Sunday, February 13, 2011

Working on Writing Composition With My Fifth Grader

I worked with my 5th grader on writing about a nonfiction topic last week. He really protested and it became a battle of the wills. Then his attitude shifted, suddenly it got smooth he proudly showed me his writing (the third draft) which blew me away.

I had a moment of satisfaction that all would turn out geat for him due to homeschooling under my guidance.

Then I got suspicious and checked the source document. He'd committed plagarism despite us having discussed this in the past.
My son tried to convince me that because he didn't publish it to the public he did not really commit a crime (or do anything unethical). He apparently misunderstood our (months ago) talk about plagarism.

I had to explain plagarism again and how it is not allowed in middle school or high school and it could get one kicked out of college.

Then he made a case for seeking careers that did not (he thought) require writing such as being an attorney, and saying therefore that he had no need to learn to write well. I broke the bad news that lawyers do a lot of writing and have to read and interpret legal terms which are mumbo jumbo to laypeople.

He then shifted to say his main career choice is to enter the military and he feels all he needs to do is learn to shoot a gun, not write. I just shut up about that as with him anything I try to dissuade him from thinking about becomes the new obsession and the new goal. He's been talking about joining the military since age three or maybe two. He wants to pilot aircraft and to shoot guns in battles. We'll see what happens when he's older. But for now, he needs to practice writing composition more. Period, end of story.

(I note this is typical behavior for logic stage kids.)


dstb said...


Two years ago, writing was a chore for my boys. That all changed when we signed up for a homeschool writing class. They love the instructor and will do anything he asks - unlike when I gave them assignments. Things have changed so much, that my older boy (13) wants to be a writer.

The one area that still frustrates me is the shortcuts they try to take in their writing. They don't like to take notes and just want to write from the source material. We have talked again and again about plagiarism. I have checked their work against the source and so far things look okay, but I still think it is a bad habit to get into.

I don't know what to recommend for you. We tried IEW and my kids HATED it. I was about to start BraveWriter when we started going to the class. I think that the teacher has a similar style to BraveWriter.

As far as the military goes, see if you can find requirements for admission to the military academies. I am willing to bet they expect strong writing skills. If you want to fly planes, they want strong leaders. That would include people that are strong academically as well as ethically (no room for plagiarism).

Good luck! I don't know what it is with boys and writing....


Crimson Wife said...

You can tell him that my DH spent 5 years as an Army officer and there was quite a bit of writing required. His written evaluations could make or break his soldiers' chances for promotion. Additionally, many of the interesting career opportunities within the military require a written application in order for the solider to be considered.

The better his writing skills, the more successful he would be in the military :-)