Thursday, October 1, 2009

Writing Resources for Home Educators

My favorite resource about teaching children to write is Bravewriter. I bopped around her site, taking notes and making use of all I could find for free in the Bravewriter Lifestyle section.  After implementing her ideas one or two times, my oldest (who had previously "hated writing") told me "You know.... I think I'm actually starting to LIKE writing." You could have blown me over with a feather. 

She has an assortment of products (way more than I'm interested in purchasing), but what I had my eye on was The Writer's Jungle, which teaches you how to teach writing yourself- without the need for a year-by-year curriculum. I ended up majorly lucking out and got a free copy of it from my sister-in-law. I'm still not even done reading the whole thing, but it's written such that I was able to jump right in after reading a couple chapters. It's a major game changer. I just really can't say enough good about it... if you're struggling with writing in your homeschool you need to get your hands on a copy. If your kids are so young that you haven't struggled with writing yet, you need to get your hands on a copy. Check over at Homeschool Buyers Co-Op before purchasing though, in case you can get it discounted.  

If you'd like to know what the very best thing you can do to help you children be better writers... the answer is to read good books with them more!! Students who read the most recreationally are generally the best writers. They absorb quality language through their reading, and then it flows out more effortlessly when they're given opportunity to write. 

"The way to write good English is to read it and hear it... In a child, the selection of the better from the worse is not conscious; he is the servant of his word-experience"(5:304) Our speech and writing abilities are highly reflective of the literature and speech we're exposed to. In other words... everything we read and hear becomes a part of our word bank. So, think about what all your children are exposed to. Though some people are more naturally gifted in writing then others, "the inborn gift of style can be starved or stimulated. No innate genius can invent fine language. The stuff of which good style is made must be given to the mind from without and given skillfully. A child of the muses cannot write fine English unless fine English has been its nourishment."(5:292) Be wary of "juvenile literature" which "belittles the language under pretense of being simply phrased for children; as if a child's book like, Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe or the Jungle Book, be in good style."(5:293) (See "Choice of Reading Material") 

As far as teaching writing, meaningful, real-life opportunities are much more valuable than a drudgery of worksheets. Some of these include journaling, notes, cards, or letters to friends and relatives, and even list-making for the beginning writers. "Encourage creative urges when they poke up their heads... It works well to let children write their own material when they have something in their heads to write. But it does not work well to regularly require original writing. Too many school children have written "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" and "What I Would Do if I Had a Million Dollars." The natural method frees you from having to find or think up writing topics to motivate your child to do original writing..." (2:49) 

What ever you do, don't overly-criticize a child's original writing!!! Use copywork to analyze and correct spelling and grammar... NOT creative writing. It takes time to grow as a writer, and as Julie of Bravewriter points out, you should be their coach and writing allyIf there are misspelled words or grammar errors, simply make a note to to yourself of areas you may need in your future teaching. Don't break down their creative work and mark them up over mechanics. Your feedback will greatly affect their future endeavors, so keep it as positive as you can. 

If your child is very young or tires easily when writing, let him dictate what he wishes for you to write. Afterwards, read it to him, or let him read it to you (some children learn to read this way). Then, the child may illustrate as well. If he as a favorite story that he's proud of, find an audience for it. If you think you need extra help with establishing your home writing program, check out "Any Child Can Write," by Harvey S. Weiner.

Copywork is another useful writing tool. It is a natural method of practice to increase vocabulary, reinforce language usage and grammar rules. "Just as the child learned to speak by copying your correct speech, so he learns to write by copying fine writing." (2:42)  As ability allows, the child can then progress into dictation work. This is where you read aloud what he is to write, and he decides on punctuation and capitalization based on your voice inflections. In both copying and dictating, let him compare his writing to the original work to receive immediate feedback. This is when you should discuss words, punctuation, grammar, rhyming, style, etc and why it was used in the selection. You may discuss what images it conjures up, then let the child illustrate it. You may also discuss practical application. Since there are many different things you can learn from one selection, you may use that selection over the course of several days, and in teaching multiple children each on their own level.

Works Cited...
1 David & Micki Colfax,
 Homeschooling for Excellence
2 Ruth Beechick, The Three R's

3 Charlotte Mason,
 Home Education 

4 Anne Sullivan, in Helen Keller's The Story of My Life 
5 James Berger's Supplementary Account in Helen Keller's The Story of My Life


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