analytic writing

I’d found an interesting, and not terribly difficult to read, article last week, about what the Ancient Greeks could teach us about Greta Thunberg’s trolls. Naturally, this seemed like something that would interest Claudia, and so rather than just ask her to read it (which she might or might not) or read it to her (we are really pushing for some more autonomy around here — particularly for someone who wants to go to Oxford), I asked her to write a summary of the article.

I was happy to see her working diligently for over an hour, but a little crestfallen when she handed me, looking quite done for the day, a neatly plagarized version of the article. “Did you just copy this from the article I gave you?” I called, as she had already asked to unwind with some Sims.

“NO!” she hollered, offended.

“What’s ‘misogyny’?” I asked her.

Slowly, she approached. At first, she took the tack of being wildly offended/exasperated that I would have let her waste her time and allowing her to rewrite the article nearly word-for-word. We returned to our respective corners. I do not waste a lot of our time together fighting.

Claudia loves to write. She is on chapter eleven of her own (admittedly, very derivative), novel, and she deserves nothing but encouragement and NO editing advice at this stage for that project. But.

We have gone through the “write about personal experiences” journaling gauntlet, and found that it was one of the things that required actual “unschooling” — they had learned only to whitewash all their experiences and say “I had a great time!” about every experience they had, even when I had seen them be bored and hot and tired and anxious. We have done a lot of “fifteen minutes of anything that comes to your head” writing, which for Béla tends to result in strings of explatives and play-by-play details of the cat’s actions, while Claudia tends to recount entire sections of dialogue from audiobooks or podcasts (some of which I think she has heard, some of which are made up, it’s a very fine line.)

But objectively summarizing and analyzing another piece of writing — in writing — well, it wasn’t really something, outside of a book review (very subjective), either of them had ever done.

Claudia was really, really sure she had no idea what I wanted from her and was shocked when we sat down together and went through the article together, and she wrote this, and I said “This is all I wanted.”

How to get them to understand how to do this type of writing, other than practice? Well, we got lucky — in that all three books (yikes) of our “Ancient Civilizations” curriculum arrived today. And while it seems California state has some rather lockstep testing standards in relation to history and social studies, these seem like great books — teaching exactly the time period both kids are interested in, plus information on how to use various types of maps, a lot of vocabulary support, AND…

Just like that.

We are using FAR more curricula this year — the house is fairly covered in textbooks — than we have in prior years. Every one is from a different company and each kid rarely shares one for any subject. (They have different math books, different spelling books, one has a Latin curriculum and one a Korean curriculum…) and it’s a lot. Organizing it and documenting their work — which I do much more of than our district asks us to — is a LOT of work.

My kids are making brunch and my son is cutting up ham while Claudia sketches symbols for the “new elements” — Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Chaos. “What do you think is a good representation for Chaos?” she asks her brother, in a fairly posh English accent.

“Oh, definitely the Moon,” says Béla.

They make me really proud — and really mystified.


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