Nov. 19th, 2014

rivka: (her majesty)
Of all our homeschooling practices, writing instruction is where I've differed most from the modern educational standard. As I understand it, in a standard elementary school children are expected to produce large quantities of expressive writing, starting in kindergarten with "journals" composed with inventive spelling. One local parent told me that children in her son's kindergarten class were writing full paragraphs by the end of the year. The reams of writing continue, most of it on the topic of personal experiences. The five paragraph essay format, which I learned in seventh grade, is now apparently expected beginning in third grade.

In contrast, we did... none of that. Alex copied well-formed sentences, and later took dictation from them. She listened to passages of material and summarized them verbally. She studied spelling and the formal grammar of sentences. And above all else, she was exposed to well-written books. She read them herself, and I read aloud from books that were more complex. It was a complete departure from how her friends in public school were learning to write, and it made me very, very nervous at times. In third grade, supposedly five-paragraph-essay time, Alex began writing the occasional short paragraph. Very occasional. They were short and excruciating for her to write. I tried my best to keep trusting the method.

Now she's in fourth grade. She just turned in this essay:

IMG_20141118_105731097

So I'm feeling vindicated in our writing methods. Yes, there's a lot that could be done to improve this essay - but I don't think that four years' experience producing reams and reams of (realistically speaking) poor-quality material would fall into that category. I just don't think it's necessary to introduce higher academic skills earlier and earlier and earlier. You can just wait until those skills are developmentally appropriate, and start then - in the meantime, filling a child's time with activities which are developmentally appropriate, such as listening to increasingly complex literature.

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rivka

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