Posted in Subjects

The Best Writing Program Advice

Albert Anker Schreibender Knabe c1908

Bookworm on the Simply Charlotte Mason forum gives the best writing program advice I have ever read:

“Well, do you really want my 2 cents?  I have been EXACTLY where you are, and if I could go back and change ONE thing in my homeschooling, it would be to never, ever, ever, EVER do a “writing program”.  EVER.  And DEFINITELY not Writing Strands. A fourth grader does NOT need a writing program.  A fourth grader needs to learn to do written narrations.  I have a long and complicated history that I’ve probably detailed here more than once, but I’ll give you the upshot one more time.  I panicked regularly with my oldest, that copywork, dictation and narration would not be “enough” and that he needed to write more.  So every year or two we’d buy yet another stupid program, spend money, invest time, tears and tantrums–and his writing would be no better and he would, in addition, hate it one exponential degree more.  If you are really interested, ask me about the Zoo Paper, and the Stupid Duckling Story My Mean Mother Made Me Write (Writing Strands assignment, incidentally.)  We tried, I think, FIVE programs before he turned twelve, and all were disastrous flops.

I want to be very clear.  Written narrations are not the product of a “writing program.”  A “writing program” will not teach a child to do written narrations.  Narration is the building block–out of narration will come the writing, the “composition.”  The other way is to put the cart before the horse.  She’s only fourth grade.  The age at which my chldren have been able to turn out a multi-sentence, relatively coherent written narration is, in order, twelve and a half, twelve, and not yet (eleven and a half.)  If she occasionally writes stories, terrific!  Encourage her.  Hope she has fun with it.  She does not  need a habit of writing stories.  She needs a habit of narration.  How is her oral narration going?  The transition to written narration can be rocky, should be gradual, and takes time.  At first, written narrations will NOT equal oral ones.  That’s OK.  It’s hard work, taken a step up in difficulty.  In my experience, the keys to good written narrations are 1) Enough time to allow handwriting and basic skills like spelling and punctuation, to be relatively comfortable for the child.  It’s HARD when trying to write your thoughts when physical writing is hard.  If there are physical problems preventing writing, then teach the child to type before expecting much in the way of written narration.  2) The right book to narrate.  And this will differ for each child.  The key to my oldest nature-loving son was a book up his alley.  His first “real” written narration after giving me efforts that were basically a collection of bad sentence fragments saying nothing, was the chapter on “ant cows” in the Storybook of Science.  All of a sudden I got TWO pages on ant cows.  And 3) patience from mom!  This WILL take time.  There will be days all your friends’ kids have sheaves of little brainless written compositions and your kid is still turning out “This guy was in a war and he did something.”  Trust the method.  Trust the narration.  Narration is doing a work in your child’s mind that you haven’t even fully realized yet.  There will be a time and a place for helping turn the raw output of narration into different forms, like persuasive essays.  This time is NOT fourth grade for any but the very  most unusual kids.  Focus on the basics.  Make sure spelling, handwriting, basic mechanics and oral narration are going well.  Then begin nudging into written narrations, but consider a year like fourth grade as the very opening year of a multi-year process.  You wouldn’t expect a baby learning to walk to cross the room on the first day, but to take one or two steps before toppling over.  A one-line written narration is the first ‘step” before falling over and she just needs practice.  Just like she eventually crossed the room, she’ll eventually write down what she needs to communicate about what she’s read.  She’ll HAVE to, if the books are right, and if you insist on getting some narrations in written form, because when you narrate that’s how your brain works–you eventually HAVE to put out some “output” or you’ll blow up.  LOL  It’s why grownup CM moms have blogs, or write reviews on Goodreads, etc.–we are narrating.  LOL”

Source and read more:

Here are some articles that have helped me with improving the narration process:


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