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The (Writerly) Benefits of Learning Together
12/13/2013 2:11:46 PM by: Susan Lyttek

For several years, the boys attended a monthly group called Read It, Write It. Usually, they liked it, but sometimes they didn’t. They learned a lot from the experience on how to give oral presentations and had to read types of books and genres they would have avoided otherwise, so it was good for them. But in truth, the meetings were for me.

Before and after the book reports, the homeschooling parents assembled in Ellie’s kitchen. There, we talked about our struggles, our questions and our triumphs. There, I bounced ideas off moms and dads from the same world I lived in. In truth, Jeanine Talbott and Guzman Guferntible (Guzzy Goofball) were born in that kitchen. Prior to this experience, I wrote (almost exclusively) sci-fi and fantasy. But since I lived the homeschool life, these homeschooling or homeschooled characters came to life while we talked.

Guzzy came to life on one of these Fridays. I had experienced a long and tiring week, so I sipped my tea and listened while I paid my bills and sorted my mail. One of the moms was talking about some of the mishaps that occurred during a church drama. I couldn’t help but laugh as she told it. After we all laughed for a while, we noticed kids listening in and chuckling, too.

On the way home, the boys brought up a familiar sore subject. One of the girls had done a book report on a character that was homeschooled. That, they liked. But as most of these books were, the main protagonist was female. It was hard enough to find fiction with homeschoolers in it. It was even harder to find homeschool fiction with boys as the main characters.

I don’t know which of them said it, but one did. “You know, something funny like what Mrs. YYYY talked about today.”

That started my brain whirring. Once we got home, I wrote the line, “I owe every misfortune to the name my parents condemned me to: Guzman Guferntible.” And Guzzy came to life on the computer screen.

He was a fifth grade homeschooled boy with twin younger brothers and a best friend (also homeschooled) named Shriek who lived down the street. As my younger son was earning frequent flier miles at the emergency room at the time, I based some of Guzzy’s mishaps and close encounters on his. I based Shriek on an actual homeschooled friend of the boys—except for the trademark yell of the character. That, I added in order to give her a memorable nickname and make her more of a tomboy.

Once I finished the story, I presented it to the same audience that sparked the idea. The families at Read It Write It were my first critiquers. They enjoyed it, but made some suggestions and changes based on their experiences.

After all, who would know the homeschool world better than a group of homeschoolers?

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