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.
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.
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.
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.
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