Writing has long been one of the most feared and most hated subjects in school. Honestly? I think that’s true for public, private, AND home educators. I believe part of the reason for this is a hyper-focus on grammar & punctuation balanced by only a vague picture of what makes good writing good. Properly placed periods never made bad writing good, and good writing is only improved by such formalities. I love perfect punctuation & clear grammar, but it is no reason to make a student cry.
Writing is about two things: vivid detail and strong voice. My two older children and I finished reading Across Five Aprils today, and while we already knew the ending–that President Lincoln would be assassinated and would not in fact be the beacon of hope for the wounded nation that the main character so longed for him to be–the actual description of the loss made it so much more personal, so much more devastating, that my son and I wept for a loss we had known but never tasted. The detail was vivid.
In students’ writing, we must remind them to use all of their senses, or they will forget that the greatest beauty of homemade bread is the smell of it cooking and the way that its smell reaches inside you and grasps your heart like the hand of a loved one. They will forget that its taste is not flavor alone but texture, and remembering the airy lightness of a special bread made by Grandpa, who passed last year, can be like suddenly smelling his aftershave on the air. Remembering the sticky hardness of a bite taken before news of sudden loss, the feeling of it sticking in your throat as you struggle to swallow it past the grief brings back so much more than just the taste or the texture of the bread.