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Standard Writing Conventions and Guinea Pigs

I just love it when school stuff meets real life…

Latte Macchiato

This is Latte Machiatto, who ALWAYS looks freaked out!

Just before Spring Break, my 6th grade daughter Enya forgot to clean the guinea pig habitat. Again. (It’s a wonderful habitat. A sort of guinea pig condo, really. A three story affair built from a modified 1980’s TV cabinet we found at Good Will. But I’m digressing already and haven’t even started writing.)

So, conveniently forgetting chores was becoming a bad habit. But before I start ranting about this being the last straw and disciplinary steps needing to be taken, I must confess that I, myself, have the memory of a developmentally repressed plantar wart, so I’m not one to talk. But we parent folks decided, nevertheless, that consequences were called for. Preferably the kind that you learn from.

The first involved draconian elimination of video games over the vacation. OK, boring, I know. But the second proved to be much more rewarding, as learning-from-disciplinary-consequences goes.

We assigned Enya the task of coming up with a plan which demonstrated how she would keep up on her various household tasks and other projects in the future, and not forget them. This involved tossing around ideas together (including the steps that I take for myself to keep my three brain cells in line), examining what other friends and families do, and evaluating the tools she had at hand to help her out in the process.

The plan she came up with was a good one, basically boiling down to doing things right away if possible, and otherwise using a reminder app to schedule tasks for the future (Five Acre students are certainly not strangers to taking advantage of the world of apps).


Enya wrote her report in her first language, German, which hasn’t recieved the kind of attention which it deserves in the writing department. That’s why there are so many corrections to her draft.

The “school stuff meets real life” happened when we asked for a record of the plan as a conclusion to the project. When Enya asked how she should go about doing that, I said without hesitation, “Just write up an IDEAS report.”

I.D.E.A.S., developed by her teacher Tom, is the format which Enya and her classmates have been using this school year to write about their projects. The I stands for Ideas, a reflection of their own thoughts, opinions and perspectives. D is for Drafts, the standard practice in class of writing an initial draft for correction and then a final draft. E stands for Examples, supporting ideas with specific details. A is for Analysis, scrutinizing the chosen topic and its examples. Finally the S stands for Standard Writing Conventions, an expectation of correct spelling, punctuation and capitalization.

I love Tom’s format. It’s an easy checklist to make sure your ideas or projects are presented in an easily digestible way, and that your concepts are backed up by solid examples, of which your own analysis guarantees that you understand them. It worked perfectly for Enya’s task. She used examples to illustrate the various situations where she needed help remembering, and analyzed her solutions to give them real credibility.

Now, if only Enya could just get the guinea pigs to help her with the dishes…