for me anymore?” asked Yellow Beak.

“I’m afraid not. You need to learn to get your own food. Why not start now?” said Momma chicken.

Yellow Beak walked away sadly.

Later that day, Yellow Beak started getting hungry. She wobbled outside and pecked at the ground like she had seen her mother do. Sure enough she had a mouth full of worms. She pecked again; another mouth full of worms. She pecked over and over and kept getting mouth fulls of worms.

As Yellow Beak ate, she became tired. Suddenly, from behind the trees came a crackling of leaves. Something was moving very fast; it sounded like a fox!

Yellow Beak rolled over quickly and to her amazement she heard a big bang! Right beside her laid the fox and right behind her was MOMMA CHICKEN with a frying pan in her wings.

“Never leave the chicken house without telling me first!” Momma chicken scolded. “Also, the next time you find a worm path, tell me. I need food too, you know.”

the end

Now isn’t that cute?! I’m so proud…

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