Our Writing Journey

If you’ve been following my blog for some time now, I’m sure you’ve heard me grumble and mutter about the difficulty I’ve been having teaching my daughter to write well.

What’s really depressing, to me, is that I love to write!  I’ve been writing in a diary since I was nine years old, so to find myself having to fight my nearly eleven year old daughter to write has been quite frustrating.

When my daughter was six years old, she had such an amazing imagination that I encouraged her to write her stories in a composition notebook.  I didn’t care if the handwriting was messy, spelling was awful, and the grammar bad!  I just loved that she wanted to write.  She even drew pictures beside her stories!  I loved it!  I encouraged it!   So where did I go wrong?  What happened to my imaginative child who actually appeared to like writing at such a young age?

I think this is where I have to say following all those “rules” really made it a chore and took the fun right out of it for her.  At least, that is my guess.  When we started learning grammar, proper capitalization and use of quotes, etc. it really made her feel like she had to write and had to remember all the rules that it was just too much!  It literally took the fun out of it.  Her wanting to write kinda poofed!  Sad, really.

So what did I do?  I slowly stepped back and tried to give her the freedom to write, if she wanted to.  It’s been hard, really and truly.  I feel it is really important to know how to write a proper essay, how to properly punctuate sentences, etc.  She needs to have these tools.  It is important.

How does one balance the creative side and the necessary requirements for the future without making the creative process such a chore that it becomes completely and irrevocably no fun!?

I honestly struggled with this –still struggle with this!

When I noticed my daughter was interested in writing lyrics to instrumentals she’d heard, I thought that was so neat!  I told her so and I grabbed some poems and poetry books and introduced her to Emily Dickenson, William Wordsworth, and a great many poets.  I thought if I showed her that lyrics were a lot like poetry, she might come to see the creative side of writing.  Maybe it would spark her interest in writing again! I tried explaining that what she was creating could be seen as poetry!  I even told her if she wrote a bunch of songs, we could put it together into her very own poetry book that we would design and bind together.  She seemed excited about this –at first.  And then… ugh…. She just stopped being interested in doing this.

Once we began to do more poetry together, she got annoyed and lost interest.  She still writes the occasional lyrics –on her own, but won’t do assigned work or to do it towards a project like creating a book of poems.

So if I see she has an interest in something, I can’t keep jumping in there and trying to turn it into something educational or it quenches her interest in said subject.  What a conundrum!

Frustrating, I tell ya!

This child loves to read.  Absolutely loves to read!  But only if the topic is of interest to her.  If it’s about cats –she’ll read it!  It has dragons?  She’ll be hooked!  Fantasy genre?  Yup!

Several months ago, I heard her typing away at her computer.  I noticed “chapter 3” written at the top of her word document.  I said nothing.  She doesn’t hide things, but she seemed adamant on not letting me in on it.  Perhaps in fear that this momma would turn it into a “school” thing.  Poor kid!

After a few days, she confided in me that she was writing a story.  I was thrilled and so wanted to read it, but I held my tongue and smiled and told her how great that was.  I didn’t push. At. All.  On her own, she asked if I’d be interested in reading and I said that I would be delighted to read her story!!

It was so incredible to see her creative side again!  Yes, there were tons of grammatical errors and punctuation errors, etc. but I did not make a peep.  I told her I really and truly enjoyed the story and couldn’t wait for the next chapter!

Every time she got more written, she would invite me to read it and I told her each time how much I enjoyed it and can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Then one day she asked me how her grammar was.  Hmmm should I tell her?  Dare I say anything?  I didn’t want to ruin this!!  I point blank asked her what she was looking for –the truth?  She said yes!  So I pointed out a few small things that would make it easier to follow conversations in a story.  I told her to bring her favorite book to me.  I showed her how in her book conversations from different people were written on different lines so as to make it flow better, and be able to differentiate who was talking, etc.  She nodded and said thanks.

The next time she had me read some more of her story, she had incorporated that technique and I was better able to follow what was going on in her story!  And I told her as much!  She was so pleased with herself!!  She even went back and fixed what she had already written.

Wow!  Could I be on to something?  Could this be working?  All I needed to do was take several thousand steps back and just let her be?

And this is how it’s been for a couple of months and she is still writing!

I do feel pretty strongly about teaching her how to write a proper essay and the tools she’d need eventually for writing research papers.  I feel it’s important to know how to do this, but I have not been able to find a curriculum that would work for us.   It seemed that we got the creative aspect down pat, but how would I go about getting her to summarize narratives and then write essays?!

Summarizing without copying word for word was something I hadn’t realized was an issue until recently!  Oops!  We had some backpedaling to do.

A good friend pointed out Writing With Ease.  She’d been using level 2 book with her daughter and was really liking it, so I decided to give that a try.  And O M G!  Due to not having to write much, the child actually didn’t mind or argue or cry or fight me with this!!  So, between her independent creative writing and the WWE we’ve been making great strides!  I went ahead and picked up Writing With Skills level 1 and truly hope we leap into that soon.  I am not rushing though.  We’re not anywhere quite ready to tackle that.  All this progress and the last thing I need is to make this a war again!

I have also come across one other literature curriculum that has really brought about the love and appreciation for writing that I would like to talk more about but I will leave that for another post.  It definitely deserves a post of its own!

I just wanted to share our writing journey.  It really has been quite the roller coaster ride with my oldest!  I’m sure it’s not anywhere near over and I’m sure it will continue to be a challenge but I feel that what small progress we’ve made is actually quite a large learning experience for both of us.

Sometimes a little less hand holding and more space might be necessary.  Sometimes letting someone explore on their own can be helpful.  It is wise not to react like it’s the end of the world if your child hasn’t mastered something that everyone else at this age has already mastered.  And the most important thing:  Just breathe.  It’ll all be OK!