I've discovered that I have a considerable following -- those who read my blog and like it. The ones who don't, thankfully, don't feel compelled to share that information. However, I would be greatly remiss if I failed to acknowledge a person who helps me shine. Without her, you wouldn't get the clear, concise, grammatically coherent pieces that you read. Without S.B., I'd be a like a messy closet with good content that is hard to find, rather than a neatly ordered closet where it is easy to find what you're looking for.
I share this because too many home educators feel that their children should be able to write coming out of the chute. They understand that it takes years to produce a virtuoso pianist, but think writing should come "naturally" and they tend to abandon it after a few failed attempts. Good writing is an acquired skill that involves being well read, knowing the conventions of language, and having something worth saying. A piece rarely comes out looking polished until four or five passes. Like so many other things, we see the result, but have no real concept of how the process unfolds.
So, I thought I'd share with you the journey that any piece I write takes from the idea stage to being in print. First, I am constantly observing people (family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues), news stories (internet, magazines, TV), films, and whatever else is around me, and I attempt to interpret all things in the light of Scripture: How does the behavior, story, idea, etc. conform or diverge from the clear Word of God? Second, I put my fingers on my computer keyboard and start writing as though I am talking to someone. I pay little attention to spelling or punctuation because I am working to get the idea and its relevance into a form I can read. If I'm interrupted, I "save" what I have down and return to it later. Sometimes I get to the end of a piece and realize that I don't really have a point after all. But, the good thing is that the ideas are out of my head and I've evaluated them. Third, I go through a piece I feel has merit, revising my wording so that it flows naturally. I then run the spelling/grammar checker to clean up any obvious mistakes and read the piece again. Fourth, I get it into a neatly formatted page and send it to my copy editor, S.B. In other words, I've sent her my best.
S.B. takes her time; usually we have a 24 hour turnaround. Each time I open up her revision, I'm struck with just how much my "best" needs improvement. She omits my wordiness (see what you’ve been spared), and helps me convey my ideas in an interesting and worthwhile manner by asking me pertinent questions to clarify my meaning. Finally, I take my work and post it to my blog site or submit it for hard-copy publication, making sure that the point I was attempting to make at the outset is still in tact.
Homeschooling parents should develop this copyeditor role with their children. Parents should make it a priority to help their students share their ideas clearly. By helping them "mine" for the precise word to clarify their meaning, they'll both be developing valuable language skills. I've recently learned that copyeditors (along with PhDs) are considered to have the highest vocabulary level when it comes to language. The beauty of homeschooling is that parents can be developing this skill in themselves as they teach their children how to write.
Now, comes the tricky part. I have to send this off to make sure I've not confused you or embarrassed myself in the process! Okay, S.B., time to get to work!
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].