Saturday, February 8, 2014

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully - Writing....

Our recent switch to Sonlight Language Arts has prompted me to get out my copy of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Ruth Beechick.  I've already outlined the Reading section of the book and today I will focus on the Writing section.  Dr. Beechick breaks the writing section into six parts, these being Learning to Write, Write!; Writing Lessons; Scale to Writing Quality; The Mechanics of Writing; Spelling; and Usage and Grammar. 

Dr. Beechick states, "Writing is the other side of reading.  Reading is receiving language and writing is producing it."  I believe this to be true, hence the reason we love to read great living books.  Children who read rich literature will speak, write and communicate more effectively.  Children learn to speak by listening and speaking; listening and speaking.  Beechick suggests the same is true for written language.  She states, "They must read and write; read and write....And while you read or after you finish a book, if you have a personal response of some kind, and write, your mind grows even more.  You clarify your thoughts.  You develop new ways of thinking.  The is education, ongoing." 

I have started this process of journaling thoughts as I read, marking down specific passages and quotes, and rewriting ideas in my own words.  It's proven to be quite effective.  But keep in mind, this is nothing new.  Benjamin Franklin used this method of learning to write.  He tells in his autobiography how he taught himself to write.  After reading works he admired, he outlined the essays, then put the outlines away.  Returning to them in a few days, he then attempted to rewrite the original articles from his outlines. So basically, he read great essays and then tried to reproduce them himself. 

I appreciate Beechick's view on writing curricula.  "When you use real books and real writing, you won't have much need for textbooks, and particularly workbooks.  Your children should spend more time writing than learning about writing."  This is very much in line with Charlotte Mason's view of composition, in which she says, "composition comes by nature".  In The Original Home Schooling Series: Home Education, Volume 1, Mason states, "Our business is to provide children with material in their lessons, and, leave the handling of such material to themselves.   If we would believe, it, composition is as natural as jumping and running to children who have been allowed due use of books.  They should narrate in the first place, and they will compose, later, readily enough but they should not be taught 'composition'."  Mason does give further instruction on composition later in that same volume as well as Volume 6.  But I digress.

On page 66 of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, Beechick writes, "If you think you understand something or think you have an opinion about and issue, try writing it in essay form for someone else to read. You will discover a lot about your thinking that you didn't know was there, including, possibly, gaps in knowledge that you have to look up as you write.  So learn to use writing in all your children's subjects; don't reserve it for language class."  I love this and find it so true!  There have been times in the past when I was writing blog posts only to find that I really didn't know what I was talking about and needed further research. : P

In Chapter Six, Beechick does give writing lessons.  But, she states, "These lessons will have served you best if you get ideas from them to continue this kind of wholistic language teaching using literary models that you choose."  She further references Benjamin Franklin's self-teaching method.  In Chapter Seven, Beechick also gives samples of four kinds of writing (describing, narrating, explaining, and reasoning) at three different age levels.

In Chapter Eight, Beechick gives a basic grammar guide illustrating some mechanics of writing.  She also discusses handwritten versus typed papers and penmanship.  Beechick addresses three approaches to spelling in Chapter Nine.  She discusses Grammar and Usage further in Chapter Ten. 

After sorting through this writing section of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, I was pulled back to another Beechick book, A Strong Start in Language.  Though this little gem is geared for parents teaching kids in grades K-3, there is a section toward the beginning of the book titled, What You Do in a Lesson.   Here, Beechick gives a list in brief of "the levels of difficulty from easy to hard that you can use in your lesson plans".  She states, "You can see from this list that the range of difficulty can take you from kindergarten or first grade through the Benjamin Franklin level".  The list starts with tracing then copying a model letter or word and works up to deciding what form you will use - essay, poem, letter, or other - then writing your thoughts for someone else to read.  The list flows from writing a word to phrase to sentence to paragraph, using dictation. 

So what have I taken from all this?  Well, we will continue to read great living books.  I aim to be more diligent in expecting narration.  I have also encouraged the girls to keep a "Book of Mottos" or "Common Place Book", where they copy quotes and write thoughts as they read.   This practice was used by scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries including Charlotte Mason and Thomas Jefferson.  Through Sonlight Language Arts, I've started dictation with Riley and it's going very well.  She actually really likes it and wants to continue so this is a bonus :)

What natural methods have you used for writing?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas....

No comments:

Post a Comment