irrigation on a farmThe mind is like a field, ready for rain, seed, the vagaries of weather and blithe neglect or careful cultivation.

A wise man named Jack Handy once said that the rain is God crying because of bad little children. While I’m not sure about his theology, his poetry is decent. His humor is even better. Irrigation water, as seen in this photo from the morning’s view out my window, is not the equivalent of anyone crying, though I could argue that California farmers are crying because of all the bizarre water regulations slithering out of Sacramento like a never-ending gaggle (pack, pride, mob?) of venomous snakes.

I teach grammar and writing one afternoon a week to youngsters in our homeschool co-op. It’s one thing to teach the black-and-white nuts and bolts of grammar–how adverbial subordinate clauses work and why, diagramming, etc–but it’s an entirely different thing to teach the intuitive sensation of writing–how to craft a sentence so it reads and listens smoothly, to both the mental and physical ear, as a stand-alone sentence and also within the larger context of the paragraph, page, essay or story.

There’s only one way to learn that, I suppose. You have to study great writers and dissect why their writing works, aside from grammar, of course. That means doing a lot of reading. And then, finally, doing your own writing. Which will start out bad, probably, and progress toward excellence, hopefully.

At any rate, it’s interesting to observe how children write. They’re still in the stage of learning the tools and rules, though I’ve encountered two exceptions recently. Girls tend to be more advanced than boys if you compare by age. Those who read more are a skip ahead. Personality has its place as well, particularly in terms of focus and the ability to view the world from a slightly different angle–a joyous innocence that sees Mystery in many things. I think most children are born with this second trait, but I suspect they rapidly lose it because of too much television, video games, and older sibling or parental scorn. Also, the dreary hours of most traditional schools probably dehydrates a lot of that trait out of children, baking them into homogenous gingerbread men, ready to march off in lock-step.

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