Real Life Writing

This is real life: home, the outdoors, running, and breathing in the good air. I never could answer where algebra fit into this. Wild Child — licensed open edition art print at Great Big Canvas.

One of my son’s favorite — and unanswerable — questions through the years had to do with Algebra and higher math.

“When will I ever use this?” he asked. “And if I never use it, why do I have to learn it?”

I never did come up with a good answer for that one, having successfully made it to seasoned adulthood without dredging up my high school trigonometry.

But I did understand his frustration of devoting time and mental energy to a task for which he saw no purpose. Algebra isn’t the only subject our children wonder what they’re going to do with some day.

Too frequently, we expect our children to write to no purpose — the 2-page, 5-page, 10-page research paper being the primary example, and really, the main reason we insist upon their completing these projects in high school is because they will be expected to do so in college. How many of us, since our college days, have completed a research paper?

Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its purposes — organization, understanding of subject matter, citation, the ability to understand and avoid plagiarism — but our children’s writing time can also include more pertinent activities that they will actually use in their later, adult lives:

Writing, like other aspects of our lives, needs to be meaningful. Dandelions, licensed open edition print by Steve Henderson at Great Big Canvas.
  • Writing letters — personal or business
  • Crafting e-mails (this is more difficult than it sounds)
  • Telling, in written form, a story
  • Providing clear, easy to follow instructions (how many of us who have purchased a “some assembly required” item have longed, achingly, for comprehensive, and comprehensible, directions?)
  • Poetry and creative writing — not every child is interested in these areas, but those who are should have the opportunity to explore them. Your child may never play the piano well, but the music in his soul could come out through his writing.
  • Describing the results of a science experiment
  • Expressing an opinion on a political, historical, or societal subject (the Letters to the Editor section of the paper remains many people’s favorite)

When you think of all the real functions that writing can fulfill in everyday life, all of a sudden you can see how a child can spend 15 minutes to an hour, daily (depending upon the child’s age), doing them. And the more a child writes — and writes for a purpose — the better he becomes at it. And the better he becomes at it, the more willing he is to do it (one hopes).

Simplicity is good, in our writing and in all aspects of our lives. Purple Iris, original watercolor by Steve Henderson.

It’s almost my mantra, but the primary purpose of writing is to express ourselves, and everybody — regardless of age — has something to say. When our children believe that what they spend their time putting to paper or screen is actually being read and absorbed, they gain in confidence and ability, and when enough time goes by — 1st grade segues into middle school, then middle school into their junior year of high school — all that practice and hard work results in a person who can write.

This is the third and last of three articles on teaching your child how to write. Article number one is Homeschooling? Yes, You Can Teach Your Child to Write, and article number two is Writing: The More You Practice the Better You Get.

20-years worth of writing teaching is packed into this inexpensive, easy-to-read, book. Paperback and digital formats at

I have successfully homeschooled four children in a 20-year period. As a professional writer, I observed the common mistakes and issues many people face, and addressed them in my book, Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” available at as a paperback and digital book.

I have also successfully raised a family of six on an extremely modest

Available in paperback and digital format at

income, which is what most homeschoolers — and families of all sorts — deal with. Live Happily on Less: 52 Ideas to Renovate Your Life and Lifestyle, addresses how to make realistic, sustainable changes in the way you think and spend money, so that you can get the most out of the resources you have. Many money saving books hammer you over the head with frugality tips — extreme couponing, and making odd craft projects out of old t-shirts or blue jeans — but I don’t. Unless you find what works for you, and works well, you won’t do it — and my book walks you through finding what works for you.

This article is linked to The Character Corner, Teaching What Is Good, Memories by the Mile, Coastal Charm, Growing Home, Walking Redeemed, Deep Roots at Home, Adorned from Above, A Little R and R, A Wise Woman, Wholehearted Home, Thriving Thursdays, Thankful Thursday, Live Laugh Rowe, We Are That Family, Jenny Mullinix, Hearts for Home, Living Well Spending Less, Fabulously Frugal, Hope in Every Season, All Our Days, This Mind Be in You,

7 Responses

  1. Great post, Carolyn! I agree – there are so many uses for writing in everyday life. I always tell my kids that the ability to communicate through the written word directly translates to both grades and dollars. Yes, you can get better grades in almost every subject if you write well, but you can also get money back for defective products or shoddy service, land a better job with a great cover letter or even earn extra money with side writing projects.

    1. So right, Lisa. The odd thing is, we either make the teaching of writing too difficult — as in years and years of grammar sheets and never actually getting to the writing part — or too simplistic, as in the 1-2-3 fast and dirty essay with its intro paragraph, three paragraphs in between, and conclusion. Our state has a writing test that students need to pass, and they pretty much need to do this latter. If they do anything else at all that involves, say, thinking, then they don’t get the right score.

  2. I have enjoyed this series on teaching writing. With the new schoolyear starting, this helps inspire me to keep on what I’ve been doing for many years. I have been homeschooling for more than 22 years and have graduated 4 children already. I have one left to go.

    Thank you!

    1. I am glad that the series has been useful to you, Mrs. White, a veteran homeschooler. We just keep learning, don’t we?

      Congratulations on successfully graduating four, and enjoying time with that precious, last, youngest one. (I am the youngest in a family of five, so perhaps I have a particular perspective on this!) — Carolyn

  3. Thank you, Carolyn! I need to read this whole series. As one who loves the written word I want to be sure my children understand the importance of good grammar, penmanship and communication. Thanks so much for linking up with me again last week!

    1. Kasey — this is my personal take on the situation:

      Penmanship — as long as it’s legible, in any form, that’s okay.

      Grammar — When they’re older, go into it. People survive without grammar the same way they survive without algebra. It’s not that we don’t teach it, but we don’t have to hammer it in too young, and NOT at the expense of the most critical thing:

      Being able to write: the more you read, the better you write. The more you write, the better you write. Too often, people waste critical time with grammar sheets and pedantics, and never, ever get to actual writing.

      Writing should be fun, because we’ll do it more. It’s not always fun — nothing in life is — but if it’s ALWAYS boring and chore, then we won’t do it, and frequently, it is taught in a manner that is boring and chore.

      Ultimately, our goal is to create children who are writers, and we need to step back and ask, “In the big picture, with big chunks, how will we go about doing this?”

      I hope you enjoy the entire series, and feel free to contact me again. The written word is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

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