Submissions to Home Education Magazine are wide ranging. Most of our content is generated by homeschooling parents, but we also get articles from non-homeschoolers. The article “Using Writing Contests” by Thursday Bram, a non-homeschooling writer, is coming up in our November-December issue.
Most submissions by non-homeschooling writers don’t get published, usually because the articles don’t reflect an understanding of the ways home education differs from school or because the writer is suffering from expertism. Some submissions I get from non-homeschooling writers have a condescending tone, and some come right out and say homeschoolers obviously need assistance from someone with credentials.
Since a lot of people want to write for Home Education Magazine, I thought sharing Thursday’s approach would be interesting reading for prospective writers. She agreed to answer some questions that provide insight as to why her article was selected for publication, even though she is not a homeschool mom.
Thursday, when I read your article, I was immediately impressed with your idea for the story. How did you think of doing an article about the way writing contests could be helpful to homeschool kids?
In the past, I’ve tutored English, as well as taught test prep for college admissions exams like the SAT. Those experiences have lead me to the conclusion that the only way for a student to improve his or her writing is to actually write. Actually finding things to write about can be the hard part, though: in chatting with a mom who homeschools, the question of where to find writing prompts came up. Since I’ve been suggesting writing contests for students I’ve tutored for years, I thought it would be a good fit for this mom who felt like she could never find writing topics that interested her kids.
What made you think of writing this story for a homeschooling magazine, when the writing contests are open to all students?
The more I thought about the idea of using writing contests as prompts for homeschoolers, the more it seemed like a good fit. As I started looking into it with the families who I know homeschool, I consistently heard that parents would like a good source of writing prompts but most of them hadn’t even considered writing contests. I felt like it was an idea that would be useful and honestly didn’t think that much about the factor that most writing contests are open to any student. I’ve known enough people that either homeschool their kids or were homeschooled themselves that I don’t think I really consider homeschooling that radical of an educational idea compared to a public school.
I wasn’t sure whether you were a homeschool parent yourself. You hit the right tone with me, so I thought “maybe.” I get a lot of submissions from writers who are not homeschooling parents, but most come off as “experts” outside homeschooling who would like to assist homeschoolers who “must be” struggling to manage without the infrastructure of “school.” This is definitely not an approach our readers appreciate, and so those writers don’t get published – and yet our readers do highly value a supportive tone and helpful ideas.
When I asked, you told me you weren’t a homeschool parent. How do you think you managed to get inside the approach that Home Education Magazine is seeking without being a homeschooling parent yourself?
I think one of the biggest factors that lets me write for a magazine like Home Education Magazine without being a homeschooling parent is the fact that I don’t assume anything about homeschooling. I know that I’m definitely not an expert on homeschooling and I know most parents have good reasons for taking the approaches they do. Instead, I sought out homeschooling parents who were willing to talk to me about how they approach planning a curriculum. I think it’s all about keeping an open mind and avoiding assumptions – which may hold true even for parents already homeschooling! I’ve seen an incredible diversity between how different families handle homeschooling: what works for one family may not be an option for another.
Of course, we do occasionally have other articles that are written by nonhomeschooling writers. What are your observations about the content and editorial tone of Home Education Magazine that you would encourage prospective HEM writers to keep in mind?
Practical options seem to be a focal point in Home Education Magazine’s content: just from looking through article titles, you can get the feeling that if an article isn’t about something that a busy mom or dad can read and put to use fast, it’s probably not going to make it into the magazine. The magazine also manages to avoid what I call the ‘expert bias’ – there’s recognition that there are multiple ways to approach any homeschooling question and just because an expert has certain credentials doesn’t make their option more valid than the alternatives.
What other types of writing do you do? Any articles that you think would be of interest to homeschoolers, even though they might be intended for a broader audience?
I write about personal finance on a regular basis, as well as small business and work-at-home topics. A couple of the sites that I write for on a regular basis are www.Wisebread.com and www.Webworkerdaily.com. I like to group the topics I write about under the umbrella of productivity – I’m all about finding easier solutions to problems (like where to come up with a whole stack of writing prompts on short notice) and then making them available to readers.
People who are interested in writing for Home Education Magazine might be interested in your background. Tell us a little about yourself and your writing, and how our readers can find out more about you.
I started freelance writing the summer before I went to college and I’ve been doing it ever since. While I enjoy certain aspects of straight journalism, like interviewing interesting people, a short stint at a daily newspaper made it very clear to me that I wouldn’t get to cover most of the stories I wanted to if I didn’t stick with freelancing. I write primarily for online publications at this point and I actually blog about the business side of freelance writing on my personal website, www.ThursdayBram.com.
A lot of homeschool parents and young adults are interested in freelance or work-at-home type pursuits, including writing, graphic design, and other home based businesses. How does this work for you?
I’ve actually had the opportunity to work with quite a few work-at-home parents who have taken up freelancing. For some parents, it’s an ideal option – though freelancing alone can be tough, before you even start thinking about combining homeschooling. Both require self-discipline. Even after years of freelancing, I still occasionally struggle with making sure I get all of my work done when I have something else I’d really rather be doing.
If you can handle that aspect, though, freelancing has a lot to recommend it. There is a certain flexibility to it and the ability to pick and choose projects (and often turn your other interests into new projects) can provide an interesting career path. If you’re interested in freelancing, I’d suggest checking out some of the websites dedicated to freelancing, like FreelanceSwitch.com (disclaimer: I do write for FreelanceSwitch) and start learning about the mechanics of freelancing. I also offer quite a bit of information on freelance writing on my own website and just brought out my first ebook for freelancers just getting started in the business, Market Your Freelance Writing in 31 Days (http://www.thursdaybram.com/marketing-your-freelance-writing-in-31-days-the-ebook).
What do you like to read?
Thanks, Thursday, for telling us about your freelance writing career and how you manage to customize your writing for Home Education Magazine. Our readers will enjoy your upcoming article in the November-December 2009 issue.