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Parents of Reluctant Writers Get Great Advice

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, December 29, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 100 December 29, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

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Notes from Heather
-- A Reader on Career Choices
Helpful Tip
-- Free Online ASL Video Dictionary
Resource Review
-- Seasons of a Mother's Heart 2008
Reader Question
-- Help for Writer's Mental Block
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

A Reader Responds to the Question on Choosing a Career

"Hi Heather --

I must have missed the already-answered Reader's Question about
career decisions. I hope it's not too late to submit a response.
When I was 16, my parents took me to The Johnson P. O'Connor Human
Engineering Lab in Boston. I spent one complete day doing lots of
unusual tests -- most not on paper. Then, after the results were
analyzed, my Mom and I returned. The Lab measures aptitudes - please
see their website for a more complete description. They then compared
my results to thousands of people who had taken the tests before in
many different careers.

As no one in my family had ever gone to college, we were more than
shocked when they told me that I should be a doctor. Long story
short, I am a homeschooling mother of four children who also happens
to be a part-time family doctor. They were absolutely right in
their assessment and I never would have even considered it without
them. My younger brother and my husband have also gone through the
testing and found it extraordinarily helpful. I plan to have each
of my children tested when they are 16 years old. The cost of the
detailed testing/analysis is huge ($600), but when you consider how
people waste years of their lives drifting from one unsatisfying
career to another, it is well worth the cost.

There are sites across the US. Here is their website:
http://www.jocrf.org/." -- Linda


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


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Helpful Tip

Free ASL Online Video Dictionary

"Don't spend your money. I have a perfect website for you.
Go to www.mybabycantalk.com -- and on the top there is a button
for the online dictionary. The words there are alphabetical
with a demonstrator doing the sign the correct way!! It is
awesome and so easy to use, and the best part... it's free."

-- from Heather, HomeschoolingBOYS.com member (in response to
a mom looking for ASL resources for her young son.)


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Review

Seasons of a Mother's Heart, REVISED!
Author: Sally Clarkson


I am THRILLED to have this book back in print! It is one of my
favorites - one I have read about once a year during the past
decade I've been homeschooling.

Your heart will be encouraged as you read the touching stories,
spiritual insights, and personal lessons that are the 'seasons'
in Sally Clarkson's life. She opens her own seasoned heart on
these pages, sharing what she has learned as a homeschooling
wife and mother - about herself, her children, and her Lord.
First published in 1998, this revised and expanded Ten Year
Anniversary Edition includes four new essays by Sally from 'ten
years later' to introduce each section.

-- Cindy Prechtel

Browse a collection of my favorite parenting resources here:


Last Issue's Reader Question

"I have been homeschooling for 14 years now, and have five kids,
one who has graduated. When you think you might have homeschooling
figured out, God gives you a child that reminds you you're just
learning too. My fourth child is now in grade 7 and reasonably
bright, but I'm somewhat stumped with how to help him. He seems
to have no trouble remembering what I read to him, or what we
discuss, and even memorizing Bible passages. He's quite careful
and accurate in his math, though it takes forever to get around to
doing it, as is the case with most subjects. But here's where we're
stumped: If I ask him to write something, even if we have discussed
all the ideas and requirements, even to the point of identifying
what each sentence will be about, he so often has such a mental
block that he cannot begin. It's as if he's so perfectionist that
he can't begin unless he already has the whole thing perfectly
worded in his head. This is so frustruating for both of us. How
can I help him learn to just begin, and take risks? We have done
free writing in the past, which worked well for him, but how can
we transfer this skill to other writing assignments? I do not
demand perfect grammar or spelling right away, so it doesn't seem
to be that; it just seems like he can't think of the right words
or something. This becomes such an immovable mental block. Any
advice? Thanks so much." -- Christine

Our Readers' Responses

"I had a thought that might help. Not sure but it might be worth
a try. What if you got him a small, hand held tape recorder? He
could dictate ideas into it and write when he had them more thought
out. If the act of writing intimidates him, maybe you could start
this way until he gets more used to it. I have seen some writers
use this approach. I don't, but everyone is different."
JoJo Tabares, http://www.ArtofEloquence.com


"Perhaps your son could formulate his thoughts orally, into a tape
recorder. Then he could replay the tape, stopping it as often as
he needs to, and write what he said.

Another possibility would be to have him use a white board with
wipe-off markers. Then it won't seem as permanent as paper and
pencil. He can revise as he goes, if he wants to. The same idea
might work with a computer; he can backspace whenever he wants,
and everybody knows he's not committing himself to whatever he
writes down until he prints it off." -- Mary Beth


"Christine -- I would have him 'free write' the assignment, not
being allowed to edit as he goes -- not even grammar or punctuation
-- and then work on the process of revision. Rewriting is as
important as writing. Let it sit for a day or two and then have
him look at it fresh and edit. This will hopefully let him feel
free to write whatever comes to mind and he will probably find his
writing much more creative." -- Heather


"A good recommendation is to purchase and use the Institute for
Excellence in Writing's 'Teaching Writing Structure and Style'.
It is not inexpensive, but it is totally worth it. It breaks down
how to write into a checklist, and gives a measurable definition of
a good outline. It worked well with my careful, structure-dependent
daughter." -- Anne


"Hi Christine -- I can relate somewhat; I have two sons, and I was
always looking for ways to make writing more doable and interesting
for them. My first thought is to pray for a breakthrough in this
area, because divine help is always welcome, and nothing is too
difficult in that respect. I also would encourage de-emphasizing
the situation by laying writing aside for a bit to take the pres-
sure off so that it doesn't seem like such a hurdle to get over.
I don't mean to say that you are the source of any pressure at
all - you know how we (adults and children) can make something
seem bigger than it is if that is all we focus on. Perhaps your
son just needs some down time away from this area of learning for
a season to mentally regroup. He still has plenty of time to
develop his writing through the rest of junior high and highschool
years, so there isn't any need for panic.

Another bunch of thoughts that come to mind - have you tried story
starters, such as in Karen Andreola's book? Sometimes they take
the initial pressure off, having the idea started already. How
about word or sentence games - all for fun with no expectations of
performance. Does he prefer to write on the computer vs. writing
longhand? Some guys like writing this way and produce more since
they can backspace with no harm done. Does he do any better when
writing for someone else? Sometimes my kids would produce and
polish more for other moms in our teen co-op.

How would he do making lists of things, such as a list of his base-
ball cards, inventory of Legos, a list of parts needed to fix his
bike, etc.? Or how about a 'wish' list of things he would like to
do or see as he grows into adulthood, such as sky diving or a hot
air balloon ride, or a visit to the Grand Canyon. These types of
activities do stretch 'writing' muscles, just not in a traditional
form, and they still provide the benefits of exercising thought

If this were my son, I would probably take some time away from
formal writing for a while. I'd do the same if my child were having
this kind of challenge with learning other things too, like the
multiplication tables. Your son sounds bright and creative; given
time, I don't think there is anything to be concerned about. Maybe
one of these ideas will help... I'll be praying for you!"
-- Karen Lange, www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com


"Hi Christine -- I would recommend using The Institute for Excel-
lence in Writing: http://www.excellenceinwriting.com/

We have used it off and on since my son was in fourth grade. He's
in tenth grade now and actually enjoys his writing assignments.

The basic program is for the teacher -- it teaches you how to
teach the program. The Student writing intensive and continuation
programs are for the student and teacher. I went through the
teacher training myself to get an overview and then always watched
the student DVDs with my son so I knew exactly what he was supposed
to do for each assignment. Grading is very straight forward. The
student has a detailed checklist of requirements for each assign-
ment; the teacher looks to make sure each requirement has been met
and grades accordingly -- anything below an 80% requires a redo
to complete the requirements.

It is most definitely worth the cost! Take some time to explore
the web site." -- Lisa in WI


"Christine -- try tape recording your discussions with your son.
He can then go back and listen to what you both said. He can
concentrate on one thought at a time and it all won't be jumbled
in his brain. He could also write each thought down on a 3 x 5
card and then he would be able to organize his thoughts as he
rereads them to himself. His brain may be focusing on too many
things at once to keep them all straight. Using the 3 x 5 cards
will teach him to organize his thoughts and he will be able to
focus on one thought at a time. You may also want to accept his
'report' via the tape recorder at first. (Make sure he has spoken
his answer in an orderly fashion before you accept it.) Once you
accept his oral answer then have him write down what he recorded
word-for-word. Voila! He has a written report for you."
-- Bobbi in NC


"Christine -- I don't know the answer but here's something you
may want to try. Give him the first sentence (aloud) as an example
and see if he can then in return say one aloud on his own.

Get him a voice recorder and have him talk into it, make up stories
or just talk about things he likes, make up songs, etc. -- tell him
to have fun. If you are nearby while he is recording, take note of
how his sentences are constructed. Is he having a mental block at
these times? If this makes him more comfortable maybe his assign-
ments could be recorded first and written down from that recording
using the pause button in between each sentence or thought. (If he
shies away from recording his voice, then perhaps you can tape both
of you talking about the day's events or his favorite movie, etc.)

Have a peer help him -- it is amazing how one child can help another.
They could even help each other -- maybe your son could help a
friend with their math and they in turn can help him with his
sentences. (This is how my daughter learned colors after my
working with her for weeks -- it took her cousins a few hours
playing outside to teach what I could not!)

With your continued patience and loving concern he will learn the
most important lesson of all -- that of unconditional love." -- P.H.


"Hello Christine -- My 18 year old son has had similar issues.
While he is extremely bright in other areas, he has an aversion
to writing anything and seems to have a mental block as you said.
I have struggled over the years, with spelling and getting him to
do creative writing -- even thank-you notes -- but had to come to
the realization that he is not going to have a career in creative
writing or journalism or even teaching writing! I had to chill
out to a degree. I have successfully used copywork on and off.
He needs to know exactly what is required, so specific instructions
and formats are helpful. He also needs to be assured of the purpose
behind the assignment and it cannot be a general 'because I said
so', so real-life writing would probably be less frustrating. I
wish I had started sooner with more real-life writing and less
'writing assignment' types. He has always been a good reader,
and that is always helpful to writing. We read out loud a lot
for years, and he has read on his own as well from early on. He
has done well on his college entrance exams and is a very intelli-
gent young man. My advice is to chill out and do what you can to
encourage him in the areas he is interested in. Encourage him to
communicate in whatever ways he will and has opportunity in those
areas. (Oral communication has many carryovers to written communi-
cation.) Also, have him take notes/copy from anything he is
learning about or trying to memorize. Anything that involves
writing -- even lists -- to make it more comfortable and natural
for him -- can help. Don't let the lack of eagerness to write
ruin the light of learning in other areas, but look for ways in
which the areas where lights are already shining can be expanded to
include writing in a non-frustrating way." -- Dawn B.


"Dear Christine -- My daughter also did not like writing at first.
Now she is a fabulous writer! She writes for our local teen paper
as a columnist and enters poetry and fiction contests often. She
just submitted a full length play to a local theatre that has an
annual contest for students. In the beginning I gave her a tape
recorder and had her complete a writing assignment verbally, and
then I would type it out myself. It took a lot of time, yes, but
my efforts were well worth it -- because when I handed the typed
copy back to her, she was always thrilled with the results. Also,
give him story starters that are of much interest to him. History?
Comedy? Science Fiction? Start the story yourself and let him
finish it; doing this takes the pressure off having to 'begin' an
assignment. I never corrected spelling, grammar, or sentence
structure. My goal was to lead her to a love of writing. In a
composition book, write letters or notes that contain thought
provoking questions and have him answer you. You get a lot of
insight into how your child thinks -- and they are writing!"
-- Debbie in Florida

Answer our NEW Question

"I am looking for a good Bible curriculum for high school home
schoolers. Any suggestions? Some of them seem to be just
'busy work' or memorization of irrelevant facts." -- Theresa


Do you have a suggestion for Theresa?

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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