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"Why does my child hate writing? They have such great ideas!"
This is a sentiment that many homeschool families struggle with during instructional time…and this phenomena is nothing new! According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only about 25% of students perform at a proficient level of writing. Why are kids avoiding writing when they so readily share ideas aloud? What is happening between the time the thought forms in their mind to getting it onto paper that stops them from becoming voracious writers?
Well, writing is hard.
Writing is a complex, multi-faceted content area. It is much more than writing a sentence, paragraph or essay. Writing is pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing and more. To make a long story short: writing is overwhelming. Due to this, it isn’t surprising that young writers dislike writing time or avoid the writing process altogether.
If writing time is a struggle for both you and your homeschooler, let’s dive into some ways to alleviate the stress, decrease kids’ reluctance towards writing and help them become consistently successful writers!
Understand that writing is unlike any other content area. Kids don’t magically wake up flawless authors after one lesson on paragraph writing. Writing is a continuum that needs consistent, clear modelling over long periods of time. The skills we teach during writing may not show up consistently for days, weeks or months in our young writers’ works. This is all to say, be realistic in your expectations of your homeschooler. Celebrate each success with them, get them excited about writing and confident about their ideas and the writer in them will continue to grow.
What makes writing so overwhelming?
Young writers are often reluctant to write because there is too much going on in the writing process. To combat this, make sure your writing instruction is bite-sized. Focus on one idea, skill or concept at a time. Learners cannot focus on content, sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, spelling and every single step of the writing process simultaneously. Pick one skill in one of these areas to focus on. Model it, practice it then move to another.
For example, if your homeschooler is practicing planning a paragraph in the pre-writing stage, do not correct their spelling. Focus on pre-writing and tackle spelling another day
Just like walking, talking and reading, children need to see what good writing looks and sounds like before they can produce excellent writing pieces. Kids learn from repeated and tangible examples. In order to best support your homeschooler, you need to model each writing lesson. That means you need your own writing piece! You should be writing each time your homeschooler is, showing them exactly how to be successful at each lesson.
One reason that writing instruction is so tricky for both kids and adults is because so much of the writing process happens internally. When young writers see perfectly polished writing pieces written by grown ups, they assume that all writing comes out perfectly on the first try. They don’t typically see the pre-writing, drafting, revising and editing that goes into a finished writing piece. That’s why a mentor piece from you is so important. Here are some tips for you as you’re modeling:
Think aloud and share ideas
Don’t just write a paragraph. Show your young writer how to begin. Brainstorm out loud, organize your ideas with their input and clearly model how your ideas went from a list to a paragraph. For example, when writing an introduction to an opinion piece, share with your child strategies to hook their reader, like asking a question or stating an interesting fact. Then show them how to do it! Pull out your paper and pencil and let them watch you work through that part of the writing process.
Model each day’s focus
This kind of work isn’t one and done. Watching you move through the writing process consistently will help young writers internalize that writing is a process and the first product will not be the final product. Before your homeschooler sits down to write, you should model the expectation for the lesson. For every part of this journey, don’t be afraid to be authentic with your learners. Real writers make mistakes, have writers block and get frustrated. The key is to teach young writers how to navigate all of these pieces of the writing process and seeing you work through these will be beneficial.
Use the same materials your child is using
If your homeschooler is writing with pencil and paper, so are you! This kind of instruction is only transferable when learners have a clear scaffold to work from.
Authors Borrow From Each Other
Yes, that’s right. Authors borrow from other authors all of the time. Now we aren’t going to teach our young writers to plagiarize the work of others, however, we are going to explicitly teach them that great writers borrow from other writers all of the time. They can borrow ideas from your modeling or from books that they love to read. For example, author Cynthia Rylant does a wonderful job using figurative language in her writing. She helps readers create a picture in their minds with her word choice. In a lesson on figurative language, you could model “borrowing” that strategy from Cynthia Rylant to put into a piece of writing, then encourage your child to do the same.
Some young writers may borrow from an author’s craft minimally, some more reluctant writers may borrow more heavily. Let them! Initially, your homeschooler may be copying whole sentences from your modeled writing, and that’s okay! The goal is to get kids confident in their abilities as a writer, you can work on developing their writing style later. Remember, developing writing is a process with many steps.
Give Your Modeling a Boost
A great place to start the modeling and borrowing process is with sentence starters. Sentence starters give kids a place to begin, a framework to spark their own thoughts. Sentence starters are a great scaffold to help students write in an elevated way while keeping the writing process realistic and developmentally appropriate. Grab this sentence starter freebie to help your homeschooler move into their writing more independently, building their confidence, persistence, and increasing their success!
Back to Basics
Writing is all around us. Start embedding writing basics into everyday life and the physical process of writing won’t be so difficult. Once physically writing becomes easier, crafting an exceptional writing piece becomes easier. Here are some ways to integrate more writing into your child’s day:
If your child is working in a workbook with short or long-answer questions, that is a great place to start looking for complete sentences. The more kids write in complete sentences with appropriate capitalization and punctuation, the less they need to focus on it when writing longer pieces. These kinds of workbook questions are a quick but valuable opportunity for homeschoolers to practice these basic conventions to make them more automatic. Remember to model what complete sentences look like before expecting your homeschooler to use them consistently!
Have kids write letters to friends or family. This is a great way to get them excited about writing while practicing complete sentences, capitalization, and punctuation.
If forming letters and physically writing is overwhelming for your homeschooler, start small and remain consistent. Have your child help write to-do lists, grocery store lists, holiday gift lists, and more!
My Kids Won’t Write…They’re Being Lazy
Remember that part about writing being an internal process? Well, when young writers are overwhelmed by balancing all of the moving parts of a holistic writing piece, they don’t want to write anymore. If writing becomes too exhausting, why would kids want to keep writing? By practicing writing in everyday learning, the small pieces will become easier, giving kids more bandwidth to focus on the big pieces and increasing their writing stamina.
We’re Successfully Writing! Now What?
Strive for progress over perfection. Any writing progress is a success! Remember that young writers will not have a perfect piece immediately. Don’t overwhelm them with notes, critiques or edits. When it comes to revising and editing, here are guidelines to help make it a productive, positive experience:
Pick one thing to focus on at a time, only correct those errors.
If you notice your young writer isn’t using capital letters at the beginning of each sentence or punctuation at the end of each sentence, pick one to focus on at a time. One day, just edit for capital letters. The next day, just edit for punctuation. Not only does this make editing more manageable for your homeschooler, but for you as well!
Nobody should be writing on a young writers’ piece except for the author.
This helps kids take ownership of their own work. We want kids to want to write. We want kids to get excited about their writing. We need to allow them to make it their writing!
Grown up writers should model editing on their own writing.
Modelling starts with pre-writing and goes the entirety of the writing process. Keeping in mind to focus on one edit at a time, model editing your writing piece. This helps kids see that writing is truly a process and they shouldn’t expect a perfect product from their first draft.
Give your homeschooler grace and time.
Young writers are learning a lot about the writing process, their work does not need to be perfect to be powerful or understood. After editing for capital letters, if you notice 3 more words that are missing capital letters, that is okay! Just like with walking, talking and reading, the more kids practice these skills, the better they get!
Feel like you still need support? Our writing products include everything you need! The print and digital resources include printable differentiated articles and many graphic organizers to help students learn how to write essays. Have your student explore the articles to get ideas on how to respond to the writing prompt.
Our product reviews can be found on Teachers pay Teachers.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything but still need support, sign up for a free consultation to see if our 1:1 services are a fit for you and your homeschooler!