I have been attending a conference for writers this week. Some of the attendees are published authors, while others are aspiring to write the unknown. This isn’t the first of these conferences that I’ve attended and I’m always happy to hear how many rules are actually breakable when it comes to grammar. The common reason people get stuck in the writing process is the same reason our kids get stuck- we don’t know how to say what we want to say. Or, to put it another way, we are afraid of breaking the rules from grammar classes, so we never get very far and we lose our train of thought.
We quit before we actually get going.
If we can learn a lesson from the writing pros, it’s that the rules are to be learned, then put to the side while we express our thoughts. When real writers write, they seem to get into a groove and just write. They have an ability to block out that side of the brain that tells them their sentence structure is weak, vocabulary could be improved, the theme doesn’t flow or that the opening sentence doesn’t mirror the clincher sentence well enough. What makes a good writer is the desire to communicate something and the training to temporarily turn off the editor in their brain long enough to get that thought onto the paper. During these brain dumping sessions, the whole goal is to just let your writer get her way. It can be super messy, but then you have something to work with and practice the skill of editing.
So how can we apply this practice to our homeschool? Many writing or grammar curricula attack it in two ways. First, the student is given writing samples to practice editing. This gives them the chance to find mistakes and improve someone else’s writing without the struggle of creating the content. Meanwhile, almost seemingly in tandem, they are given opportunities to practice putting pen to paper to write their own thoughts. If we can help our learners over the hump of frustration they may feel- whether large or small- then we can guide them through the practice of writing for the sake of writing.
Perhaps consider providing a journal or notebook where your kids can freely write whatever they’d like. Also, prior to a writing assignment, have a short talk about the frustration with trying to form a sentence perfectly the first time and encourage them to push through the hard moments, to give themselves space to learn. Lastly, give them freedom to craft, create, build, design, or other creative way to express themselves without limit. This applies to all kinds of art as well. What would happen if we stopped our kids when they were coloring because they weren’t staying within the lines, holding the oil pastel “correctly”, or blending the acrylic paints to the right hue?
What part of the writing process has been hard for you? What about your kids? Have you found ways to quiet the voice of the editor while the writer gets her thoughts sorted?