March 02, 2012 — TLC for Your Family – Spelling and Grammar Happens

TLC for Your Family – Spelling and Grammar Happens
March 02, 2012


Here's your March 2012 TLC for Your Family Ezine – Enjoy!


The unschooling books have come through for us again! Apparently spelling and grammar does just "happen" – at least if you can sit on your hands long enough to wait for it to happen organically. :)

What do I mean?

I spent years trying to devise ways to "get" my kids interested in spelling and grammar (and reading, and math, etc., etc.).

But, once I learned to relax and let their interests lead, reading came fairly easily. And math came easily, to one child anyway.

But I was beginning to fear spelling and grammar would never come.

Although both of my boys loved "writing books," they didn't seem to care so much about spelling and grammar in them. In the early years I found myself putting so much "subtle" pressure on them, that they'd sometimes drop their book writing for months.

Studies described in books like Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn had told me this would happen – pressure decreases interest. But I guess I had to experience it to really get how much it was backfiring.

So, finally I let pressure go entirely. And just the other day – wah-lah! It happened!

And it happened because my boys became interested in communicating with others in writing, in a clear, understandable way. What more solid a foundation on which to build spelling and grammar knowledge could I hope for?

They had begun emailing back and forth with their cousin, which started them musing on the value of learning spelling and grammar. But it wasn't until they started making video games, around the same time, that they really got it. The game-making software allowed them to publish their games for others to play. Since it required them to type in text for various characters to "say," and they wanted players to understand and enjoy their games, they wanted to increase their spelling and grammar skills accordingly.

Last night I spent hours, at their urgent request, helping edit their games, answering endless questions about spelling, and where commas go, how contractions work, etc.. They couldn't get enough! They wrote long lists of words they had trouble with, to refer to when I wasn't there. And they looked at me with the kind of palpable eagerness that every traditional teacher dreams of, so grateful for each answer I gave. "Thank goodness we have you Mom," my eldest son said.

It reminded me of the unschooling story I heard from the speaker, Pam Sooroshian, at a homeschooling conference, years back. She talked about how her girl desperately wanted to travel to New York to see a particular Broadway production. To that end, she was going through elaborate calculations to figure out how many days of travel that would take. And her mother, doing the laundry nearby, casually said, "Hey, if you're interested, I know a trick that would help you figure that out faster." Her daughter was thrilled! Her mother then proceeded to teach her a semester's worth of math, all of basic, to long, to decimal point division, in less than an hour. And her daughter spent the next few weeks engrossed in it. "Wow, Mom, this is soooo cool! Why do all my school friends complain about long division!!! It makes figuring things out so much faster!!!"

Years later I heard this mom speak again. She relaxes now, having watched all of her children go on to succeed in college, and math especially, despite never having any formal math education except for what happened in these moments of interest. She knows even more deeply what I am still just beginning to trust.

Learning happens – if we just let it happen. Because we're human! Because we're naturally curious! Because we want to be understood, to create, and to contribute!

So let's get out of the way of that! :) I know it's hard, given all the training we have, telling us we have to be forced to learn.

But, once you see true interest-based learning for yourself, well, you'll never believe in pressured, interest-detached learning again. Especially when you understand, from books like Punished by Rewards, that the eager learning you begin to see in your children is not anomalous.

Well, that's it for this issue. I hope you enjoyed it.

And, as always, whatever you do next, and however it goes, I wish you and yours "Happy Family-ing!"

Tiffany Clark
Family-Focused Speaker, Author and Advocate
Discover What Might be Possible in Your Family Life!

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