I am not currently an unschooling parent, but I was unschooled a bit as a teen. I also worked as a writing tutor throughout college and graduate school. I actually think I am just an adequate writer, but I've been told I am an excellent facilitator. I feel like facilitating is something that can fit very well with unschooling. So, I hope you won't mind me thread crashing a little bit.
As a writing tutor, I was mostly a listener/reader and a reflector rather than an instructor. I listened as a student would read his or her work aloud. Students would catch things they meant to say but didn't, or find awkward places in their writing. (A good line by line editing technique is to read the work backwards, from bottom to top, one sentence at a time. But we usually began at the beginning.) Then, I might say, "This part seems clear to me, but I want to check in - did you mean, blahblhabla?," and hear back, "Yes, that's what I meant," or "No, what I meant was," or "Well, partly, but what I think I'm really trying to say is...." I might also say, "This part I was confused by. Can you tell me more about what you mean?"
This is almost always very fruitful for the student - many times I'd see them grab a pen and begin jotting stuff down. For some students, who are really so deep into thinking aloud, I might jot down points as they were speaking so I could read them back. A tape recorder can be really helpful for these types of sessions as well. I might refer students to books - either literary or technical - that I felt they might find useful. Occasionally, I might share a piece of information that it seems like they could really use. Sometimes, if they were asking a question but it was clear to me they didn't have the vocabulary to ask the right question, I would name for them what they were asking. "You seem to be asking about [concept]." Dialogue.
Mostly, though it's a lot of asking questions - not leading questions, but questions of discovery, because each student is different and has different ways of learning. Asking questions is the best way for me to learn about how the student learns, and gives the student the opportunity to think out loud.
-I don't know how to get started.
-Well, how do you do it right now? What do you like about that way of beginning? What doesn't work? What do you need to know before you can start? What can you do on the fly? (Obviously not a barrage of questions. Ask one. Then wait. ) Often the student comes up with some testable solutions - things they can try doing. Sometimes I can share what works for me or what I know has worked for other students.
Other questions I might ask a student: how do you know when your work is done?
-What was your goal with this writing project? Do you feel that you met that goal? Why or why not?
-What do you think is the best way to organize this piece of writing? Why? What information needs to come first? Why? Who are you writing for and what do they need to know?
-Did you tell the story or make the argument you wanted to make? Why or why not?
-What was difficult and what was easy?
-Where did things go wrong, and where did they go right? What would you do the same next time? Different?
Each piece of writing is like an experiment, and doing a debrief afterwards can go a long way to developing better skills. For younger writers, I would probably just ask one or two. "What do you like about what you wrote?" and "What don't you like about what you wrote?" And, "What would you do differently?"
Finally, I think just plain old reading can really help develop writing - a little wood for the fire, so to speak. I suspect it's really normal for writing to lag behind reading because reading is a great wellspring for writing to bubble up from. The very act of reading and struggling to understand develops our ability to think in more sophisticated ways, and it makes all the different kinds of grammar, rhetoric, and organization that others use familiar to us - puts that stuff into our toolbox, so to speak. Then, when we go to write, if we've spent a lot of time reading (or talking!), we have a better sense of what sounds right, and makes sense. Grammar becomes a bit intuitive.
Re: handwriting .... taking a touch type course in high school was the best thing that ever happened to me.... :)
This is a guide similar to one that I was given in my tutor training, and certain parts might be helpful, despite being geared to a college environment. I mainly think the distinction between higher and lower order concerns is useful, especially for students who need a framework to help them prioritize.
Edited by cyclamen - 11/25/11 at 7:19pm