Have you ever been excited about a new project until someone started “helping” you with their opinions about how you should execute it and sharing the reasons why all of your ideas could be improved?
I can feel the enthusiasm draining right out of me when that happens, and I think enthusiasm is often underrated.
A feeling of ownership is extremely motivating. Remember the moment you got your first house or your first car? The possibilities were endless. Nothing could stand in your way.
That is how my youngest feels about a blank book.
It all started a year ago. We flew from Houston to Ithaca, New York, to visit my sister for a week and hopefully play in the snow. In order to keep my five year old occupied on the plane and in a house with no toys, I put a big stack of blank books in her backpack.
Before we left, she wanted to start the first one. She drew a picture and then told me what to write for each page. She was quite adamant about the phrasing of each section. Woe to the person who didn’t get her words exactly the way she said them!
That first book was completely fragmented. Each had a picture and a caption, but there was no cohesion. It didn’t tell a story.
For half of a second, I thought about pointing it out to her, showing her an example of how the pages of a “real” book are interrelated. Then I regained my sanity.
She asked us to read her book aloud several times, then was ready to start the next one. This time, there was a theme and there was a story. She was correcting her own writing.
This writing became an obsession over the next week. Every adult was enlisted to write down her dictation.
She filled a shoe box to bulging with finished books. Then one day she just stopped. When I tried to suggest making a book, she informed me,”Oh, I don’t do that anymore.” It turns out that she couldn’t draw to her own standards, so she decided to pursue other activities instead.
Again, I bit my tongue and butted out.
At Christmas, my brother called to ask me what he should buy her.
“She has too many toys already. I don’t think there is anything she doesn’t already have, so don’t waste good money….there is one thing she might like.”
After an eight-month hiatus, she had just started writing books again.
“She might really enjoy a nice blank book.”
She opened her presents and tossed the book aside, but that night, she picked it back up and made a decision.
She started writing her first novel.
It took almost a full month of frenzied drawing and dictating to complete all 98 pages. I guess her drawing had caught up to her ideals because that issue was never mentioned again.
Her novel has fifteen chapters that tell of the protagonist’s adventures being in a band. What an amazing leap from her first book a year earlier!
Sometimes the most important thing we can do to help our children is to give them ownership, bite our tongues, and let the fire blaze.
Genevieve–is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .