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Jenny in GA
08-19-2009, 11:59 AM
My oldest child is eight and just started third grade. Her handwriting is neat. She can tell some pretty good stories -- you can read the first two chapters of a story she dictated to me here (http://beanmommyandthethreebeans.blogspot.com/2008/12/our-guest-writer-for-today.html)and here (http://beanmommyandthethreebeans.blogspot.com/2008/12/our-guest-writer-continues.html).

The problem is that she is practically unable to write down anything herself.

For example, we've been doing a unit on earthquakes, and she had to write a letter to a friend as if she'd just experienced an earthquake.

This was very hard for her, even though she was excited about the idea. In fact, it took her two days. She really struggled and kept asking to stop, but I kept prodding for her to continue. (At least 3-4 times.)

Finally, after all that, this is what she wrote:

I am going to tell you abawt how I srvivd in the sanfinsiscow erthquak. me and my sistr we stil in bed wen I hrd a rumbling sownd. I thot I hrd 1000 fire cracrs, but wen I lookd owtsid my window it lookd like the was on the oshin. I told sistr abowt the erthquak and we ran down the stares and tolld are parins and then we all ran outside with are favorit stuf.

Now, when I was in third grade, I remember writing things that were about three times that long, and my spelling was definitely way better. (And it was easy for me to do so.)

At the beginning of fourth grade, I remember we all had to write a page in a journal every day. It wasn't even really an assignment; it was more like a "warm-up" while the teacher took attendance and stuff.

What is "typical" for early third grade level? Frankly, I would be embarrassed for anyone to see that. They would probably think, "Poor girl is homeschooled and she can't even write or spell."

Are my expectations too high? Too low?

More importantly, what can I do to get her to practice this kind of stuff more, but without making it miserable for her? BTW, we are in Level Two of All About Spelling, which we both enjoy.

ami*
08-19-2009, 12:11 PM
Hey Jenny,

My son is almost 8 but only in 2nd grade (October birthday). It is a HUGE struggle here. Yesterday I had him write a few vocabulary words & definitions that went with our unit study, a sentence about what he learned from the story of Icarus, and he did copywork (a Bible verse).

Anyway, I decided a few things after posting a plea on Facebook. ;)

1. I am going to pay him one Hershey kiss for each vocabulary word he does without needing my help.
2. Copywork is just copywork. We've done it since K and he can keep at it since it isn't a problem. :) I expect 2-4 sentences per day right now. I hope to bump it up to 6 sentences/day by the end of the year.
3. I am gathering ideas for writing games. We did one today (http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/?p=360), and it was SO MUCH FUN for both of us.

I am watching friends who homeschool really struggle to get their 4th & 5th graders to write even one paragraph per day. :/ I don't want to end up in that boat! I think those of us who use unit studies might need to consider adding more writing practice in other areas because our kids just don't get the daily hand workout that other kids (with worksheet happy teachers) get.

I'm not saying our students need to be on the exact same track as every other 2nd or 3rd grader on the planet, but we should definitely be moving to the point where a paragraph comes without groaning and gnashing of teeth. ;)

I don't know how I would handle the spelling, etc. Elijah is a perfectionist to the 10th degree and asks me how to spell a word if he can't. I'm sure someone else will have more wisdom on this.

Jenny in GA
08-19-2009, 12:42 PM
Thanks Ami.

Something interesting to add:

A few months ago I had posted on an elementary teacher forum asking some questions about what a day in a school classroom was typically like. (I wanted to get some ideas on pacing, balance, and how much was actually accomplished in a classroom setting.)

I started the ball rolling by explaining what we had done that morning. At that time my daughter was in second grade, and one thing we had done was she dictated a journal entry to me, I wrote it down and had her do it for copywork.

Well, it turned into a really long thread -- maybe over fifty posts -- and most everybody there was "appalled" -- yes, someone even specifically used that word -- that a second grader was dictating and/or copying. They were not unkind, but they did make their opinions clear.

One person wrote, "I shudder to think of what this is doing to your daughter," and a few others wrote that I must not know much about child development, because even kindergarteners could write well, and could learn to enjoy doing it. Many wrote they "had never heard of such a thing" for a second grader to be doing.

Anyway, now I am curious if I've hampered her by having her dictate and/or copy so many things. Was that a mistake? Will it make a difference in the long run?

In general terms, is a problem with homeschooling that the kids get overly "coddled" and don't learn to do things on their own the way they should?

Discuss. :)

ami*
08-19-2009, 12:58 PM
My son's problem is stamina...not lack of things to say. I've seen those wonderful kindergarten stories. They look like this:
Jack was a boy. He had a dog. The dog died. The End

I refused to let my son "write" those kind of stories when he had SO many big ideas at 5 years old. He dictated his stories to me and read them back to himself (and he was PROUD!). :)

So, I don't believe for one second that we've hampered the creative side. I do think we need to work on writing so that he can write more without his hand hurting...my son needs to be more fluid.

Let me also say...I've seen the high school stories. I taught summer school for almost a decade (not for kids who needed remediation...this was for regular students)-- :eek: is about all I can say.

While I am rambling...
Writing is such hard work! How to form the letters, punctuation, spelling, organizing ideas as you go, etc. WOW! We are asking a lot! Copywork helps the student learn these things without having to organize their own ideas. I think it's fab. :thumb: I'm appalled that those teachers were appalled! :lol:

Wendy in SW MS
08-19-2009, 01:02 PM
Jeni and Ami, I know my "opinion" is never popular on this subject, but I like to follow the advice of Dr. Raymond & Dorothy Moore, as found at The Moore Foundation (http://moorefoundation.com/article.php?id=3). They strongly recommended delaying formal education. To me, Five in a Row is a wonderful fit for that!!

HOW TO BEGIN. First, don't subject your children to formal, scheduled study before age 8 to 10 or 12, whether they can read or not. To any who differ, as their evidence let them read Better Late Than Early (BLTE) or School Can Wait (SCW). In addition to our basic research at Stanford and the University of Colorado Medical School, we analyzed over 8000 studies of children's senses, brain, cognition, socialization, etc., and are certain that no replicable evidence exists for rushing children into formal study at home or school before 8 or 10.

Read and sing and play with your children from birth. Read to them several times a day, and they will learn to read in their own time-as early as 3 or 4, but usually later, some as late as 14. Late readers are no more likely to be retarded or disabled than early ones. They often become the best readers of all-with undamaged vision and acute hearing, more adult-like reasoning (cognition) levels, mature brain structure and less blocking of creative interests. Yet late readers are often falsely thought to be in need of remedial help. If you have any doubts about your youngster, have specialists check vision and hearing; possibly see a neurologist. If there are no problems, relax.

If your children are early readers, 15 or 20 minutes at a time is enough for children under ages 8 to 10. They can use a kitchen timer. Then take an hour or two for distant vision play. They can first use crayons or chalk on large paper or blackboards before developing finer muscle coordination required for pencils or detailed drawing or sewing. More on this in BLTE, SCW, and Home Grown Kids (HGK). For ultimate assurance you may want to enroll in the Moore Academy-a low-stress, low-cost, high achievement program that leads homeschooling everywhere. The program for high school students provides them with a transcript and/or diploma if desired.

When your children seem ready, play oral games with phonics, numbers, etc., but authorities from Columbia to Cal-Berkeley say avoid study pressures until they are at least 8 to 12. At that time a few minutes a day may be all that is necessary for the drill or practice in basics they need. Just as important-or more so-is to identify their interests such as bugs, gardening, cooking or baking, astronomy, cars, sewing, cottage industries, economics, history or politics.

Whatever their interests, open the door wide to knowledge. Don't give them mostly textbooks/workbooks nor try to keep ahead of them; let them do original reading along the lines of their interests and watch them grow! A child's motivation is more educationally productive than the most skilled teaching. And let them sample old standardized tests or manuals to lose fear of testing.

Instead of toys, give them tools (kitchen, shop, yard or desk), encyclopedias, magazines; use libraries, etc. Don't be shocked at their interests, even if they are guns or motorcycles! From these they can learn chemistry and physics (internal combustion motors), economics, math, history, geography, languages, cultures and manual skills (at local repair shops or in home businesses). Girls are usually a year or so ahead of boys, at least until late teens.

The "antennae" sprouting from the brains of most students are blocked by mass-education's cookie-cutter substitutes for life that destroy creativity. Kids come out uniform-sized cookies, or sausages. Better to learn history realistically by reading biographies rather than textbooks. Let creative interests expand to other learning. As they mature, they teach themselves, learn at their own initiative-as few now do!

But I know, too, it is hard to follow this sometimes, because of the pressure from those around us. I know, because we dealt with that in a major way, when we lived in Montana....others' lack of understanding.

So, I get so I don't even discuss it with others! ;) For what it is worth, my 9/almost 10 yo probably wouldn't be able to write any better....And he has had more "formal schooling" than my older two did when they were his age.

Anyway, not sure if this helps, or only adds to your consternation!! ;)

WendyW
08-19-2009, 01:23 PM
Writing at this age is SOOOO variable!

My dd at 7yrs, second grade, could and frequently did write pages and pages of stories, with most words spelled correctly. (However if she had to do a full workbook page she griped that it made her hand hurt.) Both my boys at third grade, would have struggled with ANY free writing.

Free writing requires the child to do multiple steps simultaneously. They must process their thoughts, plan the wording, keep thoughts and writing at the same pace, remember spellings, be aware of homonyms, do all punctuation, and make it look neat!! When the child is still in the process of LEARNING these functions, putting them all together at one time is HUGE.

Our state allows "shared time" for homeschoolers in the public school, and my kids do PE and Music with the ps from 1st grade on. Because of this I have had many opportunities to visit the classrooms and see what the kids actually do.

When my older ds was 2nd grade, the classroom teacher was a lady who had previously homeschooled her own kids and was a wealth of information for me! One day I was looking over the written work that was posted in the hall. Nicely written papers, mostly spelled correctly, neat writing. I commented that there was NO WAY my ds could have produced that. She told me that very few of her kids could either! What was posted was the result of many days work. The process was this:
1. Child writes the paragraph, with much invented spelling, and many punctuation errors.
2. Child has a "writing conference" with the teacher, where errors are corrected, and suggestions are given.
3. Child rewrites the paper, fixing errors.
4. Another writing conference to make sure it's correct.
5. Child makes a final copy with nice handwriting.

The big difference between this and your method of dictate-then-copy is that your child is not given the chance to do it all WRONG. Although learning from their mistakes is effective in life situations, I DON'T think it's the best way to learn to write. Also, when kids must invent spellings first, they often choose to use simple words that they can spell instead of longer words that they can't. Dictation allows a child to use their full speaking vocabulary, and more complicated sentence structures. The copywork method ensures that the child is imprinted with a correct mental model, thereby making the conventional mechanics automatic much sooner.

As for those PS teachers, I bet many of them were just jumping on the chance to criticize a homeschooler! Also, many school teachers are trained in whole language, a cornerstone of which is free writing at an early age, with much invented spelling. When they say a K-er is "writing and enjoying it", I highly doubt that the majority of those kids are doing it correctly! I don't know of any research that supports this method, and the current writing skills of most high-schoolers would hardly prove it's worth.

TonyaP
08-19-2009, 02:43 PM
We aren't doing any creative writing yet. I do have some workbooks that have story starters, etc. that we might use but it's not a priority just yet.

Alice R
08-19-2009, 03:27 PM
I wonder if I made a mistake too by doing a lot of dictating/copywork.

Nathaniel is almost 11 (5th grade) and this is not a strong area for him. His spelling is good but writing is hard for him.

I wonder (in the deep, dark part of my mind) if I should've pushed him more and not taken the Late is Better path with this particular subject area.

Suz MamaFrog
08-19-2009, 04:06 PM
As a professional writer, former classroom teacher, as well as a hs'er, would you allow me to "critique" your dd's short passage??

1.) She has clearly defined the purpose of her writing. Many dc don't do this. They jump right into the information instead, and the reader is left until sentence two or three or six to find the topic sentence.

2.) She uses imagery - "1000 firecrackers" "on the ocean" This is something that children do naturally when they speak, but many feel hampered to do when they write because they don't know the spelling of the "big" words that accurately portray the desired images. Also, many children who have only been exposed to twaddle-type books never get enough decent imagery in their reading material to reproduce it.

3.) She DOES use a run on sentence, but the length of the overall paragraph is good for one her age. If you break up the run-on final sentence into two or three smaller sentences, you'll have a paragraph of 5 to 6 sentences. That's quite good for a second grader. (I know you say she is in third grade, but you also say she is just starting third grade. That means most of her skills/knowledge base is still that of a second grader.) Also, in most LA curriculum, run-on sentences aren't covered until 3rd or even 4th grade.

4.) Most of her spelling is phonetic. That tells me she knows how the words sound, and is attempting to recreate them. That's good. It shows her writing skills need to catch up with her reading skills. Writing skills typically come later than reading skills in the English language because it isn't a phonetically written language. I sometimes use my dc's dictation and "invented" spelling mistakes as cues for what we either need to cover in phonics OR what we need to cover in spelling. It's hard for me to tell in this case what the situation is with your dd, but you might be able to know. Are her spelling errors because she hasn't learned to read that particular set of "rules" - there are a lot of "r" vowel sound mistakes, for example. Or is it because you haven't covered all the various "r" spellings - er, or, ear, ir, ur, etc. She is only starting third grade and I'd find it hard to believe you have covered both phonics AND spellings of these combinations to the point of mastery.

5.) Dictation and copywork have been proven time and time again the best way to learn many different spelling rules at the same time. PS teaches spelling rules one at a time, through word lists. Dictation and copywork teach them through real-world application. The children learn quicker, better and more effectively.

All of that to say that I think she did pretty well, all things considered. She had a complete thought, conveyed that thought adequately enough for a reader to understand, and follow, that thought. Her spelling mistakes are to be expected, given her age and experience.

If it were my child, I wouldn't be too concerned about it. Most ps students don't have poor spelling because they are never given the opportunity to write outside their "ability level." In other words, the teachers never allow the students to use words they don't know how to spell, or they spell them out for them. Remember word banks on the bottom of the page, or on the bulletin board? These are so students know how to spell any words they might need, so there's no room for errors. Also, as the teacher in Wendy's post elaborated, only the "final" or "polished" work is typically presented. And second and third graders DO do copywork in ps. It's in the form of copying sentences from the board. It's in the form of tracing letters and words in their handwriting workbooks. It's in the form of filling in the blanks on a worksheet using the words given. They copy a LOT more than the ps teachers are even willing to admit. Copywork, narration and dictation are considered too "old fashioned" for today's high-tech educational world. Yet, generations upon generations learned to read, spell, and write using them. They can't be too bad for your dd, can they? ;)

HTH!

Blessings,
Suz

Nancy Ann
08-19-2009, 04:26 PM
Writing is probably one of the most challenging subjects to teach. I find it more complicated than math, because atleast math has several programs to choose from that you can just follow step by step.

I really encourage all of you to take heart and not feel you have done something wrong for your children when it comes to writing. It's a hard thing to teach even in the public school. Infact the puplic school hardly even teaches writing. You ask most college professors and they see a big difference in writing between homeschool kids and ps kids. Many college professors complain about kids not being able to write when they first come to college and they have to teach the basics. I personally dont think this problem has anything to do with the method a ps uses to teach writing. I think it has to do with time. 30 -40 kids to a classroom makes it hard to teach much of anything other than giving worksheets and homework.

It sounds like the ps teachers on that forum were really stuck on a certain method and nothing else will work in their opinion. Well, that's absolutely ridiculous. They also do not have knowledge of Charlotte Mason, The Well Trained Mind and other similar homeschool methods that work really well. To be honest they were just plain ignorant. I will also admit to being ignorant when it comes to teaching in the ps setting. I would never criticize or advise my friend who is a ps teacher on what she does in the classroom. She has 40 kids in her class!! I think my methods and philosophy of education have little realistic meaning for that enviornment. The only ps teacher I would trust with their opinion about homeschooling is one who has experience with homeschooling!!

Just like with spelling, reading and math...some kids are gifted naturally and others really struggle. Many of the kids at the ages of 10 -12 who struggle in these areas may have had trouble even if you chose a different method. Hindsight can be dangerous because there is no way to accurately compare what it would have been like if you took another path. It's best to just focus on what to do now. There is plenty of time to teach them to write. This is what homeschooling is about. We are able to SEE where our kids are struggling and fix it. In the ps or even a private school they would end up just getting swept up under a rug.

There are so many methods of teaching all subjects and some work for some kids and others work for other kids. The benefit of homeschooling is we can use different methods for different kids and we can also change methods for one kid if we see it's not working. It doesn't necessarily mean the method was wrong..it just didn't work for whatever reason. So we try something new.
The fact that some of you are aware of a problem DOES NOT mean you have failed. It's all part of the homeschool journey. Don't look back...just assess the problem and try something else. Or sometimes we just need endurance to keep doing what we are doing and eventually it will all click!

debbie in ak
08-19-2009, 06:20 PM
Thanks Ami.

Something interesting to add:

A few months ago I had posted on an elementary teacher forum asking some questions about what a day in a school classroom was typically like. (I wanted to get some ideas on pacing, balance, and how much was actually accomplished in a classroom setting.)

I started the ball rolling by explaining what we had done that morning. At that time my daughter was in second grade, and one thing we had done was she dictated a journal entry to me, I wrote it down and had her do it for copywork.

Well, it turned into a really long thread -- maybe over fifty posts -- and most everybody there was "appalled" -- yes, someone even specifically used that word -- that a second grader was dictating and/or copying. They were not unkind, but they did make their opinions clear.

One person wrote, "I shudder to think of what this is doing to your daughter," and a few others wrote that I must not know much about child development, because even kindergarteners could write well, and could learn to enjoy doing it. Many wrote they "had never heard of such a thing" for a second grader to be doing.

Anyway, now I am curious if I've hampered her by having her dictate and/or copy so many things. Was that a mistake? Will it make a difference in the long run?

In general terms, is a problem with homeschooling that the kids get overly "coddled" and don't learn to do things on their own the way they should?

Discuss. :)

Jenny- You are doing fine. There is a wide range of what a 3rd grader can write. My oldest couldn't write as well as your daughter at that age. My youngest can write about what your daughter is doing and he is starting 3rd. There is nothing wrong with copywork or having them dictate it to you. A few years back I talked with Andrew Pudewa (he is the founder of Institute for Excellence in Writing-google him if you don't know who he is.). He is very knowledgeable about teaching kids to write! He told me that if I need to spell for my child, do copywork or have them dictate to me it was fine. That board you posted on I am assuming was public school teachers, am I right? If so, they have a totally different philosophy on writing! Trust me, I have a close friend who is an elementary teacher and we don't see eye to eye. Yet, all of our kids write well.

BTW, my youngest son has really taught himself to write using copywork!!!!

debbie in ak
08-19-2009, 06:23 PM
Jenny- Spelling is also developmental...my oldest who has problems with writing didn't have spelling kick in for him until about 4th grade. He is an ok speller now. So I wouldn't worry about the spelling quite yet.

CINDY LB OH
08-19-2009, 08:02 PM
Copywork is an awesome practice. It gives kids confidence in writing while they are still learning the mechanics, spelling, etc.

It will not do harm to your children, no matter what the ps teachers say. Charlotte Mason and Ruth Beechick recommend it as well as many others. Just because a ps teacher has never heard of it, doesn't mean it's bad and harmful. They are just not taught to use it in their classroom. But if they've studied any early American history they should know that copybooks were a common practice--and they wrote beautifully. They continue to be a common practice in French classrooms today.

I think in the process though, we just don't do only copywork. We also do dictation. They go hand in hand to grow an independent, confident writer who writes well by the time they graduate.

Interested in more? Look at Brave Writer (http://www.bravewriter.com/bwl/copywork/). She has many articles worth reading and advocates copywork and dictation through to high school. Also, check out her blog, it's great.

Kendall in GA
08-19-2009, 09:53 PM
Writing is tough!

It is a SKILL that needs to be learn step-by-step. Have you taught her the steps??? Writing entails lots of processes that occur simultaneously...It is very difficult to transfer thoughts from one's head to paper in a logical, coherent, grammatically correct manner ~ especially for a young person.

Because it is a skill it requires lots of practice to do it well.

I waited until my dd was in 4th grade to teach her the mechanics of writing. She would write lots on her on prior to that time; but, I didn't worry about the structure. IMO, one is typically ready developmentally to learn to write good paragraphs around 9yo.

IMO, I wouldn't worry about writing at your dd's age and I certainly would NOT even try to have her write creatively if she balks, even a wee bit. (I know that may be a hard pill for you to swallow given what you do. ;)) The reality is that creative writing is not a life skill and some kids (people) do not like it. (Count me in that number! I loathe creative writing and hated it in school...Give me a comparative or a research paper and I'm good. ;))

Remember, writing takes practice and stay focused on the big picture!

elizawill
08-22-2009, 10:12 AM
3. I am gathering ideas for writing games. We did one today (http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/?p=360), and it was SO MUCH FUN for both of us.


thank you for sharing this. we LOVE it! i have re-shared this twice already!! my dd will also be 8 in early october, and isn't crazy about writing more than a sentence or two. but the other day, we wrote a 5 page paper together titled, "chocolate for lunch"!!!!!:clap: that is more writing than she has ever done!! we honestly had such a fabulous time writing it together & she didn't want to stop, lol. i look forward to doing this exercise again. she had no idea we were even learningtogether. for her, it was just fun time with mommy. it was very sweet. thank you again!! :)

MichelleL in Tn
08-24-2009, 10:00 PM
My ds was struggling too. I happened on Ami's blog one day and saw what she tried with the dice game. (So I tried it too.) It was very easy to do, we enjoyed doing it together. And together we wrote a story.

I try not to get overly concerned. I read somewhere that a sentence for each year is good. So in the third grade they should be able to write something using three sentences. From there you can go on to teach them how to actually structure a paragraph. I always try to set a semester goal for writing.
This semester's goal is to have him start writing paragraphs. (But first I want to get it to where it is not pulling eye teeth to do it. If I can get him to enjoy some of the process I prefer that over structure for now.

You can see it here on my blog. (I also ordered the book she recommended from my library-I am so glad they had it.)

www.lightsonthelake.blogspot.com

Kim in OH
08-25-2009, 12:12 AM
Let me also say...I've seen the high school stories. I taught summer school for almost a decade (not for kids who needed remediation...this was for regular students)-- :eek: is about all I can say.



I have worked at the college level and graded college level papers. The grammatical and spelling errors would make your head spin. Many of the papers I read were even unintelligible. The writing was atrocious, horrible -- I was in shock! Some students never used punctuation. Some had run-on sentences that went on for a full page. It was unbelievable. So, I would like to meet these kindergarteners who really know how to write, because they aren't making into college. OR they are losing all their ability before they get there.

Shauna
08-25-2009, 01:08 PM
By the time I could enroll in my first semester of classes at my university, all of the honors English courses had already been filled. (I could have been in Taylor Mali (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCNIBV87wV4)'s comp class, but no. My last name had to start with S!) We had to break into groups and critique other students' papers. I was flabbergasted by how poorly most of the students in my class wrote. The teacher actually had to spend class time telling us the difference between complete and incomplete sentences and how to make words plural! (Then again, many adults can't comprehend that adding an apostrophe and S is NOT how you make a word plural.)

We're working more on spelling and the process of writing with DD8, who's in 3rd grade this year. She does well with mechanics and grammar on tests, but that doesn't necessarily translate to the process of free writing. However, editing and rewriting are important parts of the process, so I don't put too much stock in her first drafts.