Am I worried about what he’ll do three or
;ve or ten years from now? Not really.
“Pencil = Brain Freeze”
Does the need to put thoughts on
paper block effective composition?
day appeared to be play, though frequently
accompanied by audiobooks on an iPod.
He listened to hundreds of books, many of
them classics by authors such as Dickens,
Twain, Melville, Tolkien—authors whose
work he never would have been able to
read even if he had been reading “at grade
level” and way more books than his parents
could have read to him.
We persevered with faith that God had
a plan for his life, that some day he would
be able to read, and that even if he didn’t
ever read well, he wouldn’t be doomed to
failure in life. Meanwhile, he would sit in
on my writing classes.
Later, he o;en dictated his compositions—at ;rst to Mom and then to a computer. Gradually he developed a ;ne vocabulary and a rather sophisticated way of
using words. ;e handwriting and spelling were hard (and still are), but we kept
him doing copywork daily for almost two
years. Had we done standardized tests,
he probably would have scored frighteningly low, but we had the wisdom to just
say “no” to the world’s demand that we
compare our children with other people’s
children. However, I must confess there
were many days when we really doubted
whether this was the right approach.
With a great amount of unstructured
time, he was free to ful;ll his natural calling to run and jump and build and ;ght
and explore. As we had renounced video
games and television as available forms
of entertainment in our home, he was
forced to be creative. He spent considerable time outdoors, o;en alone, observing and absorbing his world in a healthy,
visceral way. Maria Montessori asserted,
“Play is the work of the child,” and indeed
my son worked at play. (G. K. Chesterton
noted that the reason adults don’t play
more is because it requires too much effort.) So it was the combination of imaginative recreation, huge quantities of great
literature, and a small but steady rigor
of simple academics that got us over the
hump and into the homestretch.
And where are we today? My son is
15. He reads voraciously; applies him-
self seriously to the study of grammar,
logic, and rhetoric; still loves to argue
and debate (only now over much more
sophisticated ideas); and writes prose
that awes me. A couple of months ago, he
took a pad of paper and went out into the
woods behind our home. An hour or so
later, he returned and read to me what he
had written, a part of which I o;er you
now, unedited (except for spelling):
The dark forest floor is illuminated in
spots by the small amount of light let
through by the dense branches above.
After the first few layers of pine foliage, the branches die, leaving dark
claws, grabbing at any traveler. The
moss which has grown on the rocks
turns to bright gold when light finds
rest there. Although the feel of the forest is magical, it is in no way good, for
good only lives in the places of good,
and the cedar forest is not a place of
good. The magic which lives in the
forest is strong, but wild, treacherous,
and unpredictable. It seeks to hinder
the traveler, causing him to become
bewildered. The wind that blows
through it is spasmodic and chilling
to the bone. The scattered grasses
which find root there are tossed in the
icy breeze. Thorns stretch from one
tree to another, weaving a complex
web almost as if a giant spider had
made the land its own.
I don’t think I could ever write something like that. ;at sort of play requires
too much e;ort. Am I worried about
what he’ll do three or ;ve or ten years
from now? Not really.
Andrew Pudewa is the director of the
Institute for Excellence in Writing
( www.excellenceinwriting.com) and a
homeschooling father of seven. Presenting
throughout North America, he addresses
issues relating to teaching, writing, thinking, spelling, and music with clarity and
insight, practical experience and humor.
He and his beautiful, heroic wife, Robin,
currently teach their two youngest children
at home in northeastern Oklahoma.
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