23 May 2014 29 Comments
We’ve been homeschooling in very relaxed way this year. Surprisingly, I’ve probably put in more homeschooling “hours” than ever – unschooling is more parent-intensive than I’d anticipated. But both the children and I are thriving.
I’ve started dozens of blog posts about what we’ve been doing, so I thought I’d better get around to finishing one. I’ll start with sharing how C(10) and J(9) are learning how to write.
General approach to writing
I don’t require any writing as part of my children’s everyday learning. Nor do we study grammar or spelling as separate subjects. I don’t teach them how to write five paragraph essays, but they love to debate ideas and make reasoned arguments. I never ask for written narrations, but after we read about the slave trade, or how Henry VIII broke with the Catholic church, for example, there’s plenty of spirited discussion. And we read and listen to so many fiction books together that we’re always comparing and contrasting plot structures, analysing character motivations and discussing the use of different viewpoints as we chat about the novels we’ve enjoyed.
Despite – or perhaps because of – this, both C(10) and J(9) love to write. Here are some examples of the types of writing they’ve been doing recently.
C(10)’s passion for the Divergent books and movie has inspired a ton of learning. She spent most of April reading Divergent fan fiction, and last week she uploaded the first instalment of her own story to FanFiction.net. An hour later she excitedly announced that 28 people had read it. The following day she added another instalment. Readers left reviews. More people read it. Her story is now over 3000 words long. It’s had more than 1000 views, and it’s been followed and favourited by readers.
I contrast this encouraging, peer-supported writing environment with the writing opportunities I had when I was young. I wrote stories on subjects decided by my teachers. The stories were read and judged by the teachers alone. If a piece of writing happened to appeal to the teacher it might be published in the school magazine. (Mine never were. The teacher liked long descriptive paragraphs filled with adjectives and adverbs. That wasn’t my style.)
Writing, like any skill, improves with practice. C(10) knows her words are going to be read and appreciated by real people. She gets almost real-time feedback. No wonder she spends so much time writing!
C(10) has also just started writing a fantasy novel, “Circle of Fire”. (Actually a trilogy, apparently.) The title was inspired by this brilliant name generator site recently shared in Julie’s Daily Writing Tip.
C(10) is at the faltering ownership stage of writing – she often enjoys writing alongside an adult. Not so long ago, the idea of that adult being me was met with a derisive snort. Then for a year she was mentored in writing by an adult friend of ours, until the friend moved away. So when C(10) recently asked if I could help her write a story “in the way that Gaynor used to” I did a little jig inside.
I like this flipped way of working. Instead of me teaching C(10), C(10) is showing me how to help her. “Okay, so now we set the timer and I do a free-write about the characters”, she says. “Now I read you what I’ve written and we talk about it.” It’s fun being part of her writing process.
J(9) has been writing, too. He is fiercely autodidactic, so working in the same room as me when I’m busy doing something else suits him perfectly. When he saw me working with C(10) on her story the other day, he grabbed his computer and wrote a review of his favourite DS game on his blog, Video Game Reviewer. When my attention is elsewhere J(9) can safely shoot questions at me – “How do you spell enough?” – without me getting carried away and subjecting him to an un-asked for spelling lesson (“What other words can you think of that end in -ough“?)
Mad Libs stories
“Shall we make up Mad Libs?” J(9) asks enthusiastically, several times a week. We all enjoy Mad Libs, so C(10) and I grab our computers and join J(9). We each write a few paragraphs on any theme we choose, leaving plenty of gaps.
Then we take turns eliciting from the others words to fill our gaps: “Adjective?”, “Verb?”, “Plural noun?”. Plenty of suggestions are offered for each missing word, and the writer selects their favourite. Then they share their story, usually several times, to much hilarity.
All the writing I’ve mentioned so far is spontaneously initiated by the children. Copywork, meanwhile, is part of our routine. C(10) loves writing out her favourite poems, and paragraphs from books she loves. She does her copywork by hand, using colourful gel-pens.
Because J(9) struggles with the physical act of writing, I tend to forget that as he copies he is also learning how to spell, punctuate and use good grammar. Although he needs the practice, the laborious process of writing by hand makes it difficult for him to copy more than one short sentence at a time.
I think of his last blog post – beautifully conversational and funny, but with barely a comma or full-stop (period) in sight. “I wish there was spell-check for punctuation,” he said.
“Would you like to type out your copywork sometimes, instead of using a pencil?” I suggested. “That way you might be able to manage longer sentences … even paragraphs. You might remember to use full stops when you’re writing if you put them into your copywork.”
Copywork will help , but I expect J(9) will learn to punctuate when he feels the need, just as he taught himself to read and spell. He knows I’m eager to help whenever he needs me, but he needs to do things his way.
Both my children choose their own copywork. Sometimes I strew resources, like websites with quotes from their favourite books. Or I buy kindle copies of their favourite audiobooks, like Anne of Green Gables or the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series. Often I do copywork alongside them – writing out great literature is always inspiring.
What are your children’s favourite ways to write?
For more writing inspiration, see 5 Writing Games Your Kids Will Love.
I’m appreciatively linking up with:
Weekly Wrap-up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers