Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What if My Child Hates Writing

It can be rather discouraging when a child simply dislikes writing. There could be one of many factors at work here. Let's explore some of the reasons a child may dislike writing and some solutions to address each of these factors.

The first factor is that perhaps your child doesn't like the physical mechanics of writing. Does he hold his pencil with an uncomfortable grip? Does he grip his pencil too hard and push too hard on the paper? Does he have improper letter formation that requires a lot more writing to form each letter? These things usually correct themselves, but not always. The best way to develop a love for writing is to require typing as a subject. My favorite typing programs are Mavis Beacon JUNIOR and Typing Instructor. My children were required to do their typing program every single day for a few months, and then only once in a while after that. They got even more practice after this as they wrote stories on the computer.

Some children don't dislike writing as much as they dislike having to pull creative thoughts out of their brains. I like what classical educators have to say about this: children need ideas put in their brains before they should be required to create new ideas. They should have knowledge imparted to them and asked to write only about what they know, not come up with new ideas. When they are older and have been exposed to great literature and a wealth of ideas about which they have formed a personal opinion, then they are ready to express themselves on paper.

Another reason your child might dislike writing is because you, being the very thorough and wonderful teacher that you are, took their writing assignments and noted all the errors in spelling and grammar. Every writing assignment became a poster of their weaknesses and failings. I have heard many homeschool moms say that they use their child's writing assignments to pick out spelling words, and teach proper grammar. This may be an economical use of their writing, but it is also a good way to discourage their love for writing. I often take my children's notebooks to conventions to show others. I had one mom tell me how pleased she was to see all the misspelled words in my daughter's notebook pages. My daughter was nine when she wrote those pages, spelling Mercury as "Murcury" and more. She is now fourteen and has developed a love and passion for writing - and scored post graduate level on her spelling! I never used her writing for spelling practice. She learned to spell using a spelling program. One note of concern here is that a child that has intensely poor spelling should not be asked to write until he has learned to spell the most common words in the English language. You do not want to reinforce poor spelling by having them copy it over and over. If the misspelled words are relegated to new or words not often used, that's another story.

Perhaps the most common reason a child doesn't like writing is because God did not design him to be a creative writer. This child prefers to solve problems (especially math problems). This child doesn't see the benefit of writing. It seems purposeless. Frankly, creative writing - writing to entertain - isn't necessary for every child. The only writing that is absolutely necessary for every child is academic writing. If the problems are not one of the above-mentioned issues, I would not force a child that has not been given a bent towards writing to do a lot of creative writing assignments. For younger students that dislike writing, I would require them to narrate constantly. Have them retell back in their own words whatever they read or have had read to them. This will go a long way towards good narrative writing. A child who can relate information clearly will find it easy to put those spoken words on paper. As he grows older, have him do just that. Put his short (or long) narratives on paper. In late middle school or high school require him to learn academic writing.

Creative writing is simply not for everyone. A child who dislikes writing can still make A's on writing assignments if he is taught how to organize his thoughts, and write a well thought out and organized sentence, paragraph and essay. This begins and ends with oral narrations, for even if your child becomes a mathematician, he will be required to explain his knowledge orally. Thus, in the early years, don't worry so much about writing - focus on his oration of thoughts.

As you may remember from an earlier post, my husband didn't care for writing growing up, but learned to write essays and now makes a living by writing perfectly constructed legal briefs and contracts as an attorney. A child that doesn't like writing could still make a great living that requires a lot of writing. It's the kind of writing that matters. Please understand that your nonwriter isn't failing at writing - he's simply expressing his unique God-given talents, preferences, gifts and abilities, which will all work together to usher him or her into God's special plan and purpose prepared in advance.

One more thing, I do not believe in forcing writing in early elementary school. Late elementary or middle school is when a child should begin writing. If the child has a natural inclination, by all means...cook the pie when it's ready! But don't force it before your child is ready, or he will be convinced that he is bad at writing. It would be like sticking a third grader in an algebra class. The child would be convinced he's not good at math, when he might be very gifted in math.

Until next time!


Dawn said...

You hit the nail right on the head! I had been forcing my now 11 y/o to write and now he hates writing... especially re-writing... I've more recently learned to let him just write in a journal. This year, he is writing his own blog, so his grandparents and friends can be his audience, but I will not grade a thing on it! He is excited to get to share his pictures and adventures... Thank you for giving me more ideas to use with him, and his younger siblings as well.

Dr. Davis said...

I teach college writing, a bit beyond what our homeschoolers usually do, but I did a post on assessing and what kinds of posts student writers can put in blogs that I think might be good to help children keep updating their blogs. (I loved Dawn's idea.)

Obviously if my student were writing the blog to foster the love of writing, I would not be assessing the blog posts except to make sure they were consistent.