Monday, January 4, 2010

Does Your Child Despise Writing? Here's Something to Try.

The actual act of writing might cause one's hand to cramp, yes? Well, the act of writing causes Max's personal STYLE to cramp. Getting him to sit down and write out comprehensible sentences unleashes a cascade of agony, one that makes the slightest proximity to him very unpleasant. Topic sentences? FORGET IT. Simply put, he hates the act of writing, of transferring a thought down through the musculature of his arm and fingers onto paper. It's proverbially all in his head - believe me, I know. He can master some incredible stories up there in his cranium because I've heard him weave some tall tales out loud; it's just the 'getting the stories down in black and white' part that causes unbearable angst. I've learned to instinctively brace for the inevitable outburst whenever I casually ask him to plop down and put 'it' on paper. No matter what we might be doing - as soon as those words are out of my mouth floating in the space between us, he spirals into woe-is-me world. There we used to wallow for lengthy periods time, until I let go of my notion that he HAS to write RIGHT NOW.

After some pondering I rationalized that it's not the mechanical act of scribbling letters onto paper that is all that important right now. The process of stringing together thoughts, choosing descriptive words, painting worded pictures for the audience, creating exciting characters and THIS is the stuff of creative writing that counts. I decided to cut out the step of agony and see where we might go with a new-to-us idea.

Feeling adventurous this morning, we set the pen and paper aside, let Max dress up as one of his characters and let him unleash his tale upon my listening ears and nimble fingers. While he ran around the room acting out his plot, I captured his words on the computer and tried my best to keep up with the racing action swirling about me. More than a few times I had to ask him to slow down so I could catch up. Periodically I read back to him what he was 'writing' and he changed a few elements as he saw fit, or decided to describe something in more detail. I tried to offer no comments, no ideas of my own and just let him run with it. After a fifteen to twenty minute session, we had two single-spaced pages filled up with Max's words. His ideas! His story.

Prior to this we have been working with a program called Ignite Your Writing by Sandy Larsen, but he was quick to jump to the decisive "it's boring" conclusion. Here's a picture of this booklet, which is available in downloadable form from; you can also click directly on the booklet to go to the site:

There is nothing wrong with this program - in fact, it's fun and can be quite silly at times. It's just not Max's preferred way of expressing himself at this point. He has also been doing some short sentence writing and combining within the Daily Grams program and I've been working with him on addressing envelopes and the structure of writing informal and formal letters. Granted, he's not doing nearly as much writing as his buddies who attend a charter school here in town, but I think that's okay. I'd rather he learn to enjoy writing than force it upon him when he clearly despises it at the present moment.

Another tactic we've used is one where I open up a notebook, start a story line with a few sentences and then leave it on the kitchen table for him. He'll spy the writing and add sentences of his own, then we repeat the cycle until some sort of story line is shaped. However, I'll catch him writing shorter and shorter blurbs such as, "then so and so said.......". Classic kid move! Waiting for me to create the next fifteen word sentence so he doesn't have to.

Such is the nature of homeschooling. Ebb and flow, trial and error, successes and failures. Kind of sounds like life, and maybe that's what is so appealing about all of this. It's REAL and natural and has a certain rhythm to it that can't be manufactured.

So if you, too, are faced with a similar look of horror on the face of your child when you encourage him/her to write creatively, give it some thought and give another idea a go. Best wishes as you search for the balance that satisfies all concerned. May your fingers fly over the keyboard and may the force be with you, too!


  1. I've got a sixth-grader on my hands who is not much of a writer either. He's quite creative - just does not enjoy the act of writing. For this school year I decided to try this book with him; Unjournaling by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston. It has 200 writing prompts. It has worked wonderfully so far. We started by going through them in order but now he hands me the book and askes me to 'challenge me to one'... or something like that.
    I gave him one the other day and he came back with a two-page story. Which is more than his ever written when it wasn't 'required'.
    If that makes any sense... I'm tired, and second guessing myself.

  2. Ooo - looks like a good resource. Sometimes it takes awhile for boys to learn to write. Sometimes I think it's a mechanical issue, too - just not wanting to put pencil to paper and go through those finer motions. Our nephew who was homeschooled didn't really spark on writing until he was 13 or 14 - and now he's crazy about writing lyrics and songs at the age of 16. It will come in time!


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