Teaching writing to my children often produced tears. It could be summed up as #thestruggle.
If I made a chart tracking the tears shed during specific subjects in our homeschool day, it would look like this:
Teaching a child to write is hard. Learning to write is hard. Writing is plain old hard work. Many who set out to write….quit. Many drop out of college because the writing requirements are too vigorous. Many don’t get promoted in business because they lack the ability to communicate with the written word.
For most homeschool families, the subject of writing is one of the most difficult for parents to teach and children to learn. It’s an avoided subject that doesn’t always make it to the top priority of academic assignments until October or even January.
For years, I pondered. I wondered. I researched. I asked other homeschool moms for advice. Moans and groans seemed to be the expected outcome of writing assignments. Some days, I ended up avoiding writing assignments like a trip to the dentist for a root canal. I searched for anything that would unlock the mystery. We tried all available theories.
Copy Work Theory:
Result: It seemed my child’s brain wasn’t engaged. They mindlessly copied the passages. Although it was great for learning and identifying grammar, the concepts didn’t transfer into their writing.
Hold Them Back From Learning to Write Until Upper Elementary Grades Theory:
Result: I saw my children falling behind in their ability to express themselves using the written word. I still had to start the writing instruction from the beginning and their attitude towards writing didn’t magically improve.
Don’t Teach Writing Until They are Grammar Experts Theory:
Result: Perfectionism kills a writer and repeated grammar drills certainly killed my kids’ desire to write.
Restructure Existing Written Work Theory:
Result: I felt my kids were writing to satisfy the requirements of the assignment or even me as the teacher. They lost the ability to express their thoughts about a subject and sounded more like a parrot echoing awkward words with little meaning. Their writing voice and style also were squelched in the process.
Free Writing and Never Correcting Theory:
Result: I saw my kids haphazardly place words and ideas on paper. Great, I thought, at least they’re writing. However, as the weeks progressed, I realized that all I was doing was training disorganized thought and a lackadaisical attitude towards spelling and grammar.
I used all of these theories at one time or another without seeing results.
Then one day…I became a writer….again.
In my college days, I wrote a monthly column for a Christian newsletter. However, during my early homeschooling years, my stint as a writer came to an end as I pursued my role as a mom and home educator. Many years later, through a series of events, I was encouraged to write a homeschool planner/record keeper. It included little quips of encouragement and helpful hints. I found myself immersed in the old familiar writing process. My insecurities and rusty writing ability allowed me to experience each step of the writing process as a new writer and discover the parts of writing instruction that were missing.
In brainstorming, I felt the hollow sound waves of empty thought as I stared at my blank page. I could hear my children’s voices whining in my head, “I don’t know what to write, Mommy.”
I wrote lists of subjects I wanted to write about and had to put time and energy into making decisions as to which one would make the cut and which one wouldn’t. I had forgotten how long of a process that can take!
I went through moments of grieving when one of my list items didn’t make it to my outline. I really liked the idea, but it didn’t fit. Again I heard the voices of my kids say, “But I like that part, I don’t want to take it out,” even though the idea clearly didn’t belong.
I spent a lot of time at our dinner table TALKING about my ideas and spent an equal amount of time staring into space as I washed dishes THINKING about what I was going to write.
My heart pounded when I turned in my first rough draft to my editors. I was grateful that both my editors were very kind in giving input. If they had been gruff with me, my book probably would have ended up in the trash. I worked and reworked sentence after sentence to ensure clarity and the desired tone. Writing fatigue was setting in like a bad bacteria.
After I had received input on my second rough draft, my head throbbed and the little imp that offers me discouraging words complained, “Why do I have to reread it again for errors? This is plain ol’ boring! I don’t think it’s any good. Maybe I should start over. ” Once again, I heard my kids’ young voices echoing my sentiments.
And then came the moment where I formatted my writing and pushed the send button on the final manuscript. A new wave of insecurities washed over me.
The book was printed and purchased by local homeschool moms. We celebrated as a family when I received my first letter from a reader who loved the book.
At the end of my writing process journey, the gaping holes in the writing instruction I was providing my children became evident.
To my surprise, my children became better writers just by watching me travel through a professional model of the writing process with all its ups and downs. They were able to mimic me. They were able to see each step of the writing process as a normal part of writing. This stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t help but think of why so many theories about teaching a child to write failed in our homeschool journey. My writing experience began to unlock the mystery of teaching my children how to write.
For the first time my children….
• understood what it takes to travel through the writing process.
• got the BIG PICTURE!
• saw the steps of the writing process modeled.
•accepted the hard work of writing as a challenge.
• learned about the different tools needed for each step of the writing process.
Unlocking the mystery of teaching writing unfolded into the Here to Help Learning Writing Program.
Over the years, it has been a joy to see so many children discover and apply tried and true writing tools. It is equally exciting to see them join the ranks of successful confident writers through HTHL.
One of my favorite catchphrases in the program is, “Homeschoolers aren’t afraid of hard work!” Kids need to know that learning to write is hard work. As parents we shouldn’t sugar coat it! A solid writing program needs to equip new writers with tools and offer a writing process model that is used in the real world of writing.
See for yourself! I invite you to check out our FAQ/Knowledge Base for more information about HTHL’s Writing Program.
Also, don’t miss the opportunity to visit with Jennifer A. Janes, a professional writer, certified teacher, homeschool mom, and blogger as she shares her experience with teaching writing. It is always a treat to visit her blog!
From Our Home to Yours,