I have been asked for more info on the school newspaper we did this year.
So, I wanted to have a newspaper that looked as much like a real newspaper as possible. I am not highly trained in desktop publishing, however.
I reckoned someone out there might have already thought of this (we homeschoolers rarely have to reinvent the wheel!) so I did some googling one day to see if I could find a website with templates or a program that would automatically put it together for us or something. I could not find anything that fit the bill.
I didn't exactly have a ton of time to research and learn how to format such a document, much as I would like to. So I did the only thing that I knew how to do. I found a template in Microsoft Word for a basic, six-page newsletter and that is what we used. It had a big header on the first page, a sidebar to highlight contents, and each article had a three-column format. We cut it down to four pages because that was plenty.
I just went through and collected all the writing assignments my kids had done throughout the year and stuck them in a big pile. Fish and Roo were doing Wordsmith Apprentice, which actually has you pretending to write for a newspaper. So they had classified ads, household help columns, editorials, and whatnot that they had already written. Beans' Wordsmith assignments also went into the pool-- these were a lot longer, which was helpful when I wanted to fill a lot of space. I also collected our history summary paragraphs.
We ended up doing five or six issues during the second half of the school year. I was aiming for one every two weeks. We didn't quite get it done that often, and I certainly wouldn't try to do more than that. Monthly might even be best, especially when you're first starting out.
The content varied, but typically the first page contained a couple of articles about current events in our family. A trip to the zoo, or a birthday maybe. I would assign kids to write these especially for the paper. It was usually Roo and Rabbit who were excited about writing them, so they got the job.
The second page would have maybe one of Bean's longer pieces along with one of the shorter Wordsmith assignments like a restaurant review or a household hints column. At the bottom of the second page was always Fish's comic strip that he would draw specially for each edition of the paper. He would draw it on white paper with black ink, I would photograph it, then I would just insert it into the document as a photo. I am sure there is a prettier way to do it, but that worked.
Page three became our world history page, where I would put it a couple of the kids' recent history summaries.
The content of the final page varied: it might have been carryover of an article from an earlier page or another one of Bean's writing assignments or some fiction writing one of the kids had done.
The format of the newsletter was such that there were little sidebars on most pages. We sometimes could put photos there. We also put classifieds (usually humorous ones), recipes, poems that the kids had written, or jokes.
I found it very difficult to alter the format much (like I said, I am not a Word expert.) So I was always trying to fit pieces of writing into the spaces the template provided, and sometimes this was challenging and/or frustrating. If I tried to move anything around in the template I usually ended up with a big headache. Putting photos in was often very tricky, so we didn't use many. Since we printed the paper in black and white, photos weren't really very appealing anyway. Also, Word would tend to run really slow when I was working with the paper, and that was really frustrating at times. (You know, when your text doesn't appear until ten seconds after you type it...)
It really helped, then, to have a large pool of writing to draw from so I could find things to fit whatever spaces I had. I guess it would also work to assign a child to fill a certain spot-- "we need you to write something for this spot and it needs to be this long." My kids didn't respond too eagerly when I tried to do that, but I know some kids would.
The kids were excited about the idea of the paper, but I had to constantly be the driving force behind it. And I was the only one with the ability to figure out the template, so I was the editor and producer of the whole thing. I did try to keep my own writing out of it and I mostly succeeded: sometimes I felt the need to heavily edit some of the current events articles to clarify them, in which case I indicated co-authorship of the article ("by Rabbit and Mom.") And sometimes I wrote a classified ad just to be funny. ("For sale: one surly teenager. Smells funny, but will mow the lawn if bribed. Call Bird at 555-1212." That kind of thing.)
We would print paper copies and mail them to the grandparents. Over time we added some aunts and uncles to the distribution list as well, though we were never mailing out more than half a dozen copies. Which made it easy on the budget. We got rave reviews from all our "subscribers." It especially made me happy to see how much the grandparents enjoyed the newspaper. What a great way to share with a slice of what we are doing in our homeschool!
I definitely want to continue to do this, and I know the kids do too. I hope that in time they can take over more of it, learning how to do the editing, formatting, and planning. That would be really good for them. I also hope we can find a better program or template that is more flexible and more powerful.
I would love to hear your ideas for homeschool newspapers!