When our family relocated from Tennessee to Vermont, I was confident I could keep landing assignments from my southern editors. I wasn’t so sure, however, if I could successfully continue teaching creative writing to homeschoolers-something I had been enjoying for five years. By asking myself the 5 W’s and the H, I found answers that not only satisfied my itch to teach, but also met a legitimate need in my new community.
Since I had taught through a co-op in Memphis, I went on the home school co-op hunt not only through the Internet but also through homeschoolers I had met. When I learned that the local co-op had disbanded the previous year, I put the word out to see if anyone would be interested in a creative writing class. Within a few weeks, a homeschool mom called me and confirmed a great deal of interest.
What to Charge
This question perplexed me, as my salary had been set by the co-op before. While I knew I could check Writer’s Market for the going rate, I wasn’t sure how to charge my students as a class. In my own home schooling days, however, I had outsourced the math, so I called my friend. Her advice was sensible: decide your hourly rate and then divide that by the number of students in the class. For a rate of $60 an hour, for instance, a class of ten students would pay $6 per class: a fair price per student and a great rate for me.
I ended up with ten 5th and 6th grade students and seven 7th and 8th graders. The age span demanded two classes, I concluded, and with further inquiry I found two moms who were willing to watch my preschoolers for half off tuition; again, a good deal for all parties involved.
Next I had to determine what day was best. Since I have eight children of my own, I didn’t think I could face 17 students first thing Monday morning. I also knew I wanted to keep Fridays free, so I decided on Thursdays-younger students at 10:00 and junior high group at 11:00.
Because I needed childcare while I taught, I decided my home was the best location. Besides, as a southern transplant, I was uncertain-or just plain scared-about driving in the Vermont winter weather. To my amazement, my whole class showed up on the first day-even after a snowstorm!
Why do I want to teach? Because it is a passion of mine to show kids all that can be done with writing. I even get excited about helping students understand where to put a comma!
I try to teach children things I wish I had known when I was young, frequently saying things like, “Did you know that if you work hard enough, you can get paid to travel and write about your experiences? Or “Imagine going to a restaurant to eat, getting your meal for free and then getting paid to write about it!” I love watching their faces as a whole new world of possibilities begins to open up to them.
From my own homeschooling experience, I knew that my children got very little note-taking practice. Consequently I decided to structure the class similar to a high school or college classroom: I lecture and my students take notes. I then give an assignment related to my lecture topic to be turned in the next week. For example, the lecture on detail and imagery is reinforced by an assignment to make a travel brochure. “Make me want to come there!” I encourage my students.
Also, every class concludes with a grammar focus where I cover one of the parts of speech along with common writing errors such as fragments or misplaced modifiers.
Though I am a magazine writer, I have found the concept of magazine writing too complex for middle school students to grasp. (I’m developing a class for high school students on that topic.) Consequently, I settled on fun assignments that reinforce the basics. Over the years, I’ve found teaching not only fun and rewarding, but also a way of generating income that fits easily into my lifestyle.
The educational requirements for teachers differ from state to state. In Tennessee you had to have a degree to teach high school but not the lower grades. I have a degree, but no one asked me if I had one when I put out the word about this class (but then again I’m not teaching high school). For information on homeschooling groups in your area, There is a national organization called the Home School Legal Defense Association that provides homeschooling information on different states and even other countries.
Margie Sims may be reached at Margie