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Real Writing!

Posted Feb 02 2013 11:19am

Sammy finished both of the first grade printing workbooks from Handwriting Without Tears. Towards the end of the second one, her enthusiasm waned. Since then, we’ve been struggling a bit. Most of the HWT work is done on double-lined paper and I noticed that Sam had a lot of trouble with single-lined paper so I decided it was time for her to start writing in a composition book. But what content would I use?

Well, we had gone back to First Language Lessons after all my complaining about memorization. It turns out that when Sam parroted back things to me and it seemed like memorization, it wasn’t so much that she had no understanding, but that she was rebelling against the question/answer method. It’s true that she doesn’t have a great understanding of common and proper nouns yet, but she does have some grasp of it. In later lessons, she showed me so. I’ve found that there are times when she just won’t answer an oral question from me, even when she knows the answer. I have not yet figured out why. Sometimes it seems like she won’t answer when it is too easy, sometimes when it is too hard. But I have a suspicion she just doesn’t like it when she is made to feel like I am the authority and I am testing her. I try to avoid that atmosphere, but in any Q&A method, it’s going to feel a bit that way.

I know she knows more than she lets on because sometimes I can trick her into revealing what she knows by making a game out of it or being silly. That doesn’t work every time because she sees through it, but occasionally I’ll get amazing answers out of her. Once I asked her to summarize a short story and her first response was, “Kengeng went to Fengbang and they went doodlie-doodlie-doo,” and then she started flopping around on the couch like a fish and giggling like a maniac. Then I did something or other that removed the tension, and she stated the essential from the story like it was nothing. There is much more in her head than she is willing to reveal.

Anyway, that’s why we are back to FLL. We’ve moved on through pronouns (which Sam loved) and are on to verbs. She likes to identify these words in all of her reading. There are more and more writing opportunities in the FLL lessons. We’ve been using those for printing.

But all of that is nothing compared to the most exciting development – Sam is beginning to write her own thoughts! She has always loved making up stories and role-playing. She does it orally for hours with her dolls and figurines, but her printing has never been good enough to keep up with her thoughts. Now, she can write a few sentences such as, “Sammy wint [sic] to the playground. Hayden wint [sic] to the playground. Hayden played on the swings.” I know it sounds like nothing, but it is a huge accomplishment for her to put together her thinking, printing, spelling, grammar skills to say something on paper. That is the purpose of writing, after all, right? I suspect that I won’t have to struggle  to find content to use for writing skills anymore. Sam is finally on the path towards writing in all of her subjects. (We’ll probably start cursive soon, before her thinking-writing connection becomes wedded only to printing.)

Right along with this achievement has come another explosion in Sam’s conceptual development. She understands all the science we’re doing and she is enjoying the story of history also. She isn’t very interested in math lately, but when she works on something, her understanding is much better. In fact, I think that she is less interested in math because she has gotten bored with the easy stuff we are doing. Sometimes she leaps forward so quickly, it’s hard to keep up.

I now consider Sammy to be in first-grade. Not that grade-levels matter at all in our homeschool. But I think of preschool and kindergarten as preparation for a conceptual education, and that’s mostly what we’ve been doing up until now. This writing is what marks the transition!

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