One of my son’s favorite — and unanswerable — questions through the years had to do with Algebra and higher math.
“When will I ever use this?” he asked. “And if I never use it, why do I have to learn it?”
I never did come up with a good answer for that one, having successfully made it to seasoned adulthood without dredging up my high school trigonometry.
But I did understand his frustration of devoting time and mental energy to a task for which he saw no purpose. Algebra isn’t the only subject our children wonder what they’re going to do with some day.
Too frequently, we expect our children to write to no purpose — the 2-page, 5-page, 10-page research paper being the primary example, and really, the main reason we insist upon their completing these projects in high school is because they will be expected to do so in college. How many of us, since our college days, have completed a research paper?
Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its purposes — organization, understanding of subject matter, citation, the ability to understand and avoid plagiarism — but our children’s writing time can also include more pertinent activities that they will actually use in their later, adult lives:
- Writing letters — personal or business
- Crafting e-mails (this is more difficult than it sounds)
- Telling, in written form, a story
- Providing clear, easy to follow instructions (how many of us who have purchased a “some assembly required” item have longed, achingly, for comprehensive, and comprehensible, directions?)
- Poetry and creative writing — not every child is interested in these areas, but those who are should have the opportunity to explore them. Your child may never play the piano well, but the music in his soul could come out through his writing.
- Describing the results of a science experiment
- Expressing an opinion on a political, historical, or societal subject (the Letters to the Editor section of the paper remains many people’s favorite)
When you think of all the real functions that writing can fulfill in everyday life, all of a sudden you can see how a child can spend 15 minutes to an hour, daily (depending upon the child’s age), doing them. And the more a child writes — and writes for a purpose — the better he becomes at it. And the better he becomes at it, the more willing he is to do it (one hopes).
It’s almost my mantra, but the primary purpose of writing is to express ourselves, and everybody — regardless of age — has something to say. When our children believe that what they spend their time putting to paper or screen is actually being read and absorbed, they gain in confidence and ability, and when enough time goes by — 1st grade segues into middle school, then middle school into their junior year of high school — all that practice and hard work results in a person who can write.
This is the third and last of three articles on teaching your child how to write. Article number one is Homeschooling? Yes, You Can Teach Your Child to Write, and article number two is Writing: The More You Practice the Better You Get.
I have successfully homeschooled four children in a 20-year period. As a professional writer, I observed the common mistakes and issues many people face, and addressed them in my book, Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” available at Amazon.com as a paperback and digital book.
I have also successfully raised a family of six
on an extremely modest income, which is what most homeschoolers — and families of all sorts — deal with. Live Happily on Less: 52 Ideas to Renovate Your Life and Lifestyle, addresses how to make realistic, sustainable changes in the way you think and spend money, so that you can get the most out of the resources you have. Many money saving books hammer you over the head with frugality tips — extreme couponing, and making odd craft projects out of old t-shirts or blue jeans — but I don’t. Unless you find what works for you, and works well, you won’t do it — and my book walks you through finding what works for you.