Homeschooling? Yes, You Can Teach Your Child to Write

Teaching our children involves time, patience, caring, and love. Seaside Story, original painting by Steve Henderson sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

 

This is the first of a three-part series on teaching your child to write.

In more than 20 years of home-schooling, I have heard variations on this sentence,

“I can’t teach my child to write because I don’t know my grammar.”

(Actually, the beginning to this particular sentence could be completed in all sorts of ways:

“I can’t teach my child writing, reading, grammar, language, chemistry, biology, any science at all, algebra I, algebra II, any math at all, history, music, art.” There’s a general theme here of doubt in one’s abilities. Frequently the solution, after trying all sorts of workbooks and curriculums that promise results, is to put the child back in a “real” school.)

Many people who are convinced that they can’t teach their children how to write without a strong grasp of grammar don’t realize an essential aspect of writing:

You don’t need to know grammar in order to write well.

I know. I can hear the shock and awe, the snorts, the wondering aloud of what our civilization will come to if we don’t diagram sentences, which is probably a similar result of what will happen to us if we stop speaking Latin:

Life, civilization, and writing will go on. As it has.

While in a perfect world, students would learn grammar and use that knowledge to write, in the real world of both public school, private school, and homeschooling, they may or may not learn grammar, but they do very, very little actual writing. Generally, writing is wrapped around “the research paper,” which devotes as much time to footnotes, bibliography, and 3 x 5 index cards of information gleaned about the lifestyle of Tunisian giraffes, than it does to actual writing.

Children want to write about magical, interesting things, which are generally not the topics addressed in workbook pages. Little Angel Bright, original oil painting and signed limited edition print by Steve Henderson.

Young children spend hours answering inane workbook questions — “What is your favorite color? Why?” “Do you have a best friend?” — and parents frequently misinterpret their boredom of the subject matter with a spirit of rebelliousness, or an inability to learn.

If you want your child to learn to write, the best technique is the one you used to teach him how to bicycle — you started slowly, with training wheels, stayed close, encouraged much, didn’t laugh or scoff when he fell (or even point out to him that he fell), and told him to bike, bike, bike. There were rules, of course, but they were fairly basic — ride on the right side of the road, wear easy to spot clothing, keep your hands on the handlebars, be aware of traffic, and don’t do anything stupid.

When you teach your child to write, keep these points in mind. For a young child, it’s okay to use training wheels — with our young children, that meant they could either copy someone else’s poem or story, or they could write something very short, simple, and easy, the subject matter of which they chose themselves. Frequently, that subject matter revolved around one of our many farm animals.

What a young child — under 10 — produces will look wobbly, because they’re just starting and there are so many factors to keep in mind. Spelling will be abysmal, punctuation non-existent, lettering inconsistent. There are so many things to correct, that if you focused on them all, the child would give up in discouragement and never straddle a bicycle seat again, so remember that encouragement part. Limit yourself to just a couple things to correct, and spend most of your time reading the actual content of what your child wrote — writing is communication, after all, and your child has a story to tell you, a piece of information to impart, or a joke to share.

A child’s focus is different from that of an adult, and we can take time to understand that. Reflection, original oil painting and signed limited edition print at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Nobody likes writing in a vacuum, which is pretty much what those workbook questions are, because, whether or not the child consciously recognizes this, he knows deep down that nobody is interested in the answers to these questions anyway. The same goes for that blessed and requisite research paper of the older child — unless you express genuine interest in the results of all the child’s hard work, he’s going to have a hard time writing something interesting, engaging, and informational, which is supposedly the purpose for writing the research paper in the first place.

This article continues in Part II, The more you practice, the better you get

You know, as a homeschooler, you can spend a LOT of money on curriculum packets, workbooks, and texts. I have written two inexpensive books — available in paperback and digital format — that will help you out.

Writing and speaking better does not require an extensive grammar course. Grammar Despair in paperback and digital format at Amazon.com.

Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” gives you, and your child the basics for writing, without having to get into the complexities of grammar. Short, friendly, easy-to-read chapters cover the major issues writers face, from the difference between “it’s” and “its” and “they’re,” “there,” and “their,” to knowing when to make paragraphs, to whether or not it’s really a sin to end a sentence with a preposition. Writing, and teaching writing, does not have to be agonizingly difficult, and this book gives you the tools and confidence you need to do the job well. Available through Amazon.com, paperback and digital format.

Live Happily on Less: 52 Ideas to Renovate Your Life and Lifestyle

Available at Amazon.com in paperback or digital format.

talks about finances — something all homeschooling families are aware of, because we’re usually operating on less than the “norm.” In 30 years of marriage, my husband and I have raised — and homeschooled — four kids on one very modest income. We own our home — mortgage free — as well as our land, car, and business, Steve Henderson Fine Art. We have no creditors. What we’ve done isn’t magic; it’s a lifestyle. Live Happily on Less doesn’t assault you with tips and weird tricks, making you feel stupid if you don’t do everything my way — rather, it walks you through your individual situation and teaches you how to make the sustainable changes that work for you. Available through Amazon.com, paperback and digital format.

This article is linked to the Chicken Chick, My Joy Filled Life, Alderberry Hill, Mop It up, Mama Diane, Tough Cookie Mama, A Mama’s Story, The Character Corner, Teaching What Is Good, Memories by the Mile, Coastal Charm, Growing Home, Walking Redeemed, Deep Roots at Home, Raising Homemakers, Mama BZZ, Frugally Sustainable, Adorned from Above, A Little R and R, A Wise Woman, Wholehearted Home, Day 2 Day Joys, Thriving Thursdays, Live Laugh Rowe, We Are That Family, Jenny Mullinix, Katherine’s Corner, Graced Simplicity, Hearts for Home, Living Well Spending Less, Dude Sustainable, Family Fun Friday, Rehns Family Blog, Fabulously Frugal, Hope in Every Season, All Our Days, Essential Things, Christian Mom Blogger, Bible Love Notes, A Peek into My Paradise, Our Heritage of Health, The Thriftiness Miss, This Mind Be in You, Friday Flash Blog, Small Footprint Family, Oh So Amelia, Little House in the Suburbs, Nourishing Joy, Natural Living Mamma, Butter Believer, A Blossoming Life, The Prairie Homestead, Mama Diane, Moms the Word

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15 Responses to “Homeschooling? Yes, You Can Teach Your Child to Write”

  1. Thank you Carolyn for this post. I like your approach to writing. I wholeheartedly agree about workbooks!! Thanks for sharing this over at WholeHearted Wednesdays this week.

    • Thank you, Judith. I believe that writing has the potential to be a lifelong joy, a means of expressing oneself and one’s thoughts — but not if the process is associated with boredom and frustrated.

      I always was really, really bad at filling out workbook pages!

  2. Tina says:

    I like the idea of baby steps. The thing that has helped us the most is letting them participate with me when I do Five Minute Fridays. We’ve even started hosting a link-up for other kids who want to write with us. We’ve gotten some cute stuff posted! If you’d like to see them or have your kids participate, please hop over to desperatehomeschoolers.com

  3. Tina — I love the name, desperate homeschoolers, and enjoyed the visit. Nothing like real life to teach kids, and I admire that you’re not reluctant to let them use 21st century technology. There are a number of homeschoolers out there who are still using a brush and ink, so to speak, and won’t let their kids learn by experimenting and trying new things out.

    Baby steps — yes, that’s the key. Small steps, added up over time, take us a long way. — Carolyn

  4. This is such great practical advice here. Thanks for linking up at Essential Fridays. Blessings.

    • Thank you, Mel — real life, practical writing is the best way to become a better writer, and when a child, or an adult, writes something with meaning, knowing that someone will actually READ it, then they have a reason to try harder, and do better.

      You simply cannot get this kind of motivation from filling out workbook pages.

      Thank you for inviting to link up with Essential Fridays.

  5. Mrs. White says:

    You’ve done an incredible job inspiring parents to teach their children to write! I love how you compared it to teaching to ride a bike. So true!

    Blessings
    Mrs. White
    The Legacy of Home

    • Thank you, Mrs. White — I want people to feel confident that they can do more than they think they can, and it pretty much begins with — just getting on that bike and being willing to fall off.

      Writing — well and effectively — is a vital skill that goes so much beyond spelling and grammar. While these latter are important, too many people get hung up on these issues and never make it to the actual writing part. So, at the risk of sounding like a used car salesman, I encourage them to look at my book, Grammar Despair, and read it for their own learning and confidence first. As always, anyone who has a question can always contact me directly at Carolyn@SteveHendersonFineArt.com.

      A lovely weekend to you and yours — Carolyn

  6. Hilary says:

    Thank you for this timely post! One of my children really doesn’t (physically) write well. He has amazing ideas, but gets frustrated getting them out on paper. We did a little “scribing” project, where I sat at the computer and he spoke the story out loud to me while I typed it up. It ended up as a short chapter book that we had printed to give as a gift to my brother when he got married. Family and friends were so encouraging when they read it and my son was thrilled to be “in print!” It has helped un-do the dread of writing (workbook – inflicted, I might add) that has built for the past two years!

    • Hilary — is your son old enough to learn how to type? It’s a lifesaver — I type very fast, and I still can’t keep up with my thoughts. When I try to write them out by hand, the handwriting quickly degenerates into something that the dog would do.

      Tired of Being Youngest, our youngest daughter, loved the Mavis Beacon typing system, and did every single game. TBY is FAST at typing — but then, she’s fast at everything she does, which is a life challenge in itself. The Son and Heir, on the other hand, did not like Mavis Beacon and types at about 15 words per minute, which is extraordinarily frustrating because he’s off and about working out of state this summer, and when we try to communicate by Instant Messaging, well, let’s just say that it’s not so instant. More like coffee that has been percolating for the afternoon.

      But if your son would be willing to learn to type (it helps tremendously with spelling, by the way, because when we type fast enough, we don’t spell out each letter with our fingers — we just sort of machine gun each word as it comes), he would find that he can express himself independently — and independence is a good, good thing.

      I can’t leave without recommending my book Grammar Despair, which will help you in confidence and ideas, and your son, if he’s old enough (12 or so) in getting a handle on basic writing issues — and while these issues are basic, they’re not easy, because people of all ages have continuous problems with them.

      What a great idea your scribing project is! I love the imagination and creativity of homeschoolers! — Carolyn

  7. [...] Homeschooling? Yes, You Can Teach Your Child to Write [...]

  8. Renee says:

    Thank you Carolyn for linking to Thrilling Thursday (and I’m super sorry that I dropped the ball on reading/commenting on this post earlier *shame faced blush*)! Great post from a trusted source!

  9. Thank you, Renee. I’m glad that you’re back!! (and quit blushing)

  10. [...] Carolyn encouraged us with her post, Homeschooling? Yes, You Can teach Your Child to Write. click here to repin from the original source :: image [...]

  11. [...] Gotta Try That shared some fabulous Lacing Boards. 5. This Woman Writes shared her techniques for Teaching Homeschooling Children how to Write. I couldn’t use an image from this post but I think you’ll fid the post [...]

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