How to inspire your kids when homeschool writing feels pointless or lacks purpose

by | Jan 4, 2010 | Struggling Writers, Teaching Homeschool Writing

Problem: It’s two-fold. Either your kids complain that writing assignments aren’t relevant to them, or the whole process of writing and editing feels pointless.

Solution: Include writing lessons that are both purposeful and meaningful. All the while, help your children see the value of refining their work.

Sometimes, your children’s opposition to writing has nothing at all to do with laziness, procrastination, perfectionism, or confidence—and everything to do with relevance and purpose. In other words, they resist because they wonder: What’s the point? Believing their writing efforts are nothing more than meaningless busywork creates yet another stumbling block that litters the road to successful writing.

Make Writing Assignments More Meaningful and Relevant

Though it’s nice to give our children choices and options, the kind of writing (such as a short report, book summary, or compare/contrast essay) — and even the specific topic of that composition — will be dictated to them from time to time. Like it or not, sometimes they have to write on a subject of OUR choosing, and there’s just no way around it.

Still, for the most part, students are more willing to write if the assignment feels purposeful. Writing for writing’s sake (to describe a sunset, for example) may not motivate them at all. But writing as it applies to their Civil War lessons or a unit on robotics will make more sense to them—and may even spark enthusiasm—especially if it’s a subject they love.

Whenever possible, look for ways to tailor the topic to your students’ interests and passions. After all, the more relevant the writing assignment, the more likely they’ll cooperate.

Writing across the curriculum is one way to accomplish this. You retain control over the general subject matter, but your child gets to narrow down the specific topic choices. Some of these ideas may help get you started:

WriteShop I Basic Set 5th edition

The Teacher’s Manual for WriteShop I & II includes ideas for writing across the curriculum. Suggestions for applying each lesson’s skills to a topic of current study appear in Appendix B.

Demonstrate the Value of the Writing Process

Getting kids to write can be challenging enough, but getting them to embrace the whole writing process is another thing altogether. Each step of the writing process is vital, from brainstorming to final draft. Unfortunately, students often think of these “extra steps” as time wasters—yet another reason why writing feels like a pointless exercise.

Editing, revising, and rewriting, for instance, can be downright painful—for both of you! Most kids hate this part of the writing process. They like what they wrote; therefore, they’re highly resistant to making any changes. Regardless of how loudly, tearfully, or convincingly they protest, this is a necessary part of the writing process, and something all writers—including your children—have to do.

Other Skills Take Many Steps

Analogies help students relate and make connections. When you explain how other skills require many steps too, and how these steps are similar to prewriting, brainstorming, drafting, and revising, the writing process might begin feeling more purposeful.

For instance, playing a musical instrument, a sport, or a video game requires investment of time and a working out of many steps. After all, how do you get to a new skill level except by practice? This makes perfect sense to your teen.

Kids can also grasp that a chef, in order to create a new recipe, has to prepare a dish several times to figure out how to improve it. Is it too bland? Too dry? Could it use a topping? Is the texture pleasing to the palate? How would it taste with less salt? More oregano?

The chef tastes each batch, adds or removes seasonings, and adjusts ingredient quantities. When he’s satisfied, he prepares the dish for others and asks for feedback. Then it’s back to the test kitchen once again!

How to inspire your kids when homeschool writing feels pointless or lacks purpose

Famous Authors Revise and Polish Their Writing, Too!

A chef would never add an untested item to his restaurant’s menu until he’s sure it’s the best it can be! Refining and perfecting his recipe is a process, and it takes time, patience, and input from others.

Would your child dream of playing a brand-new or unfamiliar sonatina at her piano recital? Of course not! It’s the piece she’s practiced and refined that she feels more comfortable presenting.

Similarly, no author ever publishes his first draft. His book or article goes through repeated self-editing—and numerous revisions—before he feels ready to hand it over to the editor, who in turn adds his own suggestions for improvement. Writing is revising! Your children would not enjoy their favorite books nearly as much had a wise editor not repeatedly put the author through the steps of the editing process.

Every Writer Needs an Audience

Remind your resistant writers that they go through the writing process with a goal in mind: the final draft. After all, it’s not the rough draft that becomes the published writing project; it’s the polished and revised version that they’ll want to share with others.

When writing feels pointless, publishing the story, essay, or report for an audience adds a healthy dose of purpose and meaning to the writing. Check out these creative ways to help your kids write for an audience.

Especially when working with teens, once they’ve gone through the revising process, ask them to compare their first draft with the final version. When they can see the progress they’ve made from that rough beginning to their very best attempt—the final draft, the purpose for the steps in the writing process becomes clearer.

Ideally, with these ideas in motion, you should hear fewer complaints that writing feels pointless. As your children learn to approach the steps of the writing process with fresh eyes, I hope you soon see both improved attitudes and an increased motivation to write.

WriteShop homeschool writing curriculum teaches children of all ages the steps of the writing process.

WriteShop has you covered for homeschool writing with meaningful lessons, attention to the writing process, and schedules that don’t overwhelm you or your kids.

Explore WriteShop I for your teens or WriteShop Junior or Primary for elementary. You’ll love the step-by-step instructions, flexibility of topic choice, and engaging writing assignments that inspire successful wriers of all ages!

9 Comments

  1. Kim

    You’re so welcome, Tammy! I’m glad you’ve found encouragement and help through the 10 Stumbling Blocks series.

    Reply
  2. Tammy

    Thanks for the hint of having the student read the first draft and then the final draft. I will try this with my daughters and hopefully they will better see why we go through all the steps. Thanks again. These “stumbling block” articles have been helpful.

    Reply
  3. Kim

    Carol: What an encouraging testimony! I love the “carrot” you dangled before your son. So creative! You sound like a very wise mom.

    Reply
  4. Carol J. Alexander

    For my reluctant highschooler, who insisted on relevance, I promised no more writing assignments if he had an article published in Fine Woodworking Magazine. (He is a fine woodworker.) He did not do this but he did have several letters to the editor published in the local newspaper when he read topics that he had strong opinions on.
    Was his education adequate? I always questioned. Then, this year, he took his first college class, earned a 98% on his research paper and an A in the class.
    Whew!

    Reply
  5. Isabelle aka Canadianladybug

    In my son’s French book he had to write some recipes directions once. He loves to cook so it went smoothly.

    I love the picture with the steps to write for the Banana bread.

    Reply
    • Kim

      Wish I could take credit for the banana bread photo collage, Isabelle. I use Flickr (Creative Commons) for the majority of my blog photos.

      Reply
  6. Amy

    Perfect illustrations. The chef, and the piano recital, yes those are obvious. We have not hit this roadblock as yet, but I don’t doubt that it may come up later on down the road. Now, if I can just remember what to say when that day comes… 🙂

    Thank you.
    Amy in Peru
    http://fisheracademy.blogspot.com

    Reply
  7. Kim

    You’re certainly in good company, Diane. I think the editing struggle is universal, which is why I’m always on the lookout for ways to make the idea relevant to the kiddos.

    Reply
  8. Diane Allen

    An important reminder and a great object lesson with the recipe. Editing is always a struggle here.

    Reply

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