Of all the worries and concerns homeschooling parents hold, writing seems to top the list along with math. Composing written work seems to be such a mysterious process, and most parents feel unqualified to guide their children toward effective communication.
However, you can easily teach writing in your homeschool using several methods that together help to create a competent communicator and writer.
The current thought concerning getting our children to write is about the ideas of more and earlier. Get them writing early, have them writing more, and have them write about their lives seems to be the common theme among educators. Yet, these methods have not led to more compelling, nor correct, writing from our students.
What is missing? What can we do in our homeschools to easily teach writing?
Slow Down and Use Dictation
Having a five-year-old scribble daily in a journal in an attempt to create a habit of writing is a short-sighted task. They don’t have the skills needed to express their thoughts adequately. In many ways, it could be frustrating because they know what they would like to say, but can’t make it flow from their little fingers that are still working so hard to hold a pencil.
Instead, be their pencil. Young children have amazing thoughts and tell great stories. Be their scribe and write it down for them. Writing begins with ideas, and many famous authors have used this method to create, such as Winston Churchill, John Milton, and Dan Brown.
Don’t lump all language skills under the banner of writing. Writers can misspell. Writers can make grammar mistakes. Writers can have horrible penmanship. Yet we expect written perfection from 10-year-olds. It seems silly when you think of it this way.
Read Well Written Books (And Maybe Even Some Bad Books)
The first step to writing well would be to know the sound of good writing, and you do this by reading good books. Starting at the earliest of ages, read your child good books.
By reading thoughtfully constructed sentences, descriptive writing, and proper word usage, our children will begin to develop these skills. But is this enough? For a naturally gifted writer, it could be enough, but as with everything, we all have our strengths. Some children will need more coaching and encouragement to express their ideas thoughtfully and creatively.
However, it can also serve writers well to read some bad books. We all have that book our young child wanted us to read over and over again, yet it was so bad. Luckily, even reading a poorly written book has advantages. We become even better at hearing the sound of good writing versus bad writing.
It would even be a fun writing exercise to read aloud a few pages from a well-written book and then a few pages of a poorly written book. Have your child point out what made one exciting and the other one not so great.
Get Them Writing
Producing written work sounds simple enough, but sometimes it results in feet dragging and procrastination. Yet, there are many simple ways of encouraging writing from your children.
- Writing Thank You Notes
- Use blank journals to create books complete with illustrations
- Have them write instructions for a craft or recipe
- Write poetry that follows a set form such as a limerick or haiku
- Find a pen pal
These are short, simple writing activities, but they need to learn to crawl before they can embark on the journey to a five-paragraph essay.
It’s also good to have some freewriting time when you don’t get out your red pen and correct every error you see. Freewriting is used to build their confidence in transferring those thoughts in their heads on to the page.
Most of all, make it fun. When children see writing as an awful requirement with no apparent purpose, why are we surprised to receive lackluster work?
Teaching Writing is More Than Increasing Output
Teaching writing isn’t a subject we wake up one morning and decide to teach. We live in a culture full of the written word. It’s impossible to escape. Use that to our homeschooler’s advantage and begin introducing them to the many layers of a language-rich environment.
Writing is much more than putting grammatically correct words on paper. It involves ideas, voice, organization, and clarity. Skills our children are practicing all the time, not just when writing a book report.
So when teaching writing in your homeschool, focus on all areas of language development, not just the production of written output.