Love notes

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Weekly, Henry is charged with some creative writing assignment using about half of his spelling words. This week he saw two: one was make a comic using seven of the 15 words, and the other was to write a friendly letter using eight. The comic wasn’t so bad. There was initial complaining, but Henry didn’t have high expectations of the comic being a brilliant tale. He gets comics. They are just a tidbit of fun.

The letter, on the other hand, was a completely different story. No different from last week’s story, which also stumped him. Henry, up until this point, has struggled with creative writing. Last year I had him write in a journal each day, the 20 minutes before lunch. I’d give him a topic and say go. He struggled and complained and did the absolute minimum possible to get me off his back.

Now, in school, there’s someone else reading his work. So there’s another element of pressure for him. His MO has been to do the minimum. If the assignment is write a story using eight words, you can be darn sure that story is not going to have a sentence more than eight. In most cases, he’s been able to use more than one word in a sentence. He’s all about conservation.

He finds the task difficult. Not because he’s not creative. He is pretty much an all-around hilarious and quick-witted kid. The task is difficult for him because his brain has some kind of automatic siphon that filters out words he cannot spell. Which, in third grade, boils down to about 99.999% percent of the English language. So he’s stuck with a list of seemingly unrelated spelling words and the puddle of words he’s confident (or at least semi-confident) he will spell correctly.

I’ve watched him become almost paralyzed in this processes during these first weeks of school. We always get through it, with a few thought starters from me. And I will say, in some cases, even I would have had a tough time coming up with an actual story using the word list. Henry likes good stories. His expectations are high. But yesterday, we turned a corner.

Richard originally helped him with the assignment. Half way through, Henry approached me and said, “I hate this letter. It’s a baby letter. Like a love note or something.” And before my very eyes, he tore the paper in half. “I want to start over.”

Well, that in itself, was a first. Re-doing something on purpose. So he sat down and wrote this letter to his brother …

Dear Clifford,

I promise we’ll play baseball when you get older. I hope you do not strike out. I can’t wait until the moment when you’re in your uniform. That’s a while from now. But now you’re barely human and we keep in a cube in the cellar. That doesn’t mean I do not like you.

Love Henry

That’s my boy! The spelling words were: we’ll, strike, moment, that’s, human, cube, cellar and doesn’t

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