Homeschool parents all read the frightening warnings about weak communication skills that inevitably lead to poor writing which somehow (we are warned) concludes in the making of license plates at the Federal penitentiary. So we put writing at the top of our year’s lesson plan objectives. See it there at the top?
Get very serious about writing.
As a result, we start applying all the methods used to teach us writing from our own school days. Therefore, in keeping with some old English class traditions, here are ways to be certain your child learns to hates writing.
Correct EVERY thing in EVERY paper.
Make sure they know absolutely everything that they did wrong, all in one paper, all right now. This is sure to let them see what perfection looks like and make equally clear to them how far they are from achieving it. Also, do the same thing when your child starts learning to walk.
“Your legs aren’t straight. You’ve got to drop that bow-legged look”
“Try to keep your hands at your side. Having them up in the air is very unsightly. A smooth swinging motion—one arm forward, the other arm back—is what you must master.”
“You need to smooth out your gait. It’s very jerky.”
“When you feel yourself falling, move toward an object to grab onto—don’t just flop straight down on your bottom. That will mark you as a clear amateur.”
“Imagine you’re on a runway. Glide. Glide. Glide.”
Encourage them to write like dead people.
Praise and fawn over writing that sounds like it came from the court of King James instead of their own contemporary language. Discourage The Three Little Pigs and instead have them strive to make it sound like The Triune Tale of Diminutive Swine (Incidentally, this is one of John Branyan’s funniest routines.). They may not be able to communicate well, but by gummy they’ll sound really smart.
Make them look up every word they can’t spell.
Here’s how this works. Your child is writing away feverishly. They have a thought stream. They are trying to get it out before they lose it. They reach a point where they want to insert the word “incorrigible” in their sentence, but can’t recall the spelling. Suddenly, they turn to you seeking help, and with the sunny perkiness of June Cleaver you announce, “How ‘bout-cha go look it up!” They now must leave their concept, their thought stream, and their momentum to step away from the table and go to the dictionary. Maybe they’ll be able to pick it all back up when they return. Finally, minutes later, when their writing resumes and they come to a place where they’d now like to insert the word “benevolent”, they’ll take one look over their shoulder at you—the Perky Word Police and. . . just write down “kind” instead.
Don’t waste time telling them what they did right.
They only need to know the misspellings, grammar errors, bad sentence structure, and flaws in logic flow. The fact that their concept was fresh, original, interesting, made you laugh, or displayed a new level of thinking on their part is irrelevant. Just stick to the stuff they should fix.
Never have them read it aloud to you.
The words only need to be readable, not hearable. The fact that they will never develop an ear for the rhythm and flow of good writing is of no consequence. This just adds wasted time to the process and your teaching day.
So, what do I do if I DON’T want to squash the writer in my child?
Well, if you really want a child to learn to write and to love it, then understand that writing is a process learned in bits and pieces over the course of dozens of assignments. Don’t expect perfection in first efforts. Master one skill at a time. But while they are learning that skill, let them delight and romp through the fun parts of writing. Let them be gleeful in sharing something fun with you, getting feedback from you that applauds the many things they got right, and praising them in ways that make them want to write again.
Want more ideas? Head over to our language arts video archives and start learning from many experts, including Carol!