We are having a hard day, forgive me if this is not very clear. I have always been more geared towards emotional/moral development. Who you are, more so that what you know. In my mind as long as we have the skills to find the knowledge we need, it's not as important to study what is not of interest right now. But we are lacking skills.
As I said, bad day. Maybe I am not cut out to homeschool. I don't push. Maybe they need more push. I am laid back. I hate drama. There are still assignments that come our way. My soon to be 10 yo is trying to write a letter for a cub scouts assignment and it is not going well. Years of handwriting workbooks, and yet he is completely unprepared to write this letter. Both of my boys (9 and 12) HATE writing anything. It has always been that way.
I am considering dropping all subjects we work on at home, and spent the rest of the year getting them comfortable with writing. But they will kick and scream, and I will lose my temper, and it will be so hard. But I don't see any other option. I have spent years and years waiting for them to grow out of this hatred for writing. They even complained about writing their own Christmas lists.
So, I guess my homeschooling crisis is maybe just a writing crisis. If they were in school they would have to write all the time, they would get used to it. How do I do that at home? I don't know if I am strong enough to force them to enough. Any thoughts would be appreciated. This has been going on for more years than I can remember. But at their age I feel it needs to be dealt with now before it becomes any more embarrassing for them.
Michelle , 20+ years with a wonderful DH
Mama to two boys, 12 and 10
I also have a child who hates writing, so I understand. A few years ago I read some things about how Charlotte Mason taught writing, and then last year I read the book Writing with Ease, which has a classical style. Both of them suggested a progression of learning to write that made a lot of sense. Younger children first practice doing copy work, just rewriting something they have an example of. Gradually they learn to write from dictation, and the length of the dictation gradually lengthens. Then after they are good at that and have learned grammar and spelling, they start writing summarys of things they have read. Writing is seen as a gradual process and these steps would take years, but since your kids are older you might want to go through these steps faster, as kids their age would be expected to be learning to summarize passages.
I would start with making them do copy work. Let them copy something that interests them if you can, a cool poem or sentences from a favorite book, every day for a couple of weeks.
If you have never taught spelling or grammar consider if you should. I have been using Spelling Power and a grammar program this year for the first time with my fourth grader, because doing those to give her the building blocks to be able to write well makes sense to me. Neither seemed the right thing to do when she was six though.
I hope this helps. My goal is to have a kid that is a great writer by the time she finishes high school, and I am trying to make slow and steady progress towards that.
hmm. My oldest does NOT like writing.
We use the draw write now books which are drawing, rather than writing, based. They also do a lot of craft stuff and general fine motor skill building stuff. Aside from doing a few minutes a few times a week of drawing/writing, almost all the other stuff we do does not need writing, the "schoolwork" type stuff is mostly talking, or there is some computer use.
Its been quite important /necessary for me to separate out the act of writing from the act of thinking about what to write. My son is suspected to be dyslexic (very hard to get a decent assessment for HSers round here), and for him, the act of writing, composing and spelling is all, unassisted, just too much. He is 8 and although he does write letters from time to time-he wants to-I would absolutely have to break it down into composing (I would write down what he dictated), spelling (I'd perhaps get him to spell out a few words, not the whole thing) and writing (I'd type out the letter on the computer for preference).
I have 3 kids, and its really really obvious to me that only one of my kids has these problems with reading and writing-my 6 year old just happily gets on with it all and seems to be picking up reading without any obvious assistance beyond telling her the occasional word, and my 3 year old shows an interest in letters and an ability to distinguish them that my eldest never did. Some kids do have more problems with this than others. The only caveat for me is that, while some kids do clearly have an underlying problem (tbh it is SO obvious with my son if you watch him reading), I think with others it can simply be maturity and I'd kind of hate to force reading or writing on a child who just didn't happen to be ready (never have I come across a late reading child who had not spent the time doing other productive things.)
I would try to bring the two together. I think focusing on writing at the expense of emotional comfort, self-esteem and intra-family relationships is a serious mistake. I believe your guys are probably old enough for some self-reflection, for a big-picture conversation, and to participate in the problem-solving that will need to take place. If you frame things correctly, and tackle any roadblocks as "How can we work through this together?" rather than as "I'm sorry but you must do this?" you may see growth in both academic abilities and at a personal/emotional level.
I'd have a heart-to-heart with them, talking about how sometimes things you want to be able to do are fun to learn, and sometimes they're just not, but they're worth it because they get you to where you want to be. You might give the example of football players who want to be able to make great plays on the field, but have to put up with boring, painful, difficult weight-lifting and field drill routines to build the necessary strength and skills. Or share a time when you had to take some really stupid course before you could do something else that you really had your heart set on. Or remind them that when they were babies and trying to learn to stand and walk they fell down on their little diaper-butts over and over and cried and cried, but they knew they wanted to learn to walk, so they kept putting up with the pain of falling. Empathize with their dream of "being able to write easily, with no trouble at all." Wouldn't that be wonderful if all they had to do was think about what they wanted to say and it all poured out onto a paper quickly and easily, and none of it needed any practice? Well, of course that would be great, but that's not the way the world works.
And then explain that as a parent you want to make sure that they grow up with the patience and diligence necessary to do what football stars do: to work hard through difficult but worthy work without becoming discouraged and giving up, because the goal at the end of the work is something they want. And you think that writing is a really great opportunity for them to learn how to do that.
Then I would set up a basic plan which they can see is going to be flexible and responsive to their needs and ideas. Maybe the expectation that for 20 minutes five times a week, you will help them work at their writing. And once a week you will have a discussion about how it's going, what they like and what they don't like, how they're feeling about their progress, coming up with new ways of working on the various skills and generating a plan for the upcoming week based on that.
To get the ball rolling, you could describe writing as a bunch of separate skills: getting words out of your head, having the dexterity in your hands, knowing how to form letters, spelling, punctuation and grammar. And offer up some suggestions of working on those skills in isolation. Say, by adding or correcting punctuation in sample sentences, by dictating ideas into a recording device or to you, by using shaving cream on a cookie sheet for letter formation, by doing spelling on the computer with spell-check turned on, by underlining faulty spelling in sample sentences, by learning to knit or hand-sew. Or they may just prefer a packaged writing program of some sort, in which case they should help you research various options and decide upon something to try.
And every week genuinely talk about how they're feeling about all of it ... whether the expectations feel reasonable, the type of tasks they're being set, their feelings about their success, how it's impacting their relationship with you, how they would like you to play your role as facilitator, any new ideas they have. And whether they think they're developing some more tools for working through large difficult problems.
Also ... documentation is likely to be helpful down the road as a motivator. Save a sample of their writing once every couple of months. You could even give them a simple starter phrase to complete once a term. "From the window I see...." or something like that, where they write those words and then finish the sentence. Don't correct anything, just set it aside with a thank you. If they write the sentence as "from the wendo see sume cLoods" that's just great, because you're creating a baseline from which they will be able to measure their growth over the months and years to come.
Hope this is some food for thought.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
more thoughts along the same line as Miranda:
I would separate out outside tasks, like the Boy Scouts letter, from your day-to-day work. When you have something that needs doing, set aside other things as needed, give help in smallest possible increment, and just get it done. Maybe use it as a barometer of what skills still want developing.
In the day-to-day, I would focus on the individual aspects of writing--grammar, spelling, hand strength, cursive, discussion of other people's good writing, copywork, composition--separately, each at a level that feels comfortable to the child, without worry initially about trying to integrate them.
My reluctant writer (DS, 7) has recently started and is happy with a daily routine of copywork (one line of a quote or poem), cursive page, spelling half page, and paragraph of Editor-in-Chief. He reads a lot, he does occasional writing for other things, he dictates paragraphs now and then (tell me seven things about x; I type them up and print them out as slips, and we rearrange them into a paragraph).
But this recent Charlotte Mason style of tiny tasks, every day, without pressure to create, has been a hit around here.
Miranda I really love reading your thoughts! In so many posts!
I have no advice to give.. my best idea is just starting up around here... in the works.. We are journaling our children in front of them. Fred helps me by telling me about his day. It sometimes gets off-beat and surreal, lol! But I have fun. I have an engraved journal for both that I am saving until we get up and rolling in this HS routine (mama). I learned about journaling from a private school that I was very impressed with - the children too. They begin helping the children journal in first grade and the kids are rarely asked to produce any work outside the school (homework) before 5th grade (Obama went here, but that must have been different back then :p) I had a neighbor involved in the school and it was amazing to hear much more of a group, project based, real people coming to speak, teachers helpers coming in, free book periods, etc, etc.. Anyway, I would love to see your sons blossom in writing too, anyway they can. Should you bribe them? hmmm... maybe the work can begin with a chat like Miranda and then ask them simply to write before you field trip into the journal where you are headed and hope to see? Maybe if it is within there own life it isn't "stupid" ? Maybe allowing them to use a rainbow of colored pencils to copy the ideas of science/nature in a lab book would be helpful? Would any and much more mediums such as beautiful chalk and a wonderful verse on a board high in a family honored room would help them feel regal and proud?
Leslie, organic semi-unschooling mama teaching my children 5 and 2.75, that love & happiness is most important. Letting their light shine, finding out they are teaching me. Love being in the moment & nature.
Thank you all so much for the replies. There are lots of great ideas and thoughts here. I'll be re-reading your posts several times over the coming months.
I think the emotional mama crisis has passed and things are going better. We have started to focus more on writing. I have dropped some of our other tasks. I am happy to say that it has not been as traumatizing as I thought it might be. But I am taking it slow.
A few years ago my youngest was struggling with reading and I remember thinking that my main goal for that year was to help him learn to read. And it worked great. So now I think I'm really going to focus on writing as our one main goal for the year. I still don't know if I'm pushing enough. But we will just see how it goes. Time will tell.
Michelle , 20+ years with a wonderful DH
Mama to two boys, 12 and 10