Poor writing is the norm.
As an attorney, I read and write for a living and I see literally hundreds of writing examples a week from everyone from students to experts. Many of these writers are masters of the technical details of writing, their grammar is perfect, their sentence structure is sophisticated and their vocabulary is extensive. In short, these folks could pass most writing curricula with flying colors. And, yet, in many instances, their writing is bad - its muddled, confusing, hard to read, hard to follow, illogical, and in some cases incomprehensible.
Why is this? One simple reason: learning the technical details of writing does not create good writers.
Good writing requires good thinking.
To be a good writer, you must not only be able to write well but you must also be able to think well. To put it differently, if you have not done a good job thinking about what you are going to write, your writing will be bad.
In classical times, educators understood this principle. In fact, much of their training was focused on teaching children to think and analyze. Classical educators devoted much of the second and third stages of the trivium (middle and high school) to teaching children to think logically and then persuasively.
Today, the best writers still understand the need for good thinking. During my convocation in law school, the dean told us, "You all came here to learn about the law. We are not going to teach you about the law - you can learn that on your own. We are going to teach you to think!"
Expert writers agree - good writing is good thinking.
Malcolm Gladwell, the author of several New York Times bestsellers, has acknowledged:
"For every hour I spend writing, I spend three hours thinking about writing."
David McCullough, the author of many popular biographies, has said:
"Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard."
George Orwell confirmed that bad writing is actually bad thinking:
"If people cannot write well, they cannot think well and if they cannot think well others will do their thinking for them."
Children are not taught to think well.
Unfortunately, today’s children are often not taught to think well. They are taught how to put together sentences and paragraphs, but not thoughts and ideas. They are taught to use words and clauses, but not arguments and evidence. They are taught to write their thoughts, but not to organize those thoughts before writing.
Tips on how to teach your children to think well.
So, what can we as homeschool parents do to train our children to think well? It begins with recognizing the goal of thinking well. I’ll be writing a series of articles in the next several weeks with practical tips on how to teach a child to think well. To receive a notification when these articles are published, sign up for our writing newsletter.
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