Writer's Help by
Homeschooling our son was one of the most rewarding experiences my wife and I have had together. I would love to start over and do it all again.
We were very fortunate in that what we did for him helped our son so much. He completed the series of writing assignments we designed for him by the time he was 12 -- they were meant to last him until he turned 18. The summer he turned 12 we let him enter Lake Michigan College and take freshman English composition and Michigan government. He earned an A in English and a B+ in government. He then took college classes along with his other work and was a second-semester sophomore by the time he entered Kalamazoo College. In his junior year in Kalamazoo his writing teacher put his essays in closed reserve in the college library so the other students could see how to write papers. He was graduated with honors from both the department of English and their creative writing program.
Corey then earned his MFA degree from Warren Wilson College in NC, a very fine creative writing program. When he applied for his doctoral training in creative writing at the University of Houston in Texas, he was their first choice of the three people they accept out of hundreds of applicants each year. He now is in his second year. He has had poetry accepted in five literary journals including Paris Review. His writing is so beautiful that when I read it I have tears in my eyes and I can't talk.
When we speak to other homeschooling families at curriculum fairs and conferences during the summer, we talk about the curriculum we put together for his training. In this discussion, we talk about what that training has meant for him. Often then we are asked about what other things or situations influenced his training. Since he has and still is so spectacularly successful with his education and his writing, the people we talk to feel there must have been things other than the writing assignments that helped him. There were.
We have done a great deal of reading in the field of language acquisition since working with Corey, and fortunately, most of it supports what we did for him. So I feel good about passing on our experiences to others.
Our efforts to influence Corey's language development started before he was born. I came home one night and found Lea by herself, great with child, reading King Lear out loud. When I asked her why she was reading it out loud, she told me that she was reading to our unborn child. When I suggested that Shakespeare might be a little tough for him to start with, shouldn't he star with Hemingway or Faulkner first? She said that the rhythm of Shakespeare was what she was reading for. She said the child could hear and feel that.
Corey was raised in a house spilling over with books. Every horizontal surface in our houses have always been piled high with reading. He saw us read to ourselves, to each other and we both read to him long before he knew what words meant. Everywhere we went we carried books with us. He started early to understand that written language is very important. Today his home in Texas is overflowing with books, and how when we visit him all three of us still carry books everywhere we go together.
We played word games with him as soon as he could make sense of words. We made up stories for each other. We made up words that made sense only to our family.
We gave the TV away when he was about two years old and we didn't have a TV in the house until he was fourteen.
We never talked over his head at meals or excluded him from family discussions. We didn't baby talk to him, nor did we allow his grandparents to do so. We talked to him always as if he had a mind and could use it.
We always discussed his actions in terms of how they fit in with the things our family felt were important. We never used pain to control his body or mind. We, even when he was very young, used reason and discussion to guide him. And so, he never did or thought things because he had to, he came to conclusions based on values we all held.
We weren't perfect parents; we made mistakes as all parents do, but we had a goal for our son. We wanted him to love his language and to love its use. We wanted him to feel comfortable with abstractions and discussions of them.
Today, Corey is a gentle, considerate and compassionate young adult who will be very happy spending his life using language to create beauty and explore ideas.
If you feel comfortable with doing or trying the things we did, fine. By all means, don't do them. You should do the things for your children that you think are best for your family. But I wanted to share our experiences and their results with you. If you can use any of these ideas, and they help you or your children, that's just great.