The Art of Writing

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Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about writing.

This is not surprising, I am a writer after all!

But two completely separate conversations occurred yesterday that got me to thinking about the nature of writing…how to encourage our kids to write, how to help them hone their abilities and learn to do it well.

Conversation #1

“I’m planning to teach a writing class this fall,” I told a couple of homeschool friends while visiting and delivering cookies.

“My daughter hates to write,” said one.

I smiled, “I hear that a lot. But this won’t be so much focusing on getting kids to write, but having them go through what they have already written, reviewing some editing skills, like when to make paragraph breaks instead of just straight text.”

“My daughter does that! No paragraph breaks at all,” mentioned the second. She went on to describe how she will point it out, and her child responds by saying she just needs to get it out on paper. Later she does go through and edit it.

“And that’s perfectly normal,” I responded, “It’s called the editing process. As she gets more and more experienced with writing, she will begin to automatically put in those paragraph breaks as she is writing, but for now, that totally works.”

I have decided that I will cover some basic grammar and spelling, introduce how to use an outline effectively, and offer help with all of it, while pointing out that spelling and grammar matter only because you don’t want bad examples of them distracting the reader from enjoying what you have written.

Conversation #2

I couldn’t help but comment on a Facebook post from a fellow homeschool mom that read, “Mad Libs are a great way to teach the parts of speech.”

I commented that my eight year old absolutely loved Mad Libs. In fact, since I introduced them to her two years ago, she has been rather obsessed!

She responded by suggesting I write a book on the parts of speech.

The problem I would have with this is that, short of the basics (noun, verb, adjective) I know very little about the parts of speech. Despite this, I write, for print, for this blog and others, and more. I posted back…

“And now is when I admit that I am baffled by the parts of speech and have to look up what an adverb is on a regular basis. I came away from my horrible school experiences with grammar and diagramming sentences with one clear thought – knowing these things are not necessary for good writing. Reading (a ton) and writing (plenty) are key to becoming an effective writer. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Conclusion and Suggestions

If you want to grow a writer, then encourage writing and reading. Not by nagging, but by…

  • guiding through example – model the behavior. Do you fill your home with books? Do your children see you reading and writing?
  • making it fun – play around with rhyming, with verse, discuss different aspects of writing
  • providing a wealth of experiences – read poetry, all kinds. Discuss the different kinds of writing – essays, blogs, poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and more. Introduce all kinds of writing examples into daily life, make a game of it, as you help your child dabble and experiment with weaving words.
  • creating a safe environment – one that encourages creativity and yet leaves room for encouraging your child to learn the second part of writing, the editing process, where they can set the words out and then come back through and help them make the most sense for the reader.

I often tell the story of how I learned to write – by writing – instead of worrying over the parts of speech, diagramming sentences, or completing meaningless grammar exercises. As a homeschool mom, I have the opportunity to do just this same thing for my child. As a result, I have made sure that there are no required writing exercises…only writing opportunities.

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