Next to teaching children to read, perhaps the next task fraught with stress and uncertainty is teaching writing. There are entire courses dedicated to how to write – ones that some homeschoolers swear by. And while my intention is not to deride any of those courses, I want to say that writing isn’t hard.
Forget Academic Writing
I have an MFA (a Master of Fine Arts – a terminal degree) in creative writing. And I doubt I would have it today if I had pursued writing of the academic sort. From a very young age, I was interested in stories. I remember crafting poems and short stories since I was about eight or nine years old.
While I had some training in grammar, it certainly did not involve more than just the basics. I don’t remember ever studying tenses. And I never diagrammed a single sentence. I had not been asked to cite another writer’s work. I had no exposure to what we call “academic writing.”
What I did get however is excellent exposure to good literature. And I loved to read. I read and experimented with different forms and voices in my writing. Suspense, mystery and crime novels gave me my plot and pacing constructions. I devoured these books, loaned to me happily by my older brother.
All this to say, if you’re teaching your children writing, don’t start with the academic. Start here.
Three Strategies for Teaching Writing
Reading / Memorization / Copy Work
We learn in most cases by imitating. So it makes sense to read to children. Reading and memorization is the most basic form of putting templates of good writing into their heads so that construction of sentences and sentence structure become second hand to them.
To this, you can add copy work. If you are concerned about spelling or grammar, have them copy a few well chosen, well constructed sentences from their favorite book of stories or poetry.
If they want to make the foray into slightly more serious writing, create a free blog and let them at it. If you do not wish for others to see it, keep it on a private setting. This is a great way to encourage them to put down their thoughts on paper, um… screen. It’s also excellent typing practice.
My daughter has a blog that she updates off and on. It gives her a creative outlet and I will usually go over it with her and correct her errors when she’s not feeling defensive. This is a great way to teach writing and spelling because it is she who is doing the asking and the learning and not me making her do it.
Writing Stories / Copy Work
Another method to employ is one used by a friend of mine. For her more reluctant writer, she would type out stories he told her, as he told them. Then she would print those out and give them to him to copy by hand. When he saw that he actually had things to say that sounded interesting, he was more interested in writing.
Teaching writing doesn’t need to be scary. Just be creative about it.