Don’t you hear it? she asked & I shook my head no & then she started to dance & suddenly there was music everywhere & it went on for a very long time & when I finally found words all I could say was thank you. –storypeople
I’ve had this post in my head and in my heart for a long time, but sometimes I just have to sit and stew with the ideas for a while…either to let them form completely or because they bring up some pretty strong emotions in me that I’m not ready to deal with yet. I think because when I talk about Out Of The Box Thinkers I’m talking about my kids mostly, nothing gets my heartstrings all bunched up like good ‘ole Mama love. And also Mama fear, and Mama anger, and Mama confusion. All of which apply when speaking about kids that don’t fit into any mold or pattern or curriculum or…or…or…well, just don’t seem to fit, period. I have a feeling that if you’re reading this, you know what I’m saying. If we ourselves remain in the box, then all we see is the many ways our kids aren’t fitting in. If we can get out of the box ourselves, then it’s possible to see that the world our children can create is something so blindingly unique and valuable, it’s something to be encouraged and treasured. Protected, even.
I’ll take a specific example from Naturalist, and her writing. In school, writing was a source of constant trauma for her. Hell, for both of us. I would sit there at night, watching her painstakingly work over writing down words and sentences and paragraphs correctly. And when I say painstakingly, I’m emphasizing the PAIN part of it. I wish I had some work to reference, but as I shared last week, I threw all of it away. But a good example of one of her sentences is something like this:
eny boDe wil wont! to Et choclt
Anybody will want to eat chocolate!
Her dyslexia made it a struggle to remember spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and even word order correctly. She is an extreme example of this, but any creative, right brain kid…even if not dyslexic, will struggle with this.
If you are dealing with someone that thinks visually, in pictures, then their thoughts are not in words. When you give a writing prompt about “Think about a time you were at a Fair”, then the verbal, left brain kid will think and write in the exact same form…
“First I walked in and ate a pie. Then I saw a big horse, and next I rode on some rides. It was fun!”
Visual kids don’t think like that. If you have them remember about a time they were at a fair, they see it all in their minds eye. Vividly! It’s not a sequential though process, it’s more like a snapshot or a movie…they can taste the pie, smell the horse, feel the bumpy ride, hear the laughter. How do you order a picture? How do you get all the detail of a movie down on a blank page? It’s overwhelming.
I can always tell a visual thinker from a sequential thinker by watching their eyes. If you ask a visual thinker a question, they tend to see it in their mind and then you can watch their eyes track what they’re seeing. So, they tend not to maintain direct eye contact but look around a bit before answering the question. A sequential left brain thinker doesn’t have a picture in their mind to ‘see’ so their eyes don’t move around that much. Sometimes my visual picture is so strong, I start gesturing and pointing in the direction the image is in my mind, even though no one else can see it.
So how to protect this kind of thinking, because I’ll tell you, Naturalist became anxious and depressed when she had to write. She grew tired of getting back ‘zero’s’ on her spelling tests, and low grades on her homework for misspellings, lack of punctuation, and very little form to her sentences. She began to shut down at school, and would rather get yelled at for not doing an assignment than trying 1,110 percent and getting it back marked up with red corrections and a low grade.
However, at home she was a very expressive kid. She was always writing me poems, notes, and stories. I was so tired of working with her on her homework, that when she did stuff at home (full of errors!) I didn’t have the heart or energy to correct her. So, I just let her create without saying anything about the technical parts of writing.
When we stopped public school and started homeschooling, we followed a curriculum for writing (since I felt I had to get her to ‘catch up’ with all the other normal kids she was so far behind, right?! right?! It makes sense!). I drilled and tested and tried to force her to learn all the spelling and punctuation rules.
It didn’t take long before I realized that she had stopped all forms of writing…even the illustrated poems that I loved so much.
When we started unschooling, the writing lessons were the first to go. Slowly, her writing passion returned. Like so much about these kids I noticed a dual nature to her. I realized that while her visual thinking made the act of writing extremely difficult, it also had the opposite affect and made her a fantastic author. For the past 2 years, she spends the time at night when she’s awake while everyone else is asleep (also another indicator of an OOTBThinker…wacky internal clock) writing fiction. She’s written hundreds and hundreds of pages of fiction by this point. Currently, she has a story that has taken on a life of its own, and she writes probably 4-5 hours a day, plus whatever she writes at night. It’s a novel. She prints off the Chapters for Todd and I to read as she finishes them.
Her spelling? horrible. Sentence structure? a little better, but still shaky. Paragraph form? not so good.
But the story? the characters? the development of the world in the book? Amazingly detailed, descriptive, and amazing. The worlds she sees in her minds eye are incredible, and the beauty she shares in them sometimes makes me cry….simply because I remember a time when she was so traumatized she never wanted to pick up a pencil again. All this expression would have been lost. Lost! And why? Because of spelling? rules? What a waste.
If it’s a question between expressing thought and feeling, or proper technical writing, always err on the side of expression. Whether in public school, homeschool, or whatever, protect your child’s freedom of expression. Work with the teacher or with yourself to give grades that can allow the technical, tricky parts not to count. It is a shame when these kids are silenced from sharing their own beautiful dance with words because rules, forms and conventions get in the way.
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