Beyond just the fear of teaching writing, we have the added pressure of comparisons to the public school writing demands. Paragraphs in kindergarten? Three paragraph essays in third? Yeah, that's not happening for most of us and then we panic. Are we failing our kids? Should we be doing more?
We push, our kids push back, and everyone is miserable. This happens all too often. Why does the simple thought of teaching writing catapult us parents into panic? And why does something as simple as a writing prompt have the ability to reduce our children to tears?
Now, my kids are little, so I will simply address our experience with our young writers. There are a few concepts we need to evaluate that may put our hearts and minds at ease.
Are our expectations reasonable? Have we built a foundation for what we are requiring? Many public school classrooms focus greatly on increased output, but have you looked at said output? Often it is riddled with non sentences, lack of punctuation and capitalization, and lack of coherence. Just because they put a "paragraph" on paper doesn't mean it was a "good" paragraph. We need to adjust our expectations. I love the concepts of classical writing because it focuses on allowing children who are just learning the mechanics of writing-- handwriting, basic grammar, and spelling, to narrate and do copywork, focusing on the mechanics without the extra struggle of original thought.
We need to meet our children where they are with writing, not where they "should" be. Writing is a skill and must be developed. A solid foundation of mechanics sets the stage for good writing.
Fear of failure
It is amazing how the fear of failure paralyses a child. I know that my oldest the perfectionist often freezes up at even the thought of getting something wrong-- which really can make writing difficult. She is a natural writer, and loves to write, but when writing for "school" she can often get overly concerned with spelling that she loses the natural flow of what she is writing. Brave Writer Free Writes are great for this. While I am setting the foundation of mechanics, she has moved onto more than just copywork, narration, and dictation. During Free Writes, she can completely forget about spelling and just "write." This allows the thought processes to flow, and her to spend more time developing her voice as a writer. Free Writes can also lift the fear of failure because there are NO expectations for a free write except that she "write."
I wrote a little about this here, discussing the concept of partnership writing/partnership learning. Writing is a skill, like many things, that must be developed. We often have no problem helping with math or grammar or reading, but if we help with writing all of a sudden it is no longer their work but ours. This simply isn't true. Writing must be looked at as a developmental process.
I think the five principles from last week's post: "When Math Brings Tears" can help here as well.
1. Assess the situation (Is it the curriculum? Is it how we are using the curriculum?)
2. Slow Down (sometimes changing curriculum is not the key, but taking a different or slower approach)
3. Build Confidence
4.Make it fun
5. Never sacrifice the relationships
There are so many great curricula out there, it can make it difficult to choose...but it's not about the curriculum. It is about teaching a skill to your child, and spending years developing it!
A few favorites for writing in our homeschool are Writing with Ease and Brave Writer.
Don't forget to check out how the other Homeschool Help Series
bloggers answer the question: "Help! My Child Hates Writing!"