I had a conversation with a homeschooling friend this week whose sixth grade daughter is struggling with writing. “My daughter is so unfocused when it comes to writing that we end up stretching out our day into the evening or weekend just to get it done.” And writing was having a major effect on her homeschooling routine; she mentioned that even a “simple” essay question in Social Studies and Science can make for a really bad day. Let’s face it, she’s not alone. Getting our kids to write, and write well, can be an uphill battle that leaves homeschooling parents wondering how to teach homeschool writing in a way that works!
We all know writing is important however how can we teach it in a way that not only gives our students a good foundation of writing skills, and actually encourages them to love and want to write? This mom was struggling, and maybe you are too. That’s why I couldn’t help share with her what I have learned about the writing process over my years as a writing teacher and homeschooling mother. Teaching writing doesn’t have to be a struggle, but you do have to understand the unique challenges that homeschooled students face when learning to write.
As homeschool families we know the importance of writing, and that’s why we often start at a young age. But, without meaning to, we can create writing blocks that keep our students from becoming the writers they can be. Knowing these obstacles to writing before you begin a homeschool writing lesson can help you and your child to pick up the pen and put down the struggle.
Block 1: The Physical Mechanics of Writing
Because we expect our kids to begin writing at such a young age, we often forget about the physical skills required to write well. There are some students who have the fine motor skills to write at a very young age. However, many struggle so much with the physical act of writing that they quickly decide that “I can’t write.”
What many children, parents and teachers miss is the fact that this inability to write has nothing to do with their ability to generate ideas, be creative, or to create a paragraph or story. Instead, the physical act of forming letters and sentences is such a difficult or tiring task that they cannot possibly keep up with what their incredible little minds are trying to communicate.
Overcoming this writing block is simple; make sure that your young child is ready for the mechanics of writing by working on hand strength, letter formation, and the necessary fine motor skills before moving on. And be creative! Use play-dough to strengthen hand and finger muscles, form letters or write words in cinnamon to encourage hand eye coordination, and play tic-tac-toe with the entire alphabet. When they know they can physically write and see writing as a fun skill, they’ll feel confident tackling the harder aspects of writing later on.
Block 2: Too Much Too Soon
Because we expect our kids to begin writing at such a young age, we can push them to write too much too fast. From introducing too many writing assignments, to pushing them to learn how to write a paragraph before they are ready, to making every test about essays, many homeschool parents push too much writing at a pace that leaves their students in the dust. The result: kids begin to see writing as a difficult chore that they simply can’t master.
And the results go deeper than one bad day. Students often develop a mental block that makes writing a chore and/or a battle for years. Thus, we set them up for failure and an “I can’t do it” attitude. Our brains are so powerful that what we tell it becomes truth. So, if our kids are saying “I cannot write,” it quickly becomes reality. They begin to approach every writing assignment with this attitude and as the years and struggles with writing go on that “I can’t do it” attitude just continues to grow.
One key way to ensure you don’t tackle too much too soon is to choose the best homeschool writing curriculum for your individual child. Assess their abilities often to ensure that the curriculum is a good fit. And don’t be afraid to take a break or to move slowly! Sometimes the writing process can be overwhelming. Taking it piece by piece and inserting fun activities along the way will allow your child to ease into becoming an independent writer. Also, resist the urge to make writing the main part of tests, even in high school as students will become so overwhelmed with the writing process that they are unable to accurately show what they know. Most importantly, don’t make writing a chore. Allow your student to be creative and to incorporate fun into writing through games, artwork, and varying styles of writing.
Block 3: Ignoring Learning Style
Because we expect our kids to begin writing at such a young age, we can ignore important aspects of learning, like learning style, that enable our students to master the writing process and become fluent writers. Teaching your homeshooled student how to write should be unique for each individual. However, so often as teachers we fall in love with what we think is the best homeschool writing curriculum or right way to teach writing to our homeschoolers that we miss what’s most important, our child.
Ensuring that you choose the best homeschool writing curriculum and teach to your child’s learning style may seem challenging, but it makes all the difference. Take our Learning Style Assessment to unlock the keys to helping your student learn in the way their unique brain needs. And you’ll find that writing comes so much easier, for them and for you!
It’s critical to know your child’s learning style so that you can find the right strategies to teach your homeschooled child how to write well. If your child is an auditory learner, allow them to dictate their writing to you more than they are drafting it themselves. Visual learners should be able to create visual writing as part of the pre-writing process. And project-based learning that includes writing elements is perfect for hands-on, kinesthetic learners. Make sure to evaluate your child’s writing progress and ability often as you’re using learning style strategies. Find out specific approaches to teach writing to your child’s learning style here.
Despite our best intentions, homeschooling parents can often get in the way and cause writing blocks that trip our students up in their quest to become good writers. But, creating confident and competent writers is possible if we stay focused on our students’ needs, their learning style, and making writing fun.
How do you help your homeschooled student pick up the pen and put down the struggle? Tell us in a comment below!