Email: What if they don’t like tea, poetry and copywork?
Mary, a Brave Writer Mom, expresses a question that deserves its own post:
Hi Julie! Thank you for all your energy, attention and passion you put into Brave Writer. I have been following you and your method for a couple of years. I love the copywork/dictation piece especially. I saw your one-thing workshop too. Every time I read about the benefits of copywork/dicatation I think, ‘Great!, but how?? through osmosis??” I have 3 boys (12,10,8) and they would rather be doing anything but schoolwork or anything that remotely looks like schoolwork. We have gotten into a nice routine and do C/D at least 3 times per week- they don’t like it but do it. Also, we’ve been sharing more poetry about 1x per week (no tea involved, sometimes popcorn or the local bookstore) and again, they ‘just don’t like poetry, sorry mom”.
I feel good about that consistency and just hope that it all pays off in the end. In my more positive moments I look at them blissfully and think what a wonderful life they have; but then in the next moment I am in a panic that I am ruining their chances of happiness and earning a sustainable, independent living.
I felt compelled to write to you and know you understand. Through your blogs you seem so much more confident in the process, I just wish I didn’t fall into the abyss so often.
Would welcome anymore words of wisdom…..
Thank you again!
These are real concerns and I admire your sincere and consistent attempts to make copywork, dictation and poetry meaningful to your boys. Sounds like they have been faithfully following your lead in spite of not loving it. I’d certainly tell them how much you appreciate that!
Since they’ve been at all three for awhile, it may be time to take a break. Perhaps you can “turn the tables” and do what they’d love to do three times a week for a bit. Would they prefer to play Quiddler (a wordy card game) or do reverse dictations for awhile? What about just playing board games for a bit: Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Zooreka? Would they like reading joke books instead of poetry? How about listening to a book on tape at teatime rather than poetry? Maybe they need to get outside, hiking in nature, jotting down birds or plants they see in a list (copywork) rather than holding a book open and copying the words on a page.
One of the things I’ve noticed with my own kids is that while routines comfort me, they become redundant and boring to kids. So I try to break things up. We might go a month or two without any copywork at all after a period of doing copywork nearly daily. I’ve taken a month to do drawing each day instead of any writing. Poetry has always been a favorite here so that hasn’t even been one to drop. However, my older kids had a much stronger passion for Shakespeare than my younger two. So each time I’ve tried to read Shakespeare stories with these two, they just haven’t been interested. So we’ve gone to see plays instead of reading them aloud.
Ask your kids what is missing from their days.
Do they want to flip school upside down? Start the day with videos or computer games and do their handwriting after lunch or in the evening (if that’s a realistic choice for you)? I remember when Noah was little, the babies and toddlers made it hard for him to focus in the mornings. So for a period of time, I did his math with him at night after the little ones were in bed.
Is there something they want to learn or do (whatever that is) that is crowded out by other schoolish activities? Find out what that may be. Sometimes it has its own value that relates to these other goals. Liam created a notebook that had an imaginary island chain in it. Each map had a key and a flag, as well as descriptions of topography, climate, produce and exports. He hated copywork at this time, but was willing to write down about half of these items each time we worked on his island project. I wrote about half the time. We worked on it several times a month for one school year.
The idea here is to keep experimenting with new venues, new options, trusting the overall thrust of your time with your children to be the good that they need.
Remember how critical your kids’ own input is to a successful home education.
There is no law that requires them to do copywork from a book every day. If they don’t love it, minimize it. Give it a good stretch and then a good break. Get involved in their interests – let them teach you how to play pokemon cards or a computer game or how to throw with a lacrosse stick. Learn to knit or build a fire in the fire place from scratch. Go back to jotting down their thoughts for a bit to remind them how valuable those words are to you. Let them keep a list of funny jokes or presents they want for their birthdays as a way to keep writing.
I hope other moms will share ways that they have created some space around practices that their kids don’t love. Each year your kids will present you with new challenges and new opportunities based on their interests and tastes. It takes a lot of love and energy to meet that demand. But I know you can do it. You’re the adult, after all!
Julie that was a WONDERFUL response and one I am printing off for my Bravewriter binder! I do want to suggest to Mary something that I have learned about my boys. They love silly and sometimes gross. So I’ve found a couple of books about manners that I’ve used intermixed with poetry to keep their interest up. And I’ve even had them do copy work from them. Great literature pieces? Probably not but usually the “manner” that I’m trying to get across to them “sticks” in a silly or gross way. Some of the books I recommend: “Are you quite Polite” and “Whoopi’s Big Book of Manners”. A couple of poetry resources that my boys enjoyed include Peter, Peter Pizza-Eater, A Kick in the Head, I did it Because…”. Also sometimes it’s the form of poetry, my son didn’t get excited until we hit Haiku and we found a computer game where you solved the Haiku poem. He really learned to appreciate that from of poetry and enjoy it. And I so agree with you routine is so much easier for us but usually boring for the kids and that doesn’t mean it has to be more work for you, get them to do a lesson plan or two based on what they want to do. You will really enjoy their insights and they will learn to appreciate the work that goes into planning! I find if we do some of what they want they are more willing to do some of what I want. I just sat down with my oldest and we made a list of what he wants to learn next year, I found it very enlightening!
Definitely suggest Jack Prelutsky with boys around and when you do tea–make it creamy and have plenty of cookies!! (mine like Maria cookies to dip in their tea!)
One of my boys favorite Prelutsky poem is “The Turkey Shot out of the Oven.” What a hoot!
Another tea alternative is coffee flavored milk, using Coffeetime syrup.
I 2nd the notion of having great food at the table! We make special treats which aren’t allowed until teatime. Or I buy some. Those hungry teens are more than willing to get to the table to eat something decadent!
Some of their favorite poetry has been from JRR Tolkien’s books, music lyrics, pulled out of magazines, invented…on the spot even…and of course from our book collection.
I think the whole reason that they like teatime so much is that I like it and make a fuss over cleaning up the table for that special teatime. I won’t answer the phone during teatime and that helps them to feel like they really are the most important part of my day right then. It is a quiet and settled time during our week–which is in contrast to much of our week. I really listen to them during teatime in a way which I can’t always. Most of our conversations happen while my body is very busy…cooking, cleaning, planning, knitting, driving. Teatime gives them undivided attention and they crave that! We actually get to look each other in the face! Imagine.
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