September 29, 2008


I gave the girls a freewriting exercise the other day. But to re-assure them that this would be fun, I participated too. Here's my silly, cheesy poem:

There once was a mother
With a very silent house.
The kids were together inside,
Yet you could have heard a mouse.
"I wonder what they are doing,"
said the mother in her head.
"When they play, they are usually loud,
But they must be making mischief instead."
Though she dreaded what she'd find
She continued on her hunt
To find the source of silence
And put and end to any planned stunts.
Imagine her delight when she finally saw
Two girls reading books; another writing about the sea.
The mother's heart was heart was happy
And she was smiling with glee.

Crazy, I know. But I've decided to shelve any and every language arts program. I'm just not happy with any of them. Partly because some of them seem so limiting and partly because I simply don't like them. I've decided to teach to my children's love of the written word, and let their English skills become stronger with gentle guidance and practice over time.

Part of my plan is to have a free writing exercise every week. Last week I gave them 10 minutes to write whatever they wanted however they wanted. They were free to write a poem, a story or anything else. I had ideas if they needed some help, but I knew their imaginations would take over. I don't normally play music during school because they find it distracting, but I popped in a CD of classical music (Shine soundtrack) to differientiate this writing time from all the other writing times we've had. I told them that there would not be any proofreading, no spell check--they were free to write quietly. At the end of the 10 minutes, they would read to each other what they had written.

To my surprise, 45 minutes later, they were still writing. This is how much my kids love the written word. That is why curriculum can be so limiting to us. To write as assigned would have squashed their freedom--their enjoyment--of the project.

Truthfully, every child approached this differently. Kenna and Mabry started with a drawing. Apparently art work stimulates their brains. Kenna then wrote a story about a lion, because that's what she colored. She invented most of her spellings, but that was fine.

Mabry drew a picture of the sun. She didn't care to add any color. And she didn't elaborate in her writing any. She only wrote three basic facts about the sun. The perfectionist in her was more concerned that everything was spelled correctly. So she kept everything simple so that it would be as perfect as she could make it. I know her imagination takes her farther than the sun, so we will be gently working on freewriting much more with her so that she can enjoy this process.

And Cayli...well, she wrote an entire novel. She loves writing! She didn't spend anytime illustrating her 3 pages of writing. But she was very thankful that she was able to write without focusing on spelling. Her brain thinks faster than her hand writes. If I demanded perfect or even corrected spelling, she'd never get anything on paper.

Later--maybe next year, maybe not--we'll really begin to focus on proofreading and editing and spelling correctly. I'm waiting a few years before introducing strict grammar (though we do some copywork and dictation exercises a few times a week--another post for another time). Right now, I'm only letting them thrive on the process of communication and I get to enjoy the results.

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