Bad Writing's Born in the Back Seat

Butterfly Bush

You know that when I say bad writing, I mean writing with heart and style— as opposed to 'acceptable' good writing, which often has great power... to bore us.

How is 'bad' writing born?

At our house, where school is not defined by certain days of the week, hours of the day, and rooms of the house or world, 'bad' writing is often born in the back seat. Or over italian food at our favorite restaurant. Or on a walk while the moon peeks out and a warm breeze tickles the night.

It usually starts with my Littlest (now 10!!), who initiates a word game. One of her recent favorites is to play with alliteration in singles or pairs. She'll pick one or two consonants and before we know it, we've been lassoed into another round of playing with words. Here's a little evidence I found of an alliterative free-for-all she and her sister had on their way to get ice cream with Grandpa.

Apparently, all the phrases were code ways to say "We're going for ice cream." Believe me, I wouldn't have guessed it without being told. I took some poetic license and arranged the phrases to my liking. So, in the end, we collaborated on this poetic trip.

"Going for Ice Cream"

We're on our way to
the flower shop, to pick
up a tremendous kettle
of fish, some ticklish
bears, temporary

basalt, a terrible burglar
trapped in a basket, toxic
butter. When we get to the
tippity top of the mountain
there'll be tragic biscuits

terrible barrels of trash
bags, titanic ruins and
(not to be left out of
the excursion), a band
of terrified bathing suits.

— by Sara and Sonia

Butterfly Bush photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Clever Writer: Arguing thru Humor

Wider Welcome

There is something disarming about encountering an argument delivered with a humorous flourish. That's how I felt— delightfully disarmed— when I found this brief commentary from my 12-year-old, on the "Wider Welcome" project, a renovation effort that's up for discussion at our church.

Regardless of my own thoughts on the matter, I think my daughter's opinion is clear. And I can't help smiling at her clever expression of it.

Wider Welcome Comic, by Sara.

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Schools Should Teach Bad Writing


"Writing doesn't always have to know where it's going. Yes, yes, in school we are taught to march our thoughts in nice orderly rows— as though that's the way they occur to us. As if that's the way we really think. The writing we learn in school— in most schools — is a stripped down, chromeless, noncustomized prose," says Julia Cameron, author of The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life

She continues, "Writing like that — 'good' writing — is like watching a movie we've seen before. We can admire the craft, but none of the outcomes chills us to the marrow, moves us to tears, or causes us to gasp with recognition. Sometimes it takes 'bad' writing to do that."

I admit, here in my home school, I only teach bad writing. Which is to say I don't teach writing at all. I just let my girls say what they want to say, when they want to say it. For a while I wasn't sure about this method; I let my kids verbally "play story" for hours. I let them listen to or read a few novels a day. Now, at ages 10 and 12, notebooks are bursting, papers floating 'round the house. With stuff like the poem below. And I'm happy I never forced them to march their thoughts in rows.


On a planet far away
on a world with twenty suns
lived a girl with electric hair
and in a sea a neon bear

over all the ice and snow
bone sleds pulled by purple dogs
lives a man with a flying hat
and a rainbow colored mat

in a city made of glass
lives a kind of dragonfly
that are so big the people ride
up in the sky the camouflage hides

and on the moving copper clouds
sit the ones, the flying creatures
with a crown of frozen lightning
folded back the ivory wings

on a planet far away
millions of years ago one day.

— by Sara, 12

Alternacreatures drawings by Sara B. Used with permission.

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The moon is shining
on leaves floating through the air
the night is thinking

of moonlight blinking
illuminate lonely bear
the moon is shining

on trees aligning
round dirt road there
the night is thinking

of wind a-whining
but has no cares
the moon is shining

on world is dining
a silent watch prepare
the moon is shining
the night is thinking
over the sleeping world.

— by Sara

Alhambra photo by L.L. Barkat.

High Calling Blogs RAP: Sonnet Makes Grown Man Cry
A Simple Country Girl’s Raspberries
Monica’s Dinner Table
Joelle’s The Beginning of the Path to There
Claire’s Wind-Tossed Paper
Laura’s Tumor [for a friend]
Yvette’s A Daily Prayer
LL's Sweep
Eric's Image of Man, Image of God

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Letting the Market Decide

Shelling Peas

Although I've made my life simpler and our diet more consistently healthy by creating and following a monthly meal plan, I also like to eat seasonally. One way to do this is to occasionally let the market decide— the Farmer's Market, that is. My basic approach? Whatever is lovely, whatever is fresh, whatever is plump... gather these things. If they don't fit into the month of meals (and chances are they might not), then it's time for a detour.

Like this past week. Daddy and girls brought home organic shelling peas. Why not make Fettucine Alfredo? Yes, why not...

Emeril's Fettucine Alfredo (just add fresh peas)

Shelling Peas photo, by L.L. Barkat.
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