Come take a peek inside my homeschool. Here’s how I teach writing! And it works—one of my sons got a perfect score on the English portion of the ACT test for college.
Each day I expect my students to write a journal entry. I use the number of their grade in school as a number of paragraphs they must write in their journal. So a 4th grader must write 4 paragraphs, and Louisa who is 8th grade is writing 8 paragraphs. They can write about anything under the sun, anything they are interested in! One of my sons actually spent about a whole school year of journal writing on the subjects of knights and castles and medieval weaponry! He sure had enthusiasm for the subject! And as long as he was writing, I believe he was learning. He mastered the spelling of such words as chivalry and catapult when he was 10 years old, because it was a necessary daily word in his writing!
Each journal entry is illustrated—in any medium: stickers, crayons, paint, colored pencils, etc. . . . another opportunity for fun! My children look back now at their childhood school journals as precious treasures, and are so glad they have them! I told my little children to do their very best writing work because their own children would want to read them someday, plus they themselves could get to know the little child that they were—through reading their own childhood journals.
Yesterday, Emily (20) nostalgically showed me a little chart she discovered that she had created years ago in her childish scrawl that showed her “rools”. Now Emily is a very organized gal who likes rules to be kept, and we can see that it started early! Here is her chart:
Childhood writing helps you catch a glimpse into the heart and nature of a child, and keeps a chronicle of what was important to them. Why not use your writing time with your children to create a meaningful journal? I’ll walk you through the steps in my Journal and Language Arts Program.
The sooner a child can learn to type this journal, the better! Why? Don’t I want them to practice handwriting? I do think neat penmanship is important, but we live in a changing world in which keyboarding is at least as important as handwriting. The biggest reason for learning to type is to unleash the stories in your child’s mind. Have you ever told your child you would type or write out his story as he told it to you? And did he keep going and going and going? Until you begged him to finish up? Now, why doesn’t that happen when your child sits down to write? Because the mind is full of imagination, but it is hampered by the inability to write quickly. Teaching your child to type will make writing so much easier for him! And eventually teaching him to use a word processing program and the spelling and thesaurus tools will make him into a better speller and writer!
How early should you teach typing? I don’t think 5 years is too young. The sooner his fingers can master typing, the free-er his writing can become. Of all the products on the market, I prefer Typing Instructor because of its good educational content, and fun games and exercises.
“My child writes and writes, but she is an atrocious speller!”
I hear that a lot from homeschoolers, and here is how I handle it in my homeschool: I limit myself to 8-10 spelling words a week per child. As I correct my child’s writing, I choose the most important word(s) each day to put on his spelling list. (This is explained fully in my Journal and Language Arts Program.) So, suppose today’s journal writing has 15 errors. I help my child correct those errors, and then I choose the 2 most common for him to record on his spelling list and learn that week. As the week progresses each day, his spelling list builds to 8-10 words only. More than that can be overwhelming to a child and feel discouraging. We want them to write their ideas but not get bogged down in the mechanics of our language. Spelling is a skill that is built day-by-day, slowly and surely. For more spelling help, see Spelling in 5 Minutes a Day.
A good vocabulary is developed by listening to others speak well, and use new words. Children can figure out a lot by context, and will try those words out in their own conversation. Reading, once again, is imperative to developing vocabulary. When we are ready for formal acquisition of new words, around age 10 or 11, I always turn to Vocabulary Cartoons, the most fun and sticks-with-you program I’ve ever found for learning important words!
My attitude towards grammar is that it is a fine tuning of English, and kids need to learn English first, before grammar! Learn to form your letters correctly, write sentences that start with a capital, end with ending punctuation and make sense. That is the challenge. Advance to paragraphs, and now at about 3rd grade, I think it is time for a little bit of grammar, but not overkill. I love Winston Grammar because it can be played like a game, and that’s how I do it in my homeschool. A good writer naturally copies the language he hears about him, and if the grammar is good, he will write with good grammar.
Reading is a big, big part of being a good writer. The more a child sees words in correct sentence structure and well punctuated, the better he can copy them in his own writing. That’s why “copy work” (writing passages of good literature or quotes) is so valuable. A correct model is being followed and will make its impressions.
Enjoy writing in your homeschool!