So, I went on a lot yesterday about the problems that the Boy has with writing. I feel that I should say that for him it isn’t a problem, at least, left to his own devices it wouldn’t be. He prefers not to write, but if the impulse comes from him, he will write. A note for Daddy whose getting home after he’s in bed, a spontaneous postcard in reply to one he received, a list of things he wants to pack.
The issues start when the outside world gets in and interferes, trying to get him to write when he’d rather not. And almost always that’s school.
So, I suppose one solution would be to take away the issue, to stop asking him to write. Leave him to his own devices. Maybe he’d get to a point where something motivated him to write more and he’d start, or maybe he’d just cope without doing much writing.
However, that’s not going to happen whilst he’s in school, because the older you get, the more writing based school is. Writing down notes in lessons, writing answers to questions, writing essays, writing answers in exams. So that option would be pretty radical and involve taking him out of school. And if he didn’t develop his writing independently, it would mean no qualifications, as to get them you need to take exams which re pretty much all writing based. So I’m not sure how that would prepare him for adult life, how he would fit in with the rest of society (actually, many jobs don’t require so much writing as school, but getting a job without the qualifications could be tricky).
So, I’m left with figuring out a way to help him with his writing, to help reduce his stress.
I guess I need a two pronged approach. One thing I need to do is all I can in my power to get the school to support him, after all, they’re the experts here (as well as in some ways the source of the problem). My progress so far is an email drafted to the SENCO (as I realised that I’m not actually sure after our last meeting what their plan is at present), that needs proof reading as it was written after midnight. Also I have reordered the I Hate to Write book. And I plan to try and find time to talk to his teacher this week (ha ha, she wasn’t in today for a start). But with less than 3 weeks left until the summer holidays my main focus will be on getting on top of this in September and building up a relationship with his new teacher.
So my second approach needs to be about how I can help him at home, without adding to the stress and anxiety of every day life (both his and mine). I don’t want to turn be a household where hours of extra work is done after school. A large part of our problems are that school tires him out, so anything done at home needs to be light touch, quick, easy, stress free. Which means obvious place to start seems to be the summer holidays, when we have less school.
So, I have a plan of sorts, for a Summer Writing Challenge (the local libraries do a Summer Reading Challenge but in our household it is not a challenge to read, we’ll still probably take part though). I have bought them both a nice notebook each that I’m going to label “X’s Summer Writing Challenge” (after all, these things need to be fair so one each) and I’m going to try and get them to write a little in it each day. Again that all elusive balance is the key. My idea is little and often, to build up connections between his brain and the page, so that when he’s back at school it won’t be so alien to start writing something down. The quality/amount/type of thing he writes isn’t my goal, school can work on that, they know what they’re doing. I just want to try and build up his ability to get started, to try and chip away at whatever that barrier is that seems to stop him writing. So, no small task I’ve set myself then.
I have had a few ideas of what I can ask them to write, to start with at least I want to give them a challenge each day, with the idea to start small and build it up. And a mix of things to write about, facts, instructions, recounting events, stories maybe. So I wrote a long list of ideas, such as a packing list for going away, the first thing you remember saying this morning, the first thing someone said to you, what you think the cat would tell a visitor if they could talk, directions to Grandma’s house, one thing you learned today. I plan to go through the “I hate to write” book when it comes too. I think it has longer, more structured ideas in, so maybe I’ll try one of those every few days, with shorter bits of writing in between (I want them to still enjoy their summer holidays!)
In the mean time, I had an idea of some fun games to play that don’t even seem like writing, that we could do before the end of term.
The first was just a written version of word association. This was the easiest thing I could imagine. You just look at what the other person wrote, and then write down the first word that comes into your head. Just one word at a time. There is not right or wrong answer. There’s plenty of opportunity to be obscure, silly, pedantic (all things he loves). I congratulated myself on my good idea.
Yup, you guessed it, turns out it wasn’t that simple after all. I told him I wanted to play a game and wrote “Red” on a piece of paper, passed him the paper and pen and asked him to write the first word he thought of under mine. He wrote “Red”. Ok, not what I expected, but I decided not to make a big deal out of it, rather just continue hoping he’d get into the swing of things. So I wrote “Two” (as the word red was written twice) and explained that it was supposed to be a different word. So he wrote “Too” (which he knows full well has a different meaning but sounds the same, there’s nothing wrong with his spelling). Again, I just continued without making a fuss and wrote “many”, which prompted “Manny”, who he explained was a character in a book, then we continued “nanny”, “granie”(sic), “square” – that prompted questions from him and I had to explain that a granny square was something you make with crochet. Then he drew a triangle. I asked him to write triangle instead, he told me he didn’t know how to (he was starting to get upset at this point), so I said just try and start it, and he wrote it down just fine, so I congratulated him on his spelling and wrote “pyramid”. And there ended our game, with him upset and cross and complaining that I was forcing him to do it (I gently pointed out I wasn’t and now that he’d told me he wanted to stop I wasn’t going to ask him to write anything else) and that when he see’s a word like “red” written down, all he can think of is the word “red” so this is really hard for him.
I was shocked, I know his brain works differently from mine but it never occurred to me that he would find this game hard, I chose it precisely because I couldn’t imagine him finding it hard. Granted he was a bit under the weather at the time, but still.
However, I have tried something else, something that I thought would be harder, but turns out it’s easier. Group story writing, one word at a time, no commenting out loud, you just write a word and pass it on to the next person. We did it as a family, with me and my husband starting.
Once there was seven horses, growling in the pink destoyer spaceships. Soon seven horses with riders found idiocy and called “wooua” and some friends shouted “war-time” very quietly but differently…
Ok, it’s not going to win any prizes, but all 4 of us did it together, there were no arguments, it involved turn taking and we were writing without argument (albeit one word at a time). The next night we managed
A big strong monster with fluffy teddy-bears hugged under his stupid ears and waving he loved a bananna who drove a submarine quickly. (It’s yellow). Well one day they found some idiotic beans with spotty purple skins which loved inhabited submarines. They ate them and then suddenly became idiotically happy “wuerho” said the farting and burping, singing and dancing banana who had to go to the loo. Son he felt much calmer so went to the moon where he ate a lot of cheese.
This time people seemed to want to write more than one word, so we changed it so that in the second sentence you could write two words each, three in the third, etc. Also, we got interrupted by the next door neighbour calling round to ask something and she got involved and I lost track of things. I think that last sentence is all his.
I’m still feeling my way here, I’m no educational expert. I’m not quite sure what the point of this game is, except to somehow make writing fun and take some of the pressure off, as you can’t make a perfect sentence in a group. I noticed that he paused more when he had to start the second sentance (he ended up writing (it’s yellow)) rather than when he was continuing something. So maybe I’m on to something?
Now, to keep this up. To remember to play it some more. And try and work out a version where you write a sentance each. Or even a paragraph. Maybe we could try an entirely written conversation (that might help with interrupting too). Or having beginnings of sentences to finish. And I wonder if there’s a way of bringing Dennis The Menace into it. Hmmm….