How to Help Your Child be a Better Writer

I am a homeschool mom. My oldest always loved and excelled at writing and now is doing quite a bit of it and earning some money at it while attending college, where he is taking a double major: history and literature. He prefers nonfiction, whereas I prefer fiction, and that’s fine with me. I want my boys to do what they love and what will make them happy, which is much better than being stuck in a demanding job that would make them miserable.

My middle and youngest sons, however, have not taken naturally to writing and do not love it. When a friend suggested that I sign them up for a writers’ club that meets once a month, I thought, “Why should I do that? I’m a writer. I can teach them how to write.” Then my friend proceeded to explain how the writers’ club works — they get the first assignment by email and are to have it completed by the first meeting, where they will take turns reading their papers and then receive the assignment for the next meeting. This allows them to hear the writings of others and to become familiar with other voices and styles from children of almost all ages, mostly ages 8 to 18. So, I signed them up.

After two years of participation, my middle son has become quite a good writer, and he loves to incorporate humor into his writing. His writing was so popular with the moms from the writers’ club that he will be missed now that he has graduated and is moving on to bigger things. My youngest still struggles with some of the assignments, mostly the nonfiction assignments. He hasn’t gotten the knack of making them interesting. He just wants to put down the facts and be done.

Their first assignment every year is two-part: one – write a paragraph about yourself to introduce yourself to the group (members do sometimes change); and two – write a paper about one thing you did and enjoyed over the summer. My son decided to write the paper about himself first, and he proceeded to list facts. So, I decided to do something creative to challenge him. I told him I would write about myself and when we were finished we would read them aloud and he could decide whose was more interesting.

That’s what we did and when we read them, he admitted mine was more interesting, and he was not upset. Instead I could tell that he was thinking about the differences in our papers. I then gave him one idea about himself and from there his mental wheels started turning and he rewrote his paper and produced an interesting piece about himself.

When he wrote the paper about what he did over the summer, he did a better job, but needed help with the beginning and ending. The beginning is where you want to hook your readers (or listeners), so I helped him rework his beginning and he got excited and reworked more of the piece. Then his ending needed some work because you want a good solid ending that wraps the whole piece up, so I helped him with that and he is now very happy with both papers and can’t wait to share them at writers’ club on Friday.

I love helping my boys find success in something that isn’t necessarily their strong suit, but is something they need to do throughout their school years even if they don’t do a lot of it in their adult lives. I especially love helping my boys find their writing voice and style.

Encouraging Young Writers

As I have mentioned before, I love teaching writing to young people, especially those who are so interested in writing and eager to learn.

We had our homeschool co-op today and I am free during the 5th period.  One of my students came to sit with me and I was reading something that another student had written, but the young lady sitting with me asked if it was my story.  I told her it wasn’t and pulled out my story and handed it to her.

She’s been struggling with writing but she has a desire to learn how to write stories, and she wants me to assign specific homework!  So far this year, I’ve just told them to write a story and to keep it going as long as they can.  Most of the students are happy with that, but this young lady and a couple of other students want me to give them homework.  I promised I would come up with something for them for next week, but their stories are really good.  I hope they continue to work on them and finish them one day.

Back to this young lady, she read about four pages of my story and said, “Okay, I have an idea for my story now.  Don’t worry, I’m not stealing anything from you, but now that I read some of your story, I have an idea of how to write some of what I wasn’t sure about before.”  She took out her story and she wrote several paragraphs in the course of about a half hour, while I was working on a short piece that I plan to submit.  When I put my work away, she asked me a couple of questions about her story and I offered her some advice.  It was really nice to share this one-on-one time with her.

Here is a piece of advice I shared with my class:  If you begin writing a story and get stuck or decide you don’t like it, Don’t throw it away!  File it somewhere because you could get an idea that would help you finish the story, or you might want to use parts of that story (a character, setting, etc.) in another story.  You never know when something you wrote that you thought was worthless will become valuable.