Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

To Write, or Not to Write…

So, I have a dilemma, and I am hoping that someone(s) out there in the blogosphere can offer some ‘been there, done that’ and tell me that I have nothing to worry about so that I can rest my wee pretty head about this subject.

Let me explain… no; is take to long. Let me sum up… (sorry; I couldn’t resist!) Yeah. You get the long explanation with back-story. You know you wanted it. {wink}

When I was in school, I always loathed directions that said to ‘answer in complete sentences’, or to write anything out that could be answered more simply. English was my forte, and it was so boring to be stuck on that kind of thing for long periods of time.

Since we started homeschooling, partly with the thought of how much I hated writing text-book type stuff down just to show that I understood it, I’ve been letting the boys (ages 8 and 10) circle or underline or answer orally when we have grammar work – if you can show me what the noun or adverb or complete predicate is, or understand and can tell me how to merge two simple subjects into one compound subject, that’s the part I need you to know, right?

But now, I am starting to question that, not because I question whether they’re learning the material (they clearly are), but because I am wondering if all that writing is more for handwriting practice than to cement the concept. By no stretch of the imagination do my boys have what could be termed ‘neat’ penmanship. It’s improving, yes – notebooking is helping with legibility (we’re notebooking-lite; journaling for nearly every subject now), as is daily penmanship practice – but when they have to write things, it’s often with ‘stop. look. erase and write again’ reminders and they’re easily frustrated and they end up hating it. I’m not adverse to making them do things they hate, but I think that there has to be a better way to go about this.

To clarify a bit further, my forte is English. I love to write. Getting my thoughts down on paper or on-screen makes me happy. My boys’ forte is math – they’re ALL about the maths. Part of their joy in math is the nature of the lessons – we’re doing Everyday Math 4 and Saxon 3, plus supplemental materials, and there are tons of opportunities for manipulatives and math journaling. LBB is ADHD/SPD and PeaGreen is used to the more dynamic way that we do lessons and I’m fine with that – I think because I am so bad at math, I actually prefer that they’re stronger in math – but I am wondering if their lack of spelling skills and neat handwriting is more than ‘just’ being boys who aren’t interested in writing.

To be fair, they do their own share of writing on their own. They both have personal journals, notebooks and art journals that they write in, and I am seeing more of that now than I have been – so I don’t want to squash their natural interest in putting their thoughts on paper. I’ve been thinking that (and my Loverly Husband has offered is reassurances as well) that the writing will come with time and maturity and better hand control, etc.  – but I also don’t want to just ‘hope’ that they’ll get better. I keep thinking that Charlotte Mason said that around age 10 was when written narrations ‘should’ start and wondering if a more structured writing program towards middle school is ‘okay’.

That sounds silly – asking the internet if it’s ‘okay’ to wait; I appreciate the absurdity of the situation, but I am curious about how others handled reluctant writers. So how ’bout it? What about y’all out there – anyone have late writers? How did that work/turn out? What do you think of waiting vs. a more structured writing program at this age?

Hoping for some thoughtful replies and wishing you a lovely (and warm!) evening,




5 responses

  1. Tammy

    I am having this debate, too. My son is 7, will be 8 next month, and most of our grammar is done orally. He hates writing the answers. I didn’t want grammar to become a war, so although I prefer he write the answers down, I think for now I’m just going to ask him the questions. I’m curious to see what other’s experiences are and what advice they have. This is a great question, thanks for posting about it.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm

  2. Ultimately the ability to write effectively is an essential skill. I’m not talking about “neat handwriting” type of writing, but about being able to get one’s thoughts and ideas across to an audience. If you plan on your kids attending college, they will need to write an essay on their application for admittance. They may want to write a blog. They may want to do research and need to write up studies for peer review. There are many, many things in their lives that will use this skill.

    Personally, I don’t care if my kids know grammar. They do, however, need to know the basic skill of appropriate writing and sentence formation, as well as the writing process. This skill does not come naturally regardless of how many books they read. However, I don’t know how to teach it.

    Fortunately for me, I have a fellow homeschool mom, good friend, and neighbor who is a former public school teacher. She has been offering 4-week writing classes to the kids in our area. The first class focuses on writing proper paragraphs, the second on a 5-paragraph essay, and the 3rd on how to write a research paper. It’s been wonderful for my daughter, who HATED writing, yet wrote two whole type-written pages for her last writing assignment in that class.

    My friend has also blogged about the process ( and I know she’s offered classes to teach parents how to teach their kids to write. One thing that is working well for me with my 11-year old is that she has to write about the things we are currently studying in social studies or science, so that she is writing for a purpose. We’re not going through rote drills or activities just so we can say she’s writing. However works for you and your kids, just teach them to write!

    November 9, 2011 at 11:12 pm

  3. Grammar work is written down in our homw for the most part. When there is a prompt to write something out or “answer in complete sentences” type stuff we talk it out vs. write it out. I find that it allows for a complete answer (and full understanding) instead of a fight. My son will get fustrated over spelling, he wants all the words to come out just right. Then he will get fustrated over wording, what should he put to get his point across. So for now we write down the quick answers and talk out the long ones. I was having him do some of the writing stuff in his grammar book (paragraphing writing where he had to come up with the various parts and use thought webs), but I figured we would cross the writing bridge at another time. For now I want to ensure he knows grammar, spelling, and writes well enough for me to read his handwriting so when the time comes for us to do some serious writing work it he will get more joy out of it, since he will have all the tools needed to be successful at it. I plan to look into writing programs next school year so I can start working it in towards the end of the 2012-2013 school year so he can get his feet wet, before being fully tossed in. 🙂

    November 9, 2011 at 11:19 pm

  4. I’m in the minority, I guess, but I think it’s OK.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:28 am

  5. We studied handrwriting as a separate subject at our house, starting at about age 7. Except where it’s vital to write the entire thing out, such as exercises where you have to rewrite the incorrect sentence, I’ve always been perfectly happy with circling the prepositional phrase or whatever instead of writing it out somewhere. We do a lot of our Latin work out loud instead of writing it as well. Seems to have worked for us.

    My kids are 14 and 17 now and both of them prefer to type out reports and essays and other writing assignments. They also both enjoy calligraphy and have nice handwriting when they have to use it. So for me this was a win all round.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

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