Welcome to Build Your Library’s Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 49 – Encouraging Your Reluctant Writer. In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated high school and one who is a college graduate!
Let’s just admit it right up front. Writing is hard. It’s hard to generate ideas, and even harder to put those ideas onto paper (or computer screen). Three of my four kids struggled with learning to write. So, if you have a child who just can’t seem to write more than a sentence, let alone a paragraph, know that you are not alone.
But what do you do to help a child who can talk a mile a minute, but freezes up when they must put those same thoughts on paper? Today I’m going to share a few tips and ideas to help you guide your reluctant writer.
Reading and writing go together. You can’t become a good writer if you never read anything. This is where language is learned firsthand! So read together. Read aloud every day and encourage them to read on their own for at least 15-20 minutes each day. But don’t just read, close the book, and move on with your day. Talk about what you are reading. Build a dialogue with your child about books. This is your first baby step into composition and analysis. By talking about and thinking about what you are reading together, you are building connections in their mind and showing them how to analyze and think critically about what they read.
If you have a reluctant writer and you are trying to get them to write a 5-paragraph essay, you might be attempting too much too soon. Think of writing like building a house. You need to lay a foundation before you can construct walls. So, start with sentences. When they can construct a good sentence on their own, then they are ready to learn to form a paragraph. Moving too quickly through the writing process can make them feel overwhelmed and hinder their progress.
Who says writing needs to be boring? Give them ways to make it an exciting part of their day. Maybe that means buying cute notebooks, and lots of gel pens. Set up a space for them in your home that is their personal writing retreat. Sometimes just having a beautiful notebook and a new pen can be enough to make the act of writing exciting. Maybe they like to write on a whiteboard with colorful markers – go for it! You can always snap a picture of the finished product to add to your portfolio later.
Like reading, set aside a special time each day devoted to writing. Maybe it’s a written narration or summary, but it could also be a poem, journaling, or working on a story idea. Whatever it is, they should work on it for 15 – 20 minutes every day. If they struggle to generate ideas for what to write, this is where prompts come in. But please, toss out those old boring, “What did you do on summer vacation?” prompts. No one wants to write about that.
Come up with fun ideas that will inspire them to write! Why not try buddy writing? You can start a story, then pass it to your child to continue it. Then go back and forth until it reaches a natural conclusion. Or just write a letter back and forth. Even better, have them write a letter to a grandparent or relative that they don’t get to see often. Fun little projects like this can go a long way to getting your reluctant writer over the initial difficulty of putting pencil to paper and writing.
This doesn’t seem like it would be helpful, they aren’t really “writing” since it is just copying, right? So, how does this help? I’ve talked a lot about copywork before, so I won’t go into detail here, but I promise, if done regularly, it does help.
Regular use of copywork, at least 3 times per week, especially when it is taken from their reading, will help them to learn the building blocks of good writing. Just be sure you aren’t making them write more than they are capable of. A few sentences at a time is plenty. Less if they are under the age of 8. And hey, don’t forget to make it fun with pens and fancy notebooks! Even more fun? Keep your own copywork journal and make it a family affair. Showing them that you are working on writing too can be inspiring!
Writing is hard, but they are working on it. When you see them doing well, tell them! Everyone wants to hear praise, especially our children. If they write a little story and bring it to you, read it and tell them what you liked about it! Don’t nitpick their grammar or spelling, this isn’t the time for that. Even if it’s messy, they wrote something. They had an idea and put pencil to paper, and you should be proud of that. Take the wins whenever you can and know that this is a process. It takes a long time to grow a writer and if you can be patient and walk alongside them, I promise they will get there someday!
I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!
Until then, happy reading!
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.