Reviewing Camp Pokémon

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So having Biggie write a sentence-a-day journal has been going fine, but I’ve been looking for more ways to get him to write. I wish writing is like what reading is for him now: pleasurable, meaningful, easy, and constant.

So I’ve had two ideas. One is to write letters, to his cousins, to pen pals, to an “authentic audience.” I haven’t been able to implement that consistently yet—that’s still on the drawing board.

The other is to blog a bit. We have a shared blog—tomahto.wordpress.com—where I’ve mostly just been posting our daily journals, but last week I told Biggie that I was going to load a game onto the iPad for him to play… but only if he was going to write a review of it.

Red (Pokémon)

Of course, he agreed, but then, of course, we ended up having major fights over his drafts. It’s not easy being an early writer; writing is hard. It’s hard physically—you’re still developing the musculature and coordination to do it in your hand. It’s hard linguistically—you’re trying to express complex thoughts with a limited sense of syntax and vocabulary. It’s hard cognitively—you have to think about your overall idea and what you want to say next while tediously putting down your current sentence. It’s hard emotionally—writing is personal and expressive, and it’s frustrating to not have your work match your intended meaning.

I try to be sympathetic, but Biggie and I are both stubborn, arrogant, risk-averse, lazy,… and loud. JB sometimes makes herself scarce when our editorial staff meetings turn into shouting matches. I swear we both must grind our teeth at night; I know I do.

Finally, this week I stopped trying to give him reasons why he needs to take his audience into account. I said, “Listen. It’s going to boil down to this: I’m not going to publish this unless I think it’s good enough. This is not good enough, and I’ve given you some suggestions about how I think you can make it better. You can take it or leave it, but you’re not getting another game on the iPad to play until I think you have something that’s sufficient.” It felt kind of Tiger Mommy-ish, but it worked, at least this time.

Here’s the final review. I bet Biggie would be chuffed if you, kind reader, posted some encouraging comments.

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3 thoughts on “Reviewing Camp Pokémon

  1. Eun

    Why is it important for you that your son considers his audience? I’m trying to understand your frustration. If your goal is to cultivate a love of writing in him, isn’t good enough that he’s developing a discipline of writing by just doing everyday? If I was to think about who would view my art and how they would interpret it, I would never do it. In fact, this is often the biggest emotional barrier for me being committed to doing it and doing more of it. I would think that the process of discovering one’s voice in writing would be a big accomplishment in itself, especially for a young boy. Thanks for your honesty in sharing this, Tom. I appreciate it!

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    • You make a great point, and this is something I struggle with every day. On the one hand, I want my children to be confident, imaginative, and unencumbered. On the other hand, I want them to be rigorous critical thinkers with a solid work ethic and a high standard of excellence. This is a tension I never resolve.

      In response, I would say that I often feel that Biggie is himself frustrated with his own voice; that he finds himself limited by his current capabilities and stamina — that may be a big part of why he aborts his efforts early and refuses to push through. I think it’s worth teaching him that an imperfect endeavor is still worthwhile, and that writing is as much a craft as revelation.

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  2. Eun

    That tension between discipline and risk-tasking…All this has made me think about endeavors I’ve aborted prematurely, but there are lessons learned even from these true failures. Also what comes to mind is Misty Edwards’ worship song “Turn it all around,” which is about perseverance through trials and my favorite verse is “Don’t give up, don’t give in. If you don’t quit, you win, you win.” http://bit.ly/1SUDRvN I really grateful for this blog post. Thank you, Tom!

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