Teaching writing is one of the more challenging parts of homeschool for many parents. Even if you are a strong writer yourself, you may find that guiding your children in that process is not easy. And if you aren’t a confident writer, it’s downright scary.
I got my first job as a public school teacher because of my ability to teach writing, and it has always been one of my favorite things to help students with. As a mom, I’m happy to report that Emma is a strong writer even though she dislikes reading. I credit her writing skills to a few things:
- use of minibooks in elementary years when she learned to chunk and organize information in concrete ways
- use of notebooking in elementary and middle school years
- reading aloud to her from infancy to high school (plus audio books)
- daily proofreading as a way to teach grammar
- monthly peer editing workshops in seventh and eighth grades
- my own contagious passion for writing
I have never used a formal writing curriculum although we have used different resources from time to time. But the gist of our writing instruction is simply lots of writing practice. You can read about writing and do workbook pages, but the primary way to learn to write is to write.
Teaching Writing Panel
I was recently on an iHomeschool Hangout panel about this very topic —Teaching Writing. You can watch it below, click over to watch it on YouTube, or listen to the podcast.
If you can’t watch it, here are the main things I want you to know.
1. Writing is composition. It is a mental activity not something you do with your hand.
2. Don’t confuse writing with handwriting, grammar, mechanics, spelling, or punctuation. Those are part of the proofreading and publishing steps in the writing process. But they are not part of the prewriting and drafting or even revising steps. This is the biggest mistake moms make when teaching writing. They confuse writing with these other bits (handwriting, grammar, mechanics, spelling, or punctuation) and ruin their children’s creativity and confidence by nit picking the form instead of the ideas.
3. To encourage a reluctant writer, let him choose his topics based on his passions. If he writes five essays in a row about LEGOs or video games, that’s okay. (In the video, I share an example from Emma when she was probably 5th grade and wrote every single essay that year about cats. )
Pick a different slant for each one, and focus on the writing process without worrying about the topic. Most any topic will work for teaching writing, so don’t get bogged down in that. Let your child choose an interesting topic, and teach the writing process on the back of that passion.
I have written a lot about teaching writing. Here are those posts, organized to help you find them.
Teaching Writing Series
These posts are formatted in a convenient digital guide here: Essay Tune Up.
- How to Use Prewriting to Make Essay Writing Easier
- Foolproof Essay Introduction Tricks
- Generating Details with SARQs and FIRES
- Foolproof Essay Conclusion Tricks
- Word Choice Lessons for Better Essays
- The Simple Secrets of Sentence Variety
- Transition Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Better Essays
- The Real Truth About Formulaic Essay Writing
- Do You Make These 3 Mistakes when Giving Feedback on Essays?
Peer Editing for Middle Schoolers
- Why You Should Start a Peer Editing Group for Your Homeschoolers
- Teaching Writing with a Peer Editing Co-op
Eva Varga says
I love this post, Jimmie! Helps clarify so much for me … I particularly love this, “Let your child choose an interesting topic, and teach the writing process on the back of that passion.”
I set my little man on a task to tell me in writing all he know about airplanes … we can take it in so any directions. He’s passionate about the topic so he’ll not find it a chore. 🙂
This post is very timely for me and reminds me that I can tackle this myself. I’ll spend the next several days reading over the posts linked. Thanks for the encouragement and help, Jimmie!
I wanted to know if you could share some of the resources you used. I’m interested in using audio books, but also want my son to have the physical book as well. Are their companies that offer this combo at a reasonable price? Also, are their any websites you use for proofreading?
Jimmie Lanley says
Audible.com has audio books, but I don’t know of a combo. It’s easy enough to buy digital versions or print versions via Amazon, though. Check out my proofreading posts for my links on that one. (Search box is in the sidebar.)
jeannine: waddlee-ah-chaa says
Excellent advice! We write EVERY day as well. Both of the kiddos have kept a journal from early little tots. (At first it was just full of scribbles.) I agree that the best way to get better at writing is to write often. And reading good literature inspires and models good writing strategies.
Thanks for visiting waddlee-ah-chaa. Hope to hear from you again.
Thank you so much for this post! I found it on Pinterest as I was looking for something to help me teach my homeschooled children to write. You are right – it’s very intimidating! Thank you for such a practical and concise resource!
Jamile Yasenchak says
I am looking for some guidance in teaching writing to my 3rd grade boy (almost 9y/o). We are using the Voyages in English curriculum for grammar and writing. The grammar section is fine, and he does very well with it. The writing section is torture for both of us. He is what you would term a reluctant writer. He seems to hate all of it. We both end up in tears most days with it. I found your website and listened to the homeschool hangout you had posted. I certainly do many things wrong according to what the ladies were saying. I think my biggest question is what should I be focusing on at his age. The Voyages writing projects seem to be really long and overwhelming (multiple paragraphs). If I heard you right on the hangout, he should be more focusing on individual sentences and MAYBE a 5 sentence paragraph at his age? Are we just trying to do too much and need to back off the work load? Is this curriculum expecting way too much? I just need some help in knowing what he should be doing at his age.
Thanks for the advice!
Jimmie Lanley says
Yes, work on sentences and paragraphs in 3rd grade. There is plenty of time for essays later on. Work towards the goal of a complete, 5 paragraph essay by 8th grade.
Jamie Nosalek says
I have three boys ages 9 to 13. I have kicked the can down the road with writing because my attempts have been met with resistance. I like the idea of having them choose a topic to write about, and I have been reading to them regularly forever. They are all strong readers, but I have not required daily writing exercises. Where do you recommend I start with my middle school age boys who have limited practice with writing and an aversion to it to boot?
Kristen D. says
I started my reluctant writers (boys in middle school) with short daily journal entries. I made a journal jar with fun, random topics that they would draw from. I didn’t mark their entries for grammar but I did have them read them aloud to me. It makes a difference hearing what you wrote. Then we eased into note booking as Jimmie suggests. She has a wealth of great info on homeschooling. HTH!