On Children and Writing
I am purposing to raise writers.
Not the great poet of all time or the creator of a classic novel.
No. But children who fear not the written word, the blank white page, and who are
Equipped to wield the sword of language at their command, with their own power,
And give voice to their own fresh thoughts and ideas.
What I am about to share is my philosophy on how. Now- the endeavor is only just begun. In ten years or so- we will see the fruit of this approach, desire, path, and plan. And see, indeed, if I have managed to raise writers. Each in their own unique way. Each with their own expression.
But each equipped. Equipped with the power to communicate with written language. For the word is a sword. And to wield it properly- one needs training. Yet it is not aggressive combat training- but rather- special cultivating. A drawing out of the voice that dwells within and giving confidence and strength when faced with the blank page. And mastery. A mastery of words and ideas.
This is an extension of Charlotte Mason and her great educational counsel toward the place of narration in a child’s schooling. Oral narration which then becomes written narration- which, ultimately, is composition… told in the child’s “very own voice.”
I want my children equipped to communicate.
How am I doing this?
Literature. Lots and lots of excellent and quality literature. Audio books if they are bent in that way (not all are…) but even so- audio books in the car and audio books around the table… filling our minds and hearts and thoughts with beautiful language. A rich store of language, pictures, and ideas. Stories. Story-formed hearts. From the time they are wee high with no words of their own… til forever. From the littlest picture books…til we meet the great masters. Literature.
Never. Never encourage or support any idea that any kind of writing is “hard.” Being careful not to bend young plants with too much… strengthening slowly. Requiring writing from first grade on( even K- in learning letter formation)… just a little but gradually building upon the little each year. Every year. Until it is second nature.
But the expectation is always there. Write we will. Write you will. Write you must. It is just part of what we do. It is not too hard. Now- my third student is a lefty and the fine motor skills are hard. But he will learn to type eventually- and then type he will! If the writing is actually physically too hard. But I will strengthen him slowly and I will strengthen him daily- and even now- I point out what his two year ahead brother is doing… and he is on the slow and steady path to get him there. But I require it. Period. I never allow any negative attitudes to flourish. I take dictation on favorite books and place them in their portfolio binders. I write their words for them as they grow to write for themselves.
Praise. Praise hard all attempts at any creative and personal writing that dare to show me. (This is not school writing). Never criticizing any mechanical error. Trusting that they have been exposed to such quality literature- their comprehension soars far beyond their mechanical skill. Trusting that their mechanical skill will begin to mesh with their mind’s ability as we continue faithfully with our grade- level Language Arts materials. This I have begun to see with my oldest as his mechanical writing ability is catching up with his vibrant mind. It is amazing how far his writing has come. I trust. I am not shocked with the spelling errors and the grammar errors. I know the thinking process that is occurring in this free writing is a creative process and very different from a skill process.
Just as a baby understands so much more than he can verbalize… so they can express so much more than they have the ability to perfectly write.
Follow the same advice I was given all through my upper level school writing life. Write first. Edit later. The important priority is the “birth of the idea.” This is no different for my young vibrant-minded child than for me- as a college student. Get the idea out… then we can go back and work on the mechanical details.
Choose a solid grammar program and spelling program and work through it gently and faithfully- together.
Practice dictation of excellent literature. This is a daily exercise starting in third grade.
Teach children to narrate Charlotte Mason style and narrate Well-Trained Mind style. To do this: I use Writing with Ease and the Reading Notebook. The Reading Notebook is my term for taking narration on the books they are using for the reading component of their school year. They are required to narrate a vivid or special scene with detail from the book. They are also required to narrate a summary about the book’s total content. In fifth grade- they write this themselves.
Daily copywork with illustration starting in first grade.
I have a matter-of-fact expectation about writing and I require it in our school. I never, never let on that writing is drudgery or hard. It is just something we do. I choose resources that make it enjoyable. And I keep it low pressure.
We are still at the starting gate. We are at the cusp of all the varied writing that comes with middle school and high school work. So… when I pass that finish line… I will report again. But for now- I am happily, happily cultivating joy and language skills through being a print-rich home. With a teacher who loves the written word. We love it together. We are in it together. Their fresh minds catch words and ideas and then birth them in their own precious expressions. It is this I wish to keep and guard and nurture.
What I am using for writing:
Copy work and cursive copy work (3-5th grade)
Writing With Ease
Building Spelling Skills
6th grade and up will keep a CommonPlace book- as more and more writing is required across all subjects.
5th grade and up- begin with creative writing instruction
Rod and Staff Grammar
Wordly Wise (the word is a sword)