Writing does not just come naturally. A child verbalizing their thoughts and communicating them through writing are two completely different things. As homeschooling parents, it might frustrate us to no end. We know they are creative. They can share the most detailed story with us verbally but when pen and paper are in hand, some children freeze. How do we encourage the intimidated writer?
By eliminating fear.
Think back to when you first started writing. If your experience was anything like mine then you remember the bold, red, markings on your papers, exposing every single error. Sloppy handwriting? Five points off. Misspelled words? A point off each. Grammatical errors? Entire sections of your paper were crossed out and in the margin were the words, “redo.”
When perfection is expected during these formative years, some children will shut down out of fear of making a mistake.
How do we help our children thrive?
Remove The Red
The dreaded red pen. The markings of doom. Your child has just poured out their heart and soul on their paper and then you pull out your pen and crush their little hearts. Okay, maybe that’s a tad exaggerated but think of it through their eyes, they are finally writing down their thoughts, sometimes trying their best, others times just trying to get it done, but still the attempt has been made. In our minds we think (and sometimes even verbalize), how many times have I told you that places are capitalized? When are you going to spell that particular word right? It was on your spelling test three weeks in a row, you should know this by now! When we look at their mistakes are we seeing our seeming failure? Because we shouldn’t. We should see that they have made an attempt and we are the ones here to guide them through the process of becoming a better communicator. Give them opportunities to write, each day, without worrying about spelling, grammar etc. Then, maybe once a week or so, go through a piece they have written, (answers to their history questions, journal entries or other writing you require throughout the week) and explain to them, step by step, how they could improve their writing. Gently tell them that battle is spelled with two “t”’s not two “d”’s. Using their finger as a marker, show them how their spacing could be improved so their sentences would be easier to read. Provide them with a list of prepositions and encourage them to add prepositional phrases to their writing to make it more interesting. Guide them, teach them, and encourage them in what they have already begun.
Let Them Explore Their Interests
By the end of the elementary years, most children should have had some experience writing a basic narrative, research paper, book report, and biography. I even introduce my children to writing a persuasive piece. Even though there is a time to teach them how to write these certain types of pieces, there are also plenty of opportunities to them write about what is important to them. For example, my son is a fan of dinosaurs so when I wanted to teach him about writing a persuasive argument, I encouraged him to write about dinosaurs according to the creationist worldview as opposed to the evolutionist point of view. I have taken this approach with several different forms of writing and he has done extremely well. Letting him choose a topic that speaks to him, helps him to relax and enjoy the writing process.