on writing

A morning moment
: : a glimpse into yesterday morning : :

Sometimes I think I worry too much. Then I worry that not worrying enough and being too laid back in the past has rebounded nastily and given me more to worry about now. This homeschooling gig is mentally tricksy, ain’t it?

Writing is something I’m worried about just now. There are three specific foundations for this:

1) Sandra’s need for vision therapy meant that we were years behind in reading and writing. She has been reading at grade level for several years, but the feeling of playing catchup hasn’t left me.

2) We haven’t been a workbook or textbook family. I am uncomfortable with both the grim rigidity and frothy make-work aspects of workbooks. Now I’m looking at my kids’ abilities to answer test questions in conventional settings. Not now, necessarily, but university is just around the corner for us as Sandra will be taking two science courses at university for her Gr 12 science work.

3) As we worked to catch up on reading and stay abreast of math and science, writing was the easiest thing to let slide. There was always ‘later’.

We’re doing Jensen’s Format Writing this year. It is simple and solid. It focuses on expository writing (writing to inform) and uses formats such as ‘compare and contrast’ or ‘example’ and ‘analogy’. Sandra likes the clear requirements the formats give her. It’s solid, but a bit stolid. The examples are dull. And I do mean dull: root vegetables have been used as a topic more than once.

More than anything, two things are helping: 1) She’s writing a lot more than she was. Two drafts of two paragraphs per week at first. Now we’ve switched to five paragraph essays. (Side note: I had never in my life encountered the concept of a five paragraph essay until I started homeschooling. Americans apparently have a huge hang-up about the five paragraph essay and the vast majority of homeschooling programs are American.) 2) We are doing a lot more editing, and she’s having lot more chances to see how I would modify her words and ideas. We’ve done it in the past, but I think that sheer frequency has led her to see it as less of an attack and more of a learning opportunity.

Spelling is still an issue. I think we need to get back to dictation. That was one of the things that most rapidly changed her ability to see her words on the page. Perhaps it’s part of the vision thing, perhaps it’s just the style of her brain, but seeing what she has actually written is not easy for her.

I get worried.

But then I realize that she has already had exponentially more explicit writing training than I ever had in school. Everything I learned was through hit and miss, trying to discern what to do based on teacher’s marking, and then really doing some reading in university in student handbooks to sort things out.

This homeschooling gig is mentally tricksy, ain’t it?


2 thoughts on “on writing

  1. katharine says:

    Spot on! Mine are a little younger than yours (oldest is eleven) but I took a good look at her printing the other day and nearly laughed in horror. Her cursive is lovely thanks to a burst of inspiration on her part a couple of years ago but the printing, ugh. Similarly she reads like a dream, possibly above grade level I think, but her spelling is atrocious. It is catching up to us that weve never followed any set rules around when to push the kids with the rote banal tasks that school seems so good at. Oh well, looks like well be spending much of this winter working on spelling and printing. At least now shes old enough to reason with.

  2. Shannen says:

    Oh, the mom guilt is strong, all day, every day! I worry that my teen will grow up without accountability because I don’t grade her papers every week religiously. At this age though, I think it’s good to remind ourselves that there’s only so much we can instill in them. There will be holes in their education. It’s whether we’ve taught them how to learn… at least that’s what I tell myself. 🙂

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