I posted a couple weeks back about Mushroom’s epic, epic school tantrum about handwriting wherein I made him shape up (literally, shape his letters more correctly) and I ended up with a kid in tears most of the day.
Well, I can report that it has greatly helped his copywork handwriting, which now looks like this. There are still some of those scale issues that led to the tantrum in the first place, but it’s a massive improvement over just a couple of weeks ago.
Does that mean I was right to come down hard and make him go through that? I still don’t know the answer. He’s an anxious kid sometimes and it was a trying, terrible time. He is so vulnerable and I find it hard to strike a balance between helping him move forward and helping him feel affirmed and loved.
Here’s what I do know. Mushroom has decided in the last few months that he wants to be a writer when he grows up (no more dreams of being a chef and he now disdains the kitchen!). He began filling up page after page of writing. He just keeps going and going. Some of his story ideas are clever and creative. Some of his sentences are complex and well-thought out. He naturally understands many things about story structure and even metaphor, which just amazes me from an 8 year-old. But while some sentences are lovely, others get lost in the middle and don’t even make sense. Sometimes his spelling is so bad he can’t even read what he’s written. His handwriting is none so lovely as his copywork, that’s for sure.
Still, I really want to honor these rambling, scattered pages of his. He is pouring his soul into them and is so happy and proud of himself. Handwriting, spelling, and everything else can come because I know he has that core of creativity and understanding of story. Julie Bogart talks a lot about being on the side of your child as a writer in The Writer’s Jungle and I am trying to be on his side by loving these stories yet still helping him become more coherent so other people can love them too. Right now, he decidedly doesn’t want to do any revisions or have me type them up, so I’m holding off.
In the interest of finding that coherence, I have had him write out and post on the bookshelves (we have no wall space, something you may have noticed if you’ve noticed our schoolhouse pictures) a list of the 100 most commonly used words in English. The rule is that he must spell these, at least, correctly. When I catch one misspelled, he must write it out correctly several times, which he has done a few times since we posted them. It does seem to be helping a little.
I also gave in and bought All About Spelling. Groan. Not groan because it’s a bad program, which it’s clearly not. Groan because it’s expensive and scripted with lots of bits and pieces and therefore not my style in any way, shape, or form. So far we’ve flown through the introductory steps in Level One and he likes the confidence he’s gaining from it and the fact that there’s now an enormous white board stashed behind the easel that’s just for him. The real test will be when we get to double letters and the ck rule, which will happen very soon. I’ve been working on that with him for… oh, three years or so. If AAS manages to teach it to him, then I’ll be a convert and they can sell me all the bits and pieces they like.
Our language arts program continues to be based on the Bravewriter “lifestyle.” We do copywork or dictation, freewriting, narration, and the poetry tea reading once a week each. We round that out with piles of read alouds, piles of independent reads, grammar mostly through living books, and language games on hand. A few weeks ago, I was having a bit of a crisis about Mushroom’s writing, but I’m feeling more confident and hopeful now than I was before.
Cross your fingers for no more epic tantrums.