Julie Bogart

Sandra's post about Kirby in college English made me think a bit about the issues of how
we might encourage our kids to grow in the mechanics of writing without resorting to
schoolish tactics of spelling tests (horrid things), forced writing or laborious work sheets.

When a child loves to draw, we don't immediately intervene and suggest how to fix the
wrong lines or say how what is drawn doesn't resemble the object drawn. We usually
praise what we see as an act of self-expression and then stick the picture on the
refrigerator with a magnet.

If the child continues to show interest, you might enroll her in an art class at some point
(to develop some of the skills that make drawing more pleasurable and to learn other
media). Or you might purchase an art book or drawing book like _Drawing on the Right
Side of the Brain_ to help a stuck child (a child who suddenly hates that her work doesn't
look like the item she wants to draw) to get over the hump.

For some reason, writing has been so ruined in school for so many of us, that unschoolers
are often reluctant to give the same kind of support to the growing interest in writing that
kids exhibit. Growing as a writer doesn't have to be schoolish at all!

But learning a bit about how to use punctuation, discovering new ways to write interesting
openings for a live journal or a story, understanding how to create vivid word pictures or
analogies—these skills enhance the enjoyment of writing as well as the sense of
achievement in the finished product.

My own approach to writing with my kids has been focused on supporting their forays into
writing (not creating artificial writing assignments). We've done lots of freewriting, we've
kept copywork books (where you write down your favorite poetry, song lyrics, passages
from books that you want to keep, refrigerator magnet quotes, etc.) and we've written
stories and keep live journals and send letters and all kinds of stuff.

I've done a variety of dictation styles with interested kids (only the ones who enjoy it)
drawn from books they love to read. I even make my own dictation sheets called reverse
dictation where I leave all the punctuation out of the passage, misspell a few words and let
the kids try to edit the page. They get a penny for every correction they make that works.
(They love this.) The problem with dictation is if it becomes a rigid practice that is "done"
to the child rather than the fun of having this puzzle called "a written passage" that is
needing punctuation supplied by an interested child. It ought to be a game, not a

We also pay twenty-five cents to any kid who finds a typo in printed matter (local
newspapers can cost you quite a bit, lol). It keeps them attentive to what they read and
they love to "catch" errors made by paid professionals.

Language and grammar and punctuation are games in our house and part of becoming a
literate adult. But there is nothing heavy-handed about it. It's as natural as supplying new
art pencils and paper, models and still lifes to draw. It's as natural as playing games that
capitalize on math skills or scientific principles.

Julie B