There are many skills that are important for learning and becoming educated. Obviously there is communication, and of course, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (the Three R's). One of all of these stands out as the most strategic or leveraged. Please don't miss making this skill the first-and-last focus of all your homeschooling.
Fred Ray Lybrand
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
In a recent conversation about grammar and writing, I made the following point. Hope it is helpful.
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)
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:
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.
This is a post of an old rant of mind that I wanted to make sure was in my blog. Frankly, we know that the more one studies grammar, the less likely he will be able to write well (especially creatively). If we wake up and notice that grammarians don’t win Nobel Prizes in Literature we are almost home! Grammar study is fine for analysis (Bible / Literature studies), but it just simply slows the brain down. “Did I use a subjunctive there? Is that infinitive split? Are there too many prepositions? People learn best to write by writing!
So here’s my rant 🙂
What do you think?
Now even the UK is up-in-arms about the inadequacy of using standardized tests to access writing skills. Here are a couple of quotes from an article:
Head teachers fear some pupils in England have been graded incorrectly in a writing test that forms part of their national curriculum tests or Sats.
It also polled members in one local authority – Lancashire – where 47 out of 48 respondents reported “serious inconsistencies” in the way different papers were marked.
In June, a review of Sats by Lord Bew recommended the creative writing test should be scrapped and children’s creative writing skills assessed by teachers.
Of course, they are running into the same issues we face with our own SAT writing section. It is genuinely improbable that we will ever create a standard way to judge writing quality through a mechanical method. We attempt it with the supposed ‘rules of grammar and punctuation’—but if you spend any time studying and reflecting, you will realize that such things are not standardized. Actually, it is impossible to create a static set of rules for a fluid thing. Language continues to adapt and adjust and grow. Sorry, that’s just how it works. Language may be the only truly democratic thing on the planet (Thank you Rudolf Flesch for this point!). A writing course could be the answer, but wouldn’t it need to foster freedom instead of crush us by its rules?
If English had a static set of rules then wouldn’t we all talk like Shakespeare? Well, methinks I doth protest too much 🙂
Language is indeed fluid, and creative writers come up with even more cool-and-unique-to-the-moment ways of communicating things. You can rest assured that Shakespeare wouldn’t have written with the same ‘grammar’ if he were alive today. Or, stated plainly, if he had—we wouldn’t know who he is!
Isn’t it time for all of the stuffy grammarians to recognized excellence in writing on the basis of some other set of criteria rather than their own ‘approved’ set of rules? N.B. – I didn’t say, “Give up on excellence in writing.”
My suggestion? Go back to sound. Recognize language is an instinct in the same way music is an instinct. Pay attention. If people like a song…maybe there is a reason. If people like a writing style…maybe there is a reason for that too! In fact, could the reason be that it just sounds cool, whether it is grammatically approve or not?
What if we permissioned (cool use of a verbifying a noun that I’d get a D for in school) our own children to write, at least occasionally, in a way that just struck them as sounding great? What new writer with a new style might we gift to the world because of our kind empowerment to write in a fresh way (it will also possibly become the new ‘good writing example’).
Recently I ran a few of my sentences through a popular grammar-fixing software program…and I did poorly (a D 🙂
Next, I ran Faulkner and Hemingway through the same program…they did worse than I did!
Maybe the other experts will figure it out and we can have the creativity perfectly programmed out of us. In the meantime, why not join my expertise and help a generation of writers by encouraging them to write with their instinctive ear for what sounds how they want it read? Curse the rules…full Grace ahead!
Write well and write free,
P.S. Thoughts? Comment away…let’s think together.
P.P.S. If you found this helpful, you might want to know I have a whole curriculum available to teach children how to write by sound (instinct): It’s called The Writing Course
I have a terrible habit of not agreeing with folks very often. It isn’t that I disagree, but it is that I don’t agree completely. On the other hand, I occasionally find someone who says something I want to give everyone I see a hug about!
Michael Ellsberg wrote an article recently that clearly explains the problem with college writing (and frankly, the high schools can’t be left out because the teachers learned to write in college 🙂 Here are a couple of his points:
Knowing how to write compelling and persuasive emails, letters, memos, pitches and proposals sets you apart from the masses, who are mediocre communicators. It is one of the most effective skills you could develop for expanding your leadership and impact on the world—and for fattening your wallet.
Anyone hoping to learn writing should stay a thousand miles away from people who write in such a manner. That is, they should stay a thousand miles away from most university professors. Click Here for the Article
It doesn’t get much more exact and on target. His point is that the bureaucratic nature of education gives itself to a conformity in writing so that voice (my way of saying it) is lost. Whenever you are busy copying you are never original.
That really is all there is to it. Some silly notions about the ‘correctness’ of grammar and punctuation and style simply destroy both confidence and uniqueness in writing. Honestly, this is exactly why The Writing Course is so effective for those who dare to follow our wild ideas.
But do you need a writing course at all? Heavens no…you actually just need to write, especially if you are reading some well-written literature! Of course, if good minds give you helpful feedback, then you can learn at the speed of light.
Don’t avoid college, but do recognize it is a GAME that your child (or you) will just have to play. It is best to write like they want (the game) and secretly despise the lessons (despise in a proper and friendly way 🙂 they try to teach you.
Impactful writers are simply going to be rebels of a sort…but Oh how we will need you!
P.S. For a free video on how to give feedback to writers, click here: How to Give Feedback to Writers.