Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reluctant Writer

That would be Hank. One of the biggest problems we face as we do this homeschool thing together is writing. Well, getting him to write. Anything.

So strange to me that a kid as verbal as my firstborn should hate to write. This is a child from whose mouth issue long accounts of imaginary epic battles, buried treasure, fantastic creatures--here's part of a story that I heard him tell Shorty (with the help of Lego props):

A single fighter steps into the fray.

But. He fails to notice a single helicopter that fires…three laser cannons…straight into the windshield.

Before they go out, the canyon is so long, that no one is able to get past. They send fighter jets, but they run out of fuel before they can even enter the cavern because….[I lost track here]…before they can even access the ancient temple. Shutting down their main upper wings into landing gear mode, they disappear inside.

The planes then switch, shoot down, and pull into this huge cavern here with crystals and gold and silver and gems and diamonds, and dragon eggs hang with their colors swirling. When the eggs explode, the [baby dragons] hit onto the ropes, climb the ropes to the top and onto these little hatches. Behind the hatches is a little raised spot. The dragon mother sits there... When the baby dragon shed [sic] its skin, the dragon mother picks it up, and--shoop!--throws it into the wastebasket. We take the skins to the market and sell them…as magic…they go into a treasure chest…filled the [something] with six thousand of them.

The tunnel goes right into a volcano. It's been hollowed out so there's no lava anywhere. And there's lava tubes with torches..they go into the lava tubes and discuss plans and things. The volcano becomes a place where they can plan…there's a huge chasm...

So it's not a lack of imagination. Or lack of anything to say, or trouble verbalizing his thoughts, or limited vocabulary. He claims that his brain shuts down once he's faced with a blank piece of paper. So, writer's block?

Most online resources recommend not making a reluctant writer write. So, okay. I take dictation for 95% of what goes on his blog.

What it comes down to is that he hates the act of writing. Typing isn't much better. It's a grapho-motor skills issue. But he has to write--physically write stuff--if he's going to learn to write on his own. It's one of those things that you have to do to do. But where to start?

There's an exercise that I read about that's supposed to be great for kids who have handwriting issues and left-brain/right-brain issue (Hank is left-handed but right-everything-elsed), but it is incredibly tedious--basically trace a large infinity symbol three times, and write each letter of the alphabet over different parts of the infinity symbol, alternating each letter with three more repetitions of the infinity symbol. Do this every day for six months, and the child will improve a hundred percent.

Right. Unless he kills himself or his mother first.

But thanks to this great website, a part of the Northern Nevada Writing Project (an offshoot, I assume, of the Bay Area Writing Project and the National Writing Project), and which I am totally going to steal from again in the future, I tried something that worked.


I told him what a haiku was (5-7-5 syllables--or words, I said I didn't care) and we looked at a couple of examples online. The initial plan was to use this as way to practice summarizing, but thankfully I realized that we needed to practice the form first. Fun. We're supposed to have fun.

Let's try making it like a riddle, like this one about the frog.

No, about Star Wars!

Of course. Sure, why not? Okay, I'll go first. Um...okay:

Small and green I am. (Yoda! It's Yoda!)
But size matters not, I say. (Yoda! Yoda!)
Jedi master, yes.

Yoda! Yoda! Mom, that was way too easy.

Okay, you try.

And we alternated turns until he had three haiku. Fifteen sentences. Short sentences, but fifteen of them. And not a single complaint.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Hank has three of his old school [old skool] buddies over today. Among other activities, they spent some time shrieking the dumbest questions they could think of at Hank's magic eight ball: Will we blow up in one second? Will the Magic 8-ball blow up? Are we in heaven?

I had a flashback to about a month ago when my iPhone 4G in the mail, and Tad and his friend Rowell experimented with Siri by asking it (her?) the silliest questions they could think of: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Does your dog bite?

Coincidence? I think not.