Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Child Is the Teacher

So after two weeks of school, things seem to be going fairly well with new teachers and new classes. John has been getting his work done at school, which greatly reduces homework battles at home. However, we had a huge one yesterday about putting forth effort. He had to sit outside for awhile, listen to nature, and write a page about sounds of the season. He took a long walk in the woods by himself and came back and wrote about a third of a page.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't enough, and I told him so. Instant outrage, the kind usually reserved for when I have the gall to help him with math homework after he asks. He said he didn't have to write a whole page. I said he did. He said that was too much work. I said he was being lazy. Huge, gasping, angry tears. Finally he said, "If you think it's so easy, why don't YOU do it? Why don't YOU write a WHOLE PAGE about sounds?"

"All right," I said. "I will."

This was too much. He stomped down to his room, while I sat and listened to the afternoon and then wrote a page about what I heard. He came back upstairs, face blotchy but composed, and read it.

"Mom," he said, "I'm sorry, but you can't write about human-made sounds, like the traffic."

"All right," I said. "I'll do it over."

I wrote again while he did his math homework, and I handed it over. He read it and said I was a good writer. I told him I had had a lot of practice. We talked a little bit about what made good writing, specifically about how observation and description is a good place to start, but then you have to ask yourself, in the kindest possible way, so what. Go deeper. What does it mean if you hear wind in the trees? So what if you hear water in the creek? Then what? And then what?

He got it. His face lit up. He sat at the table and wrote as fast as he could. "My hand is getting writer's cramp!" he cried. "My head is so full of ideas it's going to burst!"

And it turned out pretty good. He was done with his homework, before supper on Friday. I was too.


  1. You win Mama of the Week.

  2. Oh, awesome, Mom!! That's a pretty tough assignment, but it's great that you were able to push him beyond those very first impressions. something all writers need to learn! :)

  3. Anonymous7:02 PM

    So of course, when you read what he wrote, you were absolutely merciless in your criticism...

  4. I'm merciless only when we play Scrabble.

    Thanks, Orange and Elissa. :)

  5. I love stories like this.

  6. This is fantastic.........your parent board must have been totally lit up when this was happening. In life, we're lucky to have knowledge, fortunate when we gain know-how, but blessed when we achieve wisdom. You have the wisdom, Krup, that will help your children become wonderful parents, teachers, and friends.

  7. I love it that you rewrote it. I imagine our kids have no perspective on how, "I can write these things all day, man!"