Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Book, Some Dishes, and Writing in our Family

I'd been looking over part two of the slowing down post, and I got the idea to look through some of my old writing (from when the kids were young) to see if I could find an actual description of our days and routine, written while we were actually living it. I had no idea what a can of worms I was opening! I have more writing than you can probably fathom. It's ridiculous, really. And I got caught up spending my whole morning looking through it. I haven't found what I'm looking for, but I had a lot of fun, and I've found quite a few other things I want to post! I'll get to those soon.

For now, here are a few recent happy things:

I ordered the book, A Year of Mornings, as soon as I noticed it was published and available, and I've been carrying it around with me ever since. I've long enjoyed looking at the 3191 blog, but in some ways, I like having the year of photos in book form even better. Perhaps that's because I don't much like sitting in front of the computer, but I do very much like thumbing through an actual book. I've looked through the book several times, and now I'm using it like a calendar of days, looking at photos day by day according to the date. It's a lovely, peaceful book of photos portraying quiet, ordinary morning things. I love morning, so this is a special one for me.

Old, long-discontinued Mikasa dishes from back before they were making stoneware. Rather, this is called cerastone, and it's the "Gigi" pattern. I bought the entire large set of dishes at Goodwill for $9.99. I came home and did some price-checking online, and buying just that creamer and sugar set alone would cost almost $40. In my set were two different sizes of bowls, almost 20 of them altogether (bowls are all white on the outside, blue on the inside); 12 dinner plates; salad plates; creamer and sugar bowl; and one large serving platter (the platter sells for $30 online). So, I feel like I got quite a deal. Some of the plates show wear and tear, but I thought the dishes were cute and fun (love those colors!), and they fit with all of my 60's things. And you never know if one of those kids of mine will end up needing them...

I like this girl. (Actually I love her!) She is quite dry-funny. Here she is, last night, going through some of her old writing notebooks. She was reading aloud from them to me, and some of the stories she wrote when she was young are, not surprisingly (if you know Melissa), hilarious!

And our family "typewriter stories" are hilarious, too (Melissa had some of them in her notebooks). The typewriter stories were something we used to do for fun. We'd put a blank piece of paper in an old typewriter, and someone would start the story by typing a sentence. The paper would be left there until someone else came along and read it. Then that person would type a sentence to add to the story and leave it for the next person. We'd all contribute to the story off and on over the course of days (sometimes just one day, sometimes many days), and, usually, everyone had different directions they'd want the story to go. So there would be hilarious twists and turns and surprises as different family members would try to turn the story back to his or her own story line (and we can usually tell who's doing the writing). We laughed as Melissa read some of these typewriter stories aloud. She said, "I love it when there are storyline tug of wars in these!" Me, too.

See that fat, white, full notebook (the one that is open in the foreground)? The entire notebook contains plans for, and drafts of, Melissa's Egyptian story (and this is just part of it). One of Melissa's learning passions over the years was Egyptology. She worked on this story for many years, writing and rewriting, often for many hours a day. And now she's working on it again. It's a wonderful story! And writing it was mostly how Melissa learned to write.

Actually, that's how everyone in our home learned to write. By writing.There was a lot of seemingly endless natural narration going on, constant reading aloud, and perpetual individual reading. Words and language were always fun pursuits for our entire family, so writing was a fairly natural thing to do in our home. We loved the dictionary and thesaurus. We love knowing etymology and reading about writing. We loved word games. We loved learning new words, and we learned them all the time as we read outstanding literature. We had a long shelf full of good books about writing, and they were well-consulted and willingly read.

One of my three daily expectations when the kids were young was to write something-- anything-- every day. And, boy, did they find creative and interesting ways to do it. Looking at this writing now is a whole bunch of fun!

We tried an occasional writing curriculum but didn't finish one of them. Honestly, in almost every case, I think curriculums are painful to slog through and produce painful writing to read. The writing my kids produced while trying to do some of those assignments was the worst writing they ever did. It was much better all around when the kids wrote whatever they chose to write.

A lot of people rave about some of the curriculums we happened to hate, but we each need to find what works best, and most pleasantly, for us. We found that a natural, organic way of learning pretty much everything was the best fit for our family. We liked a freestyle homeschool.

My kids were serious about writing and didn't want to fiddle around with writing games and prompts and what they considered to be time-wasting exercises (no matter how much "fun" they were supposed to be). There were no reports written. No assigned essays. No research papers. Nothing. The kids just wanted to get on with the business of writing something that was relevant and meaningful to them, and that was just fine by me. They all thrived doing this. And, no, there were no gaping holes in their writing knowledge or proficiency. They are wonderful writers and have been highly praised in college for their fine papers and stylish writing.

Writing resources and helps we liked for our very young writers:

Any Child Can Write (Harvey Weiner)
Writing From Home (Susan Richman)
Ruth Beechick's little 3 R's booklet on Language.
Charlotte Mason's idea of narration.
Reading and memorizing fun poetry.
Write whatever you want; just write, write, write!