Seriously, this sounds like an extreme failure and I am feeling quite concerned. Would you intervene? I know that wouldn't be unschooling, but I have always had concerns with this kids fine motor skills but didn't really know what to do. Oh, I should mention that he spent two years in ps before unschooling and during that time his printing skills improved a lot, so I feel that some practice would improve things. Unless I've missed a window...ugh.
To be completely honest, I would probably be concerned at first but then my husband would remind me that children learn at different speeds and that what "they" say a child should know by a certain age is not important. He will get it when ad if he needs it or wants it. Also, if he is reading he probably does know what a basic proper sentence looks like even if he can't define it. A lot of adults dont know total proper sentence structure (I know it is a weekness of mine and I have a university degree). Does he seem concerned about it? Is there something he wants to do that requires he have the knowledge?
Are non-unschoolers allow to reply here? I think if I had had children who took off with learning when they were small I would have very much liked to have unschooled, as I think when it works that it's wonderful. Both of my children have special needs and I know they need something structured. If that was my 12 year old than yes I would be concerned. Sure kids all learn at different speeds, but by 12 I think a 'normal' child should be able to write a sentence. I would also expect them to have enough control over a pencil to be able to write neatly if they had to. If they really couldn't do that I'd want to get them some kind of assessment in case they had an underlying problem that they needed help with, even if it was just a fine motor control issue that could be helped with occupational therapy exercises.
Try to interest him in better reading material.
Take away gaming magazines and provide books; read to him and allow for interruptions where he may prefer to read while you stir the stew/soup/whatever for dinner, instead of waiting
Buy educational software with grammer and punctuation sections. Hopefully he will be interested and learn.
Get him interested in writing, then have him run the grammer and punctuation correction on the story. My son learned to spell that way. Nothing else worked, but he got annoyed having the same mistake be brought to his attention over and over.
Those are a few ideas off the top of my head.
Again, I feel what's best for the child is top priority. You can still call yourself an unschooler, because it will still mostly describe you.
I'm not an unschooler, either, but I wanted to say that I wouldn't be at all worried about his handwriting. I'm sure that a little practice will go a long way if he decides he wants to improve it.
As for the how to write a sentence part, I think I would want to nudge him towards learning. I wonder if you could find an internet forum that he would be interested in participating in or maybe some kind of pen pal. I wouldn't be surprised if after an hour of sitting down with him and talking about it, he was up and running with it. I guess it doesn't seem very unschool-y, but I wonder if he'd be relieved to get a little instruction on it.
Jayne, sewing up a storm mama to ds1 9/03, ds2 2/09, and 2 sweet furbabies.
How does he feel about his handwriting? Does he have any reason to write formally?
If he's unhappy or embarrassed about his writing, I would offer to get him a handwriting book he can work through. If not, I wouldn't worry about that. I come from a family full of people with bad handwriting. It matters very little once you're an adult. With all the electronic methods for contacting people now, I'm not sure my grandchildren will ever write by hand. If you think he's got fine motor skill issues, I'd look for ways for him to improve his fine motor skills that relate to his interests. Would he be interested in making his own Manga?
For the writing, you might see if he wants to get involved in some kind of email correspondence. I have found that my kid who has terrible grammar and spelling in her personal writing actually writes very well if she's writing to a friend or someone else whose opinion she values. She uses the spell checker and the grammar checker on the computer quite a bit, but it lets her learn without having to be corrected by another person, which she seems to prefer.
You know your son best. What would *I* do in your exact situation? I'm not sure. I tend not to be worried about things, and I tend to look past the details to the big picture. In general, handwriting is no longer an important measure of one's value because we rely so heavily on computers now. Sentence structure I would place more value on. I would be looking at my homeschooling journey as a whole-- is he reading with enthusiasm? Does he easily understand written instructions? Is he speaking well? If sentence structure and penmanship is a small part of a generally wonderful experience for him, I would tend to let this go. I would be on alert for improvements and tuning in to what he might be feeling about his lack of skills.
I don't think it would be unschool-y to broach this subject with your son and see how he feels without offering any suggestions right away. It might be unschool-y to start offering solutions without there being concern on your son's part, and it might possibly be unschool-y to start stated your expectations in this regard, but this is where the issue of labels comes up. This is also where your knowledge of your son trumps all philosophy. What others might say they would do might give you the right nudge, but we don't know your family or your son well enough to give you to give you a cursory insight into what you need to choose to do.
"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
No, not really. My children love to have family chapter book reading time, and love to listen to books on CD in the van. Sometimes, I will get three copies of a book so my 11 & 14 year olds also have a book to follow along as I read, and sometimes they will read a few pages or chapters aloud and the rest of us read along. They are certainly aware of sentences and punctuation, even if they don't always know all of the rules. Then again, when they were smaller, they thought Mad Libs were hilarious, and loved to play with them in the car or at home. My 14 year old doesn't care about writing but my 11 year old loves to write stuff, mostly comic books but she also writes essays very occasionally either for 4H or her friend's "cat club", and will usually ask me to proof-read and help her perfect punctuation etc. I don't make a big deal of it and just help her, and I am positive she learns from that. If your son enjoys reading, whatever it is (magazines tend to have good grammar, spelling and punctuation), chances are by 14 or 16, he may find more reasons to write (message boards while playing video games, perhaps?) and it won't take long for him to want to be able to express himself clearly. It really doesn't take that long for someone in their mid-teens to learn it all, and to apply it, when they are ready and want to learn, when they feel and see a need (impressing girls via facebook, for example!!).