Saturday, September 24, 2005

Teaching Writing Controversy

Here is an example of a teaching philosophy that is controversial. Perhaps the word controversial is too strong, but I can’t think of a better word right now.

The authors of the Writing Strands series say not to correct a child’s own writings, if they make a capitalization, spelling, or punctuation error. Okay, that sounded good when I heard it during their lecture at a homeschooling conference. But I am having trouble with actually doing it. I started both of my children on Writing Strands 2 (approximately a second grade level curriculum) this month. The idea is that if they fear making an error or being criticized for it they won’t love writing or may even hinder their creative process or be marred for life with a fear of writing.

From what I read from what others say, Charlotte Mason felt a child should never write something incorrectly as writing it wrong and seeing it written the incorrect way can cement that wrong way in their mind. I tend to agree with this as I am a visual learner. Hmm, this is a direct contradiction. What should I do??

Charlotte Mason felt that grammar studies should be held off until fourth grade. Last spring, when I saw that my then-second grader wasn’t using punctuation or proper capitalization in his spontaneous writing, I was horrified. This needed fixing. Reading on his own and seeing print everywhere didn’t do enough to teach him by osmosis as some claim does happen. Sigh.

So, last spring we began using First Lessons for the Well Trained Mind (FLL) by Susan Wise Bauer (first half is first grade and second half is second grade). Even my five year old is finding this easy. With this program they are learning proper capitalization as one of the first lessons.

I had shied away from FLL as three homeschoolers I know said they felt it was a horrible program. One day I was invited to the home of another homeschooler. This was an impromptu visit and we went to her home together. She did not have time to tidy up her home. I spied FLL on a table and asked if I could look at it. She agreed and added that she usually hides it when her homeschooling friends are coming. I asked why. She said that all her friends hate it and she is using it and really enjoying it, but was keeping “in the closet” about it! I thought this was hilarious.

I looked FLL over and thought it was something that would work for us. I ordered it immediately and have been using it ever since, with my older child. My younger son listens in and is learning all the concepts and even memorizing the poetry as well (without effort). So this fall I consider him officially using FLL as a curriculum for grammar.

There are heavy Charlotte Mason influences in FLL, even though the idea of teaching grammar to a first grader is not what Charlotte Mason recommended. The lessons are short; my children do most in five minutes. The child and mother are to repeat a definition, i.e. what a noun is, three times. This sounded goofy to me but my children did memorize this by the second lesson. The lesson content is organized into very short lessons which repeat frequently until it sinks in. There are stories which are to be read aloud and narrated back. There are detailed illustrations which are to be looked at and narrated back (picture study a la Charlotte Mason). There are dictation sentences to write and there is copywork.

Some feel the repeating of the definitions is patronizing. Some may feel the lessons are dumbed down. FLL is working for us and that is all that matters to our family.

I skip ahead in FLL when the concepts are mastered. I also skip the narration exercises as we do that in other areas of our curriculum and we don’t need to use that as the basis for learning how to narrate or exercising the mind with narration of that specific material.

Oh, and there are also light art and craft activities in FLL to go along with the poetry selections.

I am still having trouble letting them not write correctly with their writing composition. Here we are doing spelling and I want it correct but in their writing it can be incorrect? I am drilling them on proper capitalization in grammar but not in writing? I am drilling them in using proper handwriting in penmanship but not in writing? It seems illogical to me to not want them to do it right across the board. To do otherwise seems to contradict what they are learning in their other lessons.

So anyway, I am conflicted about it right now.

1 comment:

BlessedPrincess said...

Thanks for sharing your opinion about FLL...I have been curious about it as well. :)