Monday, March 9, 2009

Producer vs. Consumer

I have recently been convicted about having my children be producers rather than consumers. Occasionally I use worksheets to teach my children some of our KONOS topics and have also used preprinted lapbooks. Some of the lapbooks I have used have wound up not being my children's work, although they did all or most of the cutting and pasting, but have simply been fill in the blanks answered from the teacher pages. No actual learning required or needed. I have also used workbooks for teaching grammar and writing.

For years I have "known" that in order to write well one needs to write. I have known that, but not put it into practice. I always hated writing. Hated making outlines, rough drafts and then having to make footnotes, endnotes or whatever. Can you tell most of my writing was only for term papers? I don't remember any writing assignments that weren't except for the ever so dull book reports accompanied by dioramas in grade school. Ten years ago I purchased Marilyn Howshall's booklets entitled Wisdom's Way of Learning. It really encourage me to throw out the grammar worksheets and get my children writing about what they know or about what they are learning, making their own notebooks and becoming proficient in writing while learning about something that interests them. Of course, I had already read Ruth Beechik's book You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully and The Language Wars and knew that great writers did not come about by the study of grammar. But grammar is so easy to teach for this homeschool mom. Just copy the worksheets and have the children fill them in, teach a grammar song or two and bam, you are done. However, this wasn't getting my children to write. In fact, you might think I was torturing them when I suggested a report on jellyfish or Mt. Rushmore or any other topic.

These last couple of weeks I finally bit the bullet and put away the grammar worksheets. We have been doing copy work and dictation for a couple of weeks which is not difficult for them as we have done that in years past. Last week, though, my assignment for them was different. On Monday my lesson plans called for a journal entry from Kaelan and Aaron as if they were a Pony Express rider. The entry must not be less than one hand-written notebook page. Wednesday's assignment was a journal entry as if on the Oregon Trail and Friday's was the same except as if a participant in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We have been reading aloud about each of these events and they have each devoured several books on each topic on their own. They had plenty of material on which to write.

My idea was to type as written each of their assignments leaving out capitalization and punctuation. They each wrote so much on the Pony Express that I dropped the other two assignments and we have been working on just the Pony Express assignment. With two having the stomach virus our time has been limited. Aaron and Kaelan both wrote about four pages each last Monday and declared them not finished! I got Aaron's typed up with no punctuation or capitalization and the incorrect spelling was left in. The misspelled words became spelling words for the week. He put in all the punctuation marks and capital letters and corrected the misspelled words on the typewritten page. Today he finished his story and I have completed the typed version. We still need to work on the paragraphs, but I am mighty pleased with his work.

Kaelan has completed her story as well. Last week we only worked on the misspelled words as she was sick for the last part of the week. I am very proud of both of them and want to let you all read what they have produced. I will post them later in seperate posts. This method takes more time on my part, but the outcome is much better than the many grammar worksheets that wound up in the trash each day.


Roan said...

I love your idea! I totally agree....writing makes writers, but man, those Easy Grammar books are so easy to use!
I am going to try your method soon....maybe next week?
Hope no one else gets sick.
I quit my co op.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas, Anita and I couldn't agree more. We have recently changed our grammar plans also. Actually, we were going to start in the upcoming year but why wait. I'm discovering more and more along my homeschool journey that I'm just not a textbook gal.

MelRae said...

Yay! The writing assignment sounds PERFECT. Exactly how we want it to go, right? Wonderful!

Laurel said...

Have you ever heard about Write Shop. After many years of looking, I found a writing program that I LOVE for middle school and high school students.

I've been a professional writer for over 20 years, so I'm REALLY picky about the Language Arts programs I've used for the kids.

mama of 13

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