Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Writing motivation

The bookwork we're doing here during quiet time consists of the traditional 3 R's...reading, writing and 'rithmetic.  And honestly, I don't think the children even consider the reading aspect school, as it was so engrained in our lives before homeschooling.

I've mentioned in the past that writing is not one of my son's favorite things to do.  He tends to share his ideas verbally and wishes that others record them for him.  So, while we wil talk about what he's written during our quiet time, I'm not going to push him too hard in his writing exercises just yet.  I don't want to turn him off the idea of recording all those grand ideas of his.

Enter another motivator for writing.  During our great purge, I noticed that we had eight sleeping bags, but only five bodies in this house to fill them.  My son won two of those sleeping bags in a reading contest.  So they really weren't mine to give away.  I quietly saddled up to him and explained the situation, suggested we sell them, and that the money made would be his. 

It didn't take long for him to be ready to post them online - quite frankly, money is a motivator for him.  As we sidled up to the computer, I suggested he research how much they sell for new, so that he wasn't charging more.  This meant he needed to type up an Internet search and compare what his bags' specs were to what was out there.  My second suggestion was that he consider the information that a buyer might think was important when writing up his post.  This meant stuff like the size of the sleeping bag, the temperature it's rated for, what it was filled with...

He groaned at first.  "Oh Mom.  There's so much stuff to write and so many strange symbols.  It will take me forever.  Can't you type it?"

My response came quick.  "If it takes you even an hour to write it up and you sell the bags, you will have made $20 in one hour.  There are many people in this world that would love to make $20 in an hour."  Enough said.  After some guidance as to where to find those symbols and a quick proofread, he had his sleeping bags posted in less than 30 minutes.  And then one of his toy sets came down and he researched and posted it too.  Pretty good for a reluctant writer.

I'm noticing that my son's explosions of voluntary writing tend to come when he is on the computer.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I do respect the role that technology and computers play in today's society - things are more efficient, can be more structured, and can be more accurate.  I wonder about the relevancy of teaching handwriting given that the future looks like it will rely more and more on touchscreens or voice-recorded documents. 

I also think computers tend to increase the pace of life while simultaneously offering little physical activity.  I also wonder if the sense of obligation to always be connected impacts one's ability to focus or appreciate what nature has to offer.  I've also read that computer writing tends to jump-start the side of the brain responsible for logic and organization, whereas writing the old-fashioned way sparks the side responsible for creativity.  For myself, I rarely grab a pen and paper before sitting down to write this blog.  But I've also thought about what I would write before actually sitting down, and I've spent years doing rough drafts or outlines on paper before diving in to articulate my thoughts in either medium.  I'll turn to paper time and again when I get stuck or need to figure out how to succinctly write something. 

Regardless of my personal opinions of computers and technology, it all comes back to what works for my children.  I've observed enough to understand that what my son needs is for his efforts to be acknowledged as they come.  Pushing any medium or more than 10 minutes of writing will likely have the opposite effect of what I had hoped.  And only if I'm asked for help in the creative writing realm, I'll offer what I have.

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