In an on-line discussion someone wondered whether her observation was something that others had noticed — that homeschooled children tend to be “behind” in writing skills, particularly in the elementary years. I think that’s probably very true.
In school writing needs to be an early priority, because it’s used for evaluation. Imagine trying to evaluate knowledge and skills orally, through conversation, in a classroom of 24 kids! So schools need to push writing down into as early a grade level as possible to serve their administrative/evaluative needs efficiently.
I see that as artificial, and harmful to many children. I think the proper motivation for writing is to have something you want to say, and and audience you want to share it with.
Erin is an incredibly gifted writer. However in school this year she has really struggled with the idea of writing not motivated by the desire to communicate with an audience, of writing merely in order to have your knowledge and ability evaluated.
Her first 400-word essay answer in English took her 13 hours to complete. And oh my, it was painful to watch. At one point I recall her frustration and annoyance getting so overwhelming that I suggested that she just drop the course. She stuck it out, though. The biggest thing she’s learned this year is to write to serve the evaluative needs of the school. When she called me yesterday for a ride home after her English 10 provincial exam her brag was “I finished third.” Meaning, she was the third student in her class to complete her exam, well before the extra hour allotted for slower writers began. So she’s learned that lesson well, albeit with much existential wailing and gnashing of teeth. More power to her, I say. She’s absolutely right — it’s an necessary schoolish evil, this type of writing, and not the slightest bit authentic.