Friday, November 8, 2013

The Writing Bug

potential teaching tools
At the conclusion of our 2012-2013 school year, I sat JT down and we had a talk about the year to come. I told him as he was moving towards what would be his high school years, we would need to focus on two things more than we had in the past. Math would need to take more of a front seat in his schooling. But far more importantly, his writing skills would need to be developed in preparation for higher education.

Thanks to signing up for a Thinkwell math class, I feel the first goal of more focus on math is being met. For the first time in our homeschooling history, JT is taking control of his own math learning, setting goals, working to meet them, getting excellent scores on quizzes and unit tests because he works until he knows the material. In previous years I would feel nothing but stress about his math studies. Planning was difficult, getting him to do the work was torture, and I hated grading the work because when I found mistakes I knew it meant I had to help him through corrections and try to get him to understand the importance of getting it right. Now I write, 'Thinkwell math', on his daily list and he does it. This week he told me he was having a little trouble with one of the exercises so he planned to do more practice worksheets and re-watch the instruction videos until he understood the concept. That kind of self-motivation would have been impossible to imagine a couple months ago.

With the math learning now taking shape, I need to develop the plan to reach our goals for writing. JT has always been a prolific writer, when it's something HE wants to write. The writing assignments I make are often approached with an apathetic attitude. He will do the least amount of work possible and act reproachfully when I insist that he edit his work. After our talk about the need to improve his writing skills in order to go to college and study biology, he started trying a little harder.

EM begins a report
During the planning phase for this year, I collected several books related to grammar and writing to use with the boys. I found Painless Grammar at a book sale over the summer. I used this book to form an outline for our unit. At the beginning of the week, we all read a section out of the book together. Then the boys each have assignments from their grade-appropriate workbooks related to what we read. I also give a writing assignment at the beginning of most weeks. Sometimes we just do a quick journal activity, but other times I make it something a little more in depth. For example, the last two weeks the boys have been working on short reports about an animal they learned about at the Wetlands Institute during our trip to the shore. EM chose horseshoe crabs, JT chose the great egret. EM is pretty new to the report writing scene, so I have to spend a lot of time showing him how to put his thoughts together.  A friend recommended trying the PEAS model for writing, especially for EM. We put that into play for this report and I think it has really helped him understand the purpose of report writing.

Something else that is influencing the writing in our house has been a little project my husband has been working on for the last five weeks. During a visit, one of our friends and my husband were discussing some writing advice given by Brent Weeks, author of the Night Angel Trilogy. He says that if you just write 250 words a day, in a year, you'll have a novel. So my husband and his friend agreed to write 250 words a day and email them to each other. A few weeks in, another friend joined. Now all three of them have 11,000 words written. They are not critiquing the work yet, just sharing. A few days ago, JT who has been following the process, decided to join the fun. He has been very dedicated. I have not read any of what he has written so far, so I asked my husband how it was going. When I asked about JT's grammar and writing mechanics, my husband said he hadn't thought about it before I asked, but once he did, he knew that JT was doing a great job since he hadn't noticed any obvious issues.

My husband's dedication to this writing activity has brought about an awakening of a passion in JT that he would not have found through a typical writing curriculum.

Once again, life wins out as the greatest teacher of all.

1 comment:

Annie said...

Great post on your approach to writing. Spawned a couple of ideas here. Thank you!