One of the big challenges I face in teaching kids to write is getting mom and dad to chill out about writing well. Most of us lock up when too much is on the line! The Ugly Truth is that no one can learn much of anything without practice (especially writing)…AND…when there is too much of an emphasis on writing well during practice, then almost no learning can ever helpfully happen.
Writing needs practice in order for a student to tap into her own language instinct talent. My suggestion for homeschoolers (and others) is to allow your child a day of writing WITHOUT ANY CORRECTIONS by following Natalie Goldberg’s Rules—
Don’t take your fingers from your keyboard or put down your pen because you want to check email, attend to a chore or get something.
Instead, much like during meditation, you must stay present with whatever you are writing.
If you cross out while you write, you are editing your work. There’s a time for self-censorship and for removing what you didn’t mean; it’s after your writing practice is done.
Natalie adds that writers who use pen and paper should write between the lines and on the margins of their notepads.
Again, there’s a time for proof-reading and it’s not during first drafts.
The purpose of writing practice is to free yourself, write on “waves of emotion”, and say things you hadn’t thought possible.
This loss of control is difficult to achieve, and I’ve found it only comes deep into a writing practice session.
Natalie practices Zen (a topic she relates to writing practice in her book), and she cautions against over-thinking the words that appear on the blank page.
Natalie says writers in the middle of writing practice shouldn’t back down from an idea that’s scary or an idea that makes us feel naked.
We should “dive in” because these ideas have “lots of energy”. In other words, if you feel uncomfortable writing about a topic, you need to write about it.
What a powerful gift if your child begins to practice outside of ‘class time’ because he learned to see the power of learning. Practice is like running everyday, rather than making every run like a race. Daily writing doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be done.
Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run
Hope this helps.
Off to learn,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
In creating fiction, all we have to do is think of a bag lady and a computer salesman, and immediately a thousand questions come up, which lead to answers, which then lead to more questions, and so on.
In a way, that really is all there is to it! Fiction sort of writes itself sometimes.
The challenge we often see in our students around the globe is that they 'don't know what to write about' (or some other such hogwash). The challenge is that kids don't realize some basic things about writing:
A. With fiction, you really just make it up (which is why it is easier than other kinds of writing).
B. You can't really know what you are going to write until you start writing. In this way, writing is really about discovering as you write how you are going to say something.
So, as a matter of practice, if you can simply get your child to do the following, then anything can happen---
STEP 1: Pick out two things in the world somewhere. They can be anything. If your child gets stumped here, she probably has a phobia in place ;-( In that case, just go get a nearby book and turned to page 32. Start reading until she picks two items that are mentioned.
STEP 2: Write down 3 Questions that someone could ask about the two items.
STEP 3: Start writing!
EXAMPLE: Lizard & Coffee Cup
Why is the lizard in the coffee cup?
Why does this lizard like to drink coffee?
Why is the coffee cup afraid of the lizard?
Can a coffee cup be a new house for a lizard?
"It's a fine cup. Yessir, a very fine cup indeed."
Gormit, an American Chameleon, was so excited he blushed bright red even though he was sitting on a deep green leaf of Mrs. Snooley's gardenia bush.
"I'll have it for my house," he said to Clappity-Clack, his really big grasshopper friend.
"Who needs a house?," CC (short for Clappity-Clack) said as he chewed down the grass-blade he was holding with his four hands.
Gormit was a little surprised but he politely asked CC, "How can you have friends over to visit if you don't have a house?"
-Fred Ray Lybrand Jr., 2015
Off to learn,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. More help here: www.advanced-writing-resources.com
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Everyone likes to argue, especially when they get to be about 12 years old.
“No, Dr. Lybrand, I have a quiet 12-year-old.” Well, maybe you have the exception, but something is wrong. Quiet people just argue in their heads, while other-than-quiet-people argue out in the ether.
Plain Fact #1
Arguing is thinking. It is natural for humans to think, and debating an issue or question through is a keen way to think. You really don’t want to crush the talent for thinking in anyone…especially because learning how to think means they’ll have very little competition at work someday 😉
Plain Fact #2
Arguing is a developmental stage for humans which matches the design of the brain. In classical educational understanding (Trivium), the game works roughly like this—
1. Grammar/Data Stage (ages 1-10)2. Logic/Thinking Stage (ages 11 -15)3. Rhetoric/Communication Stage (ages 16-21)
It works out that every subject you learn in life follows this form. You must understand the parts (Data), then understand how the parts fit together (Logic), before you can then use your understanding with others (Rhetoric/Communication).
So, having a child who likes to argue (or an employee who does the same) isn’t bad, but it needs some direction. This energy easily moves into writing, because WRITING IS THINKING. Here’s the simple thing you can do when a child gets animated about a subject or issue [our kids often preceded their argument with “They’re idiots…” We never consistently conquered this ungracious expression of frustration ;-( ].
Here’s what I recommend when you get your child to write about the issue that is frustrating them (the issue they are trying to think through):
1. Ask them to answer this question, “Why are you so sure that _________?
Asking for them to explain why they are sure means they’ll need to generate evidence (proof in data or proof in logic, or both). When we express the basis of our conviction in terms of evidence, we often see the flaws ourselves. It is SO FUN to watch a child figure out their own bad thinking!
2. Ask them to explain exactly why the other side thinks the way they do.
Frankly, if you can’t argue both sides, then you don’t understand the issue. This is, in part, what the court system was intended to do…give the best argument both ways for a judge/jury to impartially decide (comment: sadly in court, ‘winning’ became more important than ‘truth’).
So, have your debater write using these two essentials. Even better, have the paper read and discussed together at supper or over ice cream. Everyone will benefit! Also, as a final thought, when your child is arguing with you about what he/she does/doesn’t want to do, these points will work well for you. Just ask (for example):
1. Why are you so sure that I’m wrong to (require you to clean your room before you go out)? 2. What are the reasons you think (I want you to clean your room before you go out)?
It’s not a cure-all, but it will be a big deal as they grow that you direct their unction for arguing! Also, you’ll at least help them become a GOOD lawyer!
Off to learn,
Fred Ray LybrandThe Writing Course Works
Good spellers don’t guess at how to spell a word. Badd spelers guess all the time. Good spellers who don’t guess look up the word, use a spell-checker, or use a different word. If they are not sure, they don’t write it (unless they are time/test constrained).
As homeschool home educators, the reason we focus primarily on teaching our kids to ‘not guess’ AND to learn by rote the words they consistently misspell (made their own list and had them practice them) are five-fold:
1. Guessing is the problem
2. The common words they misspell, once learned, solve 90% of the issue for life.
3. Spelling is too fluid (changing) to have real ‘rules’…exceptions are the rule: counselor (U.S.) vs. counsellor (entire rest of the world). The second spelling follows the rule, the first follows our American bent to be more efficient/lazy (drop a letter).
4. Non-guessers will use spell checkers properly, look it up, and be grateful to those who correct them.
5. People who ‘just guess’ won’t learn the rules anyway except under threat/pain…then they won’t use them because ‘guessing’ is OK.
Off to learn,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
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