rivka: (her majesty)
[personal profile] rivka
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:


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.

Date: 2014-11-19 09:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com
Oh, wow! Look at the scientific reasoning! Certainly one could improve the writing here and there, but I think this is awesome. I mean, the bones of the essay are just fine.


Date: 2014-11-19 10:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] green-knight.livejournal.com
That's damn impressive.
It must be incredibly difficult to trust you are doing the right thing, but I think that yeah, whatever you're doing works: keep doing it.

Date: 2014-11-20 01:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kcobweb.livejournal.com
At our parent-teacher conference last week, our 4th grade teacher said that they are introducing the 5-paragraph format this year and hope to have them using it by the end of the school year.

As for Elena, she loooooooves adjectives. We'll see how she does with logical reasoning. :)

Date: 2014-11-20 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chapstickqueen.livejournal.com
Your methods remind me very much of the way I was taught in the very early 90s at a private school that stressed Phonics. When I was switched to public school, that method helped me ace spelling tests, be top of the class when it came to grammar and punctuation, and put me far ahead of my peers in both reading comprehension and writing technique. All the way through college even, I was at a bit of an advantage having been taught this way.

Date: 2014-11-21 01:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rivka.livejournal.com
Yes, this method is certainly not original to us - in many ways it's the old-fashioned way of teaching.

I recently re-read Laura Ingalls Wilder's These Happy Golden Years. She gets her first assignment to write a composition when she's 15 and has already worked as a teacher!

Date: 2014-11-21 05:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clstal.livejournal.com
So SO impressed -- congrads to both of you!

Date: 2014-11-21 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] txobserver.livejournal.com
Alex wrote a great essay. But what would it have looked like if she had been writing journal entries from the beginning? I'm betting it would still be great. That approach doesn't conflict with learning to spell and learning grammar. Having just done a home project requiring me to go through my stuff, packing and unpacking, I found many examples of my daughters' early school work. Both girls great writers (and spellers) now, and their early efforts were also interesting and well reasoned, though not yet well spelled. The grammar of most children reflects their home environment I think. If they speak grammatically they will generally write grammatically, except for the subtle cases, which can be revised through editing and review by the teacher/parent.

Date: 2014-11-21 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rivka.livejournal.com
Oh sure, I don't think that requiring her to write reams of journals, etc. would have ruined her ultimate ability to write a good and grammatical essay. That wasn't my point at all. My point is that it isn't necessary for children to start producing large amounts of written work in kindergarten or first grade, in order for them to be able to write well later on. With Alex, it would have been a colossal battle, and I don't think it would have been helpful.

Date: 2014-11-22 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] johnpalmer.livejournal.com
It also might have set up writing as "work" (in the sense that Mark Twain said that work is what a body is obliged to do, while play is what a body is not obliged to do). I think you're doing very well here. I wonder if the pushing earlier and earlier on children isn't teaching to the test and a case of forgetting that children are children, with brains still developing.

Date: 2014-11-22 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antonia-tiger.livejournal.com
I am in the throes of NaNoWriMo, and after a bad start I am still lagging. But this does shine a different light on their Young Writers Program. And it all feels so unlike my recollections of my schooldays. Though I was a voracious reader.

An incident, when a friend of mine was living in Leeds, might also remind us all that we might be exceptional. His was a typical fannish home, packed with books. His daughter came home from school with a new friend. The new friend was astonished by the sight of the bookshelves. I suspect that the household had more books than the school.

It's likely part of the reason why fannish kids come across as so smart. It's more than just the reading, it's the nature of good SF&F, the way it builds on knowledge. You get things, such as battles, which seem to happen in an odd way, and then you realise that the sequence of events comes from a real battle out of the history books, and you start looking at history, which is far more than just battles.

Date: 2014-11-24 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] heebie-geebie.livejournal.com
I just re-blogged this post over at Unfogged, FYI. Hope that's okay!


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