What to do when your homeschool child is a lazy writer

by | Dec 6, 2009 | Struggling Writers

Problem: Your child is a lazy writer who’s not willing to take time planning, writing, and revising.

Solution: Offer structure, rewards, more consistent supervision, and opportunities for immediate success.


Let’s look at a different kind of stumbling block: writing laziness. More than any of the previous writing hurdles, laziness tends to be a character issue, making it a little more challenging to deal with. You may notice some of these behaviors:

  • As a rule, the trait of laziness is global, meaning it affects many facets of home and school life. So if your homeschool child is a lazy writer, chances are he’s lazy in other areas too. 
  • Laziness robs kids of a sense of accomplishment, feelings of self-worth, and motivation to improve themselves. How can they learn anything or pick up a new skill or develop a talent if they’re too lazy to get up and do something?
  • Some kids, especially perfectionists, use laziness to skirt around their fear of failure. By not completing assignments, for example, they avoid those feelings of inadequacy: If I don’t do my work at all, there’s no writing for Mom to criticize.
  • They may also have learned that if they don’t finish (or even start) an assignment, you’ll eventually forget about it or simply let it slide. This proves to them that laziness works—and unfortunately, they win.

How Can You Help Your Lazy Child?

LAZINESS … OR EXECUTIVE DYSFUNCTION

Before addressing laziness head on, consider the possibility there’s something else going on beneath the surface. Learning challenges such as ADHD and executive dysfunction can manifest as laziness because planning, organizing, and time management require skills your child may not yet have in place. Most of the strategies listed below will help, but you may need to seek additional support.

Consistently Address Your Child’s Laziness

☑️ Determine whether it’s laziness or procrastination. The procrastinator will—eventually—get the assignment done, but the lazy student may never do the task.

☑️ Supervise your child. As inconvenient as this may be, direct supervision is really the main way to deal with this behavior. So first and foremost, make your lazy student work! This may mean that you need to sit with him until he finishes each task, but stick it out and don’t give up on him!

☑️ Learn what motivates or helps your lazy student. For instance:

  • Does he thrive on recognition? Then don’t save all your praise for a final draft that may or may not materialize. Instead, make sure you give kudos for small steps of progress along the way.
  • Does he doubt himself? A lazy student may not believe he has any strengths, writing included! To encourage success, help him find a sport or hobby where he shows interest and aptitude (baking, drawing, tennis, etc.).

Try Some New Strategies

Lazy students benefit from writing tools and strategies that include:

1. Choices

Unmotivated students benefit from having choices, such as what topic to write about or whether to do a writing assignment at their desk or the kitchen table.

2. Predictable plan

A lazy writer needs to know exactly what to do each day—and when homeschool assignments are due.

3. Structure

Whether they’re 7 or 17, students who struggle to stay on task do better with short, bite-size lessons where they can experience immediate success.

To guarantee your slothful student actually does the work, make sure the steps of the writing process are built into your writing program so there’s no escaping the responsibility. A curriculum like WriteShop ensures, for example, that your kids have to brainstorm before they write and can’t get a grade without editing and revising their work.

4. Time limits

Just as it’s good to break down the writing process into manageable steps, it’s also important to establish a time limit for each day’s writing activity. If it helps, set a timer.

As a young teen, one of my daughters developed a habit of not getting her work done. I started giving her time limits and due dates, and she had to complete a certain amount of work in a set amount of time. These parameters made her tasks seem doable, and over time she was able to work independently again.

5. Clear lesson expectations

Fuzzy lesson assignments can frustrate the best of students, so make your kids understand the assignment. Although everyone does better with clear goals and instructions, specific and detailed directions are especially vital for the child who’s lazy about writing.

6. Increased responsibility

All homeschool students, but especially teens, should learn to take responsibility for following directions, completing assignments, and revising their own work. By providing supervision, encouragement, structure, and deadlines, you’ll guide your child toward becoming more responsible and diligent.

7. Writing checklists

Proofreading is an important lifelong skill. Self-editing is one way students can take responsibility for their progress as they learn (and take time) to look for their own writing mistakes. Kids who are lazy about writing need some sort of checklist as a guide to help them identify errors in content, style, and mechanics.

  • A checklist (such as the ones in WriteShop Junior and WriteShop I & II) reminds students of all the things they need to look. As they compare the rough draft to the checklist, they can make corrections and improvements.
  • A lazy writer is inclined to check the boxes willy-nilly with eyes glazed over, but an observant homeschool mom will recognize this character flaw in her child. If your teen in particular is careless about self-editing, work THROUGH the writing assignment together to develop qualities of diligence, discipline, and initiative. Eventually, through your perseverance, your child will learn that writing is a process—and editing and revising are as much a part of that process as the actual writing.

8. Rewards for accomplishments

Depending on your child’s age, consider using a progress chart, marble jar, or other reward system where he can earn rewards (such as going out for ice cream) or free-time privileges (such as minutes to play video games ).

Still not sure if laziness is the issue with your child’s writing? Laziness has a cousin in procrastination. The problems—and solutions—are similar and will help both the lazy writer and the procrastinator finish those writing assignments!

RELATED: 5 Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination in Your Homeschool

Do you homeschool a lazy writer? What, if anything, seems to motivate this child?

5 Comments

  1. Kim

    Isabelle: That’s absolutely true. Typically, when something is a character issue, it’s more widespread and harder to nip in the bud. Laziness in our kiddos requires so much diligence from us as parents, doesn’t it?

    Amy: As you’ve discovered, sitting with the kids is really effective. I used to do this during our homeschooling years too. Usually I was lesson-planning or going over their papers. That way, we were all “doing school”!

    Reply
  2. Amy

    Danger #1 in our house: Distracted Mom.
    He may also have learned that if he doesn’t do an assignment, you’ll eventually forget about it or simply let it slide.
    Yup. That’s me. I’ve found it very helpful to have them sit right next to me at my desk or take whatever I’m working on and sit next to them at the table. They cannot move on until they’ve finished the assignment and I’ve acknowledged or corrected it (as the case may be). This has helped a LOT.

    Amy in Peru

    Reply
  3. Isabelle aka Canadianladybug

    I find that your advice can also be applied to other issues of laziness and procrastination in the house.

    Thanks for giving good ideas!

    Reply
  4. Kim

    Thanks for your honesty. Staying on top of things can be hard for us moms!

    Reply
  5. Diane

    “He may also have learned that if he doesn’t do an assignment, you’ll eventually forget about it or simply let it slide.”

    This is what I’m allowing to happen in our home. Overwhelmed with trying to keep everything on track and allowing independence to grow.

    Reply

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