He doesn’t have to write to become a great writer! Really! Month 4 of Learning at Home

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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IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLINGMIDDLEEAST, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!

Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster  – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you! 

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About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is pjmontford@hotmail.com. I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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14 Responses to He doesn’t have to write to become a great writer! Really! Month 4 of Learning at Home

  1. lifelibertyeducation says:

    I get to feeling the self-doubt after talking with other homeschoolers about curriculum. In fact I think all homeschoolers tend to get this self-doubt even if they are all the way in the classical category. It is great that you could start pulling yourself out of it quickly and before buying stuff you don’t need.

    • Fortunately it wasn’t for sale, otherwise I might really be shedding tears tonight (or husband at least!!!!) I am thanking that post in part, and all the other great posts and comments I get to read and take so much support from 🙂

      • lifelibertyeducation says:

        This is the reason that I am reading so many unschooling related blogs. It is encouragement that doesn’t convince me that I need the brand new, bright, shiny curriculum that everyone is raving about. I am really bad about wanting all the brand new, bright, shiny things I come across whether it be curriculum or gadgets like the iPad I am typing on right now. 😉

      • Oh, I am tempted by an iPad! But I am really worried about all the ‘educational’ games my kids might get sucked into (I am not a gaming fan). But otherwise, unschooling is great at GROUNDING us all, getting back to basics, the principles of life, what really matters, really looking at your kids’ needs. I try and think, ‘Would John Holt have bought this?’ – probably not!!!!

  2. Jane says:

    This is so true, love the chocolate analogy! It is like you don’t have to go to school for 13 years to learn to count. Kids will pick up writing when they are ready, unfortunately because of school society has expectations that all children should write at 5 or 6. And be doing so everyday about boring irrelevant subjects. I have found that my boys write when they re totally engrossed in a game and make a map, or need a sign. I always spell words out to them, never make them act like school kids and “spell it out”. Now at 11, my son is writing lists of an exercise program he has made up, he even kept a diary while we were on holiday and writes to his Great Grandmother! He does not like to writing though! (He had a horrid experience at school being forced to) If you let your children find their own way and time, like everything they will come to it if they need it in their lives! And there are children coming out of High School who can barely write…and do they need to? Look at how much writing you do in your life, in your job……Ohh I am going to write a post about this on my blog!!
    Jane

    • Can’t wait to read it! And yes, I must remember that when he does write to make it as painless as possible by offering any spelling he wants. I also believe this is the right approach with spelling.

  3. You know Penny, I think that you can put off being worried and concerned about Edward’s love of writing and just start innovating techniques to introduce writing to him in a fun way. I have told you before about suggesting that he has a pen friend (maybe nowadays it should be email friends : )). I am thinking also that you can start it yourself by writing him a note from time to time and sticking it in a clear place that he usually visits. Like you can write to him ‘Edward, I love you so much’, or ‘I was so happy that you came with me yesterday.’
    I used to write notes on the fridge to my husband when I feel happy or sad because I am not very good at verbally expressing words. Although he felt it exteremly weird ; ), he responded in writing too.
    My late uncle also wrote funny notes to his daughter in law when she was pregenant, for example he would prepare breakfast for her, give her the tray with a letter ‘good morning dear, please eat all your breakfast’ …
    You know, stuff like that might work I think even on the long term …
    Good luck

    • All great thoughts, thanks Imane! I tried the pen pal thing. No interest. I think it’s too soon since he left school. I just want to be sure of my approach (ie to concentrate on the points in my blog) and then perhaps I can stop worrying!!

  4. patricia says:

    Penny, I’m so glad that my article was reassuring to you. I especially appreciate this point of yours: “I don’t remember doing any of the sophisticated writing exercises I see in all these writing programmes, and I did very well.” Most writers will tell you that they got good at writing because they had something they wanted to write about, so they worked at it. Programmes and curriculum don’t do it; helping kids find something they’re motivated to write does.

    Thanks so much for sharing my work!

  5. Athena says:

    That post by Patricia seems to have a life of its own. I read it months ago after someone posted a link on the Sonlight forum and agree generally with what she says. However, I do think that children can be helped to develop their writing and that is why we’re using Teaching Structure and Style by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. If your Edward does not like to write, don’t force him. You might try writing down his thoughts (I’m sure he has lots) and that could count as a personal narrative/descriptive paragraph or book/movie review. I still scribe for my 8yo son who hates the physical act of writing.

    • Thank you so much for the suggestions. I have offered to scribe for him since this is a suggestion I have read about before for reluctant writers. He’s just not interested, unlike all the other kids I’ve read about! He doesn’t see value in the written word. He’s happy to have it all up in his head I suppose. I can’t push that either but will suggest it from time to time in case he changes his mind. Sigh. What to do? Hopefully, time will change things. As I wrote, as soon as he wants to get his ideas out to a wider audience, which, given his personality, I’m sure will happen one day! Please keep the suggestions coming! I really appreciate them!

  6. Excellent way of explaining, and good article to get information concerning my presentation subject, which
    i am going to present in academy.

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