Willa had some interesting comments on writing in the homeschool setting recently. It’s a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot, but not taking much action on. (Plus, I can hardly keep up with all her posting lately!)
I often feel that I should be facilitating more, demanding more, challenging more, and just doing more formally with writing for Violet. She’s a very fluent writer, and she likes writing, so it seems logical to give some of our homeschooling emphasis to her strengths. If I could put into words what I think she ought to work on in her writing, it would have something to do with control. She just doesn’t seem to have that much control of what she puts on paper. It’s often clever or funny (though not always!). When she chooses to do what we still call a “history summary” (though it is not a summary at all) she generally demonstrates an understanding of the important points of the lesson. It’s always technically correct, with interesting vocabulary and vivid descriptions. Sometimes I find little scraps of writing on the computer, little drafts she’s left behind and forgotten, and they even sound a little profound.
Yet any efforts to get her to move in a different direction with her writing tend to meet a dead end. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve tried. This fall she’s in a creative writing class, so I haven’t done anything additional at home. I’ve looked at getting some of the writing materials from Royal Fireworks/Michael Clay Thompson, but I’m not sure where to start with that. The elementary materials seem too basic, but she doesn’t seem ready to jump into full-fledged essay writing either.
All this makes me wonder about the different skills and developmental milestones that go into different kinds of writing. In many ways, Violet has surpassed the average high school senior in the “language arts” areas, but her ability to put together a thesis and write about it in an extended way is — well, I’m not sure it exists at this point. (Which is not to say she can’t mount a great argument and defend it orally!) I am not big into the classical triviuum, at least as it applies to our kids, but I do wonder whether there is something about the “rhetoric stage” that relates to plain old maturity and life experience in addition to passing through the “grammar” and “logic” stages. Is there a relationship between the development of judgment and impulse control—which we know to be a physiological and emotional process that continues through adolescence—and the development of rhetorical control?
If so, that makes me wonder, like Willa, what an appropriate focus on writing would be in homeschooling, even when homeschooling a profoundly gifted child. As Adso of Melk and other bloggers have mentioned, it sometimes seems to those of us with kids who are really gifted in humanities areas that it would be much simpler to have kids who are really gifted in math or science. (I know, it is totally a grass-is-always-greener thing!) Profoundly gifted kids with math and science talents seem to be able to move through their fields without a lot of concern for emotional maturity, apart from the stamina to concentrate for long periods.
Writing is so much more personal, and seems–from my limited perspective–to involve so many parts of a person’s brain and spirit, that it is not possible to accelerate through the standard curriculum in the same way. There’s a lot of waiting to grow into your abilities, and a need for lots of interesting and meaningful detours.
What do writers think? I need to think through this more: what do young writers need to develop to gain a level of control in expression and argumentation?