Help your struggling homeschool teen embrace the writing process
Quick! Take this survey:
- Do your teenagers complain about having to edit and revise their compositions and essays?
- Do they hate having to spend several days on the same writing topic (brainstorming, writing a draft, self-editing, and revising)?
- Do they become apathetic and lose steam by the time they get to the final draft?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have good news: Your kids are completely normal! But short of dragging them across broken glass or hot coals, how can you teach your struggling homeschool teen writer to embrace the steps of the process as a natural, expected part of writing?
Writing Is Hard Work
If you’ve not used a formal writing program before, it’s possible that the writing process is new to your students. Regardless, they’re not alone. I wish I could wave a magic wand over them to help them like it better, but in truth, writing is hard work, and it takes time and discipline.
Unless students are making lists, journaling, or emailing a friend, most writing does require planning, drafting, editing, and revising. This would be true whether you use WriteShop, some other writing program, or simply create your own writing assignments.
Typically, students want to write a paper once and be done with it. They don’t want to brainstorm, and they certainly don’t want to rewrite it. But whether or not your curriculum features these steps (as WriteShop does), your reluctant teenagers must come to terms with the reality that this is how writers—from students to professional authors—write.
So . . . how do you go about helping your struggling homeschool teen writer grasp the importance of the writing process?
A Look at the Writing Process
The writing process includes three main steps: brainstorming, writing, and editing/revising.
Students who sit down to write without first brainstorming tend to
- stare at the page with a blank look, unable to think of anything;
- write in a fairly disorganized fashion;
- repeat themselves;
- include unnecessary detail; or
- omit key ideas.
Even in timed writing sessions, we should still encourage high schoolers to dash out a quick outline. This helps them concentrate on what the question is asking—and keeps them from drifting off-topic as they write.
Simply, brainstorming focuses a writer. It helps them choose details, plan and organize the story or report, stay on track, and avoid tangents.
We write in stages. The first draft serves to get those rough, new ideas onto the paper. By its very design, the first draft is meant to be revised later.
3. Editing and revising
Whether or not your child agrees, every paper benefits from revision, and editing gives them a chance to make some modifications. Even this blog article was edited and revised many times before I posted it. I don’t just try to catch typos; I also want to make sure my answers are complete and clear, my thoughts organized, and my tone professional yet conversational.
This self-editing process tends to be subjective for most of us because we feel an emotional attachment to each and every word. That’s exactly why struggling writers need to turn their work in to you for objective feedback. They need an outside opinion in order to write a more polished final draft.
Helping Your Reluctant Writer “Get It”
OK. You and I agree that the writing process is important. Yet the $20,000 question remains: How do we get our kids on board? Again, there are no magic answers, but I can offer a few ideas:
1. Show your struggling homeschool teen they’re not alone.
Your high school students may feel as though they’re the only ones who have to plan, write, and revise their compositions. Discovering that the writing process is universal may help them back down a bit. For fun, ask them to search Google for the term “writing process.” I bet they’ll be surprised to find hundreds of millions of results!
2. Give creative freedom to a teen who loves to write.
It’s natural to expect a negative response from a struggling teen writer. But if students who normally love writing fit this profile too, maybe they feel their creativity is being stifled when they’re asked to brainstorm or make changes to their text.
First and foremost, give such students the freedom to write for the sheer joy of writing—plays, stories, poems, whatever they love! Separate these experiences from the writing lesson by not requiring them to plan or revise these stories.
Instead, use the writing process to teach skills in the same way that math drills, piano lessons, or other repetitive activities teach, reinforce, and offer practice. Let your budding authors write to their heart’s delight in their free time, but also require them to learn discipline through the structure of the writing process.
3. Use analogies with reluctant writers.
You’re a parent, so I’m sure all this makes sense to you. The hard part is communicating it to your struggling homeschool teen.
I find that analogies can help explain things so that they can get it too. Here are some other articles that deal with the writing process. Several offer different analogies that compare the writing process with things like gardening, cooking, scrapbooking, and spelunking (caving). See if one or two of these analogies spark understanding in your reluctant writer.
- Your child’s writing: Garden or weed patch?
- What’s your favorite part of writing?
- 6 simple truths
- How is a writer like a spelunker?
4. Point to the future.
Students who choose to go to college quickly discover that the writing process is taught there as well. And as much as they may grumble and complain, it’s to their benefit to plan, draft, and improve each piece of writing.
Among curriculum sites, public schools, universities, and professional writers’ blogs and websites, the writing process is regarded as key to success. To help your teen see how vital these repetitive skills are, even at the college and professional level, here are a few outside sources that further explain the purpose and various stages of the writing process.
- Vanderbilt University | The Writing Studio
- The Writing Process
- Effective Business Writing: The Writing Process
Starting Young Is the Key
In the end, there’s no shortcut to bypass the writing process. Planning and revising contribute to a composition or essay’s success just as much as the actual writing. To avoid arguments, head-butting, and apathy, train your children while they’re young, perhaps using a program like WriteShop Primary or WriteShop Junior. If they grow up with the writing process, they’ll be more likely to accept and value it … even if they never learn to love it.
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