homeschool

choosing writing curriculum: what’s the point of writing

So many writing curricula, not enough children.

The more children we have, the more writing curricula we’ve sampled. We homeschool mamas are just trying to find the perfect one. (And yet we never do).

But there are a lot of great ones. I’ve used many writing curricula over my twelve years:

Essentials in Writing for my junior high & high school aged kids, because it covers all the formal writing they’ll need for life and post-secondary school (if they choose that direction).

I was faithful to First Language Lessons by Susan Wise Bauer for first and second grade grammar, because it’s so easy to follow her directions (& I learned so much!) But I didn’t want to expend the energy of Susan Wise Bauer’s writing curriculum in the older grades. (Girlfriend, you work harder than I want to work as a homeschool parent).

And I’ve loved Brave Writer’s writing approach and online classes, which I have shared at length and in many ways previously. My favourite takeaway from Julie Bogart so far: don’t teach them the mechanics to write, teach them that they have to have something compelling to write in order to write.

So many options to learn written communication. If I were to dabble in yet another writing curriculum, it would be Write Shop. Their online guidance and resources are on target to everything I have learned about writing in my own world. 

All writing skills take practice.

The longer I write, the clearer I become. Said everyone about everything they’ve ever practiced with regularity. Practice makes competent. (Not perfect. No such thing in communicating.)

So why do I talk about Write Shop when I haven’t used it? I attended a Write Shop seminar at the Washington writer’s conference once upon a time and gained so much.

The biggest takeaway I learned was that my writerly, type A, first born personality, demands a lot from me and those around me. So the biggest thing I heard was:

Let go of perfectionism.

And, oh, how my second daughter was grateful for my insight. This insight immediately affected her when we got home…

How does perfectionism get in the way of writing?

  • Trying to say something ‘right’, ‘clever’, ‘creatively’…but not getting to the heart of what I really want to say.
  • Thinking there is one right answer to an essay question.
  • Focussing on grammar and sentence or paragraph construction when ideas haven’t yet been developed (and they are the POINT to written communication).
  •  Focussing on sentence diagramming — sentence diagramming begone!
  •  Focussing on identifying imperfection in the child’s logic, instead of appreciating the attempt at processing a concept.

How to help your beginning writer become a stronger writer?

Get your child to do self-editing first time around. Sure, they’ll miss some big things, like obvious spelling mistakes, forgetting periods or overusing “that”. But until she is assessing her own writing, she won’t become an independent writer.

Then, of course, give your child a mama edit the second time around. Unless they’re an academic, an eager post-secondary focussed high school student, leave it at that. No more editing. You’re not sending their copy to an magazine editor for five o’clock print. Let them gradually learn what they need to learn.

As time goes by, your child will develop stronger writing (communication) skills. The more she writes, the more competent she’ll get. Push her too hard, though, and she’ll just hate writing.

There’s nothing better to encouraging a love for writing than giving the kids time to free write. When they’ve finished their masterpiece, enjoy it, relish the word choices, laugh at the silly parts and suggest grammar and spelling corrections later. Once a week, one of our study days includes a free write.

“Your child needs your patience, not your urgency.” Julie Bogart

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