Monday, December 7, 2015

Write Time

In the midst of soccer ending, kids' after school plans, our Elf, house cleaning and holiday activities, it is so easy to miss the little things. Sometimes the little things turn out to be the big things. Blink and you'll miss them.

One of these little/not so little things occurred last week as I sat down with my children after school to help them with their homework. They had gone to a play date right after early dismissal, with the promise they would focus on homework as soon as we returned. Riding high from the fun at their friend's house, they really did not want to sit down and do something required of them.

All three of the triplets approach nearly everything in different ways. Homework is no exception. They all enjoy reading. But this day, they needed to write. Not just write, but fill an entire blank page. One will fill a whole journal given the opportunity. One needs a little nudge at the beginning of each sentence. The third, he needs a complete explanation, detailed instruction, a pencil, a pencil with an eraser, PLUS hand holding.

I took my son to my office and just looked at him for a minute. He was coordinating his paper and lap desk, and I had suggested he use an additional piece of paper for notes. I thought about what he likes and understands. He is a very smart, observant child. He loves to create things by building them out of nothing. He has been making his own transformers out of legos for a couple of years and really enjoys science. So we sat together discussing how to break things apart and put them together, in word form. The last time he had to write a full page, he had a ferocious meltdown and it nearly took an act of God to drag three sentences out of him.

This time, my approach worked like a charm. I asked him what he thought the first step was. He shrugged, and I explained that writing actually means a lot of thinking. A little more bewilderment as he looked at his pencil. "My pencil can't think, Mommy". I chuckled, and explained that note taking and thinking are very important parts to writing, before you get to the actual writing. I asked him to read each part of the instructions one at a time. Then we attacked each one. As we did, he wrote down a few key words to remember what he wanted to write. Slowly, his frustration with the blank page lifted ( I can so relate!) and he began to - ENJOY - himself. I saw it flicker across his face as the pencil etched descriptives on his outline. Once he understood the process, he took off. I repeated the whole set up with my daughter, successfully. I was both relieved and amazed at the outcome.

First and foremost, I had the privilege of watching my children cross over from one way of learning to another, and truly love it. The icing was enjoying with them something I love to do, in a new way. I remember learning how to outline somewhere back in middle school, and not liking it at all. I wanted to write and I did not want anyone to tell me how to make it logical. It seemed to me that writing should be felt, not tidied. Obviously that was the thought of the young, yet-to-be-schooled writer in me. I still feel writing, only now I know how to tidy it (mostly) where necessary.The gift of teaching this to my children, especially the first time, was energizing. It was a new kind of excitement for me seeing the excitement in them.

The best part was convincing them that they could write about whatever
they wanted. It was a freedom that seemed contrary to the directions they are so accustomed to following. They were uncertain with how it felt. I know that uncertainty. I asked them if they had any questions for me. Suddenly the light that had turned on became brighter, and they pummeled me with questions about creating stories and connecting sentences. Part of parenting is figuring out how to open doors so children can discover what is on the other side. Like teaching, you do not always get the privilege of experiencing them walking through that door. This time, I got to walk through the door with them.

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