Raising Writers

I majored in English.  It’s not what I planned when I went to college, but after an inspiring freshman comp class and a growing attraction to playing with ideas and words (thanks to a terrific philosophy professor), the thought of four years of writing and thinking seemed attractive.  Perhaps that draws many to the liberal arts, since the job outlook has certainly never been the draw.  But I digress.

After two internships in the communications departments of local hospitals, my interest in medicine far outstripped my interest in writing.  Science classes filled my remaining electives, a medical writing career never came to pass, and I headed to PA school.  For the next 16 years, the only writing I did was patient notes and long missives to my older son’s school (the latter thankfully ceased upon homeschooling).  Blogging brings me back to writing, albeit a very different type, and I enjoy the process.

So why don’t my boys love to write?  Why don’t they appreciate the catharsis that comes from pruning and shaping  a bramble of thoughts into a topiary full of order and beauty?  What’s wrong with these children?  What’s wrong with me, their homeschooling mom, failing to infuse this love of composition?

Nothing, probably.  My older composes quite well once he jumps in, but he’ll stand at the edge for ages, staring at the blank page.  Type something — anything, I advise.  It doesn’t have to be great or good, but it will start the process.  And it’s usually true.  He’s far from prolific and never writes voluntarily, but what he does produce is logical, orderly, and intelligent.  At least usually.  While he doesn’t identify himself as a writer and often initially resists writing assignments, he’s occasionally admitted to enjoying the process.

My younger composed cat stories a year back, writing endlessly about the adventures, real and imagined, of the current batch of foster cats.  The stories seemed to wander, ending when he became bored, but the child was writing willingly without tears.  I was thrilled, but a few months later, the stories ceased.  I’m not sure why the flow ended, although mounting perfectionism and anxiety were likely culprits.  He hasn’t returned to writing, and I haven’t pressed it.  I learned with my older to wait it out: regularly encourage writing of any type, scribe often across the curriculum, and panic in private.  For both, the ideas in their heads far exceeded what their hands could scratch out on paper or type on the computer.  The physical product never matched the imagined work, causing no small amount of upset and balking.  Why bother if it’s not going to look as glorious on paper as it does in the mind’s eye?

So I’m patient and persistent.  My writing requirements from my older gradually increase as he develops confidence and competence.  My younger writes a fine thank-you note and prolific holiday gift lists, and I’m settling for that for now.  I scribe for him for many assignments, either on paper or on computer.  I try to panic about his low output in private, reminding myself how little his brother produced at age 8.  I’m determined to raise capable writers.  Perhaps, they’ll even come to enjoy it as much as their mom does.  Hey, a mom can dream!

(We use Michael Clay Thompson’s materials from Royal Fireworks Press, and since starting, I haven’t looked back. I’ll review those materials in a later post.)


6 thoughts on “Raising Writers

  1. Hi Sarah, we at Royal Fireworks will be interested to read your review of Michael Clay Thompson. Do you subscribe to his Yahoo Discussion Group, MCTLA?
    Good luck with the writing! Enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Have you used the writing materials yet? I have been thinking about it, but slow to start — my girl is a prolific writer but not a serious writer. I have Essay Voyage and thinking about going through it with her next fall — we do Magic Lens and WWW, but I wanted a gentler start with essay writing.

  3. First of all, have you taught your boys keyboarding yet? I found my older would write much more once he could type. Also, I remember hating writing when I was in 6th grade . . . and only really coming more comfortable with it in college . . . and now it seems like i cant stop . . .

    I also hope to reveiw the MCT materials when I get further in to them – tho I never used anything else to compare it to.

    • My older types quite well and does almost all writing assigments there, even geometry proofs. He’ll need accomodations for SAT essay portion (not this year) and AP tests, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Typing made a HUGE difference in is willingness to write, although his writer’s block still kicks him in the butt.
      My younger has lovely handwriting and talks about wanting to type. That’s not equivalent to learning, but it’s a start.

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