Good morning everyone!
I’m back from Grand Rapids and the wonderful, enriching time I shared with the 33 women who attended. They came to the frigidly cold north from across the country: California, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and all parts Michigan. I’ve been mulling over how to describe and summarize the deeply satisfying weekend we shared together. I think the word I’d use is “personal.” It always amazes me that teaching about writing leads to personal revelation and reevaluation. As we looked at how mothers draw out the writers in our children, we confronted what ways we block the free-flow of their imaginations, ideas and words. We had to face the fact that sometimes we haven’t wanted to hear about the things that interest our kids, that we haven’t valued their thought lives because we feared they weren’t interested in the “right” things or “educational” things or that they were perhaps even treading next to what for some have been labeled “dangerous” things (video games, role playing cards, or fairies, for instance).
Yet by appreciating the rich complexity that is each child, by taking notes when they speak their meandering recitations of a movie or game they’ve played, of the way they built the snow fort in the front yard… we demonstrate that in fact what they think about deserves preservation on paper and that it ought to be shared with a larger audience than Mom. These kinds of insights led to memories about our own parents and the ways we’ve been validated and understood or dismissed and ignored. It was interesting to hear, for instance, one mom share that she and her siblings would never tell their parents about their changed religious and political beliefs because these would be unwelcome by their parents. It struck me that that unwillingness to share our real selves with our parents develops over a lifetime of feeling our thoughts and ideas don’t matter. What an opportunity we have to be different kinds of parents and writing partners!
Another mother shared with me that since her wonderful father died, she had lost her love of writing. It was as if that part of her had died – the part that shared who she was with her dad and the world. Through the weekend, she found the will and desire to express herself again and wants to provide that outlet to her children. Truly, our parents form and shape us for good or ill. We get to choose.
We talked about all the usual things: copywork, dictation, narration, revision, editing, freewriting. Yet through it all, a golden thread of tenderness and love for children wove these disparate language arts practices into a stronger cloth. Because the best writing advice is “write what you know,” we discovered that the best “teaching writing advice” is “know your writers.” And because we rarely bother to know something well without loving it, it occurred to me that a Brave Writer translation of these two principles might be:
Love your writers, so they will be free to write what they love.
In the end, this is not only how we learn to write well, but how we learn to know and love each other. Once again, writing becomes the conduit to self-knowledge, but also to loving relationships. There really is power in the word.
Thanks to all you lovely ladies who shared the weekend with me. I feel equally recommitted to, re-vested in my children and family.
Thanks for sharing with us this weekend. I think you stated it beautifully when you said “we discovered that the best ‘teaching writing advice’ is ‘know your writers.'” I also appreciated your advice, as a veteran homeschooler, in learning to let go of the expectations that a child should know something by a certain age. Thanks again and God Bless You!
Thanks for sharing the weekend with us, it sounds wonderful. Was it recorded? I’d like to attend vicariously through a set of discs!
It wasn’t recorded in the end. The building didn’t have the recording equipment. I hope to offer more workshops like these where moms invite me or as I find ways to host them here in Cincy. Great time.
I was one of the moms that had a hard time sharing my kids’s view on computer games (puzzle pirates) and fairies.
It was hard on Monday morning, to put aside the daily routine of doing our our “English curriculum” and for the first time, really listening to my 10-year-old son why he loves Puzzle Pirates so much. I asked him questions like “Do you mean…?” and “What’s that word mean?”, “How do you spell that word”? We ended up looking a couple of words in the dictionary with delight, which before, he would moan and groan in his English “curriculum”. When it was all over, I realized I forgot to write it down!! And when I told my son that we have done English for the day, he was shocked and then said, “That was fun!”
On Tuesday, I wrote it down! And typed it out. Tomorrow, we will revise one thing. Again, we both enjoyed the process.
My son is speech delayed. I remembered when Julie said that when they speak well, they will write well. So as I listened to him, I helped through his pronounciations and rewording his thoughts. I realized that by listening to him in what he delights in, he doesn’t mind being corrected. I foresee that his speech and thought process will improve over time.
These last two days was most satisfying.
P.S. I am still nervous breaking away from the routine.
Charity this is so awesome and I’m so excited for you and your son. What a big risk you took and how wonderfully well it will pay off. Isn’t it different to focus on the power of his language, the ability he has to tell you his interests rather than evaluating the interests themselves?
I’m so thrilled that the first day you forgot to write it down. it shows how attentive you were being to him. Then to write it the second day is just perfect.
Keep me posted. I’m very interested to hear your success as you move forward with your son. Truly, you have inspired me.
I have been so touched by this post.
Your statement about our unwillingness to share our real selves with our parents crystallized a vague feeling for me, that my feelings and thoughts hadn’t mattered. I have been reading The Artist’s Way and am trying to discover my own artist. I would love to write, (and am vicarously enjoying the Kids Write Basic course as a beginning!) but feel deeply that I have nothing to say.
I have typed out big “Love your writers, so they will be free to write what they love”. I am resolved to love this writer (as well as the young writers God had entrusted me to nurture) to be free to write what I love.
Thanks, as ever!
I just wanted to share with you my “one thing” that I have tried to implement since our workshop in GR. My son (11yo) has been a very reluctant writer (late bloomer in all of language arts). We have been between the “jot it down” stage and the “partnership” stage for quite a while. Then, out of the blue one day, he writes a “story” totally on his own in a little notebook. Wow! I was excited. I was glad to hear your analogy to “dress up” at the conference because my “gut” told me to leave that alone. I didn’t want to stomp out any initiative on his part! That’s for sure! Well, since I came home, I decided to try our first official “freewrite”. I explained the rules (no worries about spelling, grammar, etc.) I set the timer for 3 minutes (thinking that would be very long for him). First he said, “You mean you are going to write and I am going to tell you”. I said, “Nope. This time you get to write it down.” Much to my utter surprise, he picked up his pencil and didn’t stop writing until the timer went off! This is someone who avoids all writing altogether! I think the idea of freedom from rules helped tremendously. I am so grateful to have been able to hear you this past weekend because I may not have tried this until next year. I loved your analogy about training them to learn a new skill (like in gymnastics). I tried my “one thing” and can’t wait to incorporate your 8 weeks of freewrites. It is fun to see my son develop! Thanks again for the inspiration and encouragement! Grateful in Lima!
So true. Honesty and everiyhtng recognized.