Detroit Public Schools (DPS) president, Otis Mathis, admits he can’t write a coherent sentence. He further argues that he is a role model as a leader who can’t write. He’s a math whiz (high school) and can speak cogently…but when it comes to writing, it no worky (see: Otis Mathis Can’t Write)
Now, you may hear a skeptic’s voice in all of this, but my hope is to bolster you as an educator or as a learner. Otis Mathis says he is a role model because he shows that even if you can’t write, you can become a success (a president of a school system, no less).
Clearly there is something wrong with this picture, but what? It is easy enough to say that it would be an even better model if he could learn to write (overcoming the obstacle), however, something is more essential here concerning the future for our children.
Here is the question that needs careful reflection:
Do we pursue our talents or do we bend the world to our flaws?
The move is afoot to bend the world to our flaws. In fact, if you read the articles on Otis Mathis, you’ll find that there are related lawsuits to drop certain competencies for admission in to various academic programs. It isn’t that academia is nuts, but rather that there is a values shift in play. The underlying issue is COMPETENCE v. FAIRNESS. Another version of this dilemma asks if you are SPECIAL or is EVERYONE THE SAME.
The current uproar about healthcare has this issue at the core as well. On some level there is the notion that things should be equal for everyone…and on another level, we all know that only one person can win American Idol.
I remember when our daughter played soccer as a little girl there was no score-keeping by the referees, coaches, or parents (it was seen as wrong and too competitive); except, the girls on the team all kept score!
Here’s the secret: Nature wins out over Culture. The culture says let’s make it fair for everyone. Nature says we are better than others at something. Culture says bring competitiveness down. Nature says you’ll survive with your strengths. Culture says you are a victim who needs help. Nature says your skill will help true victims.
My personal conviction is that Otis Mathis can learn to write (& if he’ll come stay with me for a week I can show him exactly how to connect his speaking to his writing). I have a strength here and I’d love to serve him with it. It was indeed the reason I organized the insights I’ve discovered into The Writing Course.
If you are still helping your children to get educated, please make sure two simple things are in play:
1. They are getting a solid and broad foundation. This hooks their brain together…yes, reading AND writing AND arithmetic.
2. Encourage them to stretch to their strengths. When they pursue their talents they make a contribution…which means they are almost infinitely more employable.
If you are still helping others to get educated at any age…what’s the difference?
You think it takes more, but it really doesn’t. Keep at it…everything is better learned by practice; and, everything that is learned becomes useful. The best examples are those who play to their strengths and serve others with them. Don’t buy the whim of culture…just learn it, or admit it isn’t a strength— no matter what ‘it’ is. Steer clear of trying to bend the world to think you don’t have to be educated to be an educator…it will always smell funny.
Dr. Fred Lybrand
In a recent conversation about grammar and writing, I made the following point. Hope it is helpful.
Often I hear it posed that ‘grammar study is useful’— and, the reason they say it to me is that I basically challenge this educational assumption. I actually agree with the point if grammar is approached as a study. If I were to ‘cheer’ for a grammar segment, then I’d put it with the analysis of written work (study it with reading). Frankly, I think about every subject one can study is useful. On the other hand, my conviction is that the study of grammar as related to developing one’s writing skills is actually harmful. Here’s an example of a summary from a 1999 book referencing a definitive summary all the way back to 1963: Most language arts teachers do not have many opportunities to explore the fascinating intricacies of grammar in their classrooms, but nearly all of them have to teach grammar. The most pressing questions they face, therefore, are the following: What role does grammar play in writing performance? And how does one teach grammar effectively? One might think that these questions were answered long ago. After all, grammar has been taught to students since the days of the ancient Greeks. But reliable evaluations of the connection between studying grammar and writing performance are fairly recent. One of the more important emerged in 1963, when, summarizing existing research, Braddock, Lloyd-Jones, and Schoer stated:
In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms that the teaching of formal [traditional] grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing. (pp. 37-38)
From: The Teacher’s Grammar Book. Contributors: James D. Williams – author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of Publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication Year: 1999. Page Number: 45. We have not improved our grammar-teaching methods…and plenty of studies since then point out the same thing. People learn to write better by writing. People learn to read better by reading. People learn to analyze a sentence or paragraph by analyzing (this is where grammar is cool). If we have instructors or tutors who can show us how to write better, read better, or analyze better…well, then all the better! Of course, in our educational approach we aren’t replacing writing with grammar study (like mass education schools often do). I know what I’m saying in whacky…but that’s what they were saying about ‘homeschooling’ a couple of decades ago! To quote the Lion from The Wizard of Oz, “Imposserous.” We all get stuck in our assumptions and drag them over from old systems. At one time people where saying you can’t teach without training…but homeschoolers do (successfully, I might add)!I’m saying your child can learn to write better by not integrating linguistics and grammar into your writing process. I’m saying that you as an adult would write much better if you’d dump grammar and write for how it will sound. I’m saying that you will write much better if you will read better material.All of these point are the same thing (sort of) Art Robinson was saying (especially originally) when he introduce The Robinson Curriculum. In fact, his audio makes the points pretty nicely (Robinson Syntax and Grammar Audio) (@ 47:00). The comforting thing is that humans can learn no matter what we do to them…but I would say, if you want to grow writers, they’ll have a harder time when they are bogged down in the pursuit of ‘correct grammar’.Blessings, Fred Lybrand https://advanced-writing-resources.com/Here’s my Video Rant: Is Studying English Grammar Really Necessary?
How to Homeschool Start to Finish Videos
Fred & Jody Lybrand
Well, the videos are finished and they are up. Our goal is certainly two-fold:
1. We want to share what we’ve had to learn through trial-and-error as God has shown us his kindness…so right now they are totally free.
2. We hope this promotes our conviction that we need a generation of writers who can stem the tide of our drift away from effectively written English.
Basically, we want you to help this go ‘viral’ if (AND ONLY IF) you find the information that we share helpful. Here’s what you do:
* Send the link to your friends (homeschool or not / Robinson or not). This could be a fair shot at winning support for all of our efforts in home education. Use the ‘share’ button to the left on this page.
* Post it on your blogs, facebook, etc.
* Go to YouTube and post a couple of positive sentences out the videos
Thanks for all your help and encouragement. I don’t need to tell you how important our current success in education is as homeschoolers is…given the likely coming tide against us if the country stays on its current path unabated. Of course, God is big!
Fred & Jody Lybrand
P.S. Yes, we hope this indirectly advertises and supports our efforts…so we can keep writing and speaking.
HERE’S THE LINK TO SIGN UP AND SEE All 5 Videos: http://www.advanced-writing-resources.com/
I want to encourage everyone to avoid underestimating the value of feedback in learning anything (especially writing). It is so important that you can simply rest on the fact that without feedback there is no learning. Imagine a golfer NEVER KNOWING where his shot lands, or never hearing a putt go in the hole. Learning the sport becomes impossible. Public speakers almost always improve if they have folks critiquing them (or can watch themselves on video). A singer cannot possibly stay on key (or improve) if she NEVER HEARS her voice or the other instruments. These are all FEEDBACK mechanisms.
Now, since writing is about the scariest thing anyone can do (it is permanent…written…can be passed along), we rarely seek feedback without some significant growing up! Since we are educating our kids, we can just baste (cooking definition) them with it anyway! But, you must do it right (or, at least, right enough).
We have video training for giving feedback in the unique way we’ve designed (for grammar, punctuation, spelling, creativity, etc.), but let me tell you the essentials:
1. Use a RED PEN to mark things your student should improve (correct)
2. Use a GREEN PEN to mark things your student should do more of (encouragement)
3. When making suggestions use these exact words, “Does this sound better?”
4. Don’t overwhelm — Instead, please focus on one or two things at a time until mastered (example: Just work on capitalizing the first word in a sentence if that’s an issue).
P.S. Here’s where to learn more about us: www.advanced-writing-resources.com
The following was my response to an inquiry about a child who doesn’t know what to write during the writing part of the homeschool day.
Even though we don’t yet know the exact details (always best to find them out because each situation is different), I will throw out some additional thoughts to the excellent stuff several of you have posted.
In The Writing Course we explain how we can always write because everything reminds us of something. When kids don’t write it is almost always an issue of fear or control…not an issue of writing. If a child knows that he is just trying to write OK, and he knows that he can’t really think up what he is going to write before he writes it (this is in the course too), then all that is left is to learn how to make use of his own mind’s ability to associate. I show them how to use their own name.
I’ll use my middle name RAY (yes, I am Fred Ray…hey…born in Alabama) and come up with three words:
R – rollercoaster
A – airplane
Y – yarn
So, all I’ll do is start writing something OK involving those things.
Petula was always scared of rollercoasters. Even when she flew over the County Fair in her uncle Ceadric’s airplane and the rollercoaster looked very small and safe, she just couldn’t remember that feeling when she got near the ticket booth. Today was different. She was going to conquer the rollercoaster! Maybe it was the way the kitten played with the yarn, she couldn’t really say. But, she did notice that the kitten fell off the counter three times. After each fall it just climbed up again to win the prize. “If Tinker can keep trying for a ball of yarn,” Petula said in a squinted whisper, “Then I can ride a silly rollercoaster.” With that she grabbed her uncle’s hand and walked toward the booth holding a paper dollar she had gotten from her Hannah Montana wallet.
Well, you get the point. At the very least (if a child doesn’t know what to write) have him:
1. Do copy work (that will eventually motivate him to make up something more fun)
2. Write a description of something outside the window or of a couple of items in the refrigerator.
3. Use some of the other ideas mentioned in this group
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
You may not own our revolutionary course yet, but that’s totally cool. I just want to share a few thoughts that might be helpful.
I suppose in our hurried world we zip through information and zip through groups…on the way to feed our kids, love our spouses, read the Word, help at church, get some exercise….whew!
The Writing Course is going to get better…AND…what I’m recognizing is that there is a more strategic role I can play with helping families succeed (and excel). As with your children, what we want to stress is:
1. We can’t start with perfect, but we can start 2. The best place to start is with something that’s “OK” (Great comes later) 3. Learning means improving; that’s the mindset we all need to cultivate
You can actually have two families follow the EXACT SAME CURRICULUM, but each one will have different results. The reason is that the ENVIRONMENT you establish has and effect on everything.
That is the greatest secret of The Writing Course …it is a system (with really important information too) that cultivates effectiveness and confidence in writing.
Yet, the same kind of strategy goes with our homes, and marriages, and parenting, and crisis management.
When you learn how to build a system that works (and that you don’t have to waist energy thinking about), you can see an even greater result!
My focus is shifting to broaden in service to those who want the help.Yesterday I coached a lady with some amazing challenges with kids who have both health and LD issues. As we talked, it became obvious that if she could start school on time every single day, her life would become much (much) more tolerable. It is easy to say to someone, “Well just do it.” Instead, I showed her an exact strategy (designed for her situation) that will produce starting on time every day as she follows it.
Now, maybe it won’t work, but I’ve been doing this stuff for 30 years…and, honestly, I know how to make it happen :-). Even better, I know how to make adjustments too! This is the stuff I coaching with… “the system is your solution.”
This is the kind of thing I want to broaden and help with—because, even if you buy the write curriculum, the wrong set up around the kids will neutralize (largely) the impact. In fact, any curriculum you buy can suffer the same fate.
Imagine having a group meet in your home. The aim is to have everyone get to know one another by laughing and sharing fun stories from growing up. The food is great and there’s a talented facilitator you hired (who is also a great storyteller). THE PROBLEM is that all the chairs must face outside of the circle toward the walls. It wouldn’t matter how hard you tried, the ‘set up’ simply wouldn’t support what you wanted for the gathering. THAT’S WHAT SYSTEMS & STRUCTURES ARE ALL ABOUT.
On The Writing Course (it’s discounted just now)—you all have my word…if you buy it (or already own it)…I’m going to take care of you! Those of you who have been with us for the past decade already know it and often send the coolest letters about the change in your child as a writer. You also know it’s the 3rd / 4th time through that starts to really launch a lifetime writer.
Fred LybrandP.S. Just to stress the point…there is a misspelled word in here somewhere. That means this little blog is just OK (not great). And yet, you still can read the sentence and understand what I’m getting at. I’ve found wanting kids to write EXACTLY RIGHT is the most common way to throw water on a young writer’s fire.
Weekly I get a note or a question that sounds like one I received today, “Biggest challenge—being able to correct my student’s writing myself. I know what sounds good, but I am not a writer.” What great honesty, and how common it feels to all who don’t see themselves as writers. If you know what sounds good you are about 80% there already.
Of course, my conviction is that most of the punctuation and grammar training is killer our joy and effectiveness in writing. I feel, sometimes, I’m on a one-man-mission to help people return to the love of writing [you can see my rant against grammar in the article called Why Studying Grammar Hurts Writing].
As a parent you have great motives and surprisingly wonderful insight on your child and his or her writing. Frankly, you taught them to speak…not too shabby for just hanging around and discussing what’s for supper and why the neighbors don’t like you!
Here’s what you can do about correcting a child’s writing:
Well, that’s the idea. You have so much to offer…but really, it is when your child starts correcting him or herself that everything jumps to a new level. In the meantime, you are far more helpful than you think. We even have our own children grade each other from time to time (it’s that helpful)!
Hope this helps,
I picked up the following comment from a forum related to a homeschool curriculum we use.
If you skip to the bottom (my response), you see a simple reason to start writing BEFORE studying grammar.
My son is almost 12, and was a reluctant writer until he did Fred Lybrand’s Writing Course.
He used to do anything to avoid putting pencil on paper.
We went through the Writing Course back in August/September.
It’s November, and my son just finished writing his first novel of 28 chapters.
He’s about to start the “Make it Better” step by going back over it, and putting it into the computer.
He’s also thinking about splitting the chapters right in the middle of the action,
so that his reader won’t be able to put it down (like so many of the books he’s read).
He spends about 20-30 minutes per day writing, without any coaxing or interference from me.
I can hardly believe it. Thanks to Dr. Lybrand.
At this point, I’m not pushing him to do any more than that 20-30 minutes because he is now doing it because he wants to. As he gains confidence in his writing ability, I may push him along, but I’m hopeful that he’ll do it of his own accord. I just don’t want him to
go back to hating to write, which could happen if I push.
Along with “The Writing Course”, we also received “The Essay Course”,
which Fred recommends that we do at age 13-14 I think. Until then, I feel that we’re on a good track for now, letting him write about whatever he wants for 20-30 minutes per day.
“The Essay Course” will get him ready for college, when that time comes.
I feel like I can relax, and just let him blossom as a writer on his own terms for the time being.
Thanks Fred & Jody!
Thanks so much for all your kinds words. Your son is not an exception with our course, but he certainly is on the path to being exceptional!
The problem most of us have with writing and helping our kids write is that we have been taught by the schools to work backwards.
Far better to write and then learn grammar (if you must ;-)…just like we do with talking.
Recently, I was speaking with a friend who is a musician. It struck me in the conversation how foolish it would be to make children learn Music Theory before they ever pick up an instrument.
This is the exact mistake we make (and a few others)— We try to teach them Language (Grammar) Theory before we really let them just learn to make a little music first!
Again, thanks for sharing how we’ve helped a little.
Fred (and Jody) Lybrand