Pam Sorooshian wrote:
Good conversation is really writing development. Sometimes I see parents who kind of shush their kids or get obviously bored when their kids are telling them a rather long drawn-out story (like retelling a movie plot). But retelling a tv or movie plot or telling everything that happened, in order, in a video game are really great for writing. In fact, all that verbal stuff—conversation, summarizing movies, persuading or arguing, playing games, etc.—is MUCH better for developing good writing than practicing writing in the artificial ways that schools do it.
Originally at Unschooling Discussion (at the bottom of this set)
Comments were in response to a question about whether unschooled kids would ever write.
If you're comparing to things you see coming out of schooled kids, that's not fair because they're generally following a format or template provided by the teacher. And they're writing drafts, getting comments and suggestions by a teacher, and rewriting. And HATING every minute of it. And it is all mostly a big huge waste of time because the kids are learning that WRITING IS HARD and MISERABLE and nobody in their right mind would do it unless it was forced on them. THAT is the big lesson learned and, as Frank Smith says, when something is really learned, it is very very difficult to ever unlearn it.
"I thought you might enjoy Zach's blog. He writes about his passion - video games. Zach is fifteen and has been radically unschooled for three years." (written in early 2007)
—Chris in IA (Zamozo)
The writing there is exceptional. I read about games I'd never even heard of, and was swept up in the reviews. The internet might be full of well-written walk-throughs and reviews, but any parents worried about whether a child could learn to write without English classes should take a look. —Sandra
UPDATE, September 2012, from Chris, Zach's mom:
Here's an update on Zach and his writing: He's a senior at the University of Iowa (History Major) and he has a 4.0 GPA. He was appointed as a Writing Fellow and will be paid by the University to help undergraduates with their writing skills. Zach did not receive any formal writing instruction until he started college.
Kathleen in SoCAL, from a discussion on kids who write before they can read (read more of that here)
Kyra Traaseth in Duluth
Sandra Dodd in Albuquerque:
with water, on the hot tub
with chalk, on the driveway
Kelly Lovejoy wrote:
Cameron left school at 12. He swore to me he would never read or write again.
Something Joyce Fetteroll wrote when her daughter was younger:
My 7 yo daughter has rarely had a writing implement out of her hand since she picked one up at age two. We've gone through at least two cartons of blank paper for her drawings and writings. Her handwriting is still lousy, but not for want of practice at small motor skills or whatever. She spent 2 months in school and it improved then but slipped back after she left because right now it isn't an important part of writing for her. When she writes, the point is to get the thoughts in her head down on paper. (And don't get the idea she's writing Moby Dick ;-) They are very simple stories, notes, signs, sometimes just a label on a picture.) When she is writing, forming the letters in a standard way just interferes with that process. Writing "properly" is more like art and at the moment, she's more interested in other things. When she's interested in writing so others can read, or in more artistic handwriting, then she will do so. *My* part in the process is to provide opportunities for her to take up when she's ready. I make sure she knows the books on Italic handwriting are there for her, pull out the calligraphy books every once in a while, pull out the Magnadoodle and form letters with her occasionally (this is a *game*, I don't make her do it if she'd rather do something else). I did write out a bunch of fun personal words and names, one or more for each letter of the alphabet. Maybe I should have them laminated so she can play around with them and trace over them. She'll write well when she's ready as long as she has access to materials to help her, a helpful mom and she knows the process will be intriging and the skill useful or pleasing to her.If you want to read that paragraph in context with the rest of Joyce's response to someone's "yeah-but-what-about" question, it's here, and it has an update a sample of her 14-yr-old writing (handwriting and content too).
Joyce, in June 2011, in response to this question:
I have a son that will be 14 and doesn't like to write. How does this work in unschooling? We read lots of books on all kinds of subjects, but I am worried about his writing skills. Thanks for your input.Does he need to write right now to be better at being the 14 yo he is?
Does he write anything? Notes? Emails? Texts? Posts? Letters? If so, that's writing.
Does he talk? Does he ever explain or describe anything out loud? Writing is just talking with written words.
The reason writing is so hard in school is that kids are being made to write when they have nothing to say. They're writing about things they don't care about. (Book reports of books they were made to read. "My summer vacation.") They're writing to an "audience" who isn't voluntarily reading. Communication is moving the ideas in your head into someone else's head. How annoying to cobble together ideas you don't care about to put into someone else's head who doesn't care to have them!
What I'm doing here in this email is real writing. I'm writing about things I care about (unschooling and writing and how and why people learn). I'm writing to an audience (you and anyone else who reads this) who wants to know more about the subjects. If I'm unclear, someone will ask a question. If I clarify something that someone didn't understand before, they might give me feedback that it helped.
Writing *well* (as a published author does), like drawing well, like cooking well, like skiing well takes years of doing. But writing—eg putting thoughts into written words for someone who wants the information—is little different than speaking.
That's how any learning works with unschooling. 🙂
Holly Dodd posted this on MySpace in her "About Me." This is not at all formal writing, but it's a candid look at everyday use of writing of someone not "taught writing." Not having been taught doesn't equal never having had the desire and opportunity to ask for advice and clarification, but mostly she's learned to write by writing back and forth with friends on the internet. The example below is from December 2007 and she was lately sixteen.
Hll Lnn Ddd. I'm still deciding how to start this... I shower a lot. I dye my hair, but it's not because I don't love it. Which I do, love my hair. I've never been enrolled in school, and that's always been okay. I've lived in Albuquerque my whole 16 years of life, and I definitely dig it. I guess I kind of have two best friends. One's a little more legit, though. I love myspace but I probably love my hair more. I think Across the Universe is the greatest movie made lately. (and I think we've got some pretty good ones these days.) I will sing to you. All you have to do is ask. And sometimes you don't even have to do that. I like things pink and pink things, but not exactly for the color. I'm pretty sure I like the bands Queen and Say Anything in the same way. But in a good way. I question a lot of things in the world and in my life, but I do not question Family Guy. This is my second MySpace account. I wish my FriendID didn't start with a 1. I have a lot of plastic barbed wire. I believe the best kind of macaroni is macaroni with cheese. I hardly ever notice peoples eyes. And I guess the only Fruit Stripe gum I don't like is the blue one with the pink wrapper. I'm pretty international, and I think it's neat. A lot of people I know aren't local but I know a ton of local people too. I pierced my own ear with a sewing needle. I don't particularly like my toes... like, at all. It's hard for me to think of Jude and Jim Sturgess as the same person. I used to hate my own handwriting but the more I write the less I hate it. Aside from anything on MySpace- most of what I write is notes and quotes. I own a lot hats and clothing that I don't wear. But it's nice, because people can come to me if they need an exotic outfit or awkward hat. Not lately, but I used to hate three people. Now though, I'm casual friends with one, pity the other one, and sincerely don't care about the third. I tend to sleep late. Like, late. I try not to go or be where I can't have fun. I think I was in some kind of denial about growing up until about March this year. Now I like it fine. In general- I live a fairly drama-free life.
Marty, after Gina Trujillo (his cousin) posted an image and question about cartoon superheroes, one of Marty's specialties. Within his well-considered answer he wrote this:
In March, 2011, Holly Dodd (19) attended a six-hour workshop called Women and Creativity, on movement, emotion, memory and storytelling. She came back with a piece of writing. I have scanned the beginning and transcribed the rest.
I am sitting comfortably with a convenient, safe place to rest my face. Safe. On my father's lap. I can feel the heat from a fire. I can hear voices—I can recognize many of them. I hear singing. I feel singing. The vibrations of my dad's baritone voice through his wool clothing. His breath. Also the feeling of my face held against his medium-length beard, and half on the wool he wears. Sounds and odor of the campfire. The same as any before and many since. My mother's nearby laugh. Relating sparks from our fire to stars in the night sky. Being old enough to get jokes cracked between songs. Knowing it is not only ok, but expected of me, to fall asleep. Right here where I already am. My dad will tuck me in when he is done holding me, and it will hardly be my business.
This is also on a a page about sleep memories.
Seeing little clues of good writing (more unschoolers' samples, and commentary)
Title and background by Holly Dodd