We Are All Writers: Getting Children WritingJun 26, 2023
There is an ongoing conversation about the decline of children's writing skills. The reasons for this are numerous and difficult to pinpoint, but many blame an increase in children engaging with technology and electronics, and a perceived decreased need for physical handwriting. Parents and educators alike worry about how to teach the complex processes and understandings it takes to be a proficient writer. In truth, writing is an essential part of so many parts of life, and many careers and initiatives require strong writing skills.
As homeschooling families, we can teach children the different formats and techniques needed for writing through comprehensive instruction, providing examples, and giving them time and resources for independent practice. But a true love and passion for writing can be fostered anytime and anywhere, not just during the typical homeschool day. Oftentimes, the ideas below are better suited to take place during “free time,” and are meant for children to truly see and believe in themselves as writers.
We live in a technology-infused world, and while typing and other technology-based skills are certainly important, research proves that there is still invaluable merit in the physical act of handwriting to fully engage the brain and body in the writing process. Handwriting also feels much more personal than typing, such as when we send letters or hand write thank-you cards. Encouraging children to hand write postcards, letters, or notes to family and friends, or other forms of writing they are interested in, is a really critical step for getting children to be lifelong writers. This is not a time to critique neatness, but rather to allow the body-to-brain pathways to fire and develop.
Find Mentor Texts
We know that literacy involves many interconnected facets. Reading and writing, in particular, are linked, and finding a book or genre of books that a child loves is a really beneficial way to get them excited about the power of written words. Finding a book or books for them to model their own writing after is the goal here; this could be a picture book, a nonfiction text, a magazine, a graphic novel, or a chapter book for more advanced writers. Allowing them to use a text they love as a guide for their own writing will ensure that they are passionate about what they are doing. With our fast-paced, high-engagement world, it can be easy to view writing as a slow, boring activity; giving children examples to draw from that they find exciting is key to negating this idea.
When encouraging children to write, worry less about correct grammar and mechanics, and more about allowing their creativity to flourish. Notice their interesting word choice, their quirky characters, a funny line or piece of dialogue, or even the illustrations that they included to go along with their writing. Ask questions about the events they choose to include in a story– why did the character make that choice? What will happen next? Could there be a prequel or a sequel? Noticing a child’s creativity fosters their self-confidence and ultimately, will help them become autonomous in their love for writing.
Children, as well as adults, love having reasons to celebrate. And, just as it is in the “real world,” writing should be celebrated within families and homeschool communities, too! When a child finishes a piece of writing they are proud of, find a way to acknowledge it through a celebration. Writing celebrations should include sharing the child’s writing in some form, whether through reading it aloud, or simply passing the physical book or paper around for those present to read to themselves. They can also include simple decorations, snacks, music, autographs from the author, or anything else that the child finds fun and celebration-worthy.
With its intricacies and lengthy process, writing can feel like a daunting task to a child, as well as to their instructor. Don’t lose sight of the fact that finding things children are passionate about to include in their writing, as well as giving them autonomy to write what and how they want to write, will ultimately lead to wanting to write more. Using breaks from typical schooling to really encourage children to write about what they are interested in will promote a lifelong love for writing.