Teach Unobserved

Things to do when there’s no TV, or how to teach when the kids don’t know they are learning.

One winter day, I announced to the stir-crazy kids that we were going to put out a Family News Magazine. This was met with skeptical stares and eye-rolling. As the Editor-In-Chief, I decided I needed to assign some tasks. I told each of the four that they would cover one feature story and one inside story or two. I needed someone to come up with a title/header for our magazine and some inside artwork. The youngest (age 10) jumped up and volunteered. She is quite the artist. Then I said we needed someone to cover the weather and my son (age 11) volunteered for that. He loves to complain about the weather. I said there needed to be some family news covered: who was getting married, who was expecting a baby, etc., and the number two daughter (age 12) said she would love to write up some social page. She always loves to socialize. Now they are beginning to get excited about this project. Next is the health page with maybe room for recipes. The oldest daughter (age 13) accepted that project. Each of them scurried off to get a pen and paper and I was left with peace once again.

They later decided on a sports page giving blow-by-blow reviews of their chess competition or tennis matches. They added an exercise and health page. My number two-daughter did a report on the chickens and the number of eggs they lay in a week. The number one-daughter decided to add quotes from historical characters they were studying in school. Each added a bit of themselves and what they found interesting and important.

Today’s Printing Options

When my family and I created our family magazine, we were lucky to have a computer and dot matrix printer. Today there are all sorts of templates available with Microsoft Word as well as good in-home printers.

I found a great template labeled “School Newsletter” already formatted with 6 pages and full-color banners that can be changed to black and white if you prefer for printing cost considerations. Just click into each photo and header to change it to your preference, or drag and drop your own photos into the place holder. The template even has a place for the newsletter to be folded in half and mailed, leaving a place to type in return address and recipient’s address. I have created a little demonstration model.


I used Handwriting-Dakota for my heading font and left the rest as the default fonts. I also left the default colors in place: green, orange and blue.

If we had this available to use I feel sure my children would have wanted to create their Family Magazine more often than the once a month issue we came out with during their school year. They all became prolific writers and artists and photographers through our efforts to keep in touch with distant family members.

Ongoing Project

This has turned out to be an ongoing family magazine, which the kids charge 25 cents to family and friends for. Naturally, no one is getting rich here but the money covers the paper and ink. At first, we created a magazine every two weeks but then settled into one a month. The artistry changed hands a couple of times so that each had the opportunity to do some cover art. We kept it black and white for ease of printing and cost. But we could have accommodated some color art. All artwork has to be done in ink, not pencil, or it will not print properly/clearly.

On layout day, we got together with our projects and did some cut-and-paste to fit them all together in a two-column format. In some cases, we had to photocopy and reduce the size of artwork to fit in the assigned space. Each of the kids had to type their own articles and as an editor, I corrected for grammar and punctuation. After a while, this became a project the extended family and church friends looked forward to receiving. They enjoyed a glimpse into our family through this unique format, and I enjoyed the togetherness of an educational event. It worked great for the winter blues but ended up being carried into the following seasons as an on-going project. One of my girls decided she wanted to become a journalist because of the experience.

Today you could even create a blog page that the kids use as a Family Magazine Blog and update it each week or each month.

How to Get Your Little Brother to Stop Talking

Here is an inclusion to one family magazine fun page.

It’s an age-old problem. As long as there have been sisters and little brothers, we have wondered how to stop the madness. Here are a few helpful suggestions to try out on your brother.

  1. Two words: duct tape. Just joking.
  2. Give him his Game Boy. Busy hands help.
  3. Give him a peanut butter sandwich. When his mouth is full, he is much quieter.
  4. Tell him you’ll give him 25 cents if he finishes his story and a dollar if he quits now. Then, of course, you have to pay up.
  5. Invite one of your friends over who has a little brother the same age. They can keep each other entertained and you can escape with your friend.
  6. Call one of his friends on the phone and give him the receiver. Now you can politely leave for quieter quarters.
  7. Tell him you saw him sneaking something and if he’s not quiet you’ll have to tell mom about it. Sometimes you have to resort to blackmail.
  8. Play a game of “Who can stay quiet the longest” and offer a prize he may actually want to win. You could get a good hour of peace out of that one but it better be a great prize.
  9. Point out the benefits of reading. If this doesn’t work, offer to read to him from his favorite book if he will give you an hour of quiet afterward.
  10. Challenge him to a game of hide-and-seek but don’t bother to seek right away.
  11. Explain that you used to have a brother just like him but he was so noisy you traded him in for a PlayStation.
  12. Start repeating everything he says and he will get so annoyed that he will leave you alone. As long as he isn’t better at that game than you are!
  13. Climb a tree. Your brother may not be able to find you up there for hours. If you don’t tell him where you were hiding, it could be your secret hiding place for years.
  14. Don’t forget that your little brother may be a handy person to have on your side someday, so be kind. Try playing a game with him. He probably only wants a little attention anyway.
  15. Do a craft with him, or give him one to do that he can accomplish on his own. Try the Silhouette Bag Craft.
  16. If all else fails, go to your mom and tell her you are frustrated to the point of taking hostages. She will usually help at that point.

Be Careful of Personal Information

We created our magazine for print, but today it would be just as easy to create a digital version on a private web site. Using tools like Adobe InDesign, a family could create a “flip book” digital version that would look like a real magazine. The problem here is that you would want your magazine to be semi-private and only accessible for family and friends who have the direct access code. There are too many predators and trolls out there to make children’s photos, information, and creations available to just anyone. I appreciated the print version because we could hand them to the people we wanted to have them. Our magazine did not contain any photos of the children for this very reason. They often included just enough information about weather and school projects that it would be interesting without being negligent.

It is a sad commentary of our society that we need to be aware of such things but it is the world we live in. Be careful of personal information.