Jeez, Ease up a Bit, Mommy: Remembering the Writing Process

Last night I attended a parent information session on writing instruction for Upper Elementary grades at my son’s Montessori school. Being a writing professor, I was particularly keen on learning more about their approach. Plus, frankly, I’ve been disappointed in the writing he has been doing this year. It seems to me that he is capable of much better work.

A lot of people hold various misconceptions about the Montessori learning method. The way I see it, in such schools (if they are following the actual Maria Montessori method!), children learn well because the environment at school is carefully constructed to enable them to discover the “right” answers naturally. If they are learning about fractions, well, there’s only one way to put those wooden pieces into their container. The materials make learning self-correcting. Learning this way is fun and low-stress. Children are not being constantly corrected by a teacher but can explore on their own and learn naturally from their mistakes.

Once children hit fourth grade (my son’s grade), they move into Upper Elementary, which runs through sixth grade. These years are largely about helping children move from the concrete to the abstract. Thus, while there are hands-on materials for them to use, increasingly their work asks them to think more abstractly. The emphasis on expository writing in Upper El fits hand in hand with what they do in the rest of the curriculum. It’s a tough transition. No wonder my son looks like he’s not progressing — there’s a lot more going on in the curriculum than I knew, and when stressed out, we all fall back on what’s comfortable, right?

Anyway, at last night’s meeting, I was both reassured (because my son’s teachers are truly gifted, intelligent, and kind) and also reminded of just how difficult writing can be. I think sometimes because I am so enmeshed in writing, as a professor and through my other work, that I forget just how extraordinarily difficult the process of writing can be, not just for others but for me! Writing is hard work. Plus, the act of writing can be burdened with a whole train load of emotional baggage, even under the best of circumstances. And here I am writing through my grief. I felt somehow encouraged by the meeting. These lovely women sitting there so sympathetic and kind seemed to be speaking to me almost. Writing can be difficult. It’s the process that we emphasize. We try to help make writing enjoyable. Yes, yes!

So maybe it would help me in my own writing projects if I thought more about the process and less about the end product, if I allowed myself the possibility that, well, what I am undertaking is extraordinarily difficult. And as long as I am moving forward with Grandma’s book, well, that’s what’s important. I’ll finish one day. To learn to enjoy the process, that’s a worthy goal.

Meanwhile, I’m going to try to ease up a bit on my darling bubby. Must be tough for him with both of his parents being PhD’s. Eeghads, poor kid!

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for reminding me too!

  2. I’m glad you were reassured. I’m sure I will be dealing with similar anxieties soon enough.

  3. Thanks, guys! It was definitely a good reminder for me and eye opening about my son. I’m feeling much better today about our choice of school for him 🙂

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