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Writing Club Idea: "What does a homeschooler do on a SNOW DAY?"
Susan Richman, 2/18/2010

Susan Richman has been leading a Homeschoolers Writing Club since her oldest son was 11 (he's now 32!), and has written a book that in part grew out of that experience called Writing from Home (see our online store to order your copy). She has found that the simple format of a regular monthly meeting to share writing with other kids can be amazingly encouraging to students. We'll regularly share Writing Club ideas here, that you can adapt and use with your own kids at home, or in Writing Clubs you start.

As I'm sure has happened with many of you, I've been doing a lot of 'staying at home' with the recent snows in Pennsylvania. And I realized last week that I'd have to cancel my monthly Writing Club meeting here at our farm, as even though the snow had stopped (maybe??), our driveway was barely plowed out enough for us to get in and out. I wouldn't want everyone getting stuck! SO, this month's meeting is being held virtually, with everyone emailing their pieces to all the participants in the group. I also opted to change our assignment, to suit the weather-- and I thought some of your kids might want to post their own pieces on this topic, as 'comments' below. I'll be sharing in the 'comments' section a number of the writings from my Writing Club group-- I know you'll enjoy these!

Our TOPIC is: What do homeschoolers do on a SNOW DAY???? Obviously this is in honor of our amazing weather these past weeks—and you know, this is a question that *many* homeschoolers get asked by curious ‘school kids’… Do homeschoolers take ‘snow days’??? So, I want you to share about what YOU’VE been doing in this snow.

david in snow.JPG

(This is my grandson David, during his January visit with his family-- what an amazing igloo our son Jesse enjoyed making with his kids!) 

As always, develop a full *story*, with a specific incident or observation, or challenge, or thought. (That is, no pieces basically saying, “Snow is so pretty! I like snow!”). You might describe

  • how you felt shoveling snow

  • venturing out on the snowy roads with your family

  • or getting distracted from your math work by looking out at the snow piling up

  • or building a snow fort with siblings or neighbors

  • or having a snowball fight

  • or helping neighbors who needed some help with clearing their walks or unburying their cars

  • or trying to figure out what your family could eat since you may not be able to get to the grocery store

  • or how different members of your family have reacted

  • or what it’s been like to have your dad home some extra days

  • or how your pets have reacted

  • or what the sledding experience is like

  • or what you wear when you head outside

  • or what it’s like having all the other ‘school kids’ in the neighborhood during the week while they are having ‘snow days’….

  • Or whatever you think will really share what *you’ve* been experiencing in a lively and engaging way.

  • Think especially of starting out your piece in a *surprising* way—jump us right into the situation and slowly let us figure out just what’s happening… ‘hook’ us right from the start!

Comment by Jonathan Robel, 2/19/2010:

Jonathan Robel (PHAA 2011) is a longterm member of our Writing Club-- every member of his large family has been a terrific participant over many years, and it's been wonderful seeing him 'grow up' as a writer   

                                                         Snow Day

            A single thought came to my mind as I lay face down in the snow, “Why did I do that?” Yes, believe it or not, I was in this position on purpose and I was quickly coming to regret it. Several seconds earlier I had stood on the porch step and ,seeing how deep the snow was piled and how soft and inviting it appeared, it had occurred to me that it might be pleasurable to do a forward trust fall into it without anyone to catch me. To my credit I performed the fall beautifully, not bending my knees in the slightest, going down with my arms stretched out wide and landing with a delightful crunch. The impact wasn’t painful, it was in fact quite enjoyable, but things went quickly down hill from there. I discovered that getting up was going to be a much trickier process than going down had been. For one thing, the snow was nearly two feet deep and I had sunken at least two and a half feet into it; this made it exceedingly hard to move my arms. I suppose I should have foreseen this difficulty, but no, it was a short sighted moment. Regrettably I had the added misfortune to not be wearing snow pants; I wore only a pair of blue jeans and I soon began to feel the moisture seeping through them. Also as you may have guessed, I had a face full of snow which was just lovely.

            I love when this kind of thing happens to me, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that there’s an idiot in all of us including myself (looking back at it now at least, at the time it wasn’t so nice). I was several minutes getting out of the hole I had made and I was completely soaked by the time I was back on my feet. This all wouldn’t have been so bad were it not for the fact that the reason I was outside was to shovel the driveway and that was still going to have to be done even in my frozen state. I looked disparagingly at the spot where two cars had once been parked, they were gone; somebody seemed to have taken them away and replaced them with gigantic icy marshmallows. I knew they were going to have to be excavated and I gave a little shiver of dread; it wasn’t going to be pretty. But I hefted my shovel over my shoulder heroically and started to trudge towards them; it was only a distance of about ten feet, but it took considerably longer than usual in the wintry conditions.

            I wouldn’t be working alone of course, my brother would help, but it was still a grim outlook. I began energetically, heaving shovel after shovel full of snow over my shoulder.  For a good ten minutes I kept it up at full speed, but when I stopped to assess my work I could barely tell that I had done anything at all. I groaned pitifully and leaned heavily on my shovel; it was going to be a long morning. I looked behind me to where my brother was working, he was going steadily, but he also seemed to have made little progress. I went back to my own work with a sigh, felt the chill of my pants rubbing against my leg, and shivered again. There was snow in my boots. “No point in cleaning it out.” I thought. “They’ll just fill up again.”

            For what seemed like hours I hacked away at the snow and ice, until finally I could see the red paint of the first car. The work went faster now that a check point was in sight and soon our minivan was freed from her snowy prison and stood glistening and wet in the sunshine. She still wore a lovely white night cap on her top and slippers on her tires, but I was pretty certain she could be gotten out onto the road and that was good enough for me.

            “Hey, how’s it going over there?” I called back to my brother. He didn’t reply so I turned to look for him, but he was gone, his shovel lay up against the porch steps. The sidewalk (his assigned area of work) was just about cleared, though you still couldn’t quite see the cement. “Where’d you go?” I called.

            The answer was swift. From behind our second car a small white orb came arching down towards me, hitting me right in the side of the head and exploding into a million flaky pieces. A large chunk of the snowball slid down my jacket and started working its way down my back, but ignoring this discomfort I dropped immediately to my knees and scraped up a missile of my own. Our shoveling endeavors always ended this way, in war! But before we could even begin to battle a voice called from the porch.

            “Alright that’s good enough boys, come on in now before you get frost bite.” It was Mom of course. I was just about to make a protest that we were just about to start having fun when she added “I made some hot chocolate.” All complaints forgotten, I picked up my shovel and trundled off toward the porch. My brother was already at the door with his back turned towards me. Big mistake. I still had my snowball. I took a few hurtling steps towards the house and let fly my weapon. It made a delightful thud as it hit him right in the middle of the shoulder blades. Before he could respond, I rushed past him through the door, calling “No snow balls in the house!”

            So what started in extreme discomfort and hard work, ended in glory! That’s my idea of a snow day!

Comment by Benjamin Robel, 2/19/2010:

Benjamin Robel (PHAA 2013) started coming to Writing Club with his older brother and many older sisters when he was too young to probably figure out what was happening. He's now a wonderful writer!

The Maze

            “Bobby!” I heard my baby sister call to me through the window, watching me shovel a maze in the ground. A little while before my sister and I had gone out to make a maze for the baby (the one watching me through the window) to play in. She watched with joy as the snowy yard evolved into a two-foot tall maze. Pointing at me and moaning, trying to figure out what I was doing, she periodically called out Yaya or Bobby, the names that she nicknamed us. After watching us shovel for a while in the cold, she gave up on trying to comprehend what was going on and went back to her usual play.

            After mapping out the turns and curves of the maze we began to shovel away the snow, stacking the walls higher and clearing the path. This took a short while not considering the pauses to rest our backs from shoveling. There had been talk of building a throne for the baby, or even an igloo, but those ideas were soon thrown out after my pants had soaked through.

            The next day we took the baby out and set her free in the maze while we shoveled the cars out. It seemed to have been a rather startling experience for the baby because she just stood there for awhile with her little head barely popping out over the walls of the maze. She stood there trying to find the purpose of it; finally she decided its purpose must be to knock the walls of it over, so for about twenty minutes she stood there tumbling all the hard, back-breaking work over with her eager hands. Then when she was exhausted so she went in while we finished digging out the rest of the cars.

            Even though our artwork was not used for what was intended, I’m glad that the baby could find enjoyment with it in her own unique, or maybe not so unique, way.

Comment by CJM, 2/19/2010:

CJM (age 13), of New Kensington PA, has been coming to our Writing Club for several years, and has become a marvelous young writer. She's often been published in the children's writing section The Backpack of our old print publication Pennsylvania Homeschoolers.

Snow Survival

            “Can I try that one?” I asked my dad, indicating one of the freshly made and oversized snow piles in front of the McCutcheon’s. “Sure.”

            Since our short street isn’t a main thoroughfare, the two neighbors with snow blowers, cleared a path down our road. All this work had created large piles of snow, many taller than myself. It was one of these that I was attempting to climb.  

            “Itas! Hold my hand!”  my little brother, Michael, called up.  Without using his hands, he was trying to traverse his way up the mini-mountain.  He hates getting snow caught between the end of his sleeves and gloves; so he was stuck. While I pulled one hand, Dad pushed him by the seat and up he came with a pleased grin.

            Resting with Michael on the mound, I finally noticed that Dad wore only his baseball cap and had absolutely nothing covering his ears—crazy!  So it came as no surprise when he stated the obvious, “My ears are cold!”

            “Would you like one of my hats?”

            “You have two!?!”

            “Of course, who wouldn’t?  I also have two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks, pants, snow pants, a shirt, a sweater, my double layered coat, and one pair of boots.” I rattled off my “list.” Smiling widely, I added “So now, I’m minorly cold as opposed to you, who is majorly cold.” He just laughed, shook his head, and replied, “No wonder it takes you so long to get ready.” Nevertheless, we headed back home – for the sake of my under-dressed father.

            Since I felt ripped off for the short time we had had outside, I laid in the snow for awhile. As I gazed up, the snowflakes fluttered their way down and swirled me into a world of peace. I remembered last Saturday; the biggest snow of my lifetime. What started out as a shoveling day had turned into snowballs, tackling, and faces in the snow, while video taping. The memory chuckled in my mind. But as my fingers and toes continued to sting, my thoughts turned to a warm blanket, and some steaming hot chocolate. Yup, time to go in!

P.S. I forgot to mention that I also had plastic bags inside my boots!

Comment by Michael Hill, 2/19/2010:

Michael Hill (PHAA 2013) started coming to Writing Club in his earliest elementary years, when his older siblings started taking part. We're especially glad his oldest sister joined that year-- she's our older son Jesse's wife of 10 years now! Michael grew up knowing writing was about sharing fun stories about your own life-- and he got so involved in this assignment, that I'm actually only including half of it here! Wouldn't you like your kids to enjoy writing so much that they just 'couldn't stop'??

The Effect the Snow Storm of 2010 on Michael Dominic Hill

“Do you think we’ll make it?  It looks a bit steep,” I said to my older brother Andrew as he flipped the left turn signal on and prepared to turn onto the steep winding road leading to Wilson’s Scrap Yard.

“Well, we won’t know unless we try,” Andrew said with a slight hint of concern in his voice.

 Our mission was simple; deliver metal to Wilson’s Scrap Yard.  The obstacle was driving up the hill to reach the scrap yard.  The narrow road leading up this hill had several turns in it, most of which sloped steeply upward.  The handicap was a twenty-four foot flat bed trailer, with three tons of aluminum scrap metal strapped to it.  Our half-ton Chevy pickup truck had been hauling this load for half an hour and we could tell it was taking a toll on the truck.  On top of all that, the road conditions were poor, due to a fresh thick snowfall that had been steadily falling for the past fifteen minutes. 

This was the reason for the hint of concern in my brother’s voice as he prepared to attempt the climb.  He began putting the truck into first gear, then clicked the “4-Hi” button, and we were creeping our way up, up, and up.

 The truck gave a low growl as it swallowed its life-giving fuel, and pulled its way up.  It huffed and it puffed right up to the top of the first steep slope.  Just as it seemed we were going to make it over, our progress stopped, and the truck could not seem to keep its wheels from slipping on the fresh snow.  Now that the trailer was on the slope, its full weight came into play, preventing the wheels from getting any traction.  Soon our decent began.

The trailer slowly pulled the spinning truck down the slope.  The trailer was about fifteen feet from going into the highway, the gap getting smaller, when Andrew put his foot firmly on the brake.  I heard the trailer brakes lock as the truck and trailer came to a stop. 

Andrew and I sat there recovering a little from the recent excitement.  I felt as if my heart was up in my throat.  I turned to Andrew and asked, “Do you just want to back the trailer down into the parking lot of that fitness center next to us and forget about going to Wilson’s?”

Andrew didn’t say much, he just looked forward, switched his foot from the brake to the gas peddle and turned the wheel to the left.   The truck start to roll backwards a little as the engine built up power.  The truck gave a slightly higher pitched growl this time as the wheels began to spin.  With the truck’s wheels at an angle it gave it just the little traction it needed to crawl forward a few inches at an agonizing slow rate.  As the truck’s front wheel reached the side of the road, Andrew turned the wheel slightly to the right and continued in this manner of altering direction of the wheels to keep some traction.

The forward progress was so slow it hardly seemed we were moving at all.  The truck seemed as determined as we were though, and it clawed at the ground with a fury.  It struggled and worked for every inch.  Those inches turned into feet and those feet slowly turned into yards.  As the trailer came over the top of the slope, the truck gained control of its wheels, which then stopped spinning.  With relief, I saw that we were picking up speed as we continued up the slanted road.  Everything seemed to be going fine until we took a sharp upward turn to the left about half way up the hill. 

The truck made it past the turn.  The trailer didn’t.  We were spinning again.  This time, no matter how much Andrew persuaded the truck, it could not crawl another inch.  The worst of it was that when I looked at the reading on our gas tank, the dial was just about pointing at the big “E”.  We would not be able to continue like this much longer.

Observing this, Andrew called my Dad on his cell phone and was informed that some of the Wilson brothers would come down to help us up the hill the rest of the way.  As we waited, a couple of pick-up trucks pulled up behind us and had to stop and wait because we were taking up the whole width of the road.  This made our situation not only desperate, but also embarrassing!  Andrew began to feel a bit restless and he was just about to take another whack at spinning our way out of there despite the lack of fuel, when the Wilsons showed up with a gravel dispenser on the back of their F-250 truck.  I was feeling a little cramped, so I got out of our truck to watch from the outside just as DJ Wilson said that he was going to go get some chains.

After the gravel had been laid and Don Wilson had put an extra few handfuls right in front of all four wheels, he got back into his truck and pulled forward to give Andrew room.  Once again the wheels on our Chevy spun as Andrew tried to coax it into going forward.  They spun for about seven seconds before Don Wilson backed his truck back down and got out.  I thought he was going to tell Andrew to stop and wait for DJ to get back with the chains when suddenly to his surprise our truck caught traction and started climbing. 

Don hopped back into his truck and spun out of the way so Andrew wouldn’t have to lose momentum.  Our truck now accelerated easily since the gravel gave the wheels something to claw at.  I walked up behind them on the side of the road as the trucks that had waited for us drove past.  I kept my eyes toward the ground, still feeling a little embarrassed that Andrew and I had attempted to pull such a big load of metal. 

When I reached the scrap yard I found out that enough snow had accumulated that the Wilsons didn’t want to risk trying to unload our trailer and possibly get their fork truck stuck.  It ended up that we left the trailer there for them to unload later when the conditions were better.  Andrew and I thanked the Wilsons for all their help and started on our way home.

We swerved once on the slippery roads while heading back home.  Andrew counteracted by slipping the truck into four-wheel drive.  We were very thankful that we didn’t have a twenty four foot trailer behind us!

The snow was falling as thick as ever when we got home.  I got out of the truck and started walking to the house, planning how I would explain our recent adventure to my family inside when I heard a small collision. .... [Editor's note from Susan Richman: and this is where I'll end Michael's tale-- just know that further 'adventures' awaited!] 


Comment by CK, 2/19/2010:

CK (PHAA 2012, age 15) has been a 'virtual' participant in our Writing Club for several years, sending in his work to be read at each meeting via email, as his family lives too far away to participate. He's had several pieces published in the Backpack, the student writing section of our old print newsletter Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, when he was younger. You'll soon see that CK is a very hard worker!

Snow Day

As I struggled to open my eyes and slowly rose from my nightly hibernation, something was wrong! Our yard was not the way I left it, no longer was it filled with the familiar shrubs and trees. There were just lumps and mounds of shimmering white. The grass was replaced by a vast tundra, reaching all around, only broken up by the outlines of the neighboring homes. While I slept, Jack Frost had visited and left behind a path of beauty and a blanket of silence.

The sight of a morning snow is a welcome sight to most teenagers, due to the two hour school delay or cancellations. Yet to me, it is a foreshadowing of a sore back that night. Many of my friends spend snow days inside playing their gaming systems and not becoming friendly with a shovel. I look at snow days with a businessman's perspective. The more work I can accomplish, the more money I will make. This is coming in handy because I am saving money to purchase my first car, hopefully at the end of this summer.

Since a lot of my customers from my summer lawn care business carry into the winter, I have a good many clients. Then in addition to them, I also have new people calling me during the first snowfall to make sure they have someone to clear their walks. Usually, the more walks I can shovel the better, but sometimes it gets to be more work than expected. This was the case about two weeks ago, when we were hit with twenty inches of snow. In the thirteen years I have lived in Beaver, never before have we gotten this much snow. The worst part was the snow was really slushy near the bottom and near the top it was like powder. This made it super hard to shovel because the bottom snow would stick to my shovel and not let me get a full scoop as I continued shoveling. My brother, who I hired to help me, and I worked most of the day clearing sidewalks and driveways until we were both exhausted. It was one of the hardest days of snow removal that I can remember.

Even after a long day of shoveling, I still enjoyed some time with my friends. We relived our younger years. That late afternoon a few of my friends and I got together and built a snow bunker. It was not a true snow fort because we used two by fours and a tarp as the top. But after it was completed, any Eskimo would have been proud. When we came in from our epic fort, some hot chocolate was the first order of business. The hot chocolate we make is more like melted Hershey bars because we do not use the packets, rather we heat up the local dairy's super rich milk. All the calories I burnt throughout the day were replenished with one cup of this.

At the end of the day and as we headed home, the thought remained in our heads that as we are growing older, our snow days could not be spent entirely playing, as we once did. Even though we had to work as soon as we got out of bed, spending part of the day building a fort was just as fun as it used to be. As I grow up I realize that I will have to take on more responsibility, but this does not mean I can not add a little fun to it. As the old adage goes, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."


Comment by Kayla Brake, 2/19/2010:

Kayla Brake (9th grade, age 14) has just joined our Writing Club in the last month-- it's terrific how new members quickly get a feel for the livliness of the writing in the group, and respond in kind. She also really enjoys playing piano and drawing.  

Snowy Days


I HATE SNOW DAYS. As a home schooled child I get no snow days, no mercy when all the other children are playing merrily in the snow, no pleasure when asked to play. Only sadness when I regretful must say no and return to my studies. Since school takes up the better half of my day the only enjoyment I find on these days is watching the snow gently fall to the earth during the evening hours, at such time I am supposedly asleep. As boring as this may sound to you, is a very lovely time for me.

On most snow days, after my school work is completed I have the wonderful pleasure of helping my mother shovel the driveway and back porch, being as how my father has to leave early in the morning for work and does not have the time for such tasks. So we shovel and shovel, my mother doing most of the work, till she is satisfied with what we, or rather she, has accomplished.

This day will end like any other day would, we eat dinner as a family, watch a little television and then sent off to bed where I lie “supposedly” asleep.-





Comment by Sarah Brake, 2/19/2010:

Sarah Brake (5th grade, age 10), just joined our Writing Club, along with her sister, last month-- I think she's well on her way to becoming a fine young writer! And you'll also notice something very important in many of these snow stories-- that steamy cup of hot chocolate afterwards!

It was a cold snowy morning, and I was still tucked into my bed. (yawn) "I don't want to get up," I said to myself. Eventually I had to. I got up and got myself dressed.

All of a sudden I heard   scrape, scrape, scrape............ huh? what was that? I hurried to look out my window-- it was mom and dad shoveling the snow off the driveway!

I walked to the kitchen, grabbed a bowl, and poured some cereal. After breakfast I went to the front door and yelled....."Hey mom, wana do something in the snow today?!"

"Sure, but after i finish shoveling!" she replied.

"Ok!" I said. Then I closed the door and went to get my snowsuit on. "Hmmm, where are my snow boots?" I thought. "Oh, now i remember, i left them in the garage last night, when we went to the store!" I walked down stairs into the garage and picked up my snow boots. After I put them on, I ran to the front door and checked to see if my mom and dad were done shoveling. " Yes" I said, "they are done!"

I walked outside to my mom and asked her what she wanted to do. "I don't know," she said. "Hey! I know! Lets build a tunnel in the snow!"

"Ok," I said exhaustedly. Then she went to go get some shovels. After I got my tunnel hole going, we went over to the other side of the snow pile and started working on her side. 45 minutes had passed and we were almost done. "Fewwwf, this is alot of work!"  I said.

"It sure is!" agreed mom.

I went through my tunnel and screamed........................."MOM, YOU HEAR ME?!?"

"Yeah, I think I can hear you, keep digging!!" she screamed.

"Ok!" I said. I dug as hard as I could and about 5 minutes later I reached her. "Yes!" I said, "We did it!"

"Great job, Sarah!" said mom, "Now let's go inside and have some hot chocolate!"

Comment by Evan Komlenic, 2/23/2010:

Evan Komlenic is now 11, and has been a 'virtual' participant in our Writing Club for a number of years. You'll notice the ongoing 'Hot Chocolate' theme coming in here!

Winter Wonderland

     From street to street, my family and I walked through eight to ten inches of snow covering our little town on a Friday night.  When at home, I had a cup of hot chocolate and soon found myself pulling my blankets up to chest.  Then with my eyes closing soon, a surprise in the morning was not to be known.

     As I arose from my bed on a cold Saturday morning, you could have thought you were dreaming.  I have never seen so much snow in my life!  Picture as far as your eye can see a white blanket over everything.  Birds must have thought clouds were above and below them. 

     Finally, when I made it downstairs I found many trees slouched to the ground.  My Dad was already out shoveling our sidewalk and driveway to help my brother and me.  My first step into the snow was like sticking your hand into the flour container but much higher and harder to pull out since it was two feet deep.  Starting our laborious task with eight customers to go, every shovel full we lifted was like lifting wet sand.  After the last time of lifting my shovel, it was like freedom at last!  One of the best things though was walking into my warm house to sip hot chocolate.

     For me it was kind of odd to see all the public school kids home.  My Dad was at home more often, and that was great. My Mom also tried to stay inside more and not go out and shop for food.  So, we ate what we had.  I would say it was an experience that will never be forgotten or just a winter wonderland.


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