I'd like the girls to be able creative writers, but the mechanical skills that I was attempting to de-emphasize in order to focus on the act of creation were the very skills that Willow, because she reads so well, was focusing on to great detriment. She couldn't get so much as a single sentence down because her writing looked wrong to her--misspelled, imperfect punctuation--but the effort to have every word spelled for her, to even know what capital letters and periods and commas are, not to mention where they should go so that the sentence would look like it was supposed to...could a child even remember what she was writing about with all those distractions?
I'd introduced invented spelling to Willow quite a while ago, but I was having trouble getting her to use it, and I told my in-laws that what I really needed was a way to get Willow excited enough about writing that she'd be willing to try out invented spelling long enough to learn that she liked it, because I thought that she'd like it.
"Journaling," said Grandma Janie. "Willow would like to journal."
And you know what? She does.
During my big Lakeshore Learning shopping spree (I did have a coupon, but still...that may have been January's grocery budget that got consumed there), I bought one journal for each of the girls. Each page of Sydney's journal has a big space for a picture, and a couple of lines underneath it for writing. Each page of Willow's journal as a smaller space for a picture and more lines for writing. The girls began to journal on our trip and we've continued it at home. I keep the journals and some fine-point markers at our living room table, and every evening after the girls have finished dinner and have cleared their places, but while we're all still at the table on account of Matt and I haven't finished gossiping, I pass out the journals and the markers and the girls begin to think about their day.
They write about what they've been reading:
Magic School Bus, by Sydney
I Walked in the Petrified Forest, by Willow
Grandma Beck, by Sydney
I Saw the Stars, by Willow
This is Gracie Doing a Cartwheel, by Sydney
This is Spots and Gracie, by Willow
We Cooked a Turkey, by Sydney