Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Writer's Jungle

I know I'm behind on my crazy Week In Review school updates, they are fun for us to write because it helps us see what we've been up to each week. I'm not writing one right now though either. We've actually been kinda busy this week between accidentally consuming something with milk in it {I'm allergic and milk gives me horrible headaches & adverse allergy issues} & Mother's Day.

Anyway, I have something a little bit more exciting to share at the moment. You know those moments when you're homeschooling & you think to yourself, "am I doing enough?" or "am I doing it right?" I had one of those moments this week. My concern this week was over Language Arts.

I've never taught this as a formal subject with my kids. That's never bothered me either. In fact, I will never forget the first time I totally dissected a sentence for my husband. You know the whole milk bottle diagramming thing going on with prepositional phrases teetering off the bottom or top & all that. Poor Mr S was somewhere between horror & shock. I'm not sure which was more appalling to him: that I took a perfectly good sentence & put it inside of all sorts of shapes & lines, or the fact that I actually knew how to do it & insisted it would make perfect sense to many other people.

"And you did this on a regular basis?" he inquired.
"Well, yeah. It was required in my English class, & I'm pretty sure if I hadn't done it my teacher would have had me speaking the the principle."
"So, your Mom actually sent you to the principle."

Which is where our entire conversation ended because the crazy man had tears streaming down his face as he rolled with laughter. You know, until I poked him in the ribs & told him that someday his kids wives might be laughing just as hard when they stated their Mum sent them to the principle..

The point was, though, that as an Australian student he'd never once taken the time to diagram a sentence. This seemed odd to me, after all most US students have pulled their hair out at one time or another as they attempted to make each & ever word of a sentence fit into one of these odd & unusual conformities that were, in our home, dubbed "milk bottles". I won't lie here, I went and ran a poll with other Australians to see if they knew what I was speaking of.

Some of them did, but had never done it on a first hand basis. They'd seen it done, heard about it, seen it in US based curriculum, but as a whole not one of them could ever recall having done it before. Not in gradeschool, not in highschool, not in college, & most certainly not in university. What?! How could this be?!

Thanks to that crazy little moment all those years ago, & the poll that later followed {more then once I might add},   I never felt the need or pressure to teach my children how to diagram a sentence. In fact, I still don't. So why was I all shook up about Language Arts, which, let's be honest, is a very vague subject to be concerned about. Do you have any idea what kinda topics are thrown into that heading? Spelling, phonics, grammar, writing, handwriting, the list could go on!

For me, I was worried more about the writing aspect & what I had, or hadn't, taught my children in regards to grammar. You see, both my boys learned about the most common parts of speech {verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, articles, & prepositions} thanks to their infatuation with Madlibs. In fact, Madlibs can put any sane person to the test when they are suddenly thrown on the spot with four people staring at them waiting for the magical words that will help them know exactly what kind of word they should say when they are suppose to select something from the adverb catagory. Talk about a quick & fast brush up for me!

Mechanics came from their years with Five In A Row. We learned about things like metaphors, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia, & so on. Jayden could probably use a grand refreshed in some of the later, but Morgan has really got an amazing grasp on all of it. I wasn't convinced of this & handed him a paper recently that put him to the test for all sorts of basic things like capital letters & simple punctuation. He aced it & asked if I had anything harder. It amazed me, because neither of the boys have had any formal training in this area.

Everything they know they've learned from copywork, dictation, & lots & lots of good books that I've read aloud to them. Yet, here I was having a freak-out moment. Was it enough? Was I missing anything? I've had my eye on The Writer's Jungle for a while now & was delighted to hear that it was on special.

After asking around about it a bit more I decided it was exactly what I was looking for. The inspiration & final hand holding I needed to encourage me down the rest of the road to help me help my children become outstanding writers. After all, most university students don't need to diagram a single sentence to pass classes, but all of them have to be able to write outstanding papers for good grades!

I'm so glad I spent the money on the book. I've spent the last two days {after printing & binding the book} reading it & I have to admit I've not made it very far through it yet. Yet, as you can see in the photo above, I've been highlighting & making notes like crazy. Much of it is just confirmation that I'm walking the right path, not necessarily new information, but just what I needed to hear. There has been some new information which will help me start filling in the gaps or concerns that I had.  So far it's been a really awesome read, not to mention inspiring in just the way I needed!


Butterfly said...

Funny to read this right now ... before I popped in here I bought The Writer's Jungle, from the coop, half price! It's been on my wishlist for a while, and I wondered how I could justify ANOTHER writing resource, but as some of my favourites were bargain $1 Scholastic ebooks, I felt less guilty. I ought to write about these things one day too.

Reading your post, I feel even better about my purchase than I did :)

Nancy said...

This was very helpful to me as well. I like to pull it out and read it from time to time. It is very encouraging and it puts me at ease and it puts me on the right path again.

Tani and Tallulah said...

Fortunately I have my Yorkshire Step Mum to do this with my little one. As a typical Aussie, I was taught little about the English language, and considering I studied literature up to year 12 that is mildly amusing. Fortunately I was taught how to write by said step mum, and she as an English teacher also believes that it isn't necessarily necessary. But that said, she will still be passing this amazing information on. Great blog by the way. Thank you. Tani