Parents ask how to get kids to write. Across the board, this seems to be a common struggle among students — homeschooled and non.
In my classes, I am frequently met by students afraid to put pen to paper. Some have never written a good sentence or paragraph all their lives. Many lament having nothing to write about. Even more have no idea where or how to begin. I spend weeks undoing the lies they have told themselves about writing. After several months, they leave with a folder of completed writings and the confidence to try it again on their own. Many say writing has become their favorite subject.
Unless parents take a keen interest in writing or are decent writers themselves (or even if they are), they may not know how to encourage and develop writing in children. Writing instruction isn’t always included in language arts programs designed to help homeschool parents teach. Plus, even with the right tools, ordinary people are untrained in what to look for, and how best to call students out if writing isn’t up to par.
You’ll find comprehensive writing systems on the market. These include:
These can be a great addition to the homeschool curriclum. BUT — just like with other products, many students enjoy them and many do not. Using a writing system can be expensive, and switching products mid-year confusing, too. These are a serious investments, both in terms of finances and — more importantly – in how a child views writing from that point forward.
I rarely suggest buying a comprehensive writing system at the very beginning of homeschooling. My experience has shown there is much work that can be done at home — without ever spending a dime – before the need for a comprehensive writing system ever arises. Developing projects at home goes a long way toward getting to know a student and helping develop attitudes about writing for the long-term, too. This may be time-consuming and require more effort than some parents are willing (or have time) to put in, but worth it.
The key to success in writing — I believe – is starting out by finding out what students enjoy. Interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes, PLUS how and where they like to write best are just a couple of factors. Knowing what students like to write with (pen, pencil, markers, even chalk) and on (ruled paper, plain paper, in a journal) are just as important. Factors in the environment affect writing, too. Even paying attention to what students were doing prior to writing can play a part.
In my home, I never used comprehensive writing systems. I observed each of my children to get a feel for their capabilities and preferences, and then assigned writing projects as we moved along. I taught grammar separately, encouraged reading, and provided great writing samples everywhere I could. This method allowed me to tailor the work to every child, encourage good writing habits when I saw them, and teach whatever was missing. I changed circumstances when things weren’t working, and constantly monitored writing in all subject areas. It wasn’t always easy! But, my children have all developed into writers, each blossoming on his own perfect time frame, and several (so far) receiving praise for writing skills in online courses and on college campuses. Best of all, ALL of my kids enjoy writing.
Because writing can be a delicate area, I always advise research and caution before selecting anything for homeschool use. If the system you acquire appears to be a good fit for the child, by all means, use it right away and continue forever. If it isn’t, however, first consider developing an informal system of writing on your own. Have students write short stories, keep a journal, jot notes about what they do during travels, write jokes, translate comics into stories, or even write clues for crossword puzzles — whatever works for them. Introduce a positive feeling about writing and observe how they work — for a long time. THEN make future decisions about how writing will be taught from that point on.
Are your students writers? Why or why not? I’ll continue posting about writing instruction at home. In the meanwhile, why not take a look at how writing is taught (or not) in your home?