Frankly, we know, the more we teach kids to obsess on correctness in grammar and writing…the worse they write and the less motivated they are (oh no…did I end with a verb thingy?).
If you want to grow a fine writer, then help them find their voice. Here’s a starter kit of the point!
Off to learn,
Fred Ray Lybrand
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
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
Thanks for this question…I’m quite sure you are not alone. Writing isn’t connected to talking a lot (in fact, most of the studies give the advantage to the introverts…it seems the extraverts don’t won’t to write it down if they’ve gone ahead and told it to someone!), though there are exceptions everywhere. The problem when people are quiet is ALMOST ALWAYS that they are attempting to figure out how to say the right thing before they speak. This is really an impossibility since the mind can only plan about 7 words ahead (this is all in one of the lessons in The Writing Course ). Here’s my thought for your son (who does need to get talking more)…he needs to use both hands. Talking and quiet are both parts of our personality. Talkers need to learn how to hush, and quiet folks need to learn how to speak up. This is what I mean by using both hands. We are all basically either left or right handed…but we can learn to use the non-favored one. Emerson observed that the greater part of courage is having done it before…so, I’d just get him talking. If you know a book he likes, have him read it aloud to you some everyday. Have everyone at dinner tell something that was fun (or funny) from the day. Anything that gets him talking and learning that he doesn’t have to have the perfect words will help. He likely just needs to realize that the world doesn’t end when he talks. Of course, he will never be the talker you daughter is (I’m guessing here). With talking…some is good, more is better (in his case). As to writing…he needs to be doing copy work if he isn’t writing his own stuff (10 is still usually a little young for much writing). On the other hand, he can write single sentences that are OK (that he makes up). He must be pointedly discouraged from writing GREAT sentences. He must first learn to write OK…and get great later on. Is this a help? God bless, Fred Lybrand P.S. If you don’t make it a practice, please hug your children together at the same time (not separately as much)…this makes a big difference, but I’ll have to explain it some other time. www.advanced-writing-resources.com Grading Help: