How Self-Expression Damaged My Students – Robert Pondiscio – The Atlantic

I found this a very interesting read. Certainly echoed some of my own discoveries about English learning, which has come about from my years of home educating. If a child is a compulsive reader and reads all kinds of books – a lot of them – then maybe the child will pick up English skills intuitively that way. I was one such child. But it always bugged me that I couldn’t explain to someone why a sentence, when written a certain way, sounds better than if it was written another way. And when I began home educating my children, I realised I needed to get learning the technicalities of the language, so I could explain to them the whys and hows – the rules of English, so to speak.

I was so glad to be picking up a copy of Rex Barks by Phyllis Davenport. I actually found it a very enjoyable read. Realise that this is not the sort of book that would ever make the top ten books of the year or even come close. After all, it’s all about parts of speech and sentence diagramming. But I was so glad to be reading it. I learnt so much, and it really helped me make sense of the language.

My kids are not like me. They don’t really like reading so much. I have found that knowledge of sentence rules and grammar just doesn’t come naturally to them. And my attempts to correct their writing and explain to them why they cannot put it this way, or that, seemed to be of little help to them. I was doing Charlotte Mason style too at one point, trying to see if it would help. Well in terms of writing skills, not really. So I started teaching grammar explicitly. I had to try different resources to see which fitted best, and although I haven’t found any firm favourites as of yet, but I’ve learnt that they write better if I make sure they know their grammar. Any child can write about stuff. Any one can. But without explicit grammar instruction, some kids just never manage to write well even after years of writing exercises.

I’m now looking at Abeka, Rod & Staff, Peacehill Press, ACE and CLP for grammar teaching material. Who knows, I might find the right fit after all. But one good thing I did take from following a Charlotte Mason style curriculum, is that living books are a great way to introduce quality reading to children, to engage their imaginations and help them develop depth of thought and awareness of ethical issues. It is really food for the soul. If the book engages the child of course. I cannot follow the suggested book lists to the letter because some of the books are really dry and the language too complex for my kids.

I am looking at Sonlight with a lot of interest now, because their book lists seem much more manageable than the Ambleside ones, which contain quite a few books with really complex old language which doesn’t always appeal to my kids unless their plots are really good. Mind you, there are some. Like Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, which turned out to be a surprise hit. The only thing stopping me from buying Sonlight is the price tag. I am not sure if it is worth £300 per child. Still thinking about it, I guess.


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