How to help my grown daughter with basic reading/writing
March 4, 2017 4:11 AM   Subscribe

My daughter has arrived at the age of 20 without much of an education. She did go to school, first public, then private, but because of bullying she missed a lot. Now she finds herself without a basic knowledge of grammar, and is unable to write well. Where/how can I find a program or a teacher for someone her age who needs to go back to the beginning?

I'm posting this anonymously because I don't want my daughter to be embarrassed by someone connecting this to her.

I've tried to help her myself, but she doesn't want that. So I need to find some other options for her.

We had her tested several times for learning disabilities in both elementary and high school, but each time we were told she was fine and in fact had a high IQ. At the same time, she always resisted learning.
posted by anonymous to Education (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of the answer depends on what your daughter wants to do with herself. Does she picture college or any type of scenario where she will be expected to write well? Most colleges offer remedial writing/literacy support or tutoring, so that would cover her. If she doesn't want post-high school education and doesn't envision it, then it may be that her current levels are good enough for her and she doesn't need remediation.

We had her tested several times for learning disabilities in both elementary and high school, but each time we were told she was fine and in fact had a high IQ.

You may have phrased this awkwardly, but if not -- a person can have a very high IQ and still have a learning disability. LDs don't mean a person is less intelligent.

In any case, it's likely that she doesn't write because she has nothing interesting to write about. In my teaching experience, older students need a valid reason to improve their writing. Whether it's for a job application or a college course, you need their buy in. Seems like you don't have her buy in. So I would suggest holding back on this a bit -- she'll improve her skills as soon as it matters to her.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:28 AM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Has she looked into taking a class or two at a local community college?
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:45 AM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Lots of teachers do tutoring on the side. I guarantee you almost anyone who tutors kids would be overjoyed to tutor a self-motivated adult for a similar or even discounted rate.

The key is the motivation. A recalcitrant kid can be cajoled into participation in various more and less miserable ways, but I can't imagine trying to teach a sulky and uncooperative twenty year old.

Is the impetus for this coming from you, or from her?

(btw, in the mean time, the absolute best thing that she could easily and cheaply do is to read a lot of good quality writing. It can be magazines, newspapers, romance novels, mysteries, sci-fi, it doesn't really matter. It's probably better if it's more contemporary and less 'classic'. Anything that she enjoys and that has her reading every day. It could be Metafilter).
posted by Salamandrous at 6:09 AM on March 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

Seconding Salamandrous on the recommendation she read widely on whatever might interest her. It is also true that the motivation should come from her, and at this stage of her life finding someone to help her should align with some kind of life goal, to serve as more of a motivation. (If she is in the Washington, D.C. area, memail me and I can recommend a potential tutor.)
posted by gudrun at 6:31 AM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am also not clear about whether the motivation for this is coming from her or from you.

I agree with Salamandrous that the best thing a person can do to improve their prose style is to read good writing. A librarian can help her find good writing in whatever genre she enjoys reading.

I like the idea of taking some community college classes, if she's on board for that. I've found that reluctant writers often do better starting out with a creative writing class, rather than composition. They eventually need a comp class to teach them how to structure an argument, but they often have a lot of anxiety about being judged, and it's easier for them to start with a class where the point is self-expression, rather than following rules.

And finally, I would ratchet down the judgment a bit. Most college freshmen are terrible writers, and that includes the ones who haven't had the educational challenges that it sounds like your daughter has faced.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:46 AM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone else who says that she needs to want to do this. She's an adult.

It's not clear to me whether she is looking for help or not. The way you phrased this, it seems like she's not involved in this decision - but that could just be your wording. And I can certainly imagine how it might be easier to work with a stranger than with one's family. So I'm going to assume for the purpose of the question that she wants your help finding help.

It's also not clear just what her problem is. When people say someone doesn't understand grammar and can't write well, that can cover a whole bunch of different issues, of different severity. If she is literally functionally illiterate, versus if she just has trouble following the grammatical conventions and style of "standard" English - well, that might take different approaches. I wouldn't want to enroll someone who is functionally illiterate in a reading/writing course if there was the chance that they wouldn't be able to pass, for example.

Do you have any local universities / colleges? Remedial courses are an option, although you should verify carefully that they're a good fit for your daughter. If a course sounds like too much, English departments often have lists of tutors, often graduate students who teach writing and are looking for some extra income. You can even email their offices if you can't find a list like this, as they might have internally-distributed lists.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:55 AM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

My teenage sister learned more in 2 months of ged prep classes than she did in 4 years of online high school. Being in a goal oriented program that was self-driven, but provided ample tutoring, made a huge difference for her. These classes are offered for free through our local community college. Good luck!
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:08 AM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Nthing she should read, read, read. I paid very little attention in school because I was bored. I learned writing skills from reading good authors.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:08 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also Nthing reading, if this is something she really wants to improve at. It's not the sum total of all you need to pick up grammar, but it is constant reinforcement through exposure to good writing.

As for grammar itself, there are a ton of materials out there, even some pretty basic drills and such for grammar online, just search the grammar target+drill+ESL on Google, not that your daughter is an ESL student, but that most of the drills seem aimed at ESL. If this is something she's interested in doing, it might make sense to get started with those, then maybe seek out community college classes or private tutoring after she's decided it's worth continuing.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:51 PM on March 5, 2017

You've got some pretty good advice so far. Reading widely and reading good writing will help, but only if (as others have said) she is motivated to learn to write better.

As far as grammar goes, as a K-12 student I think I just internalized a lot of grammar through exposure, but I didn't learn much of what the actual rules were in English classes or how to articulate why something was grammatical or not. If that is important, I really learned that through foreign language study in high school (French and Latin). That might be another angle on this and something that could be motivating. Try some adult ed Spanish for food and travel? Japanese for anime or whatever? French for wine or film? Whatever she likes. That sort of thing might be a way into understanding how language works.
posted by Gotanda at 5:37 PM on March 5, 2017

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