My ten-year-old struggles with writing. It’s one of those deficits that kind of snuck up on us. She exceled in everything else, and when Mrs. Φ would ask people about it, they would say, “Don’t worry; eventually she’ll suddenly catch on and there won’t be a problem.”
Except . . . she didn’t catch on, and at the end of last year, as we looked at her barely legible writing, we realized that she was now behind her age group.
So, we enrolled her in a writing class. Here she has made hard-fought progress, although it still takes her a disproportionate amount of time to produce a handful of complete sentences.
Recently, however, I discovered among the “notes” on my iPod, which Γ borrows from time to time, a series of narratives that, it turns out, she had written just for fun! They weren’t entirely original; she would borrow the backdrop from the books she enjoys – Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, etc. – and create, if not entirely new plot lines, at least new conversations and events. And she was using compound sentences too, with dependent clauses and the like. It wasn’t perfect of course, but it was still amazing what she was getting right.
Perhaps it’s just a hand-eye coordination problem associated with handwriting, not an actual inability to form a coherent sentence. Odd, though, this doesn’t show up anywhere else; Γ taught herself origami from library books, and draws better than I ever could. Hoping to encourage independent writing, I resolved then to get her a netbook for her next birthday present, something she call her own and use to practice both typing and composition.
Today, I received my very first email from her:
DEAR daddy, I am doing a persuasive paper. I chose the "persuading someone to believe what I believe what I believe" kind. Can you give me some ideas about what to argue and which side to take. Please respond as quickly as possible. Γ
On one level, I know that all dads think that the sun rises and sets by everything their little girls do, no matter how modest. But . . . yeah, I just busted out with pride at the fact my daughter could write an email like this, that she valued my input enough to ask for it, and that she was writing a persuasion paper. When I was 10, I’m pretty sure the most complicated thing I ever wrote was a book report.
Here's what comes to mind:
1. Reepicheep: valiant hero or annoying rodent? Explain.
2. Taylor Swift sings: "Marry me, Juliet, you never have to be alone . . . I talked to your Dad; go pick out a white dress . . . ." Should boys always talk to fathers before asking girls to marry them? Why or why not?
3. Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius said that man has the capacity to choose to follow God of his own free will. John Calvin said that God must first regenerate a man’s will to give him that capacity. Who is right, and why?
5. Which is better to have in our backyard: a trampoline or a hot tub?
“I’m so ready to get rid of that trampoline,” Mrs. Φ told me over Skype later.
“I’m tired of having to lean out the back door every few minutes and yell, one at a time! ONE AT A TIME!”
“On the other hand, it is a status booster among the neighborhood kids that don’t have one. They’re always excited at the opportunity to come over and use it.”
“In a few years, the girls would probably rather have the hot tub. Γ has already lost interest in the trampoline, and her little sister probably will eventually.”
“I guess a hot tub could be status booster.”
“Of course, at that age, you’ll probably still be wanting to lean out the back door yelling, one at a time! ONE AT A TIME!”