This is the tale of a writer.
The year was 1990, and I sat in Mrs Smith’s* 11th grade Honors English class. (*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) It was the year of The Crucible, Wuthering Heights, and others.
My first paper was returned to me with a C! My impressionable teenage-self was devastated. I was a good student. I did not make Cs! Never before had I received such a low grade on a piece of writing. Were all my other teachers wrong?
Maybe she was right, perhaps I just needed to work harder? I typically churned out a paper pretty quick; I guess I just needed to revise more.
I Wrote and Rewrote
The next paper I worked the hardest I ever had on a school assignment. I wrote, rewrote, and even had my mother proofread and edit. This paper was beautiful; I turned it in knowing I had done my absolute best.
Seriously, B-? What does that even mean? I gave up, I wasn’t a good writer and never would be.
My mother tried to tell me that wasn’t true, that she was just jealous or didn’t like me for some reason, but in my world, grades were everything. Writing became my hated nemesis, and English class was the worst. I remember she had a penchant for correcting everyone’s interpretation of literature, which seemed absurd to me.
Senior year English was a little better, but I never fully recovered from my Junior year.
I threw myself into math. In math, there’s a right and wrong answer, and you could see where you went wrong. It wasn’t open to someone’s interpretation of your interpretation.
College came next, and I gritted my teeth through English 101, but I still had a Literature credit I needed. Being a Finance major precluded me from too many papers, and I held off until my last summer semester to take my required Literature course.
As part of our assignments, we were required to meet with the Professor to discuss one of our papers for the course. I went dutifully at my appointed time, only two weeks from graduation, fully expecting to hear of all the ways my paper could be improved.
Much to my surprise, my Professor praised my report and asked if I would consider becoming an English major. She never thought that someone about to graduate would have put Literature off until the last minute. I just laughed and said that I would be graduating at the end of the month with a degree in Finance, so no, I would not become an English major.
However, she did write me a recommendation for graduate school!
My attitude didn’t change much towards writing; it was a necessary evil. I completed my graduate degree which required a massive cumulative paper and the relief I felt when it was completed was indescribable. My career before homeschooling required writing, but it was a sequential, rote style that wasn’t prized for its eloquence.
How has all this affected my homeschooling and philosophy of writing?
Writing in My Homeschool
Less is More.
This is my attitude towards most things, including writing. Homeschooling moms tend to stress about two subjects the most: math and writing.
This can backfire on us, because the more we lament about our children being behind or “never” writing, the more stress they feel around putting those fingers to the keyboard. Our goal should be to make writing seem natural and not like some special superpower.
What We Haven’t Done
Book Reports-I confess, my children have never written a book report. Many people will give you endless reasons why you should require book reports, but I just don’t see that much value in them. We’ll discuss a book as we read it together or they’ll come and tell me all about their latest title.
Scripted Lessons-I’ve tried several, but we never stick to any of them. The assignments are tedious and the explanations are long-winded.
Required Journals-I once talked with a mom who told me about her kindergartener having a journal they were required to write in every day. That seems like a lot to expect of a 5-year-old. Not only do they have to come up with an idea, they have to perform the physical act of writing while also trying to compose a sentence and spell. A journal should never be required nor graded.
What We Have Done
Copywork-This has never been as consistent as I would like it to be, but it does happen. Copywork allows you to study grammar, usage, spelling, and subject matter all at once. Why would you not do copywork?
Reading Aloud-This has been the cornerstone of our homeschooling for many years and continues to play an important role. What better way to learn about eloquence, semantics, and tone, than by hearing all types of literature? We sometimes get off track and our read-aloud time will suffer, but we always come back to it with renewed vigour.
Freewriting-We’ve only recently begun more regular freewriting, but my girls have always loved to buy books and write in them. Whether it be a list, copying some other writing, or putting down their thoughts, I don’t look at these unless they request help and allow them to use them in whatever way they would like. They’ve also written books for each other and themselves, which makes for some beautiful family memories.
Generous with Time-Our greatest writing success so far has been my oldest daughter’s completion of NaNoWriMo 2017! This was her idea, and she achieved her goal of writing 50,000 words. During this month, I left her to focus on writing her novel and little else. Sometimes, other things might need to be neglected for the greater good. Call me crazy, but I think composing 50,000 words should count for at least a semester of high school English.
So impressed with my 15 year old! She set a goal to complete NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words and she did it! We had a celebration yesterday morning that included donuts and crepe paper. #homeschool #homeeducate #homeschooler #homeschooling #homeschoolmom #nanowrimo #lifelearning #selfdirectedlearning #personalgoal #bravewriterlifestyle #autodidact
What I’ve Come to Believe About Writing
Hopefully, I’ve learned something from my writing journey, and it won’t be for nought. I intend to give my children the space and encouragement they need to find their writing voice. Everyone is different and has a unique way of expressing themselves. Grading and red pens used to correct your thoughts can have a lasting adverse effect.
I’ve often wondered if I missed my true calling, maybe I should have been an English major? I’ll never know, but I do know that experience in high school caused a lot of anguish over writing for many years to come. Thankfully, I got old enough not to be determined by those grades, but many people never get over it.
I guess one positive effect of my experience with my writing education is that I don’t put my children in the position of having to “get over it” at all.
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