Full disclosure first: I agreed some time ago to keep the HomeschoolBlogger logo and link on my sidebar, and to write reviews of articles from The Old Schoolhouse (TOS, a homeschooling magazine) in exchange for a free year’s subscription to TOS.
I failed to incorporate the logo into the sidebars of my new themes until now; I’ve fixed that for all themes. As for reviews of articles, this is the first. Decide for yourself whether they qualify as paid advertisements (I think an annual subscription is around $20, so if I write about four articles per quarterly issue, well, you do the math).
But this post isn’t about my writing, it’s about how we’re teaching writing to our daughter. Or at least how we’re trying to teach writing. She is definitely a reluctant writer.
There are two problems, really. First, she is still struggling in her penmanship. Part of the problem is that (apparently) she holds her pencil wrong (it’s hard to explain in words). We discovered this only last year and have been taking steps to correct it (little rubber grips that slide onto a pencil), but she has fought it pretty steadily. We’ve been working on penmanship using Handwriting Without Tears.
The second problem, no doubt related to the first, is that she simply doesn’t like to write. We have around ten spelling words a week, and she writes sentences for each one. And she is to write sentences in her journal each day. She also does some writing in response to history lessons. And again, she fights us tooth and nail.
Imagine my interest, then, in the Winter 2006 issue of TOS, with a whole section of articles on writing, including Enticing the Reluctant Writer, by Vicki Caruana. Ms. Caruana provides a lot of commonsense advice to help us get our children past the “obstacles that can stand in the way of confident, enthusiastic writing.”
The first obstacle she mentions is “Fear of Failure.”
Children are afraid that their words won’t be good enough. They may love to read [ok - we’re still working on that, too] … but they don’t believe their own attempt will gain praise.
That actually hits home. I struggle to write myself, both on this blog and in my professional life, because I think my writing will stink. It may also be a problem for some of my college students (although laziness and procrastination play a part for many of them; for me, too).
Share with students that authors revise their stories many times before they are published.
I’m sure she’s not the first to note this, but I think it’s good to remind ourselves of this. We need to give our daughter (and I need to give my students) room to revise (I’m actually implementing this to some extent in my Math 101 class). But of course, revising means more writing, so there will be that hurdle.
I need to do this myself as well. I think back to my ROTC days. In our Junior year, we had to learn about military writing using a resource known to most Air Force officers: Tongue and Quill. It reappeared during Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and maybe even Air War College. Anyway, Revise and Edit was the catchphrase. Don’t expect to write the perfect letter, trip report, point paper, whatever, the first time around. Expect editing.
But I digress. I’m looking for ways to gently introduce the idea of writing and re-writing, without generating more resistance. More ideas follow in the article, but I’ll save that for another post.