Words Across the World
© Beverley Paine, 2004
My mum encouraged me to write letters to our relatives in England, and then, as I grew older, she helped me find pen pals. It's easy to find a homeschooled pen pal for your child. Browse the Internet for homeschooling sites and email the website owner, telling them you are interested in finding pen pals for your children and would they be help to help. State or national organisations that publish on-line or printed newsletters or magazines are good to target.
A word of caution: do not share personal details about your child in a public forum, especially if you haven't asked her permission. Age and gender details should be sufficient to make the first connection.
Children often need help to get pen pal relationships established and to keep them alive. These are some of the things I've done with my children to help them:
given them ideas of what to write about: what they have been doing recently; descriptions of their favourite toys, games and activities; talk about their hobbies or favourite books and movies; their dreams and goals; anything in their lives - adventures they've had, etc.
shown them how to respond to things their pen pals says or asks;
told them to write as if they were speaking;
shown them how to use the spell and grammar checking function on the word processing program; or how to use the dictionary and thesaurus;
bought aerograms or light-weight note paper and given notepaper and envelope sets as spontaneous gifts to encourage them to write to their pen pals;
made and/or bought postcards. Some children find letter writing intimidating but are happy to jot a few sentences on the back of a postcard. There are several homeschool postcard projects on the go around the world at once you can join. We received over fifty cards when we participated and kept the cards in a photo album with a map of the world showing where each card came from;
started a stamp collection!
encourage your child to look for things they have in common with their pen pal that they can talk about;
encourage them to talk about the things that are different too;
share pictures and mementos with each other - this may be small tourist items, like badges, fridge magnets or pennants at first but can include calendars, small toys, swapping computer games or favourite books, whatever! Distance doesn't have to be a barrier;
And finally, I taught my children never to share their passwords or address with on-line pen pals and to tell me immediately if something doesn't sound or feel okay about the developing relationship.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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