At school, failing to finish written work often caused my Boy to miss recess and lunch times, as he attempted to finish off work he didn't get done in the allotted time. Rewards were no carrot and punishment no stick - neither worked. Each year, teacher after teacher recognised it as an issue and some even went so far as to say "I've been teaching for 40 years - I'll get him writing!". Great! Bring it on! Alas, they failed in their attempts. And he gained large amounts of red pen expounding him to "finish this work".
His first NAPLAN testing in Yr 3 was a resounding success - above the top band in reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and mathematics. The bottom of Band 1 (i.e. zero) for writing. He stubbornly refused to put pen to paper. After much discussion about this at home, complete with demonstrations of the kinds of writing which got some marks (basically scribble on a page), in Yr 5 he managed to get some output and achieve a Band 4 - huge improvement! But way below what he was achieving in the other areas.
Wombat Girl cruised along OK in her writing in the early years. Yr 3 NAPLAN showed her writing 2 bands below all her other outstanding achievements as did Yr 5 (done the next year as she skipped a grade). But her lack of progress in classroom work started to show and she was also gathering large amounts of red pen comments.
When we came home, I took it easy on the writing front for a term or two. I knew it caused anxiety in both children and they didn't have much self-belief in themselves as writers. I stumbled upon Brave Writer's Writer's Jungle. We worked through the introductory exercises - I did them too! I tried to foster an atmosphere where it was safe to try. Freewriting was a reasonable success, but both balked at reviewing any piece and editing it. Tears ensued. I backed off.
Any attempt at either persuasive or information/report writing was like pulling teeth, even using assistive technology. Much bouncing, umming, ahhing, fiddling, crying, head-banging, and out-and-out stress accompanies any attempt to do this type of work. It is doing my head in!
Perhaps I am expecting too much. I have written a lot of essays through school and university and even an honours thesis! I write my blog. I am able to sort out my thoughts, gather evidence, put it on paper/computer. Do rough draft and then go back and edit. And it all makes sense, is humourous when I want it to be, is serious when I want it to be. Gets my ideas across succinctly and eloquently. Am I putting my expectations that I find this process easy onto them??
Am I stressing too much about the importance of writing now? Perhaps this is one of those skills that they will learn when they see a need for it, not just because Mum says "we have to write about this". Maybe they can pick it up when they require it.
Or is there something bigger at play here?
Writing is a very complex task. It requires language skills, comprehension, imagination and/or knowledge (which I know they have - tick). It requires a good working memory and processing skills - thinking of the overall concept you want to get across, planning it out, constructing each sentence, putting the words in the right order on paper or computer. It requires motor skills to keep up with the thought processes (an issue for Video Boy in particular). All these things become easier with practice - but if you refuse to/have trouble with writing, then you aren't practising.
I have read books on dyspraxia (which also means problems with organisation), underachievement, visual-spatial learners, right-brained thinkers, ADHD, and executive functioning.
I really think their issues lie with those "executive skills" of planning and carrying out. Sorting out complex thoughts. Holding ideas in your working memory whilst your little hands carry out motor tasks. Keeping your attention focussed while all this is going on.
It is something we are going to pursue professionally - at first for Video Boy whose reactions and emotions on attempting these tasks are, quite frankly, bordering on frightening. I think he frightens himself at times with the intensity of his emotions! I think something is going on to a certain extent with Wombat Girl too, but not not as strongly - however, we still frequently experience tears and inattention.
Of course, now that I've written this post, Wombat Girl has gone a fabulous job with her first blog post and is working away on a second. So, maybe there is hope. Maybe I just need time for their writing skills to blossom and maybe the writing needs to be meaningful for them.
Has anyone else experienced this? Writing is seriously our bug-bear in a bed of homeschool bliss. It is the cause of much stress and anxiety (them and me!). It is the one thing guaranteed to bring our relationship unstuck. It is something which I think they will be able to do well, but it is just not happening for us at the moment.
Writing can bring so much joy, but for us for the most part, it is only bringing tears.