unschooling moms - i worry that my kids aren't big writers! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 02-09-2005, 04:34 PM - Thread Starter
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my daughter is almost 12, she has very little interest in writing, she likes copy work (charlotte mason) and she'll write poetry or things for contests but you know that school stuff is still in me that she should be writing essays or something.

what do you all do?

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#2 of 9 Old 02-09-2005, 05:59 PM
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Well, my unschoolers have varying levels of interest in writing. My son (13) does not care for writing by hand at almost at all. He has always found it physically painful. He rather enjoys typing though (he types about 40-50 wpm I would guess), and does that often. He can write by hand if he needs to, but he mostly chooses not to.

My daughter (11) kind of enjoys writing by hand, and by typing. She likes to create stories, poems, and some journal writing. She got interested in cursive last year or so and switches back and forth between printing and cursive. Both of them attended school for a time, but my daughter wasn't there long enough to have ever been asked to writed an essay or anything similiar.

They chose to attend some classes at our homeschool resource center this past year (Japanese, Journalism....). There were writing assignments given by the teachers of both classes, and both my kids were happy to do them. When they run into something with writing they have never had experience with before (such as if my daughter were to need to write an essay for some reason) they just seek out the info and get to it. There are tons of "how to write an <insert whatever here>" websites and books out there for someone who has never done it. Beyond that it's just not important, IMO. I can honestly say that outside of a school environment I have never had to write an essay. Depending on what career interests an older student has in mind they could just go about learning the skills such a profession would involve (writers need to know how to write, for prospective veterinarians biology, etc.) At almost 12 she is probably still thinking on all of that and has time. Good for her that she is into poetry. I think it's fun too. It can take time to get the "school" stuff out of our heads, but over time it gets alot less so. Hang in there!

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#3 of 9 Old 02-09-2005, 07:29 PM
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Maybe she would enjoy participating in Flat Travelers? There is a yahoo group for this activity that can explain it to you, but it's basically journal writing. You send out a journal for a week for some other kid to write in for you, and you receive journals to write in yourself and mail them back. My 9yo dd is excited about this program.


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#4 of 9 Old 02-10-2005, 10:16 AM
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How about going with more of the CM method and start incorporating narration into your day. Having dd tell back what was read is a great start. Eventually she will be able do written narrations and dictation work. You can even have her do a narration and you write it down for her. The copywork she is doing now is great for handwriting, punctuation, and grammar practice. And she sees what really good writing looks and sounds like. It can take a year or 2 but if you stay consistant, good writing will come. (My dd has made a noticeable improvement already after only a couple of weeks).



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#5 of 9 Old 02-10-2005, 02:39 PM
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What did I do?

I watched and waited. What I learned was, as soon as my two older kids hit 13-14, they found stuff they wanted to write about, and started writing not only essay-length pieces, but entire novels.

So no, I don't think 12yo should be writing essays if they don't want. Another thing I found that helped improve writing skills, was when they read harder and more challenging books.

Eventually, they may have to do essays & things in high school, where you cover it all again, so why worry about it now if they don't need it now?
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#6 of 9 Old 02-10-2005, 02:41 PM
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My ddaughter didn't do much writing at all until she turned 10 - I mean, like, almost none. Then she burst out with some amazing stuff, at least as far as the ideas and sentence structure. A few months after that she started spending more time on the computer, first with email, then IM, then her livejournal. Now, at just-turned-12, she writes a lot, but mostly typing and mostly in those formats. Her use of standard conventions has steadily improved, and she's going from essentially a non-writer at 10 to a good writer at 12.

I've seen a lot of unschoolers grow a lot of writers by doing stuff online. It's real, meaningful writing, for a purpose, and I think that's important. Writing for a contest is the same kind of thing - there's a goal.

The essay thing came much later for the kids I knew, and it was pretty effortless. They were already capable of having long, well-thought out discussions on various topics online, so it was just a matter of showing them how to format those sorts of ideas as a formal essay. None of them had any probleam - they were all teens by then, but their first essays were great. I think starting with the skills in logical reasoning and debate and then learning the essay format was a much more sensible way to learn it. They already know how to write convincingly, which is the hard bit with a essay.


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#7 of 9 Old 02-10-2005, 08:39 PM
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Just to give a first person example of what others have already said:

I was in an unschool-at-school type situation, and I HATED to write. Loathed it. Journal time came, when we could write anything at all, and all I would write is "I hate writing. I hate writing. I hate writing. Writing is stupid. Why do I have to do this? This is stupid. I hate writing." Only, well, not that well written.

That was all I would have to do with writing, until I was about 11. When I wrote a poem. And another one. And I was, y'know, for an 11 year old, pretty good at it.

So I would write, for the next couple years, stories and poems and that was about it.

When I got to highschool (normal California public education, ugh!), they started asking for "proto essays," and then "essays," and I complained and moaned, and did it totally half-heartedly. And I was way better than anyone else in my class. And eventually I found out that not only was I good at it, but I liked it. (Not the school stuff, usually, but every once in a while, there'd be a topic I'd like. Those are the assignments I actually turned in...)

And now I'm a writer. My handwriting is absolutely atrocious, but so's my brother's, who went to "normal" school, and so are both my parents', and so were all of my grandparents', so I'm pretty sure I couldn't have escaped it if I tried. (Although I did spend most of Junior year writing the alphabet only about a million times, when I was supposed to be taking notes, in an attempt to go improve to atrocious - before that it was simply illegible.) But I'm a writer; essays flow from me like breath. I got scholarships to college simply for my writing. I could no more give up the written word than I could give up food. It may not be my main profession, but it will always be a large part of who I am, and what is important to have in my life.

So the moral of the story is to trust your kids. They will get there, if they want to! And if not, there's not a lot of point trying to force them. Essay style, like grammer, isn't something they need to have taught to them using metacommunication ("This is a paragraph. Essays have three types of paragraphs. Here are the three types of essay paragraphs." Blech!). It comes out of the desire to communicate, or to persuade, or to entertain. Anyone can learn, in about five minutes, what an "essay" is. In one easy sentence: say what you're going to say, say it, then say what you said. Do you think your kid can't learn that in a snap when she's ready to? Far more important than that is to learn what it is she wants to say. That takes a lot longer.

At least 11 years!
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#8 of 9 Old 02-10-2005, 09:30 PM
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I wonder if he would enjoy dictating stories/poems, etc. to you, and you can write them for now? I think writing can be physically hard for some people (including myself). I get writer's cramp very easily and finally took a typing class in high school and I haven't stopped since. Before that I got so distracted by the process of writing, how to spell certain words, and I have very mild dyslexia (mostly with numbers but certain words too).

I know it's a big age gap but my 4yo LOVES to dictate stories to me. She draws a picture and then on the back I write a story about the picture that she dictates to me. I am, and will be, more after the creative process that happens during story telling than the actual writing it down on paper.


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#9 of 9 Old 02-10-2005, 09:41 PM - Thread Starter
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thanks everyone! i've never done the grammar/spelling kind of stuff formally because i always thought even at school it was the silliest thing ever, but i have a hard time sometimes of letting go of the "shouldn't my kids know this" mentality even though i know better. i've seen my daughter write when she wants to and if it's for something specific she'll ask me how to do it. i let her use the computer when she feels like writing i just don't want to make her do it because then i don't feel she's learning anything. she really enjoys the CM narration at least out loud and she loves copy work, so i'm going to leave it at that until she's ready for something else.

thank you for reminding me to trust my daughter and to trust the process.

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