Monday, December 15, 2008

On Writing

Back before we started this whole homeschooling thing, Luke's anxiety about school was largely due to the copious amounts of writing required of him in Kindergarten, First, and Second grade. We would get notes home about how he was unable to work independently, more likely to be staring off into space than getting his jobs done, unable to get to the "fun" stuff because he couldn't concentrate. For us at home, who could not tear Luke away from projects and books he was really interested in even to come and eat dinner, this was mind-boggling; how could he possibly be unable to focus?

The answer, it turned out, was two-fold. First, he concentrates wonderfully, on stuff he's interested in. Two, he is emphatically not interested in writing.

Our first months of homeschooling passed, with parents making no demands upon his time, and Luke reading anything he could get his hands on, asking questions, exploring, playing, conversing. So long as he didn't have to write, he was happy - but I worried, especially on those rare occasions when Luke would write something and find he'd forgotten how to make, for example, a three. I kept my concerns to myself and gave Luke as much time as needed, mainly because my gut told me to. But sometimes it was hard.

Then, a funny thing happened: he began to write spontaneously. Lists, letters to his favorite Harry Potter characters, an accounting of his allowance money and how it gets spent are all part of Luke's repertoire. Not coincidentally, these are all topics of great interest to him.

Last Friday, I read this great post about teaching writing at my blogosphere-friend Jena's page, Yarns of the Heart. Jena is more towards the graduation end of homeschooling, with one in college and two younger teens, so reading about how she handled 'school' when they were small has been wonderful, and very reassuring.

Jena writes, "Here are some specifics for today's student:

1. Let them read.

2. Let them think and express opinions about what they read.

3. Respect their opinions and insights so they will feel the freedom to talk honestly with you.

4. Share your own insights and wonder at a writer's ability to communicate.

5. Don't kill the fun of writing by pointing out spelling or grammar mistakes all the time."

Since reading this post, I have stopped worrying; this list is, quite literally, how Luke spends his days.

Already, he's a capable, intelligent boy. Our hope is that he will grow up to use writing as a communication tool, a written extension of his voice.

Personally, I don't think he will be able to help it; communication, just like Harry Potter or his allowance, is of great interest to him.

1 comment:

Jena said...

Karen, thanks so much for your encouragement. I love to see families relax about schooling and let the learning flow naturally. You know, I actually had a job grading essays from a standardized test. They were 6th graders writing a timed essay. But I had to quit. All I could think about were those poor kids forced to sit there and write these essays. And I had to make sure they made this or that point. It made my stomach turn. You're doing a great job with your boys and they'll be so thankful over the years. :)