Archive for the ‘Writers’ Category

Using Comic Cards for Narration

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Timeline1

My boys were not enthusiastic writers. We would read piles of books together, which they thoroughly enjoyed as long as the books were interesting.  And they were happy to talk about the reading, as long as I didn’t call it “narration” (because that sounded too contrived or schoolish), but when it came to “Let’s write a paragraph about what happened during the War of 1812,” there was absolutely zero interest in this.

Being a fairly laid-back sort of homeschooling mom, I didn’t want to force them to write, but I was a bit anxious. It seemed like they ought to occasionally write something. I also felt that keeping some sort of history timeline would be helpful, because we would sometimes jump from Ancient Greece to Early American History to Medieval Europe, and they needed some way to put it all in perspective. I finally had the idea to try something that my oldest son was already doing – drawing comics.

He could spend 45 minutes with one sheet of blank paper, drawing epic space battles with laser blasts and little text bubbles for the characters to hurl insults at one another. So, I suggested that he illustrate scenes from our reading on a small 3 X 5 card, and then we would collect the cards to lay down on a timeline. He thought this was a fine idea, and my younger son was happy to do whatever his big brother was doing.

Timeline2

It worked pretty well. After reading, the boys would choose something to illustrate and I would write a short description of the event because they believed that even this would be too much writing. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before they started writing their own descriptions on the front or back of the card. We also included the date of the event on the back of the card.

Each boy had his own index card box to store the cards, and once a month or so, we would lay all the cards down on a timeline on the floor. I had purchased a roll of adding machine paper and used about 20 feet to mark out time periods. When we taped the paper to the floor, the boys used the dates on the back of their cards to lay them out in the proper order. It was tricky because some areas would have LOTS of cards (Early American time period), while some areas would have none. This did make an impression though, because we all realized, “Hey –  I have no idea what happened during these 600 years!” It was humbling.

Timeline3

Eventually, as the boys got older, they did learn to write well (perhaps a subject for another post), but drawing timeline comics on the index cards provided easy nonthreatening preparation for note-taking in those early years. For one thing, the small size of the card seemed more manageable. They weren’t faced with a full sheet of blank notebook paper to fill. Plus, using dialogue bubbles meant that they could write without worrying about complete sentences or exact punctuation. They also enjoyed seeing what the other brother created for each event. It was always a secret until they finished and traded cards.

I’ll mention another idea for cards here – if your kids like to collect and play with cards such as “Pokemon” or “Magic the Gathering,” they might enjoy making similar cards for history, science or literary characters. My only advice would be to give them plenty of artistic license. It wouldn’t be any fun if they couldn’t use their imaginations to embellish the truth a bit!

Do you have any other ideas for using index cards in your homeschool?

Reluctant Report Writing

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I was never the sort of homeschooler who assigned reports, and it wasn’t the sort of thing my kids spontaneously decided to do on their own. But sometimes, they would be invited to do some research about something and present it to others at a science fair, world culture fair or other homeschool group activity. This was usually a lot of fun, and the kids were happy to put in the work if it meant that somebody else might see it.

The tricky thing is trying to show kids what is meant by a report or a science fair project. What does one look like? The intent of a report is to convey information about a topic, based on research from a variety of sources (properly cited of course), and presented in an engaging manner, but the format really depends on the intended audience.

In our own school days, we were taught the old fashioned report format, with the title page, introduction, multiple paragraphs, conclusion, and maybe a few illustrations or diagrams. There is nothing terribly wrong with this format, and it does prepare young writers for bigger, more complex writing assignments in the world of academia or business. But it’s very hard for beginning writers to do this well, and it certainly isn’t fun.

There are so many skills involved with writing these reports: picking a suitable topic; picking suitable research sources; how to research; how to take notes; how to cite sources; how to organize the information; deciding what is important; how to write in complete sentences; how to write a paragraph; how to format the paper; deciding what to say; spelling and grammar. It’s hard to do all of this, even as an adult.

I suggest postponing the old-fashioned report format until your kids are more comfortable with writing in general, and instead concentrate on other ways to assemble and present information. Writing regularly is still important, but there are ways to build fluency without making your kids hate it (more on that in a future post).

Here’s just a few ideas for alternative report formats:

  • Write and illustrate a book for small children (perhaps younger siblings?) about the subject.
  • Create a short video documentary, using basic video editing software to add captions and effects.
  • Create a “National Public Radio” style report using a recording device, or presented live.
  • Create a mixed-media poster with copies of photos from the web or magazines, drawings, diagrams, text boxes, etc.
  • Try “lapbooking” or “notebooking,” or any other form of inventive book making. Check out this Pinterest board to see what I’m talking about.
  • Use graphic organizers to present information. Here’s a great site I found with fish-bone diagrams, Venn diagrams, timelines, and other fun ways to arrange the details of any topic.
  • Create a fake Facebook page on this site. This would be especially useful for history or biography based reports. Your kids can also see examples of what other students have created.
  • Write a satirical song, news report, or poem (some kids are highly motivated by sarcasm).

With any of these formats, it’s important to show kids an example first. If they don’t know what a lapbook or a poster looks like, they may be hesitant to try it. No worries though, because you can find all kinds of examples, including images from homeschooling families, with a simple Internet search. Also, any of these projects will take time, and probably some of your help to figure out how to get started, and how to use the computer/printer/etc.  Be careful not to take over though, and remember that the process is just as valuable as the final product.

It is not a small thing to learn how to organize thoughts and ideas; and presenting ideas in a visual format is really the way of the future. The computer has made it so easy to create graphic reports and presentations that now there are endless creative possibilities for sharing knowledge. Don’t be afraid to try something different!

Charles Dickens

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The Making of a Writer

Great writers always seem to start out as great readers.  But before they can write anything of substance, they need to have some experience and observations to draw from.  Charles Dickens was no exception.  His experiences of great books, a happy childhood and an unhappy adolescence all combined to create one of the greatest authors the world has ever known.Frontispiece for Forster’s Life of Charles Dickens in the Household Edition: Dickens as a boy having fallen asleep over a desk, pasting labels

Before he went to school, Mrs. Dickens, “A dear good mother and a fine woman, had taught him thoroughly well at home,” as his old nurse Mary Weller recalled.[i] She also remembered Charles as “A terrible boy to read,” holding his book with his left hand, holding his wrist with his right hand and constantly sliding it up and down while he sucked his tongue.[ii]  His mother also taught him some English and Latin before sending him to a dame school for an unknown period of time. 

He then switched to a school run by a Mr. Giles, where Charles made rapid progress.  He enjoyed reading books such as Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, Robinson Crusoe, Arabian Nights, and Tales of Genii.  He loved to act out his favorite characters from these books, as well as put on magic lantern plays with his sister. 

With the other schoolboys, he romped in the fields, rowed, skated, and enjoyed Twelfth Night and Guy Fawkes celebrations around bonfires.  Charles would also walk with his father to work in the mornings, absorbing all the sights and sounds of town, along with his father’s elaborate vocabulary.

Charles’s father, John Dickens, was kind hearted and genteel, but unfortunately lived beyond his means.  In 1822, the family was forced to move to a cheaper area and ten-year-old Charles was taken out of school.  He missed it terribly, and was embarrassed by his family’s reduced circumstances.  His father was very much in debt, and was soon sent to debtors prison.  At the age of 12, Charles was forced to go to work in a miserable blacking warehouse and fend for himself for 4 to 5 months.  This episode had a dramatic impact on Charles, and he never spoke of it again until the end of his life.  But he became very determined, and resolved never to be in such poverty again.

After being released from the blacking warehouse, the boy was able to attend Wellington House Academy for two and a half years.  Relieved and happy to be there after his ordeal, Charles worked very hard.  He then worked as an office boy before teaching himself shorthand so he could become a reporter. 

As soon as he was 18, Charles applied for a “Reader’s ticket” at the British Museum.  He then devoured books, especially Shakespeare, Addison and histories, along with attending the theatre every night.  By the age of 21, he had risen to some prominence as a short hand reporter with the publication, “Mirror of Parliament.”  His first real literary success was The Pickwick Papers published in 1836, when he was 24.

Dickens would of course go on to become world famous, writing such classics as Great Expectations, David Copperfield, and A Tale of Two Cities.  The opportunity to read great books as a child (and adult) undoubtedly contributed to his future writing.  But it wasn’t just his style, but his substance that made Dickens great.  That episode in the blacking warehouse gave him a perspective on poverty and suffering that he might not otherwise have had.  It was uncommon for working class poor at the time to have access to great literature (or the time to read).  So Dickens experienced a unique combination of both privilege and poverty.  This combination, plus a heap of determination never to be poor again, is what propelled Dickens to write his hugely popular books.


[i] “Charles Dickens:  His Tragedy and Triumph, Vol. 1” by Edgar Johnson, p. 13

[ii] ibid



Resource for Great History Books

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I found the following link while searching for good historical fiction:

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=1359

www.fromoldbooks.org

It is called A Guide to the Best Historical Novels and Tales by Jonathan Nield, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.  Wow!  It makes me want to clear my schedule and just read for the next three years.  Mr. Nield has even included a special section at the end covering recommended literature for youth.  The only problem is he stopped the list at the 19th Century and I was trying to find books about the early 20th Century.

Never mind that – it’s still a great resource!

Walt Whitman

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“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.”  ~ Walt Whitman (Preface to “Leaves of Grass”)

Poets are as necessary to humankind as little worms are to plant-kind.  They take the undigested refuse of life and turn it into compost for the rest of us to grow.  Walt Whitman was the ultimate vermicular versifier.  And he wouldn’t have minded a bit being compared to worms – he himself said, “I moisten the roots of all that has grown.” (“Leaves of Grass”)  He observed and recognized the sacred in everything, no matter how mundane or tragic.  His poems are filled with sensory images of sounds, smells and physical touch.  He spent so much time observing and wondering in fact that those who knew him as a youngster thought he would never amount to much.

Like Robert Frost, Walt Whitman had a difficult childhood.  His father made many unfortunate real estate decisions and the family was forced to move from the Long Island countryside to Brooklyn in 1823 when Walt was four.  Here he went to District School #1, a strict environment, which adhered to the Lancastrian Method of rote learning through a monitoring system, where older pupils teach the younger, allowing the teacher to oversee very large groups of scholars more efficiently (and cheaply).  His lessons each day began with a Bible reading, followed by grammar, dictation, spelling, vocabulary, arithmetic, geography, and penmanship.  Whitman never mentions his schoolboy days, although the frequent use of corporal punishment appears in his short story, “Death in the School-Room.”  His teacher B.B. Halleck considered Walt, “clumsy and slovenly.” (more…)

The Joy of Biographies

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“There is properly no history; only biography.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I never used to read biographies, unless required by school.  I remember an assignment in High School where I was supposed to write a report about any person of my choice.  Scanning the biography shelves of of my school library, it seemed like I didn’t know any of the names except for founding fathers or movie stars, so I decided to pick a book at random.  It was about Aristotle Onassis.  Whew!  What a life – and what an eye opener for a small prairie-town girl to read about a worldly, multi-millionaire business mogul.  It made an impression on me far beyond any history textbook or lecture I heard in the classroom.

For some reason, I didn’t read biographies again until many years later when I picked up my education again after college.  Since then, I’ve learned so much!  Never mind the occasional factual errors or image distortions, there is so much context surrounding a single person’s life, that we can learn a lot about their place and time.  I’ve learned about Tin Pan Alley, the Gilded Age, New England mill towns, the Chicago World Fair, houseboating on the Nile, ranch life in New Mexico, British boarding schools, the Boxer Rebellion in China along with hundreds of other things.

I’ve also learned about the politics, people, technology, customs and concerns of the times these people lived, especially when one life overlaps with another biography I’ve read.  It’s a terrific way to learn history.  But I have found that one biographer’s interpretation of events does not necessarily match another author’s version.  For very controversial figures, such as Abraham Lincoln or Franklin D. Roosevelt, it’s quite interesting to read and compare conservative vs. liberal leaning biographies, or old vs. new biographies (newer biographies of political leaders have access to newly unclassified documents).  I also like to scan the sources they used.

This year, my sons and I were trying to decide what to do for history since we’ve already done a cursory overview of most time periods.  I left it up to them what they want to dig into next and they decided to skip around, reading biographies of different people in different times.  My oldest son is in love with Shakespeare and theatre in general so he’s captivated with stories about playwrights.  My second son is interested in science, business and technology so he’s reading about inventors and entrepreneurs such as Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, the Google founders and Warren Buffett.

I think most people avoid biographies because they’ve only been exposed to those boring commissioned-for-school-libraries type books.  Instead, look for well-written labors of love.  If the children’s section of your local library is light on biographies, try finding what you want online first then requesting it from your librarian.  Teens can often find good books in the adult section, but be aware that means they’ll usually learn all about the love lives of their subject too.  Just wait till your 16 year old finds out Ben Franklin’s thoughts on choosing a young vs. an older mistress!  It’s probably no worse than what they see in the movies.

John Muir

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“Wildness was ever sounding in our ears, and Nature saw to it that besides school lessons and church lessons some of her own lessons should be learned, perhaps with a view to the time when we should be called to wander in wildness to our heart’s content.” (p. 28)

Having just returned from a family vacation in the Eastern Sierras and Yosemite, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the education of one of my favorite people . . .

John Muir had a rough and tumble boyhood growing up in the strict Calvinist community of Dunbar, Scotland. He and the other boys played soldier like their heroes William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. To be a good fighter was their highest ambition, but the boys also found amusement roaming the seashore and countryside, climbing walls and trees looking for birds’ nests, playing with toy boats, competing in running and wrestling matches, and experimenting with gunpowder and homemade guns.

John started grammar school at the age of 3 but his grandfather had already taught him a few letters. He progressed through a series of readers featuring heroic stories and poems, and remembered the sense of pride he felt in moving up to the next level. But this was not as important as maintaining a reputation for toughness:

“After attaining the manly, belligerent age of five or six years, very few of my schooldays passed without a fist fight, and half a dozen was no uncommon number. When any classmate of our own age questioned our rank and standing as fighters, we always made haste to settle the matter at a quiet place at the Davel Brae. To be a ‘gude fechter’ was our highest ambition, our dearest aim in life in or out of school. To be a good scholar was a secondary consideration, though we tried hard to hold high places in our classes and gloried in being Dux.” (p. 16) (more…)

Robert Frost

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Why is it that so many poets seem to have tragic lives plagued with mental illness and misery? Maybe a certain amount of suffering is necessary to truly scour the depths of human experience and give it back to us transformed. Whatever the case, Robert Frost had suffering to spare – a brutish undependable father, a mother worn away from stress and poverty, isolation, irrational fears, mysterious health problems, a tortuous love life, low self esteem, failure and the untimely death of two of his children. It seems a high price to pay for becoming a poet, even a beloved one, but Frost couldn’t deny his calling.

He was born in the rough frontier city of San Francisco in 1874. His father, Will, a brilliant but reckless Harvard graduate, fled to California to get away from his own strict Puritan parents. He became a newspaper reporter with hopes for a career in politics. But Will was unpopular, humorless and a scoundrel. He cheated on his wife, gambled and had constant problems with alcohol and violence.

Young Robert was devoted to his father and often accompanied him on walks around town to cover news stories. Even with his father’s strict discipline and unpredictable bursts of violence, Robert still hoped to win his affections. But it wasn’t long before the son became disillusioned with his unscrupulous and selfish father.

In contrast, Robert’s mother Belle was very sensitive and gentle. She protected, spoiled and pampered Robert as much as she could. She escaped her unhappy circumstances by her devotion to religion. She had been raised a Presbyterian in Scotland, but became a Unitarian, then a Swedenborgian. She was considered queer and dreamy by those who knew her and even her son later questioned her mental health. When his father whipped him, Belle would drop to her knees in the next room to pray for mercy.

She used the poor example of his father’s violence and drunkenness to encourage Robert to control his will and feelings. He did to some extent – he was not reckless, and always avoided smoking and drinking – but he had trouble controlling his emotions.

Belle read lots of Bible stories to Robert and his little sister Jeannie. She loved to read aloud to them: James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays, George MacDonald’s stories At the Back of the North Wind and The Princess and the Goblin, and Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island. She passed on her Scottish heritage by reading Walter Scott’s The Tale of a Grandfather, Jane Porter’s The Scottish Chiefs, and the poetry of Robert Burns and Walter Scott.

Robert claimed he did not read a book for himself until he was a teen but through his mother’s reading, he acquired an ear for dialect and was especially sensitive to the sounds of words. His mother noticed that he seemed to learn best by ear. He also claims to have heard voices as a child which deeply troubled him. He could not understand the voices and tried to cover his ears and bury his head in a chair to stop them. Later he wondered if those voices could help him with his poetry.

He suffered from numerous health problems as a child and was not very strong, although he often used this excuse to get out of unpleasant duties (even as an adult). The boy was terrified of the dark and had frequent nightmares – another problem that would persist into adulthood.

Unfortunately, his father died of tuberculosis when Robert was 11 and his family was left destitute. Belle decided to move her family back to New England and return her husband’s body to his family in Massachusetts. The austere Frost grandparents temporarily took Belle and the children in, but they were not welcome. They blamed Belle for their son’s failures and resented the children, so Belle wasted no time trying to find work as a teacher.

Robert and his sister began attending his mother’s school of 34 students. Robert was behind the other 12 year olds, so Belle worked hard to get him caught up. This is when he apparently first read a book for himself, The Scottish Chiefs. He seems to have caught the spirit of learning during this time, and in just two and a half years was ready for high school.

When Rob entered Lawrence High School in 1888, he chose the classical curriculum, which would prepare him for college. This entailed Latin, Greek, ancient and European history and mathematics. By the end of the first year he was head of his class of 32 students. He disapproved of his teacher’s methods but was glad to have the thorough grounding. The Latin instructor “taught Homer and Virgil for the grammar merely. She never told us that this was great literature. I used to resent this . . . [But] she taught me at least to read the Latin poets in the original and I could come to them later and discover their greatness for myself.”

Here is where he first started reading and writing poetry – Shelley, Keats, Poe and Arnold. In his senior year he became editor of the High School Bulletin and graduated at the top of his class.

But his promising academic career ended with an early departure from Dartmouth College. Robert was morose, apathetic and lonely without his mother. The other pupils were far more interested in drunken bouts of hazing than study. He had discovered Palgrave’s anthology of poetry, The Golden Treasury, and wanted nothing more than to wander in the woods reading and composing poems. But leaving college meant leaving any hope of a career and the harsh disapproval of his grandparents in Lawrence. He later wrote, “A cloud of puzzlement hung over me as an obstinate, indecisive young fool.”

He had a vague dream of becoming a poet but did not know how to make any money at it. Over the years, he took various jobs farming and teaching, got married, tried college again at Harvard (but didn’t like Harvard any better than Dartmouth), read quantities of books and wrote his poetry.

When a poem came to him he had to drop everything and write it down. When his poem, “My Butterfly” came to him, he locked the kitchen door and refused to let anyone in until he was finished. This was published before he was 20 years old but was not able to publish again until he was 40.

Until that time, and perhaps for the rest of his life, he felt like a failure. Despite his sense of humor and witty conversation, Frost always had problems with his self-esteem. He was very touchy and sensitive to criticism. The poet was very cautious of his own secrets and personal tragedies. He was also a poor loser – he enjoyed playing tennis and baseball but his friends always let him win for fear of his temper.

Frost is noted for teaching his own four children at home. He taught the children botany and astronomy. His wife Elinor taught geography, reading, writing and spelling. Robert did not believe in using textbooks and instead took his children on long walks and read great books to them. Some of his favorites were: The Odyssey, Robinson Crusoe, Walden, Poe’s Tales, The Oxford Book of English Verse, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Jungle Book, and Emerson’s Essays and Poems.

Like his own father, Robert was not good at showing affection, but he did love his children and try to do his best. He did not whip them but enforced discipline by confining the children in closets and pinching them. Perhaps for lack of a better role model, he was overbearing and controlling, and his children were always somewhat afraid of him. They resented him even as adults.

Robert Frost is a famous proponent of h
ome schooling but his life probably offers us more lessons about what not to do as parents. There is no doubt that he was a brilliant, talented poet and a gifted conversationalist. He received many awards and honorary degrees in his later years – which he never tired of. His fragile self esteem craved recognition. One wonders what he might have accomplished if his father had loved him properly – maybe more, maybe less. But then he might have been a happier man and a better father to his own children.

Long walks, great books, life experience and a thorough study of Latin classics may have been Frost’s prescription for a good education. But in his case, a good education did not include the best mental or emotional health. This might be a prerequisite for poets, but not for parents.

Sources:

Gould, Jean. Robert Frost: The Aim Was Song. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company,
1964.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Robert Frost: A Biography. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Agatha Christie

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“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity.  It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”
— Agatha Christie

 

The Queen of Crime fiction was born in 1890, the youngest of three children. Her older brother and sister were much older than her and often away at school, so Agatha spent a great deal of time alone. By the time Agatha was born, her mother Claire had adopted new ideas of child development and decided not to send her to school. Based on concern for her eyes and brain maturity, Claire did not plan to teach Agatha to read until she was eight, but the child taught herself to read anyway by the age of five. She at first read by identifying the whole word. It took longer for her to recognize individual letters such as “B” and “R.”

Their house in Torquay, England was full of books. Young Agatha loved the familiar authors Edith Nesbit, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, Louisa M. Alcott, Robinson Crusoe, and others. After she had learned to read, her father decided to teach her to write. She started with a pencil, and by the time she was seven was using ink and an italic nub, writing with a large, legible hand. Her older sister Madge made a copybook for her with sentences to copy such as: “Jealousy is a green-eyed monster,” “Pork pie is made of pig and paste,” and “I was an idler, who idolized play.”

Every morning after breakfast, her father taught her arithmetic. He gave her word problems involving apples, pears and bathsful of water. She loved it and was very good at math. She also took mandolin and piano lessons and had a wonderful voice. She was so good that for a while she dreamed of becoming a concert pianist or an opera singer.

Agatha was lucky to grow up in a comfortable house, with orderly, thoughtful and kind parents. Her father was a friendly, easy going, upper-class American who enjoyed collecting art and antiques. Her mother was imaginative, very playful and enjoyed trying new things. She experimented with religion, including Zoroastrianism, and was interested in the supernatural (this was not too unusual for the Victorian socialite class). Unfortunately, Agatha’s beloved father died when she was only 11. With her husband gone and the family’s finances depleted, Claire’s health deteriorated as she struggled to make ends meet.

Despite the tough circumstances, Agatha continued to learn at home. Her mother hired a series of governesses to try to teach her French but none of them worked out. Finally she hired a sweet, dependable French girl named Marie to keep Agatha company and teach her the language. She also began attending classes two days a week at Miss Guyer’s Girl’s School in Torquay to learn algebra, grammar and spelling, but she did not do well here.

Agatha continued to read everything she could get her hands on: Jules Verne, G.A. Henty, George Eliot, Mrs. Henry Wood, Sir Walter Scott, Dickens, Trollope, Bryron, Kipling, the Bronte sisters, Marion Crawford, Oscar Wilde, and various French classics. She also loved “How-To” books, nonfiction, and riddle books.

Much has been said of the fact that Agatha did not have any close playmates as a child, but this always annoyed her. She did not feel lonely nor did she regret her lack of formal education. She was very close to her mother, a nanny, and two spirited Grandmothers. She also loved her pets: a cat, a terrier and a canary; and a creative collection of imaginary friends. She invented a school full of imaginary girls with names and individual personalities, plus a dynasty of make-believe kings and queens. She liked to roller skate, ride horses, and swim in the ocean.

Later, at age twelve, she began to make local friends, putting on performances and dances. At fifteen, she went to a series of boarding schools in Paris where she tried to learn the refined skills of drawing, pouring tea, singing, French history and more piano.

Agatha wrote a poem at age eleven, which was published in the local paper, and she later wrote a waltz. But it was not until she was 18 and recovering from the flu in bed that her mother suggested she try writing a story. She did write many stories and sent them into publishers but all were rejected. When WWI began, she worked at a hospital and started training to be a pharmacist (here is where she picked up all her knowledge of poisons), all while writing stories. She finally tried her hand at writing a detective novel and it was published in 1920.

By 1923, Agatha’s novels were becoming more popular and she was well on her way to becoming one of the world’s most beloved authors.

 

 

Reference:  Morgan, Janet.  Agatha Christie:  A Biography.  New York City:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.