Sunday, March 18, 2007

Learning to write

It's funny the things that worry us, and the things that don't. For some strange reason, the fact that Noah (10) rarely if ever wants to write doesn't worry me. Other things worry me, sure, but that one doesn't. Maybe it's because as I was growing up in the school system I had a very strong sense that I knew how to write well in spite of the instruction I got and the assignments that were imposed on me, not because of them. Maybe it's because my father, who was a philosophy professor who spent his weekends grading essays and thesis outlines, firmly believed that "the main cause of poor writing is poor thinking."

For whatever reason, I have a lot of faith in my belief that my son, who almost never writes anything, is developing great writing skills. The family discussions we have, even the silly ones, are encouraging him to think logically and critically about the world around him and about ideas. The books he reads, and more importantly the books I read aloud to him, are growing his vocabulary and his intuitive understanding of grammatical structure and expository style. His interest-driven approach to learning is filling his brain with lots of learning, and yet he's not accumulating any negative baggage about the process of writing since he's not being forced to do it.

As I see it, good writing skills are the fruit of the plant. A plant doesn't produce great tomatoes by practicing making beginner tomatoes as it is building its root system and putting out its first true leaves. It produces great tomatoes by putting its energy into growing strong and healthy roots, shoots and leaves. The great tomatoes will show up in August.

3 comments:

  1. After worrying for the first two years of my homeschooling journey, I can now tell you that I completely agree, Miranda. Alex, my reticent writer, has begun to record things on paper. His spelling is improving at an alarming rate and his grammar is impeccable. I don't push it and he only writes once in a while, but I see great leaps in his writing ability. I just wish I could have a relaxed about it sooner!

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  2. Karen/dubsmum4:18 pm

    I've got my William here, and while he's just six, his loathing of writing has already been stressing me out somewhat. I say somewhat, because I, too, am learning the magical art of waiting and rejoicing in the results it brings.

    My big example is counting money. William's math skills are advanced, so I expected he would have picked up counting money long ago. Wrong. Despite being able to count by 1's, 2's, 5's and 10's forever now, and use various manipulatives to do it, he couldn't apply that concept to counting money. After a break of maybe 8 months, I brought it up again, since that's what he's doing now in Singapore 2B. I didn't use the book, I just dumped a huge heap of change in front of him. We talked about the coins and their respective values, and 20 minutes later he announced that he had $8.28 on the table in front of him. Sure enough, he did. The last time I checked on that skill, he would tell me that a nickel, a dime, and 2 pennies made four cents.

    I'm clinging hopefully to the belief that if I fill his head and heard with excellent books and stories, there will come a day when he is ready to write his own stories. If his written stories are anything like the stories he makes up when he's playing, it will have been well worth the wait!

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  3. I have your philosophy about writing with my 13 year old. He has AS and developed an absolute terror of writing when he was in school.

    I do notice that he is writing his journals for Kamana. I am not checking them, though. I imagine there are as many drawings as words.

    I love your metaphor!

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