As part of our homeschool program, I am trying, ambitiously, to teach Nigel how to write essays, since he will need this skill to achieve any success in his future academic career. It is proving to be difficult, needless to say. In his mind, an essay is a pasted-together document of sections of text written about a subject (usually found on Wikipedia). He cuts and pastes a paragraph at a time, until he has cut and pasted six paragraphs, clicks save, and triumphantly announces that he is finished with his essay.
After I explained to him the concept of plagiarism, and he got mad because his easy essay-writing method had been thwarted, I decided that we should back up a bit and focus first on paragraph writing. I had him watch an educational video about horses and had him write a one-paragraph summary. I had told him that the paragraph needed to have 5-7 sentences, but he claimed that if he combined two sentences that they should still count as two sentences. So his paragraph consisted of two compound sentences and one concluding sentence. Below is his paragraph, written in his own words, titled “The Horse.”
The first horse came to be 5.5 million years ago, but had 3 toes on each hind leg and 4 toes on each front leg. As time passed, the forests turned into grasslands and the horse lost all but one toe on each leg and those turned into hooves. The reason why a horse wins the Kentucky Derby is because it is just following it’s gut instinct.
Aside from that apostrophe, the paragraph is grammatically correct. But what impresses me the most is the complex idea that he takes as a given: a horse’s “gut instinct.” What is a horse’s gut instinct? Running? Feeling its hooves hit the ground? Trying to find its toes? I like the fact that his writing makes me contemplate different ideas. It also gives me a little insight as to how his mind works, and that is something I value and enjoy.