According to legend, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a novel in six words. He responded, “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn.” And thus, the six-word memoir was born.
My 7th grade daughter was working on her first writing piece for this school year.
I read her second revision and realized that she “disobeyed” one of the main instructions from the guide: Reveal your object from the beginning. Do not make this a “riddle” to solve. I knew I explained this rule in writing class and it was very clear in the directions, so I reminded her.
“Sweetie, remember that this isn’t supposed to be a riddle paragraph. You are describing the object without any mystery involved. Your topic sentence is supposed to let the reader know what the object is right away.”
“What? You never said that!”
“We went over it in class. It is here in the list of requirements too. It’s fine that you forgot. You just need to make a few tweaks to the start of your paragraph.”
She went back to work. A few minutes passed.
Heavy sighing. “I just want to start with a new object.”
“What do you mean? This is a great paragraph. The language is concrete and descriptive. If you just change the earlier sentences, it fits the requirements. There is no reason to have to start over.”
“But I am just not proud of this paragraph.”
A dramatic explosion occurred in my brain.
I don’t even know how to describe the millions of thoughts that exploded in my mind. Conflicting thoughts, opinions and voices immediately filled my head. All at the same time.
First, there was the Ghost of Public School Past (a term coined by Julie at BraveWriter): Directions have to be followed. There are reasons for the directions. You are the teacher and she is the student.
Next came the well-meaning friends’ opinions: She has to learn to follow directions. If she were in a classroom, they would make her. At some point she needs to learn that you can’t just do it the way you want.
Then came the obedience drill sergeants: This is an obedience issue. She has to learn to obey your instructions with a good attitude. She can’t just expect the rules to bend for her. (Does anyone else have this voice in their head? It must be from reading too many child-rearing books)
Thankfully, the loudest voice came from my own soul: LET THIS GO! I’d rather her be proud of her writing than to follow the directions.
The other voices debated with me for a bit while I slipped into the kitchen and poured some iced tea. Yes, there is so much arguing, debating, and clanging in the mind of a woman. I doubt I am alone in this.
I know. I know that she would have to follow the directions if she was in a classroom…BUT SHE ISN’T.
I know she might be one day, but I am pretty confident she will pick up that lesson when necessary.
This isn’t a defiant behavior. In fact, it is the opposite. She is so engaged in her writing that she feels an emotional attachment to the final product. She is not just trying to skirt the assignment.
She has developed a emotional connection with her writing. Isn’t that more important than following this requirement? Won’t that take her further as a writer than learning to follow directions?
Finally, I shut them all up. Decision made. I chose to honor the emotional connection she developed with her work. I chose to honor her words.
“Sweetie, you have worked really hard. You felt proud of your work until I asked you to change a key direction you chose to take. I know you are technically breaking the rule laid out here, but I would rather you be proud of your work than for you to follow that rule. Just continue to work on this paragraph the way you planned it.”
Joy. Happiness. And more writing followed. I felt completely content with my choice.
(Without a doubt, the voice I listened to in my soul has been trained, encouraged, and taught by Julie Bogart at Brave Writer through her blog entries, Facebook posts, and daily emails. Brave Writer is so much more than a curriculum. It is truly a lifestyle created in your homeschool. If you haven’t read any information on the Brave Writer Lifestyle, then I encourage you to do so!)