Sigh. Once again, it’s “writing time” at your house.
During the past hour, your reluctant writer’s paper has become riddled with scribbles and smears. And e-v-e-r-y time he erases with frustrated vigor, a tiny hole appears in the middle of that gray smudge. As the hole grows larger, his mind freezes up and closes in. Then the laments begin:
- What do I write about?
- Where do I start?
- How long does it have to be?
- I’ll never think of something.
- “I HATE WRITING!”
There’s so much frustration behind those blinked-back tears. And you know what? It’s not just kids who experience it—YOU struggle too.
Why Is It So Hard to Teach Writing?
Teaching writing is one of the biggest hurdles homeschooling families face. First, parents often feel insecure, inadequate, and under-equipped. For many of you, teaching writing ranks right up there with a trip to the dentist. Although we know the importance of passing on this skill to our students, so many excuses stand in our way!
- How can I teach if I never really learned to write?
- I don’t write—I’m just a math-science person.
- What if I don’t know how to grade a paper?
- Writing comes easily to me—but I don’t have clue how to teach my kids.
Second, children are paralyzed by writer’s block, fear, and perfectionism. Most students want to write a paper once and declare it done. They hope we’ll rave over it and accept it as a finished product. The smallest hint of suggestion from Mom sets off howls of protest: Why can’t I leave it this way? You never like anything I write!
Blank paper, reluctant child, and insecure parent—combine these three ingredients together and I pretty much guarantee that your hopes for teaching writing will be dashed on the rocks.
Let’s face it. It’s easy to keep pushing writing to the back burner with intentions of getting to it “someday.” And for many, “someday” has come and gone, and now you have:
- a high schooler who can’t write;
- a panicked mom burdened by guilt;
- and the infernal blank page that taunts you both.
10 Stumbling Blocks to Writing
We need to 1) recognize some of the most common stumbling blocks to writing that stand in the way of your child’s success, and 2) determine how your writing strategy can help. Take heart! These stumbling blocks are neither so heavy that they can’t be moved, nor so tall that they can’t be scaled.
Here are the ten stumbling blocks we’ll be looking at:
- Lack of confidence
- Lack of skills and tools
- Lack of motivation
- Limited writing vocabulary
- Perfectionism and self-criticism
- Worry about criticism from mom or dad
- Wondering what’s the point
- Learning difficulties that interfere with the writing process
Over the next few months, I’ll talk about each of these in greater detail and give you some ideas of how to help your student overcome them. Most of my suggestions will be aimed at older students (5th or 6th grade through high school). Still, parents of younger children will find tips and suggestions that you can apply now. By doing so, you can begin to ward off some of these problems early on, setting your children up for greater writing success in the future.
Come back next week as we take a look at the first of these ten stumbling blocks and talk about ways you can help your student overcome each one in order to become a stronger writer.
Please share your thoughts: What’s your child’s biggest stumbling block?
2009 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Photo: Tim Lucas, courtesy of Creative Commons.
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