When I was in my early teens my parents set up an extra little activity for us kids.
It was a poetry class.
It wasn't only for us in our own family, but it included a couple other neighbor families as well.
Each week we would go to a neighbor's house and we would learn about poetry.
And then we would write our own. We had a little "reading" at the end of our session (kind of like a recital) and made our own poetry books.
The details are super foggy. I don't remember a lot. I have no idea if these classes went on for a long time or if it was just kind of a month-long deal. I don't even know if my parents remember. But I remember it was kind of serious business.
I know, yawn, right? Poetry? That's what my teenage mind told me in the beginning. Although the details are super foggy I still remember that. But I also remember, despite my initial "how boring!" reaction, that a seed of love for writing started to grow inside me.
I look back with so much fondness for that little class. That my parents put us through that "awful boringness." I'm so grateful for teachers that inspired me to read. For my mother for reading to us in the car, around the camp fire, at bedtime. I'm thankful for my AP English composition teacher who inspired me to write, write, write. I'm so grateful for anything like that that teaches kids a love of writing.
I loved this story Claire brought home beaming with pride about the other day:
Great, that's awesome. Let's raise writers! And readers too!
The thing is, though, I worry this love of writing will be like one of those sparklers we light every summer at Bear Lake. It sparks up and glows with vibrancy and beauty at first. And then, all at once, it fizzles and dies.
Why do I worry?
I worry because this love affair with writing seems to be like a song on re-play. Every one of my kids have had that "sparkler" fire jump in and light up their eyes and their minds in elementary school. Each of my older kids came home with wonder and excitement about reading in elementary school. Elle thought for sure she would be an author. She and her friend had novels they were writing in secret. They wanted them to be a surprise when they would publish them some day. Max and Grace wrote some pretty whiz-bang stuff themselves.
But all that creativity and writing wonder came to a screeching halt when they hit junior high. It's like suddenly that's just not important any more. It's like the people in charge are saying, "enough with all that creative mumbo-jumbo, let's focus on real stuff like math and science," and they do.
I know I wrote about this before, but I so vividly remember being worried about very limited amount of reading required when Grace started junior high. At "back-to-school-night" I asked Grace's upcoming honors English teacher what the required reading list would be (while she crawled under a desk in horror :). When he handed me a list of three books and told me they would be read all together in class I was baffled. Reading together in class?? In honors English? That's awesome but what happened to high expectations? He said "they have just found that kids just don't do the required reading any more so we do it together."
Wait, what? What happened to requirements? Do we just let our kids and their actions dictate how we teach them? Just because "they don't do it" does that mean we should quit requiring it?
Maybe this is only true here in the desert, and maybe even just at the schools my children attend...and maybe I am blowing it all out of proportion. But I feel like writing (and reading!) in general are not stressed in school nearly as much as they used to be.
And as education shifts into other "more important" things, writing and grammar slips into "twitter slang" and "hahaha"s. No one cares about writing a story, for crying out loud, or editing and re-editing research papers to draw the reader in. Kids are so distracted by so many "bright and shiny" things with all the technology today that they forget the beauty of a book that can take us to another world, to see things through the eyes of others, to understand better different cultures, periods of history, dissecting the world in so many different ways. In five years of having high schoolers I haven't seen one essay come home from school marked up in red all over the place like mine were in high school, with an expectation they would come back perfectly...or get marked up in red all over again.
It's the writing and re-writing, and then re-writing again that will make a difference. Not that one-sentence non-grammatically-correct punch that it takes to get enough "likes" in social media that kids care more about these days (am I sounding old fashioned or what? Ha!). Who cares about reading the classics and using their minds to dissect the world and spilling their thoughts out on paper.
I know as a parent this is my responsibility. I need to be pushing at home, it's not just school that directs the molding of my children's' minds (thank goodness). And oh boy, I am trying. Reading with our kids as much as I can, requiring them to read as part of their "jobs" each day, trying to be sure they write in their journals and searching for someone who can teach a class along the same lines of my family "poetry" class all those years ago.
But sometimes I can't help but feel like I'm in a losing battle. Does anyone else feel like this? Do you feel like the art of reading and writing is fading or am I way off base? If anyone has any ideas to help combat the decline we're feeling around here, please send ideas my way!