This week is National Story Telling week and it’s ignited in me a memory of my youngest balanced on the arm of her grandma’s easy chair by the fire telling stories (she couldn’t sit on her knee because the cat was on it!).
They did this a lot, just talked stories to one another, taking it in turns to add bits and produce ideas. It was an absolute delight to listen to. When I was allowed, mostly I got commanded, by my youngest, to go out the way, but I’d sneakily carry on listening.
It also reminds me of one of the biggest mistakes I made whilst we were home educating.
Listening to her story telling, her vivid imagination, the intonation and expression, I thought what a good idea it would be to get her writing stories at home. She’d love it.
What an idiot, I was!
When I suggested it her face dropped. She sat there looking totally miserable, blank page in front of her, pen unused, ideas vanished.
I encouraged. I cajoled. I suggested starts. I prompted memories of the brilliant story she’d been making up with grandma.
Nothing. The blankness went from her page to her face. Her imagination vacated her like she’d never had them in the first place. If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears I would have thought that she had a blank imagination too.
But I knew different. And luckily I spotted my stupid mistake; she loved making up stories – not writing them down.
Many children hate writing. Many adults do too. Trying to capture and clarify what’s in your head – often just in picture form – into the letters and symbols we use for language can be enough to switch people’s minds and ideas off completely.
I’ve seen it happen in children. I’ve also seen it happen to adults as old as I am, who’ve been writing all their life, yet who still find this transformation process hard.
I may have wanted her to practice her writing skills. But I didn’t want to ruin her inventiveness whilst doing so. I backed off.
Besides, far too much emphasis is put on being able to write, far too young. Having to continually write can even hamper the development of valuable language skills. And we shouldn’t confuse the two.
Children develop language skills by talking and listening, being read to and sharing books together, by continual use of the spoken word, as in story telling.
Formalising it into writing doesn’t need to happen until much later.
My youngest didn’t do much writing at home during the time we were home educating. Occasionally she did a bit, maybe filling in an eye-catching workbook she’d spotted whilst out. Sometimes, in order to practice, I’d suggest writing up some event or making a diary/scrapbook. (Outings are a good one for this as you can stick anything you’ve collected in the book too). We also made a variety of other books, pop-ups, mini-books, lists, games; just bits and pieces of writing that kept it going. Otherwise, the most writing she ever did was about half a small page at any one time. We did loads of other stuff instead.
However, when she went to college at 16 she managed easily, with a bit of formal tidying and guidance. And this is how it was for several of our home educating friends who went onto Uni without having done much formal writing earlier on.
Thought I’d tell you because I didn’t want you making the mistake I did of ruining something that, as well as being a valuable educational activity in its own right, gave her – and her gran – immense pleasure!
Don’t feel you have to be writing every day with your children whilst they’re learning at home. They don’t need it. Enjoy books and a good story telling instead!