Not sure what to do when your kids hate writing? Learn how to put the focus back on them and help them enjoy the process!
What to Do When Your Homeschooled Kids Hate Writing
“Why do I have to do this?”
“What’s the point?”
“Ugh! Another essay?!”
If you’re hearing these complaints disguised as questions at your house, you’re not alone. Here’s the good news: the solution to this common problem isn’t necessarily changing curriculum or shelling out money for writing classes. Today I’m going to share two factors that you can change up in your child’s writing life to help make writing less of a groan-fest: agency and authenticity.
Releasing Agency to Your Writer
First, let’s talk about agency. Of course, an agency can refer to a business or organization, but today I’m talking about agency in the sense that it refers to a person’s capacity to direct and assume responsibility for his or her own actions.
When kids struggle with writing – either in terms of skill or attitude – we tend to want to supply more structure in the form of writing prompts. We ask kids to respond to questions like “If you could have dinner with one person from history, who would you choose?” or “What animal best represents your personality?”.
As a professional writer, let me tell you in no uncertain terms that if I had to spend my time and mental energy responding to such inane questions with any degree of frequency, I’d probably come to hate writing, too. The little rebel inside me screams, “I don’t care about this! And I resent that I have to make up something to say about this topic that doesn’t interest me just to please you!”.
So if we aren’t giving kids prompts to write to for their daily journals, what can we do instead?
Give them some of the agency that real writers enjoy. That is to say, let kids mine their own interests and experiences to generate their own writing ideas.
When I sit down to write, sometimes the ideas come easily. Something I’ve encountered in my reading or in my daily life may be at the forefront of my mind, just begging to be turned over and considered in a writing session.
But, like all writers, sometimes the ideas don’t come so easily. When that happens, I turn to the small notebook I carry around with me for the purpose of recording big ideas when they come to me.
The Journal Ideas List for Kids Who Hate Writing
One practice I recommend for all young writers is maintaining a Journal Ideas list. A Journal Ideas list is just a list located somewhere within a journal with a list of things the writer has something to say about. It can come in handy for those days when writing ideas aren’t so easy to come by.
The list can consist of anything from vacation memories to frustration about a traffic pattern in your area, or from an opinion about who the greatest baseball player in the history of the game is to dreams about becoming an entrepreneur.
Now, this isn’t to say that kids should never write to prompts or to an assigned topic. Actually, writing to a topic and staying on topic are important skills that kids need to develop. But for day-to-day practice, let’s let kids have some agency.
Authenticity in Writing
Increasing the authenticity of writing projects is another way to increase motivation for young writers. Authenticity in the domain of teaching writing means that the product will be read by a real audience. In other words that the final draft won’t just be marked by Mom or Dad and then filed away; that there’s a real purpose for the writing beyond fulfilling the requirements of an assignment. Authentic writing experiences automatically carry more meaning and encourage and empower kids to produce something great.
Authentic writing projects usually look less like five-paragraph essays and more like blog posts, brochures, presentations, letters to the editor, picture books for younger students, and emails to businesses.
Part of authentic writing experiences for kids is having some say in the matter, so invite your kids to come up with the project parameters alongside you. If your young writer becomes passionate about a problem, brainstorm together to come up with ideas for how to write to become part of the solution. If your young writer becomes passionate about a topic of study, brainstorm together to come up with ideas for how to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with others. And always, always honor and support your student’s ideas, even if their ideas do need some honing with adult insight.
Sometimes when it comes to writing we fall into the habits that were visited upon us in our own time as students. There’s so much power, though, in giving kids choice, honoring their voices as important and worthy, and sitting in the co-pilot seat as you help them learn to steer their own lives as writers.