When we began our homeschooling journey in 1989, the girls were 7 and almost 10. I launched into our new adventure confident in their reading, writing, and penmanship skills. And I felt secure enough that I didn’t need tips for teaching writing in our homeschool.
Fast-forward a few years to when the time came to start teaching their little brother. Each child has a unique way he learns best—and Ben definitely learned differently from his sisters!
Because he didn’t catch on to reading for a few years, teaching him to write took out-of-the-box creativity–and a whole lot of time and patience. Believe me, discovering a handful of helpful writing tips not only kept me encouraged, it kept me sane.
There are so many fears, hesitations, and concerns over teaching the writing process. Moms agree it’s one of the hardest subjects to teach. Fortunately, I learned ways to make it less stressful (and more fun) for both of us—and you can, too!
Here are five encouraging tips to keep in mind as you’re teaching your kids to write. Teaching writing (or any subject, for that matter) is rarely one-size-fits-all, but you can glean from these principles and tweak them to match your present (and future) homeschooling situation.
1. Go where your child’s needs lead.
Have you felt pressured to push your children to meet public school standards? While there’s nothing wrong with using state standards as guidelines, there’s also wisdom in discerning whether your child is even ready for a certain level of writing.
Developmentally, your child might not be able to work at the same level in every subject—and that’s okay! For example, it’s not unusual for a student to excel in math or science but struggle with writing. Ben was late to the reading and writing party, but we got there. If you’re in the same boat, don’t heap yourself with false guilt; there’s nothing wrong with you, your child, or the curriculum.
Long before Ben had mastered the skills of handwriting and typing, he was bursting with ideas. To help him capture those wonderful thoughts and words, I did the writing for him. You can scribe for your own kids, too!
Meet your kids where they are academically. Don’t force them to struggle along in a subject if they’re just not ready. Like Ben, they might need extra time and heaps of grace—not to mention the proper resources and accommodations—to help them get to the next level. Start where you are and build from there.
2. Make writing fun to learn.
Our brains are naturally wired for speech. However, we aren’t predisposed to read and write.
Writing is a skill that depends on instruction and practice, just like soccer, guitar, video games, or other things kids learn. With that in mind, you might as well make it as fun and engaging as possible! Here are some fun ways to play with writing no matter your child’s level.
Pre- and Emerging Writers
- Use sand, salt, or flour for younger children to begin finger-writing practice.
- Incorporate dry-erase activity cards or workbooks with wipe-off pages (we especially like this one).
- Supply your kids with engaging writing prompts! For starters, try “Crazy for Cats” journal prompts, “Dream Vacation” writing prompts, or writing prompts about robots.
- Introduce fun, colorful editing tools, such as a “Said It, Read It, Edit Bag.”
- Use picture books as prewriting activities (fun for older kids, too).
- Play prewriting games that make it fun to learn new skills, such as:
Toss the Pepperoni
Kid-Friendly Writing Warm-Ups That Spark Creative Writing
Tweens and Teens
- Pull out the Mad Libs to help tweens practice parts of speech. This Star Wars version is fun!
- Use word games and puzzles to reinforce vocabulary skills. The Thesaurus Game is a fun way to practice describing a person!
- Introduce The Writing Well to practice freewriting and brainstorming skills.
There’s no need for long, drawn-out writing sessions! When you teach writing step by step in short bursts, it’s more enjoyable for everyone.
3. Encourage your child to pick the topics.
There will always be times your kids have to write about a specific topic. But whenever possible (and within the framework of the writing assignment) let them choose a subject they’re crazy about. When they’re enthusiastic about the topic, they’re more likely to own their writing and give it their best.
Sometimes, the topic can be just for fun! Other times, it can meaningfully tie into your other studies. But no matter what your children write about, make sure you’re still teaching them to use correct conventions and other writing skills.
4. Approach writing with a positive attitude.
Never underestimate the power of a homeschool mom to set the stage for learning.
I don’t especially like math, so if I’m not careful, my negativity can influence my kids’ attitude toward the subject—and not for the better! With this in mind, be aware of how you talk about writing. If the kids show hesitation or reluctance toward writing, be their cheerleader, not their naysayer. Encouraging words can make all the difference for kids who hate to write.
Even if writing isn’t your strong suit, a solid writing program lets you march right in with the confidence that you can teach this subject successfully. Along the way, your kids will learn exactly what they need to know.
5. Set realistic goals and expectations.
Just as a personal trainer wouldn’t tell his out-of-shape client to lift a 50-pound weight during their first session together, we shouldn’t expect our kids to jump into writing and start mastering skills immediately.
Instead, approach their writing journey as a marathon with lots of little checkpoints. Think of expectations as a roadmap and goals as a compass. Use curriculum, resources, activities, and tasks as the means for getting to the next checkpoint. This is also a great way to measure progress and gauge if something needs to be changed.
Involve your kids by getting their input on the skills and goals you want to target. Talk to them about ways they can reach the goals and get them excited by offering incentives. From sticker sheets and charts to a “show-and-tell” wall, encourage them to reach their goals by highlighting their skill accomplishments along the way.
Remember the Goal
Writing plays an important role in your kids’ academic success and their future in whatever career path they choose. So take the time now to ensure they’re well-equipped to become successful writers. Maybe you need to change curriculum or use a different approach. Regardless, your ultimate goal is to help your child move forward, no matter how small the steps.