Language arts implies there is an art to learning a language.
Languages are colourful, varied, sometimes off-beat.
Sometimes they’re formal, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re reporting, sometimes they’re playing.
This month of November, two of my daughters are participating in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.
Grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and writing lessons are on hold, while they write write write.
One of them even writes after studies are completed for the day.
What my nine-year-old does…
My youngest, now nine years old, is less interested in producing a daily 500-word count.
So this is what he does:
- Though he daily writes three to five sentences in a kids writing journal that gets him to consider his thoughts on varied subjects.
- He routinely free writes a couple of pages for his Minecraft writing prompts.
- He writes thank you cards for his birthday gifts, and corresponds with his Compassion International sponsor child.
- He practices cursive.
- He builds Bananagrams from his spelling words.
- He plays online games with Spelling City word lists.
- And he sits with me to do grammar lessons from the Simply Grammar book. (I still ponder the purpose of knowing what a transitive verb is, as I only discovered it existed in that first year of homeschooling, but exposure to parts of sentences is important to me).
I’ve always encouraged personal journaling each morning as they begin their day.
I never check grammar, punctuation, or spelling in their journal entries. This is their personal spirit on paper, confidentially theirs. They are learning what they think and feel on paper.
I know what journaling has done for me all these years since I began printing: I understand myself better and have learned to own my feelings and process my thoughts.
I believe we encourage kids to have something to say first before they write with flourish.
In high school, I was an adjective-wielding, profuse adverb-using, fluffy sentence writer. I thought saying something pretty had more oomph than saying something meaningful. I was told I should write with less flourish and identify my topic. Instead, I wrote pretty, lovely, gargantuan words like loquacious, ironically. I hid behind pretty.
Language arts is indeed the art of writing. But first and foremost, the writer needs to determine what it is she wants to say. Then the writer uses the five senses for description, uses essay structure to clearly communicate her position, and chooses sentence construction and word choice to communicate clearly and cleverly.
Sentence diagramming, grammar lessons, spelling, and cursive have their place.