Many parents contact me because they feel their child is a “reluctant writer” and they’re seeking ways to make writing less painful. Wonderful ideas abound to entice our children to write from journaling to story starters to lap booking. While there isn’t anything wrong with these ideas, and many of them can be very useful, I wondered how we might avoid creating reluctant writers, if possible. How do you grow a successful writer? The following gardening tips might help!
Tip 1: Cultivate by Modeling
I cringe every time a homeschool mom says, “I hated writing in school.” Often, her child is within earshot. You don’t have to have a passion for writing to model the importance of communication skills. Allowing your child to see you writing offers encouragement and a positive example. Simply keeping a journal and writing in front of your young child can make a difference.
Tip 2: Fertilize with Great Books
As you read to and with your child, point out how the author writes well. Use books to help your child understand the value of writing. Read often to your child and encourage him to read as there are significant ties between avid readers and successful writers.
Tip 3: Plant in the Right Season
Unless your child demonstrates a strong interest and some ability, it’s not advisable to push writing (not handwriting, but content writing) before the child develops significant reading skills, usually around the 3rd grade. Forcing children to write before they are developmentally ready may only cause frustration, for both of you, and make future writing endeavors less enjoyable. Prior to 3rd grade, consider copy work and very short, fun activities rather than sentence and paragraph formation.
Tip 4: Cross-pollinate for Greater Growth
Children tend to have better attitudes toward writing when they view it as a skill to be utilized overall rather than a individual subject. Writing well makes other subjects easier just as weight training helps athletes perform better and avoid injury. Integrating writing skills with other subjects, such as history and science, allows your child to practice writing and you to evaluate your child’s writing without an assigned “writing” assignment. The focus is on the content rather than the subject matter.
Tip 5: Each Tool has a Purpose
Grammar and spelling may be taught using workbooks, but you want to watch your vocabulary when talking to your child about writing. Don’t interchange grammar and spelling with writing when talking to your child. Grammar and spelling should be viewed as tools to help your child write better.
Tip 6: Give Your Garden Time to Grow
Offer your child a wide variety of opportunities to practice writing well, from journaling to book reviews to letter writing to poetry to lap booking to reports and any other type of writing that comes to mind! The more diverse your child’s writing assignments, the more successful he’ll be in the long run.
Tip 7: Don’t Harvest too Early
Before writing a paragraph, a child should understand how to write a well developed sentence. Sometimes parents become concerned that their children aren’t progressing fast enough and they decide that a book report should be written before a child can competently write a solid paragraph. Most children don’t run before they walk and writing development should be viewed the same way. Transitioning more slowly in the early years and spending significant time on the basics paves the way for greater accomplishments later.
Tip 8: Weed and Prune
One of the most common complaints I hear from homeschooled children is that their parents don’t ever grade their writing. They love that I actually return their work with marks for evaluation. If you assign it, then evaluate it. Don’t expect your child to complete a writing assignment if you’re not willing to spend time reading and correcting it. Writing evaluation can be truly challenging and it does take time that we often want to spend doing other things (almost any other thing J), but it’s important to validate our children’s efforts with evaluation.
Tip 9: You’ll Reap What You Sow
It’s not uncommon for parents to confess to me that they have neglected teaching writing. I do understand that it’s easier to teach subjects that are more objective, but if writing is instilled as a life skill from an early age, it’s more likely that writing will be more easily taught throughout your child’s education.
Tip 10: Can’t Harvest the Crop Alone? Hire Some Help!
Often it’s best to turn over skills to another person if you find it challenging to teach and/or evaluate. Learning how to write with other students can also be more motivational, depending on your child’s learning style.
Writing definitely comes more easily to some students, and parents, than others, but all students greatly benefit from being able to write well. As you homeschool, how will your writers’ garden grow?
May God bless Your Garden!