Communication, observation, critical thinking, problem solving, hand-eye coordination, knowledge of spelling, grammar, and punctuation—what do all of these things have in common? These are the skills we apply when we write.
It’s no wonder that writing can be such a challenging subject to teach and learn.
There’s a common misconception that a writer is born. While some children are naturally drawn to writing, people who write well do so because they write; constant practice is the key. Does that mean everyone should be writing short stories and poetry, or we should insist our children journal everyday? Not necessarily. To give kids the writing practice they need, writing tasks should be relevant to their lives.
One of the best ways to get kids writing is by looking at the ways your family (and community) communicates, plays, and manages tasks already.
- Do you make lists? (What homeschool mom or dad doesn't, right?)
- Text or email? (Again, who doesn't)
- Send holiday cards or leave notes around the house for each other?
- Is your family active in an organization that puts out a newsletter?
- Do you take the time to review the things you purchase?
Pay attention to how you communicate in your day-to-day life, and then hand off the pen! Here are ten relevant ways to give your kids writing practice. Use them as stealthy ways to coax a relucant writer into more writing tasks that don't look a bit like school. Or use them on top of what you're already covering in your language arts lessons.
If all else fails, these real-life writing task can make you feel better about those Plan B homeschool days when the curriculum didn't get opened. If your kids did one of these writing activities, go ahead and mark off writing for the day! Your kids were sneaking in a bit of writing practice with these day-to-day tasks! They are arranged in order of complexity from easy (tiny bits of writing) to more complex (fully planned, edited, and published) tasks.
1. Jot Down Grocery Lists
Every week, ever since they could write, I’ve had my kids help me make a grocery list as part of weekly meal planning. Together we go through the fridge and cupboard, and name off the things we need. They practice their handwriting, spelling, and organizational skills as they make the list. Because the list creation has a very clear purpose, they don’t think about the fact that they are practicing writing. Even the most reluctant writer is happy to write when it means their favorite foods are on the menu.
2. Compose Emails
My children love to plan gatherings. They start clubs, host sleepovers, and plan gaming marathons. In order to get all their plans organized efficiently, writing is required. They’ve learned that if they want to play host, they need to make a plan and send out information to their would-be guests. While I will happily provide email addresses and a little proofreading before they hit send, the rest of the writing is up to them.
Emails are also a great way for kids to keep in touch with family and friends. While I love an old fashioned print letter, and we write those too, the speed of email encourages constant communication and more writing.
3. Write Texts
Like it or not, we are in the age of texting. While texting can also equal a lack of punctuation and slang, we can text in complete sentences. Coming to my rescue when I’m driving or making dinner, my kids have answered a number of texts for me that needed a quick response. I remind them to check their spelling and punctuation and because they appreciate being trusted, they take the job seriously.
As my children have gotten older, texting is also becoming a way we communicate when we’re not together. I model complete sentences and words, and notice, at least with me, they follow suit. I heard of one mom who refuses to respond to texts that aren't written in correct English with proper punctuation. She makes her teens rewrite them before she will even reply!
4. Post Online Reviews
- Read a book you can’t put down?
- Got pajamas that feel soft like butter?
- Bought a gadget that immediately broke?
Our kids do too! One of the best ways for them to share their opinions is by writing reviews. This can be a farily sophisticated form of writing, and because it has a definite purpose, the task feels relevant. When their reviews receive positive feedback of appreciation, they get even more reward for writing!
5. Write for Community
Maybe your church or favorite charity has a newsletter or your co-op sends out a weekly list of things to do in the community. Maybe you blog, make flyers for your local animal shelter, or post things for sale in online forums. Our kids can help with all of these things! Seeing their writing in print is highly motivating. And if the cause is one they are committed to, they have a natural reason to pitch in.
6. Create Gifts of Writing
Model writing for your kids:
- leave notes on their spot at the table
- write encouraging words on the bathroom mirror
- send postcards and holiday cards
- write thank you and just-because-I-love-you notes
When your kids see you writing and see, or themselves experience, the joy it brings to the recipients, they will see the value in writing and want to spread the joy.
I keep a stack of blank cards on hand at all times. We have sticky notes spread around the house. There are always plenty of envelopes, stamps, and stickers. When I find a sweet note on my beside table or in my luggage when I travel, or when I see them making their friends birthday cards, I they've caught the bug!
Writing is one of those things we have to practice. When we don’t, our handwriting gets sloppy, our hands get sore, and our motivation can wane. While expository and creative writing are also important for our children to learn and practice, everyday writing, as mundane as it may be, is important too. Chances are the writing you do that doesn’t even feel like writing will hold a bit of excitement for your kids. When they feel trusted, a part of the community, and see that their writing has a direct effect on something else, writing will become more meaningful to them and they will write a lot more often.
About the Author
Kelly left teaching middle and high school English to homeschool her children and reclaim how she and her family spent their time. Followers of interest-led learning, her family's days rarely look the same, but they tend to include a lot of books, art supplies, and time outside.
Kelly facilitates local writing circles for women and children and blogs about nurturing the love of learning on her blog, Curiosity Encouraged. She loves to journal, read memoirs, hike, and travel. She seeks quiet mornings and good coffee daily.