I attended a homeschoolers in Bahrain get together today. It was really well organized and I very much enjoyed chatting to the other Mums. It was very relaxed. The kids had a great time running riot all over the house which was absolutely lovely. The very kind mothers displayed the curriculums and materials that they have been using over the years welcoming questions from new(er)bies. It was a supportive, warm atmosphere.
However, when I got home I was completely exhausted and full of self-doubt. Am I taking the right approach? How on earth are the kids going to learn all that stuff – and joyfully? Should I in fact be getting boxed Maths/Writing etc.. sets?
The writing ‘thing’ would have been really freaking me out had I not read a blog post the previous night. Please do read it here.
It echoes the advice I have received on occasion in the last few months, which really chimed with me, when I’ve raised the anxiety that my 7 year old son is totally disinterested in writing anything (after having been pushed to do so, and did so successfully, at school).
I will repeat the basic points, but it seems fair that you read the article for more information.
Patricia Zaballos’ points are as follows:
“Kids don’t need to master the mechanical skills of writing before developing voices as writers” – take dictation for your kids, let them type instead of handwrite.
“Kids don’t need daily, or even weekly writing practice. The concept of learning through routine practice is mostly a school notion” And I love this, “Occasional, child-oriented forays into writing are rich, like a piece of good, dark chocolate: a little goes a long way.” A few child-led writing experiences all add up to meaningful learning.
“Kids don’t need to practice writing in various formats.” Just leave them to write whatever they like. The rest will follow.
“Kids don’t need to write to develop as writers. A most radical notion. Here’s why: writing skills are based in thinking and speaking skills. If kids live in a home where people talk, discuss and debate–especially on topics important to the kids–those kids will learn to express themselves clearly and passionately. And this verbal expression will carry over into written expression when the time comes. Even kids who are not terribly verbal, but are quite logical, can naturally develop into strong writers if they understand that clear writing follows from logical thinking.”
So, how can you help kids develop into writers?
“Raise them in a literature-rich, word-loving home.”
“Talk about what interests them.”
“Make the distinction between getting-words-on-the-paper skills and written expression.” She says that the mechanics of writing is nothing compared to developing the “voice of a writer” – the point about dictation and keyboarding again.
“Let them write about what interests them, and in genres that they enjoy.”
“Explore intriguing nonfiction.”
“Help them find meaningful, authentic reasons to write.”
This makes a lot of sense to me. It’s likely teaching reading. What’s the point in making your child a reader if he doesn’t then want to read; because you’ve killed any chance of a love of reading? I am desperate not to do this with writing. We are an extremely verbal, highly communicative family. I model a love for reading and writing. I don’t remember doing any of the sophisticated writing exercises I see in all these writing programmes, and I did very well. I wish I could remember how exactly I got from being unable to write, to writing, to writing well. But I don’t remember much pushing, especially whilst young. Unless the kids want a writing programme. Unless they think what the others kids are doing looks like fun, I’ll hold off for now. What about you? How do other unschoolers genuinely inspire reluctant writers?
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