Help! My child hates to write!!!
One of the biggest struggles we homeschool moms face is getting our children to write.
- A paragraph.
- Or even a sentence.
Ok. Some of us are simply aiming to get our kids to not hate it.
If this is something you’re battling, clearly you’re not alone. Get excited because today I’m sharing 19 game-changing strategies to help!
Don’t Panic & Focus On The Goal
When we mommas encounter writing resistance, the default response is often fear-based. Ultimately, if we’re honest, our frustration stems when our kids don’t meet the academic expectations of others .
I’m no exception and have fallen into this trap way too many times.
When it comes to helping your child learn to write, let me encourage you. It’s going to be ok. Please don’t push your kid out of fear. It doesn’t work.
Trying to shove our square pegs into round holes does NOT create round pegs. It creates broken squares. We’ve got to stop fighting against our kids’ wiring and work with it.
So how do you help a reluctant writer? To answer that, let’s talk about the ultimate objective of teaching kids to write.
The Writing Objective
Really think about the goal of a writing assignment.
- Is the end goal of that writing assignment to see handwritten letter symbols on a page?
If the answer is yes, then we are talking about the physical act of handwriting or penmanship. That’s definitely a worthwhile skill. No doubt.
But is penmanship the real goal?
Why does my child struggling with writing?
As I’ve mentioned a million times before this (and will likely do so at least another billion), when our kids resist learning, there is a reason.
And while many adults tend to favor the belief that kids are just lazy, there is often much more to it.
Friend, our kids hate writing for a reason.
Creative Writing: The Kiss Of Death
It’s our job to help them find the reason. Then we can help them fill in the gaps so that they can move forward.
As an example, let’s take a peek at the one writing assignment most Americans kids (and adults) have had to face.
Open your writing journals and write about what you did last summer.
Yep. I’m talking about that dreaded creative writing assignment. For some kids, this is the nail in the writing coffin.
- Some kids are not as naturally imaginative and are more literal in their thinking.
- Many children struggle with working memory (the ability to hold information in their head long enough to process it).
- Tons of children struggle with language processing issues that make it difficult to articulate and organize their thoughts.
These kids may stare at that sheet of paper in horror.
Reluctant Writers Need The Right Supports
When given the right tools based on their individual needs, the most resistant writers can each take their next step in the writing process.
Bottom line. If we want to motivate kids to write, we’ve got to make writing as accessible as possible.
For a child who hates to write, this means we have to remove the writing barriers.
19 Tips To Help Reluctant Writers
1. Give Them A Purpose & Focus On It
First and foremost, I don’t care what anyone has told you about your kid. Your child is a blessing to this world.
As a Christ follower, I believe wholeheartedly that God has created each of our kids with gifts, passions and purpose.
Every. Single. Child.
Cast A Vision They Cannot Yet See
We must instill in our kids a vision for themselves that they cannot see yet.
An effective teacher inspires greatness in her students. We must make writing (communicating) an inherently valuable activity for children who hate to write.
And we do this by giving them a purpose.
2. Choose Your Words Carefully
When trying to motivate a child to write, your approach can make all the difference. For the kid who hates writing, that may sound like this.
You, my friend, have a valuable message that needs to be communicated to the world. We may not know what that message is right now, but I know God has a plan to use you to change the world.
3. Reframe Adult Thinking & Ask Questions
Within our culture and the church, we often label children based on outward behavior.
He’s just being lazy. He can hold a pencil just fine.
When children resist learning, calling them lazy doesn’t solve the problem. It certainly doesn’t motivate or encourage.
I know that when I’m struggling, the last thing I need is for someone to call me lazy.
Again, the messages we send (whether verbalized or not) are powerful. No matter what the subject area, when your kid is struggling, ask yourself this question:
What’s going on behind the behavior?
4. Fine Motor & Visual Processing
Relatively speaking, the physical act of writing is a new skill for kids. Often this means writing is not a fluent process. Many children (and adults) struggle with integrating multiple skills at once.
For example, if a child has eye tracking or fine motor weaknesses (even without a diagnosis), the physical act of writing could be the nail in the writing coffin.
Consider a Private OT Evaluation
The tiny eye movements involved in reading and writing are essential to the ease with which kids learn.
When those tiny movements aren’t fluent, the brain expends extra energy that’s needed to learn.
The same is true when kids struggle with the physical act of writing. Fine motor skills need time to develop and are often not fluent when we ask kids to “write.”
Always focus on the learning objective and get a private Occupational Therapy evaluation if you’re concerned about fine motor or eye tracking problems.
5. Isolate Academic Skills From Others
When teaching a new skill to any unmotivated student, the last thing you want to do is combine multiple skills at once. Or push them beyond their capacity to achieve success.
Isolate writing from other barrier skills. For some that may be the physical act of writing. More on that in Tip 13.
Motivating A Reluctant Writer: Adjust Expectations
When motivating a reluctant writer, it’s essential that homeschool moms use caution with their own expectations.
Don’t look to benchmarks, the kid up the street, or even the curriculum to determine what our child should accomplish in that writing session.
Focus on your child.
What’s her next minimal viable step to move forward? That’s where you start.
6. Stop Looking Around At Everyone Else
Think about it this way.
When a grown adult decides to get in shape, they often hire a trainer. During their first session, a good trainer doesn’t walk up to an obviously out-of-shape client and tell her to lift the 100-lb barbell.
A good trainer doesn’t look around to see what barbell everyone else is lifting. His objective is to support and push just far enough so that his client sees the possibility of success.
He looks at the client in front of him and determines their ability and needs. Only then does he choose the appropriate challenge for his client.
Make decisions and goals based on the unique child in front of you.
7. Understand The Zone of Proximal Development
When teaching anything, think about the zone of proximal development. Very Well Mind describes the Zone of Proximal Development this way.
The range of abilities that an individual can perform with assistance but cannot yet perform independently.
- How far can I push THIS child based on what I know of THIS child?
8. Take The Next Step & Talk With Your Child
Help your child move forward no matter how small the step.
Start With Oral Communication
Start by having your child orally discuss the concept you want them write about.
- Take notes for your child and so that they are free to process ideas.
Provide A Specific Model
If your child struggles with oral communication, model a sentence.
- Partner with your child and write together. Just take the next step.
Don’t worry about the naysayers in your head who are telling you that you’re coddling or enabling your child. That doesn’t help anyone.
9. Put It In Perspective
Whether by hand, orally or through keyboarding, writing as a form of communication is a complex process that requires intense integration of skills.
Specifically, a writer has to:
- Manufacture thoughts and sentences that make sense,
- Structure ideas in a way that an audience can understand,
- Search the memory bank to retrieve the proper sounds that make up those words and ideas,
- Associate the letter sounds to images of letter symbols,
- Transpose those letter symbols onto paper by coordinating the tiny muscles in the eyes, hands and fingers
Language processing and handwriting are not always automatic in our kids when we begin to insist on writing activities.
This is why it is essential that we reframe our thinking to look behind the behaviors to see the unique needs of our own children.
10. Provide Concrete Baby Steps: Writing Prompts & Specific Questions
If you’ve eliminated possible fine motor, eye tracking or language-based issues, we can provide resistant writers with concrete baby steps.
By offering just a few concrete questions, anxiety is reduced because the child doesn’t have to wonder what to write about.
- Tell me one thing you did this summer that made you smile.
- Who were you with when you did this?
- If you could enjoy that activity again, would you want to change it in some way? In what way?
11. Stop Pushing For More
When we are successful in motivating our struggling writers to take the next step in the writing process, this is key. We must accept what our child offers.
During that first successful session, don’t push for more. Start small and allow your child the writing win.
12. Ask Questions & Encourage Oral Language
As previously stated, engage your child in dialogue throughout the process as needed.
For example, if your child has written anything, show genuine interest. Take what they’ve written to ask questions.
This stimulates dialogue, deeper thinking and promotes crucial language development that will only serve our kids in other academic areas.
So many homeschoolers utilize the art of narration. Narration is a strategy that starts with communication through oral language and conversation, the foundation of reading and writing.
Find the starting point. Most often, that will be through oral language communication first.
RELATED POST: How To Help A Struggling Reader (Writer): A Comprehensive Guide
13. Scribe For Your Child
If your child is struggling with pencil and paper, move on to this step. Get your child communicating through oral language first.
Momma Friend, if your kid hates to write, scribe for your child in freedom. No one is cheating!
Did I mention that oral communication is the precursor skill to writing and reading?
Listen to your child and write down what they say.
Allow them the freedom to take the first step by sharing their ideas aloud while you physically write their words.
By doing so, you’re equipping your child with the support he or she needs to grow as a communicator.
A Note About Dysgraphia
Dysgraphia, a brain-based learning disability, may be the culprit. It may not.
With or without a dysgraphia diagnosis, many kids often need to work on new writing skills in isolation.
Remove pen and paper if it will help your child become a communicator.
Is Penmanship Still Important?
Absolutely, 100% yes!
These suggestions do not negate the importance of the physical act of writing. Our kids need to work on handwriting skills and other fine motor skills for a variety of reasons.
Using pencil to paper supports the connection of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, increases retention of new information, and is an immediate form of written communication.
Isolate Until Fluency Develops
As with other academic areas, when a student is struggling, isolate skills unil a level of master develops.
Work on penmanship in isolation for awhile until it becomes more fluent.
If the physical act of writing is a brick wall, remove it.
14. Model The Writing Process One Step at a Time
So if you are scribing for your child, model the writing process one step at a time. When you offer kids support as they’re learning, you’re “scaffolding”.
5 Simple Scaffolding Strategies
- You may be able to get your child to sit next to you right away while they share their ideas aloud. You may not.
- If your child needs to move while articulating their thoughts, take notes first while they process aloud their “rough draft.”
- If your child needs to move while articulating their thoughts, take notes first while they process aloud their “rough draft.”
- The next day, have them sit next to you while they read back their own words aloud.
- Prompt them for one or two more details they may want to add by asking questions.
- Have them watch as you model proper sentence structure and spelling.
- Once this becomes a more fluent skill, have your child choose one sentence to copy as handwriting practice or copywork.
15. Slowly Hand Over the Reins
When this becomes easier, slowly transition responsibilities over to your child at his or her pace.
- Have your child narrate their story or summary into an Iphone.
- Then have your child take on the role of the scribe by writing (or typing) a few sentences. (You pick up where they leave off.)
- Continue with these scaffolding supports and slowly build upon your child’s capacity.
16. Less Is More For Resistant Students
Ultimately, the goal is to watch your child slowly take more ownership of communicating through the written word.
And I promise you this will yield far greater results than trying to force your child to do that which they are not ready to do.
True learning for the longhaul is often served well by “Less is More.”
17. Relationship First Always
We have an incredible ability to influence our children.
The words we choose with our kids can make or break their spirits. When our kids have the undivided attention of a supportive adult, confidence builds.
Don’t Underestimate Intrinsic Motivation
In our educational and parenting climate, one that favors FORCING kids to do what adults say, we’ve lost one of the most powerful learning tools. Intrinsic motivation.
Struggling Students Need Relationship
Investing in our relationships with our kids, by honoring their unique needs, interests and wiring can change everything.
Internal motivation to communicate grows as adults take the time to listen.
As the process of articulating thoughts and ideas becomes a safe experience, our kids are more likely to take their next step.
Just imagine if Annie Sullivan decided the only way for Helen Keller to communicate had to be through oral language or handwritten words?
Give your child the keys that will unlock the writing door. It’s ok to parent and educate the child that God gave you. Even when it looks differently from everyone else.
18. Identify The Learning Gatekeepers
In order to help our children grow in their learning, we must be willing to check preconceived expectations at the door.
Often traditional models of education actually prevent our children from learning. When kids consistently struggle with an area of academics, being willing to look behind the behavior will move them forward.
What gatekeepers are standing in front of your child’s ability to become a writer?
- The physical act of penmanship?
- Combining multiple skills at once?
- Overwhelm and anxiety?
- Language processing?
- Working memory?
Find the real problem and your child will be better equipped to move forward.
19. Co-Learn With Your Child
When our kids struggle in any area academically, emotionally, physically or behaviorally, our momma hearts hurt.
My number one recommendation when your child struggles with writing?
Take back the power and learn alongside with them.
What does that mean?
Gather as much information as possible and don’t be afraid to think outside the box for your struggling writer.
Remember, the goal is to best equip the child God has given you.
Resources For Homeschool Moms of Struggling Learners
In order to help you in your journey, I’m offering access to 3 homeschool parent trainings that I recently presented at the NCHE Summit For Teaching Exceptional Children.
- Huh? How Speech & Language Processing Impact: Reading, Writing & Relationships
- Homeschooling The Distracted Child: How To Harness The Genius Of Your Child’s ADHD Brain
- Homeschooling The Unregulated Child: Sensory Systems & Self-Regulation In Your Home & Homeschool
Each one is absurdly inexpensive because I just want every momma to take these trainings. So sign up for one or all of the trainings and when you do, circle back to me with questions.
Can’t wait to hear from you! We’re in this together!
Does Your Child Struggle To Remember:
What They’ve Read?
What you asked not 5 min ago?!
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