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#1 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Please be gentle with me and no flames as I am having such a hard time right now.
My kids have always been unschooled and we have such a good time together, out at activities, at home etc. I have an amazing family and my kids are wonderful, happy, chatty people. However, despite modeling it and living it, all 4 of them have poor literacy. 2 of them really struggle with math. But they are happy.
My eldest is now starting some courses as she wants to go to college next year. As standard, they tested her literacy and she nearly got the bottom score. She was upset, I was even more so. She can write radio scripts and plays yet struggles to answer essay style questions- which 2 of her current courses require. She can verbalise answers yet can't put the thoughts onto paper.
All my friends who unschool, have kids who naturally write for fun, but mine loathe this and only type things and even then very rarely. They aren't into writing in ANY WAY!
I need to get their literacy improved or I am failing in my legal duty to educate them in a way that doesn't prevent them from eg. entering education later.
It doesn't seem easy for my 15 year old to catch up. I would say her level is probably of a 7 year old who is at school. As time goes by it just gets harder not easier for my kids.
How can I help them?
I am beginning to regret the method I have used as clearly I am a rubbish unschooler and my kids haven't learned what they needed to function in society.
Right now, my heart is breaking for the damage I have done
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#2 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 05:45 PM
 
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I guess my first thought was... a lot of community colleges have very basic intro courses on how to write... maybe your oldest would be interested in that, at least, to get her prepped for college? It's usually geared toward people who aren't where they "should" be for starting college level classes, I guess.

Beyond that maybe blogging or something would interest your younger kids? It's a lot of fun to be able to post pictures of things that you're doing and write about what you did. It's especially fun to go back months later and remember (and also read what you wrote and see if it fully explains it or not - and if not, you can add!). Just a thought. I don't really have any good unschooly answers, I guess? Just trying to think of a way that would be fun or intrinsically motivating for the kids - like they'd be interested. Maybe they could help YOU do a blog of your daily life (if you don't already...) and they could help come up with ideas on what to write about?

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#3 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 06:13 PM
 
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If your daughter wants to go to college next year, it is up to her to make sure her writing skills are up to par. She can use you as a resource, but it is not your responsibility - it is hers.

She can do this - I am entirely convinved that she can learn the structure of a basic 5 paragraph essay (which could see her through much of college) in no time if she is motivated.

I also think a lot of testing is rubbish. It is merely a snapshot of where she is on a particular day. It can change so easily.

Do not beat yourself up over the lack of writing. Your kids are happy and that rocks. There is a possibility your kids would not write even if you had chosen a different path...you cannot really make kids learn things until they are ready. A true story - I took about an hour of French a day from K until I graduated high school. Very little of it sank in - and it was not until I faced job hunting and wanted to learn French (bilingual designation is handy where I live) that I actually learned it.

Hugs, mama!

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#4 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 06:53 PM
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Learning to write in a certain genre (like a formal essay) is a skill that many kids won't just pick up in everyday life. They can definitely learn it, though. If your daughter has the ideas then that's a good start.

I'd start with paragraphs first, if she's struggling with essays. Come up with a good, open ended question - Should corporal punishment be banned in the UK, maybe, or Which Doctor was the best?, or whatever. Have her brainstorm ideas first - what she thinks, and why. Then package it up like a sandwich - 2 "buns" that state (first sentence) and then restate (last sentence) her main idea, and the "fillings" are the reasons why. Five sentences or so. Don't worry about editing this go-round - just practice writing these formulaic paragraphs.

When that's comfortable, she can turn them into essays - basically, each sentence becomes a paragraph. There's a lot of examples online of this, but it's not complicated once you know the formula...

 
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#5 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 07:32 PM
 
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I also think a lot of testing is rubbish. It is merely a snapshot of where she is on a particular day. It can change so easily.

Hugs, mama!

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Totally! Testing is just one system's way of stamping people with a big "approval" or "disapproval" sign on their foreheads.

I know it's not easy, but don't let them label you or tell you how able or capable your children are or aren't; take the testing for what it's worth but don't let it determine how you feel about yourself and your kids. Testing can indicate the areas in which your kids might need more knowledge, so look for ways to go out and get those skills--and it's your kids who should be thinking of that and you supporting them, not the other way around--your kids have learned as much as they have thus far and can learn whatever thy need when they need it.

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#6 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 09:44 PM
 
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Do you have access to services or evaluation for possible learning disability/dyslexia? This may be something to explore if resistance to reading and writing seems to go beyond having something more interesting to do at the moment.

Direct, structured instruction has proved very helpful for children who have literacy deficits and I would look in that direction, perhaps seeking help from educators who have experience in helping children get up to speed and experience success in literacy tasks.
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#7 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 09:47 PM
 
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I'm not an unschooler, but this caught my eye. Do you mean college in the sense of sixth form? I ask because of her age. (I've seen too many discussions where the different American and British definitions of "college" caused much confusion?)

If so, any Americans should know that the purpose of sixth form is to take exams called A-Levels (there are other, vocational courses as well) which are required for higher education. So anyone offering advice might want to consider the context and the skills that this particular child will need. Is there a particular course she is considering?

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#8 of 23 Old 09-27-2009, 09:47 PM
 
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Totally! Testing is just one system's way of stamping people with a big "approval" or "disapproval" sign on their foreheads.
I disagree. I teach remedial English and when I grade an essay or a test, I am assessing the student's writing ability and knowledge of grammar.

I never judge my students negatively for not having the ability or knowledge; I help them to learn.

I'm also a writing tutor, and I've helped many students become better writers by working closely with them.
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#9 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 03:16 AM
 
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I disagree. I teach remedial English and when I grade an essay or a test, I am assessing the student's writing ability and knowledge of grammar.

I never judge my students negatively for not having the ability or knowledge; I help them to learn.

I'm also a writing tutor, and I've helped many students become better writers by working closely with them.
That's great that you are so encouraging for your students and reserve judgment when teaching them writing skills.

I can see how tutoring is useful as it's a closer relationship based on actual needs rather than perceived needs based on a test result. It's less about testing, because you can see samples of how the person works and can see what they could use work on more effectively than a test, which is not personal or designed for the individual. (In homeschooling, most parents can see what their children know or don't know because they work closely with their children and know them well; tests are not usually needed in those cases)

But testing seems to be ingrained in educational culture in universities and schools, especially because of the class size and load of the professors, making it necessary to work within that system (learn to take tests well) to improve one's chances of succeeding in that realm.

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#10 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 03:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by rainbowmum View Post
My eldest is now starting some courses as she wants to go to college next year. She can write radio scripts and plays yet struggles to answer essay style questions- which 2 of her current courses require. She can verbalise answers yet can't put the thoughts onto paper.

All my friends who unschool, have kids who naturally write for fun, but mine loathe this and only type things and even then very rarely. They aren't into writing in ANY WAY!
You say your eldest can write radio scripts and plays yet struggles to write essay style questions--this says to me that she is a capable writer in certain genres, but if she wants to excel in courses where essay style questions are going to be part of the curriculum, she will need to brush up on those skills. That is a doable task! Have you talked with her to see how she plans to accomplish this?

Some people write for enjoyment, others out of necessity. That it itself is normal! Does this mean you have failed? I don't think so!


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How can I help them?

I am beginning to regret the method I have used as clearly I am a rubbish unschooler and my kids haven't learned what they needed to function in society.
Right now, my heart is breaking for the damage I have done
Damage to me sounds like something irreparable or very difficult to repair.
Your kids need work in certain areas. So do most people of any age!
What they don't know, they can learn. This can be remedied. How do they feel about this? Have you talked with them about their writing skills and your concerns?

Be easy on yourself--their need to learn skills is not a reflection on you as a person or as their parent or as an unschooler. Assess what their goals are, seek ways to support them, and move forward!

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#11 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 04:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The college I refer to here is where kids go at 16 and sit courses. She wants to do performing arts and can start at a really low level (often full of kids who have bad behaviour and don't want to be there) but at a higher level with some qualifications.
Of the home-schooled kids I know, approx 99% choose to go on at 16 to academic/college qualifications so I am also expecting this with my younger ones which is why I think I need to make a change in our home-schooling style now as playing catch up is hard and de-moralising.
Another big problem is motivation as my kids are happy getting by and doing the minimum. My eldest do a monthly radio show and the script is always done last minute.

We have all the books to show how to write an essay. Eldest dd makes simple spelling mistakes, can't understand a comma and as for paragraphs!!!
She isn't motivated to fix this herself. Although she is doing these courses, it is me planning it all for her and holding her hand through it. I have to read the material so I can help her formulate answers. It's like she says, it's all in her head but she loses it before she gets it on paper.
I am happy to spend my next year walking her though this as it is me that chose to homeschool so me that must now fix it.

Blogging would be fine but mine hate the motor process of writing and I read somewhere kids should write SOMETHING each day.
My 10 year old came back from a camp yesterday and she had a camp booklet and there was so much writing to do in it. She will try and do stuff but her spelling is not good and she is sooooo slow. My heart aches when my kids are doing activities and they have to write because it does come up and is expected of kids their age and yet they can't really do it.
I think this will damage their self-esteem.

The college have offered dd some sessions with a woman there which I have encouraged her to take but I really get how she feels right now, especially as her also home-schooled friend took the same test and nearly came out top - she hasn't even shared this with her, even though it is her best friend.

DD doesn't have internal motivation to improve this so I think I will schedule some grammar lessons with her.
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#12 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 12:38 PM
 
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Is she 16 already?

She can go to your local Adult Learning Centre and do a Skills for Life course. They will assess her literacy in terms of what she CAN do and what she needs more help to do. If they see signs of dyslexia they will offer her further specific support too.

Lots of places have drop in sessions where everyone works on their own thing with help from a tutor and other workers in the class.

I did a quick google search and came up with The Manchester College Virtual Learning Platform. Your dd could have a look on there and see the kind of work people do on SfL courses.

You can join a class at any time and there is no cost. I used to work in SfL and IME young students often pull things together very quickly. Older folks often have years of negativity to throw off so getting a handle on this now will be much better for her than waiting until she is 40.

If the college she has already applied to are offering her literacy support she should bite their hand off!

I'm unschooling my 6yo and I've left my job but I do still believe that there are a lot of talented tutors in basic skills out there who really do all they can to help people like your dd open the door to new possibilities.

And this is NOT, NOT, NOT your fault.
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#13 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 01:41 PM
 
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I hear your concerns about your children being able to read and write well.

It sounds like your kids do want to work on their writing abilities, and they are making an effort, but are struggling, from what you recently posted.

If you working with them isn't working (not because of YOU but maybe the way they respond to you?), perhaps a tutor? Homeschooling doesn't necessarily mean no outside help. Many families use tutors or programs to aid them in learning. Have you asked around about how other parents near you have prepared their kids for college/writing skills? Maybe there are some resources close to you that you have not heard of yet that would make a difference! (Just saw orangefoot's ideas, good start there!)

I think your reassuring words to your children can help to offset any negative impact the testing may have on self esteem. Let them know everyone is different and that they can learn whatever skills they need if they want to and if they work at it, and you are there for them when they want it. Believe this yourself and they will believe you.

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#14 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 02:17 PM
 
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I guess I'm first having a hard time putting everything together. Your child is 15, but wants to go to college next year? And you really think her writing is only at a 1st grade level? Do you really think that a lot of 1st graders are writing plays?

Going "to college" at 16, where I am from, is not normal. Taking some classes at a junior college is not unheard of, but entering college as a traditional college student at 16, is typically only for very advanced students, and shouldn't be an expectation. Starting college as a traditional student is more normal for 18 year olds, many 19, a few 17.

So I would just think that it sounds like she's on a good path. She has a goal, and she's taking some classes to help her meet that goal. And she has a few years to get to where she needs to be. With some focus, maybe some extra tutoring if needed, it shouldn't really be a problem unless there are some undiagnosed special needs.

Reading through your post again, it's not clear that your 15 year old is the one you were saying wants to go to college next year, but in any case, if the one who anticipates going to college next year is already a bit older, that doesn't mean she's locked into starting next year if she needs more time to prepare.
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#15 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 05:45 PM
 
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I guess I'm first having a hard time putting everything together. Your child is 15, but wants to go to college next year? [snip]Going "to college" at 16, where I am from, is not normal.
From what I gather the OP is in the UK and their college is a typical 16 yo thing, not the same as US college at 18.

OP, would recording something first, then write it down and rearrange help the writing process for your dd? My (much younger) ds can't really write so he dictates to me a lot. It separates the ideas from the arduous handwriting or typing.

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#16 of 23 Old 09-28-2009, 10:26 PM
 
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Which Doctor was the best?
*I* want to write an essay about this! Though 5 paragraphs might not be long enough.

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#17 of 23 Old 10-08-2009, 06:01 PM
 
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i just want to pop in and say that i used to teach in a state university. as a graduate student it was part of my education on teach introductory women's studies classes. usually to freshman. and i would say that 90% of them could not write a comprehendible essay. so i am not all that sure that school "teaches" good literacy skills either. i think that some kids learn this and some don't. when they get older, some are motivated to learn what they need to know to write well. others never need it, want it, nor are interested. we always had a few students who were good to begin with, a few that really improved with our feedback and some who never improved for the entire semester.

like painting, gardening or riding a horse, writing well is a skill only some people have the drive and talent to learn to do well.

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#18 of 23 Old 10-08-2009, 10:54 PM
 
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All my friends who unschool, have kids who naturally write for fun, but mine loathe this and only type things and even then very rarely. They aren't into writing in ANY WAY!
As an unschooling mum I KNOW you recognize the fact that all kids learn differently. It just sounds to me like there hasn't been anything your kids felt they needed to express in a way that required writing!
Quote:
I need to get their literacy improved or I am failing in my legal duty to educate them in a way that doesn't prevent them from eg. entering education later.
If YOU are failing... what does this say for the public schools there? I'm in Australia and I can tell you OUR literacy /numeracy scores are not so terribly impressive here. It's probably not too different there.
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I am beginning to regret the method I have used as clearly I am a rubbish unschooler and my kids haven't learned what they needed to function in society.
Right now, my heart is breaking for the damage I have done
I call rubbish on your rubbish statement I'm sure there ARE things that your children have done well at, this is just something that they'll have to work harder on now that they are old enough to choose to do activities that require it!

What Dar suggested is good.. what is she interested in? Suggest to her that she write about those things to get started. Then there will be intro to writing/essay classes that will be very helpful in teaching her to outline/organize her ideas. Once she finds her 'voice' she may be great at it!


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*I* want to write an essay about this! Though 5 paragraphs might not be long enough.
Agreed! Best essay topic EVER Dar hehehe.

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#19 of 23 Old 10-09-2009, 09:17 AM
 
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my 7 year old HATES writing, BTW. he hates all book work in fact.

maybe your kids are right-brained, visual-spatial learners. finding other ways for them to learn to express themselves might help.

DH and i are looking into this: http://www.bravewriter.com/

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#20 of 23 Old 10-09-2009, 08:33 PM
 
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Are your kids big readers? It seems to me that good writing, grammar and spelling skills are learned through familiarity by reading. Beyond that, my DH and I both have known professionals who couldn't put 3 sentences together and have it make any sense. So, she is not alone in the world.

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#21 of 23 Old 10-10-2009, 12:24 PM
 
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I taught high school English for years, mostly 16/17 year olds. Probably half of my students were unable to write a good essay. I had at least five kids every year who were unable to write a basic paragraph. Unschooling is probably not the only reason your kids are having writing troubles. If your child is unmotivated to learn it on her own she would not have learned it in school. If she needs you to force her through learning it then maybe the best decision would be to accept the fact that for now she can't go into college. It's kind of harsh, but that is the natural consequence of her actions. If she chooses not to learn then she may not get accepted into the school she wants. This type of natural consequence is going to be true for the rest of her life. How are you helping her prepare for adulthood if you push her through all of the work?

I really am saying this with kind intention. I was contractually obligated to bully kids through learning and it didn't go well. The end result of trying to handhold hundreds of kids through learning basic skills is that I will be unschooling my children. How's that for a ringing endorsement of the system?

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#22 of 23 Old 10-12-2009, 02:02 PM
 
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i taught high school english for years, mostly 16/17 year olds. Probably half of my students were unable to write a good essay. I had at least five kids every year who were unable to write a basic paragraph. Unschooling is probably not the only reason your kids are having writing troubles. If your child is unmotivated to learn it on her own she would not have learned it in school. If she needs you to force her through learning it then maybe the best decision would be to accept the fact that for now she can't go into college. It's kind of harsh, but that is the natural consequence of her actions. If she chooses not to learn then she may not get accepted into the school she wants. This type of natural consequence is going to be true for the rest of her life. How are you helping her prepare for adulthood if you push her through all of the work?

I really am saying this with kind intention. I was contractually obligated to bully kids through learning and it didn't go well. The end result of trying to handhold hundreds of kids through learning basic skills is that i will be unschooling my children. How's that for a ringing endorsement of the system?
ita

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#23 of 23 Old 10-16-2009, 01:51 PM
 
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I agree with CariOfOz, she has probably just never wanted or needed to do it before. That is part of unschooling; waiting for the child to see the need or have the desire to do something...then helping them get where they want to go with it. If she is motivated to learn to write properly, help her find resourses that (especially older children) could move through relatively quickly. Once kids see why they need to know something, the motivation to learn is there and things can really take off.

This is your chance to step up and be a "helper and guider". She may not know where to look for the info/instruction she needs, but doing some research can help you to know what direction to point her in. Then it's up to her. That's what unschooling is about. Maybe that is what has been lacking, the guiding or facilitating - whatever you want to call it - the part where you help the kids find out how to learn what they want and need to know.
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