Today I began an essay writing class in my home. I have 7 students, 7th-10th grade, who were there almost entirely because their moms made them come (except Brittany, who seriously came for the fun of it). This is very typical of even my creative writing classes. The kids--well, generally the BOYS--dread taking it. They are so mad at their moms for signing them up! They are either sulking or breaking out in a cold sweat. All kinds of anxious thoughts are buzzing around in their heads: Is she going to make me READ in front of everyone? Am I going to have HOMEWORK? But I'm a terrible speller!
I love that moment when they all realize: "Oh....this class is going to be FUN!"
Which leads me to the puzzling question: why are kids so scared of writing? Sure, there are kids like I was, who can't stop writing. Kids who keep journals without being told to, who scribble poems on scraps of paper, who keep lists of names and funny words. Kids who blog. There are even a few kids who enjoy a good essay now and then. But on the whole, kids are terrified of the writing process.
I can understand how writing loses its magic when it becomes a rote drill every day in public school--when the process is always the same: prewrite, rough draft, edit, revise, new draft, better draft, best draft, etc. But why do homeschooled kids dread writing? Most of them haven't been turned off of writing by the public school's endless busywork and tedious worksheets. Do kids have a natural dread of writing? Is this something that subtly seeps out of the pores of parents, so that parents are conveying their own fear of writing?
My personal goal is to turn out a crop of homeschoolers who are confident in their writing. I want them to be able to churn out an essay in response to any question posed on the SAT or a college exam. I want the incredible simplicity of the 5-paragraph essay to become completely natural to them. Some day they can take this basic form and make it their own style, but to have that backbone of essay writing as natural as multiplication--THAT will set them free.