Monday, March 8, 2010

On Cuneiform and Throwing Your Clothes Off

George Smith, British archaeologist, was so excited when he translated the Assyrian tablet bearing part of the Tale of Gilgamesh that he tore off his clothes and ran screaming through the British Museum.

I am almost as excited about some writing that has appeared at our house.  Good thing the British Museum is at a safe distance.

Getting the kids to read and write are major homeschooling milestones.  Whether it happens all by itself or it takes a lot of work I think we all sigh with relief and joy when it's over.

Greta likes to do things in a rush.  Last year after her 4th birthday she began to draw with a vengeance.  This year, after she turned five, she turned to writing...and writing...and writing.

Her writing, cryptic, without spaces, apparently untranslatable, bears no mean resemblance to the Assyrian clay tablets.

So I was alarmed when she thrust the first page at me and said "Read it!"  She is prone to paroxysms of self-criticism when I can't figure out her drawings, so I was on eggshells.

I tried the mother's saving tactic:  "Why don't you read it to me?"  But she was so on to that and began to launch into "I didn't do it right!  You can't read it!"

So when my eye fell on this my heart sang.
I can go see Lea!  Good good good.

Thank goodness my friend Judith was at my shoulder.
While I was flailing she read:
her it is the docdr ofics o i will fel betr!
Here it is the doctor's office.  Oh, I will feel better!

After a while I caught on to recurring themes and patterns.
thry hens lav to sit on a bratch
Three hens love to sit on a branch.


What amazes me is the trouble I can have figuring out perfectly phonetic words!  Like EGS.  I really struggled with that one.

The next two speak for themselves:


This one reminds me of...was it an Onion article?...about a humanitarian effort to ship vowels to Vrgorac and Vrbovek and other Croatian cities.

But this was the one that brought me the most joy. It was a letter she sent to her dad.
I♥ Clem
I♥Grapo (Grandpa)
I♥At Kely(Aunt Kelly)
I♥Akl Jon (Uncle Jon)
I♥Eleit (Elliot)
I LAV Amelea (Amelia)
I LAV Grasy (Gracie)
I♥LAV Everyone

Greta wore herself out with all her love and asked Gran to write Everyone.  This one gave me the most joy not only because of all the love, but because she is already using her writing to express her feelings.

That makes a homeschooling mom and writer (almost) happy enough to tear her clothes off and run around screaming with joy.


sarah in the woods said...

How exciting! The last one is the best!

Molly said...

that is really incredible! i'd strip down and run around if my kids wrote a fraction of that! phonetic spelling is absolutely adorable. it's too bad traditional education systems squash that creativity with weekly spelling tests.

J.G. Wilder said...

Here we go. Another novelist in the family.

The Stone Age Techie said...

Phonetic spelling is one of my favorite, favorite phases of childhood! It is such fun to watch the learning unfold, and my heart just melts to see all those "I love"s.

My mom has a poem that I wrote in the third grade, about love and all phonetically spelled. The teacher wrote such nice things in response to my poem, and totally treated the spelling as if it was perfect. It is such a gift, as a young writer, to have your meaning understood and held as important even when your words are unconventionally spelled.

Yay, and go Greta!

td said...

Simply charming & oh so sweet!! That Greta is just such an energetic amazing force of nature.
I love your photos of her writing -- it is really beautiful.
She's definitely got her Mom's creative originality!

Kristin said...

I can't believe how much she is writing! Oodles...and it makes sense.

Kat said...

OH I can feel your joy. My six year old is in this stage too and it is so exciting to see mysteries unravel before their eyes. Funny how I have so much more trouble sounding out her words than she does mine.

Susan said...

Sarah, I just love her spelling of uncle "akl" and aunt "at".

Molly, re: traditional education systems--I know! So sad. I always stress to my kids that spelling is just a convention. It is putting down and being able to retrieve their thoughts that matters.

Jennifer, I'm not sure graphomaniac and novelist are the same thing. :)

Karen, lucky you to have such a teacher. What I mostly remember from early elementary writing are my abysmal handwriting grades.

Toni, force of nature! Ha! Sometimes I do feel swept away. Did I tell you I put a kids' version of Romeo and Juliet on for her at bedtime? Big mistake. She came running to me with a tear-streaked face after it asking why Shakespeare made such a sad story. I tried to explain about tragedies. The next day Clem stuck in another tape. A while later Greta came running out, "Mom! I think MacBeth is another one of those tragedies!"

Kristin, it does make sense in a weird way. And yet the logic is strange. She likes to write the same word over and over like she just enjoys the word for itself sometimes instead of in connection with other words.

Kat, how true! I am still baffled at EGS. I could sound it out but it didn't mean anything to me at first.

Stefaneener said...

I'd join you in the screaming part. We seem to have finally outgrown the mostly-naked years.


I love this writing stuff. You know, there's going to be a little one's writing group next year. . .

AM said...

Yet again, thinking: "this just has to be the cutest blog post EVER!" And I want my dinner! And honey!

gina said...

she is doing great!!

Mackenna is "writing " and "spelling aloud" and "reading" all the time now too-

i love their interest and enthusiasm!!

maria said...

another most beautiful post...

patricia said...

See what I get for being late to the party: I almost missed a post on writing!

Just seeing all those colorful, hand-written letters makes me giddy. And what a thrill for her that you could actually read what she'd written!

It's all so gud gud gud. I lav it!

Carolyn said...

Wow! That is so awesome and a stage worthy of dancing around naked. I have to say that "Egs" cracked me up. Why was she writing about eggs? Did it have something to do with the hens on the branch? Did she want to eat some eggs? It must be so fun to see what is going on in her mind that she wants to narrativize. Félicitations, Greta!

Nathan said...

(Carrie,whose son Nathan stole her google account, said...)

I would so totally be running around naked hollering "eureka!" or "by george I think he's got it" or some other exuberant phrase if one of my boys wrote so much.

And thank you, again, for another great post. Apparently it's true, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Sadly none of the trees in this house are very good at creative writing. Technical manuals, yes, poetics, no.

laurata said...

Awesome! E has been working on his name. Huge milestones, for sure!

Wendy said...

That was a lovely article. So good the job you are doing... I am in awe,
truly. "Job" meaning, the teaching,
with such attention... those kids are so very lucky.

And "job" meaning the blog, with its magazine-article-like quality.
Sheesh... think I'll go now to pick up my kids at the local public school and go about absentmindedly NOT recording their development!

Susan said...

Stefani, little ones writing group sounds fantastic!

AM, sorry, we ate your honey. You'll have to wait for the next harvest.

Gina, I love the enthusiasm, too. Greta is so aware of print now. As we're driving she'll say, "Mom, did you know that turn is spelled T-U-R-N. I thought it would be TRN but I just read a sign that said "No left turn", so turn has a U in it!"

Maria, thx!

Tricia, when you wrote gud gud gud I lav it, it made me think of a foreign accent.

Carolyn, I dismissed the idea of Greta's writing as a window on her mind because her mind when she speaks seems so much more orderly than the bizarre mind of her writing with lots of strange repetitions and odd connections.

Carrie, it is very handy to be able to write tech manuals! And to do them well is really a trick.

Laura, congrats on E writing his name! Send me a photo...of his name and all the kids. It has been so long since I have seen them. And I've never seen Mira.

Wendy, now you've gone and given me a swelled head. :)