Entries Tagged 'Encouragement' ↓

Learning to see

descriptive language, Eudora Welty, observation, reading

In her memoir One Writer’s Beginnings, Eudora Welty invites us to ponder the connections between childhood memories and the mature creative process.

Miss Welty reminds us of a profound yet simple truth: if you want to raise a writer, you must teach your child how to read. Reading, however, goes far beyond printed words on a page, as we find in Part 2, “Learning to See.”

Reading the Natural World

In the early days of automobiles, when babies bounced across the country on their mothers’ laps, Eudora Welty spent summer road trips with her legs outstretched over suitcases in the back seat. Her family drove long miles from their Mississippi home to visit Grandma Andrews in West Virginia and Grandpa Welty in Ohio. Eudora recalls:

“I rode as a hypnotic, with my set gaze on the landscape that vibrated past at twenty-five miles an hour.”

Winding roads and rugged ferry boats led the family car to its first destination: a West Virginia mountain top with a weather-beaten house, built by the grandfather who had once impressed many a jury with his oratory and spun plenty of tall tales to tease his wife. The road trip would continue, bearing the family across the state line to the north where—as Eudora’s mother pointed out—the barns were all bigger than the houses. Exploring the Welty farm, with its apple orchard, pasture, corn and wheat fields, young Eudora discovered that “Grandpa’s barn was bigger than his house.”

Just as the best landscape artists work from life, the best writers see life with open eyes. Your children can’t journal about changing tides and swooping gulls on the beach if they won’t take the time to smell, to listen, to look around and watch. They cannot write about an afternoon spent at the museum if they walked through the halls and never bothered to notice anything.

We are all riddled with distractions that hinder us from truly seeing. Perhaps we ought to take a cue from the Welty family’s road trip of yesteryear, and try driving with the radio turned off, the DVD player removed, and the handheld devices off limits. Allow your children the boredom and wonder of fifteen minutes—or one hour or two—simply looking out the window. Adopt this habit, and over time they may be eagerly describing the changing skyline of your city, the changing colors of the seasons, and all the other curious, delightful things they were finally able to see.

Reading People

Cross-country trips enabled Eudora Welty to see not only new landscapes, but new facets of her parents and relatives as well. She came to understand her mother as the brave woman who, at only fifteen years old, had escorted a dying father to a hospital by way of frozen lake and train, and had soon after taught school to pupils older than herself.

Eudora learned to sense the changing atmosphere when her father entered a room where five banjo-loving uncles eyed him as the man who took their sister away. Eudora attached great significance to her mother’s childhood home in the mountains, where lonely echoes remind you of things out of sight but never really far away. When her mother’s eyesight grew dim in later years, and their family’s happiest times seemed far distant, Eudora relearned the lesson from her mother and the mountains: “emotions do not grow old.”

It’s easy to separate the children from the adults when friends come calling or extended family fills the house at holiday time. I encourage you, whenever possible, to include your children in adult gatherings and conversations. At first, your little ones may not understand or contribute much, but over time children learn to read people and the situations they create.

With this background in reading both people and nature, your sons and daughters will one day write in a way that cuts to the heart of an argument and, more importantly, touches the heart of all who read.

Part 1: How Listening Can Inspire a Love of Words

Part 3: Finding a Voice

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy

Photo: Lori H. Designs, courtesy of Creative Commons.

How listening helps kids learn to love words

Listening and vocabulary go hand in hand. Inspire a love words through read aloud books, conversations, and lessons of faith.

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.

Winding my way through a used bookstore recently, I came across a slim paperback called One Writer’s BeginningsIn this memoir, author Eudora Welty (1909-2001) describes the impressions and experiences that shaped her childhood in the American South.

She has much to teach about the learning process of children who later appreciate words and stories. Today, let’s step into her world to see how listening and vocabulary go hand in hand.

Home Life

Looking back on her life in Jackson, Mississippi, Miss Welty recalls:

“Childhood’s learning is made up of moments.”

Those moments began in her home, watching the full moon rise over the front yard or being wakened for an eclipse during the velvety black night. Her love of stories began long before she could read, with the sight of illuminated letters in fairy tale books and the sound of her mother reading aloud.

In the bedroom rocking chair, in the fire-warmed dining room, or in the kitchen on butter-churning day, Eudora knew that any time or place was ripe for reading aloud. Of course, the future novelist listened for stories as much as she listened to them.

While neighbor ladies gossiped on Sunday drives, and while the family seamstress weaved tales through a mouth full of pins, Eudora basked in a world of drama and scenes. She read storybooks by day and soaked in her parents’ hushed conversation by night.

Learning happens when we least expect it, for children are always listening. The stories we tell, and the stories they read, should be good ones.

School Days

In a time when honor-roll grades made local news, Eudora Welty grew up with wild suspense, wondering when can I go to school? By age five, her days were regulated by the brass bell of Jefferson Davis Grammar School. The bubbly singing teacher, taciturn art instructor, and no-nonsense physical education classes left their marks on her memory. It was her high school Latin teacher, however, who fed her soul’s growing love for grammar—her “bone fide alliance with words in their true meaning.”

Eudora learned to respect the well-built sentence as something beautiful and solid, like the State capitol building at the top of her street. The marble floors of the Capitol became her daily path to school and to the library, where the booming voice of an ever-watching librarian could never silence Eudora’s devotion to books. Both marble floors and grammar studies would pave the way for this young girl’s budding talent with words.

Your child’s road to writing may begin at the library, or perhaps a foreign language will spark a full understanding of the way English works. Whatever your method, never stop building; someday, your child’s writing will be solid and beautiful.

Words of Faith

Words—tender, joyful, silly, and sad—filled Eudora Welty’s childhood as her mother sang lullabies and her little brothers learned to laugh. The girl discovered new words all the time, while she listened to her father’s dictation machine or watched silent-film pantomimes and captions in the movie theater.

Listening went hand in hand with movement and dance when the words spilled out from musical phonograph records or from the cheery choruses of Sunday School hymns. As a mature writer looking backward, Eudora felt most blessed to have grown up in the atmosphere of the old King James Bible. Its cadence and poetry would shape many Southern writers for the rest of their lives.

The words swirling around your children come from not only books and school, but from parents and siblings, movies and music. Whether words of entertainment or words of faith, they ought to be uplifting, inspiring, and life-affirming. With this background, your grown children might just one day echo Eudora Welty:

“the act of writing in itself brings me happiness.”

Part 2: Learning to See

Part 3: Finding a Voice

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo: Barbara Hobbs, courtesy of Creative Commons.

How to write encouraging notes

Pull out the sticky notes! Family members can encourage one another with these fun, creative note ideas. {In Our Write Minds}

WHAT’S the big deal about writing, anyway? For starters, it’s one of the best ways to let loved ones know you care!

Don’t get me wrong. I can talk on the phone for hours, and I look forward to texts and emails as much as anyone. But my face lights up most when I hold tangible words on paper in my hands. When my college roommate left notes on my desk, I saved every one. I kept all the sticky notes my mom hid in my lunch cooler when I worked downtown. Now, if my husband leaves me a love note on the fridge, it goes straight into my treasure chest.

This summer, start a habit of writing encouraging notes to your family members. Soon, everyone will want to get in on the fun!

Stock up on Supplies

Make sure everyone in the house knows where to find the essential supplies. Basically, you need sticky notes, pens, and markers. Go wild and stock up on multiple colors! When you pass the bargain bins on shopping days, keep an eye out for small stationery to add to the stash.

Over time, consider purchasing a family message board for the kitchen or living area. A chalkboard or marker board can be a great spot for writing and receiving encouraging notes. To save these notes, simply snap them with your phone’s camera!

Undercover Ideas

Always feel free to leave notes for family members in obvious spots around the house. But when you’re ready to plan a stealthy surprise, try one of these ideas!

  • Place sticky notes on your child’s cereal of choice or favorite beverage in the fridge.
  • Notes for Dad can be hidden behind his mouthwash in the medicine cabinet, in the sports section of the newspaper, or under his socks in the dresser drawer.
  • The women of the house will be sure to smile when they find encouraging notes in their purse, shoes, or spice rack.
  • For your children, leave sticky notes in tomorrow’s history chapter, on sheet music they need to practice, or on DVDs they need to watch for school. Remind them you’re their number one cheerleader!

If you’re feeling creative, branch out from simple notepaper and write your encouraging notes on a different kind of object:

  • Smooth shells or rocks can bear your gift of words—just be sure to test your pen first. Try a permanent gel marker, Sharpie, or similar writing tool.
  • Choose an unspotted banana and write a message with permanent black ink.
  • Use cardstock and ribbon to create a one-of-a-kind bookmark. Write an encouraging note to a brother, child, or parent, and tuck the bookmark into a book or magazine they’re currently reading.
  • Collect an assortment of golf or ping-pong balls, set them out in a row, and write a sentence (one word per ball). See if the recipient can successfully unscramble your message!

From the Heart

Never underestimate the power of a few simple words. “I love you because…” or “I’m proud of you because…” can do wonders in chasing away fear, discouragement, or miscommunication. Brighten someone’s day and warm their heart with a handwritten note of affirmation or praise. You don’t have to be clever, long-winded, or eloquent. Just be yourself. You are a writer, and your words count!

> Your Turn!

What are some of your favorite hiding places to leave encouraging notes?

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

Photo: Ross Elliott, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Homeschooling through depression or crisis

Homeschooling Through Crisis or Depression: Kim Kautzer

UPDATE: FREE archived recording of Kim’s experience with Homeschooling Through Depression is now available.

When I Am Weak: Homeschooling Through Depression

Homeschooling can be challenging enough when the sea is smooth and calm. But what do you do when depression, a wayward teen, or some other personal crisis blows in the dark clouds and stirs up a few towering waves? Is it even possible to navigate the waters of homeschooling when you can barely stay in the boat yourself?

During my 15 years of homeschooling, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of life and faith … and I know what it’s like to homeschool during bleak times. Though each mom’s trials are unique, God is constant and unwavering. I’m looking forward to sharing my personal story and offering tips for staying on course in rough waters. My prayer is to bring light and hope to your situation and reassurance that you can finish well.

Topic: When I Am Weak: Homeschooling Through Depression or Crisis
Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Kim’s talk: 9:00 p.m. ET

About Mommy Jammies Night

Mommy Jammies Night offers FREE monthly online sessions where moms can talk about things that really matter: family, faith, and life! Share your heart with people who listen and really care. Cozy up with a cup of tea and listen live from the comfort of your own home. Stay up late, laugh and giggle, meet new friends, and be energized and ready to face new daily challenges.

Join me at March’s Mommy Jammies Night. I would love to encourage you to press into God as you weather your own storms.

Now Available! Listen to the free recording from the Mommy Jammies Night archives.

Photo: Karin Vlietstra courtesy of Creative Commons.

12 favorite posts from 2012

The words are on everyone’s lips: Where did 2012 go?

I wonder that too. What a full, busy, interesting year! As I look back at the blog over this past year, I thought it would be fun to highlight each month’s most popular post. Which was your favorite blog post during 2012?


10 Writing Truths for Teens


Editing Tools for Young Writers


Book Report Sandwich


Build Skills with Puzzles and Word Games


The Pain of Grading Writing


5 Summer Writing Activities from Pinterest



4 Things You’re {Already} Doing to Raise a Writer 


4 Tips for Writing College Application Essays


RMS Lusitania - Free Pictures at Historical Stock Photos.com

Creating a Historical Newspaper


Grammar Skills Your Kids Must Learn


Playing in the Grass by PatrickLim1996

10 Ways to Reduce Writing Stress


6 Christmas Journal Prompts

6 Christmas Journal Prompts That Make Writing Merrier

I’m looking forward to all that 2013 has in store. I  hope you’ll join me as together we inspire and motivate our young writers!

4 things you’re {already} doing to raise a writer

4 things you're {already} doing to raise a writer

EVERY homeschooling parent hits the skids now and then—and that’s when the questions pour forth: Am I a good teacher? Are the kids learning anything from me? Why is this so hard? 

Writing is a subject that can quickly make the most confident of homeschool moms feel like a complete and utter failure. And when you get into this funk, it’s easy to focus on everything that’s going south and fail to notice things you’re doing well. (And there are things you’re doing well!)

You may have the most resistant or reluctant writer at your kitchen table each morning, but throughout the day and week, that same child is learning from you as you live out these four important actions:

1. Equipping

What homeschooler’s house isn’t happily overrun with writing supplies? Most likely, your drawers spill over with markers, pencils, and crayons. These tools—along with paper, spiral notebooks, blackboards, and dry-erase boards—equip and encourage your children to express themselves in writing.

In pleasant weather, you watch them take to the sidewalk with chalk to draw pictures and write words. Letter magnets invite your littlest ones to begin forming words on the fridge, and older kids enjoy using magnetic word strips to compose sentences and poems. Even your teens type out stories on laptops and pour their hearts into diaries or journals.

A new school year is around the corner. Why not create even more writing buzz simply by investing in some brand-new school supplies?

2. Modeling

We know it’s important to model reading for our kids, but it’s just as important to model writing. When your children see you scratching out a grocery list, planning a camping trip on a legal pad, typing a blog article, taking sermon notes, or penning a letter to your sister, they’re internalizing the importance of the written word in daily life.

3. Cheerleading

Every day, you encourage your children’s attempts at scribbling, drawing, making letters, and using inventive spelling to write new words. This simple act of affirmation tells them that writing is both admirable and fun.

It’s not as easy to stay positive about their writing attempts as they get older (and their mistakes are no longer cute). But don’t stop looking for the good! Correction has its place, but your positive, encouraging words bring blessing into their lives and free them up to try new things when writing!

Encourage children to write

I love that you let your children be themselves—who God created them to be, not who you think they should be.

In her article How to Raise a Writer, author Cathy Lamb affirms: “A squashed spirit will produce a squashed voice. A squashed voice will never write.” In the best way you know how, you’re shaping your kids’ character, guiding their growth, and tempering their will without constraining their spirit.

You may not realize it, but you’re taking steps to call out the writer in your child!

4. Reading

I know this about you: You make reading a priority with your chldren. By reading aloud, making trips to the library, and providing your kids with books at home, you’re helping them make a connection between reading and writing.

Reading opens up new worlds of imagination, mystery, and adventure. Quality literature exposes children to rich vocabulary, vivid description, and engaging narratives. While strong readers don’t always become strong writers, a correlation does exist: Reading can have a powerful effect on a child’s interest in writing.

On the worst of days, you won’t recognize the seeds you’ve planted, watered, and tended. You’re way more likely to see weeds, thorns, and bare spots! But from time to time, whenever a tiny bud appears, you’ll get glimpses of the writer within. Just know that I’m believing with you for the day when that writer comes into full bloom!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

Photos: Kate Hiscock and Rolfe Kolbe, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Motivating young writers with author success stories

I’m pleased to welcome Samantha Gray as a guest blogger today!

Laid Back

WRITING IS a difficult task. Teaching children how to write presents an even greater measure of difficulty. While it’s not necessarily hard for children to learn to write, I do think it can be extraordinarily challenging for them to enjoy it or develop it into a craft.

Children—especially adolescents—can be quite stubborn about writing creatively: either they’re too shy to put their imaginations on paper, or they’re too overwhelmed by the task to know where to start.

Even when they do write, they can become discouraged by critiques in the classroom or from a parent. They don’t see the point in trying harder if their writing isn’t well received. They fail to understand the huge difference between critiquing and ridicule.

Sharing stories about writers’ humble beginnings is an effective way to bring kids out of their writing funk. Learning about another writer’s struggle can really help students realize they’re not alone, and that writing is a hard process for most people, even published authors. These stories give perspective to a sometimes-mysterious art form.

All writers start small

When I was a young writer, I assumed that most famous authors made it big with their first story, or that successful writers were just “born” that way. I didn’t realize all writers start from scratch, and that some of my favorite authors went through seasons of rejection and self-doubt before they ever caught a break.

The sooner kids understand that writing is a process, the less pressure they’ll feel to write flawlessly now.

Gain writing inspiration from real authors

The story of an author’s humble beginnings might inspire your kids more than you’d imagine.

No matter how you feel about J.K. Rowling and her legendary Harry Potter series, your children can learn a lesson from the infamous tale of how her story nearly eluded publication.

The author submitted the first installment of Harry Potter to dozens of publishing houses, all of which turned her down and dismissed her story as unreadable or uninteresting. She was nearly broke with a son to support, yet she persevered because she believed in the strength of her writing. Her book was finally accepted by a small press, and she soon became the sensation that we know today.

Did you know that Kathryn Stockett’s famous book, The Help, was rejected 60 times before it was finally picked up for publication? Millions who now cherish her story would never have read it had Stockett given up on finding a publisher.

Now, The Help is widely regarded as one of the best books from 2009, and we have Stockett’s perseverance to thank for it.

How could stories like these not inspire your kids to write?

Take the fear out of writing

If anything, the stories of writers like J.K. Rowling, Kathryn Stockett, and others (nearly every famous writer has a remarkable story about how they started) do a brilliant job of humanizing the art of writing.

It’s unfortunate how many children approach writing with the false belief that they could never write something worth reading, or that they’re not smart enough or good enough.

What they don’t realize is that every writer feels this way before they put their pens to paper. A few anecdotes about their favorite writers may be just the trick to dispel any hesitation. Don’t you think it’s worth a try?

How do you encourage students to write? Let me know!

. . . . .

Samantha Gray, who has attended both traditional and online schools for her college education, is a freelance writer who enjoys guiding readers through the sometimes labyrinthine process of pursuing a college education and a rewarding career. Please feel free to contact Samantha at samanthagray024@gmail.com.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

Photo: Amanda Downing, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Overcoming the {writing} procrastinator within

Daniella Dautrich returns as a guest blogger today. I always enjoy sharing with you her thoughts and experiences with writing!

. . . . .

pleasantly adriftLET’S FACE it: when it comes to writing, most of us, at one time or another, have procrastinated. Blog posts, reference letters, business reports, and articles find themselves sitting on the back burners of our lives.

Nothing speaks louder than “example” when encouraging children, especially older students, in their writing pursuits. This means that we need to take time to develop good attitudes and habits toward writing.

Bad Motivators

As a chronic procrastinator, I can attest to the failure of two false motivators:


Self-deprecating thoughts such as “They’ve probably lost all respect for me by now” or “I’m always letting people down” are counterproductive.

Rather than truly change your procrastinating habits, they prompt you to take on the character of a grump. Now you’re upset with yourself—and more than likely affecting the mood of everyone around you, children included.

Remember, we want to be fully alive as writers, not crouching in self-made corners of guilt and shame.


For true-blue procrastinators, the promise of rewards and treats at the end of a project simply won’t work. We may admire other people who are wired to work first and play later, to eat vegetables first and dessert later.

If you’re not wired that way, be honest with yourself. Until lightning strikes and your personality is permanently altered, you’ll eat the cookie before the project is done, every time.

Don’t make the chocolate chips (or molasses or peanut butter) your writing motivation in the first place.

Positively Proactive

That said, there’s still good news. At least three strategies have worked for me, and they can transform your inner world of writing as well!

1. Develop a sense of curiosity

Always be aware of the general topic for your next writing project. Think of questions, as well as questions your readers might ask, when you’re out driving and shopping, and when you’re busy at home with chores and yard work.

Keep a mental list, or carry a small pad to jot down notes throughout the day. When you have ideas to play with instead of a blank slate, the keyboard and computer screen lose much of their terror. (Remember, yesterday’s questions are today’s paragraph topics!)

Follow this strategy to keep your mind active, and you’ll hardly be able to keep yourself from sitting down and writing.

2. Develop a routine

Set a certain time of day to write, and ask your family to keep you accountable.

If you have an inconsistent schedule (bedtimes and waking up and mealtimes in a daily state of flux), that’s okay. Even a simple routine, such as reviewing your writing topic each morning and choosing the next day’s project before falling asleep at night, can be a powerful tool.

3. Keep a “success” list in a prominent place

This is not your to-do list! Only keep track of writing projects you’ve actually finished. Don’t forget to include several ostentatious checkmarks, stickers, or smiley faces.

Constantly refer back, remembering all you’ve accomplished. You might have heard that completing tasks can trigger endorphin release in your brain; whether or not that’s true, the knowledge of success is a delicious feeling.

Every project you finish will motivate you to move forward and complete more tasks. Let the race begin!

Samuel Johnson said: “A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.” We can all use more discipline in our lives, but I believe that curiosity and wonder, time for planning and pondering, and celebration of our achievements are all valuable habits in their own right.

Your Turn!

What do you think? How you overcome procrastination? Share your favorite tips below!

Thanks to Daniella Dautrich for joining us as a guest blogger. Daniella is a homeschool graduate and WriteShop alumna. A happily married writer and homemaker, she blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

 Photos: Jimi Glide and Karen Lee, courtesy of Creative Commons

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.


4 tips for teaching the strong-willed writer

I’m excited to welcome Daniella Dautrich as a guest blogger today! 

. . . . .

IS YOUR student a strong-willed writer? If you answered “yes,” these scenarios might ring a bell:

  • No!As a preschooler, she would refuse help with coloring pages, unwilling to accept suggestions about “normal” color choices.
  • She cries at the sight of red pencil corrections: “You wrote on my paper!”
  • She becomes quickly disheartened if you suggest any changes to her writing.
  • She is a perfectionist who wants to shine and excel in her work.

Guiding the Strong-Willed Writer

From childhood onward, I have been that strong-willed writer. My mother began homeschooling me when I was in second grade, and she quickly encountered childish tears and protests whenever she corrected my writing assignments.

When I entered high school, my parents enrolled me in Kim and Debbie’s WriteShop class, and the course was a perfect fit for my tenacious ways. When I went on to study American literature in college, my essential personality was blessedly unchanged. However, I carried with me those fundamental writing skills I first learned as a young high schooler.

Your strong-willed child is who she is, and you cannot change that about her. You can, however, guide her into a mastery of writing skills. Speaking from experience, I offer four teaching tools for more effective—and, I hope, more enjoyable—writing instruction:

1. Teach self-editing skills.

Checklists are invaluable tools for teaching self-editing. Instead of giving your student red-pencil corrections, give a checklist with reminders about strong nouns, colorful adjectives, various sentence starters, minimal “to be” verbs, etc. It diffuses emotion when she holds her paper accountable to a list of lesson requirements instead of weighing it against her own subjective expectations.

WriteShop is an excellent curriculum for teaching self-editing skills.

2. Commend her efforts and praise her successes.

You’ll probably feel some frustration when a strong-willed child sees every writing assignment as a performance, with more ecstatic highs and devastating lows than the average homeschool is fit to bear.

While others are satisfied to take directions, your student wants to be original and take the lead, so be sure to point out the positive aspects of both her writing and personality.

“Your word choices are excellent.”
“You really captured the emotion of that experience!”
“I love how you think outside the box. Your creative ending totally took me by surprise!”

3. Focus on incremental writing corrections.

Don’t overhaul her first draft. Instead, address errors bit by bit. For example, during the first week you might say: “I can spot three repeated words, five weak nouns, and four dull verbs in your paragraph.” Armed with tools such as word lists and a thesaurus, your student can identify the problem words and make the changes.

Once she’s addressed those specific issues, you might turn your focus the next week to spelling and punctuation. Review her writing and say: “I can see five misspelled words, one comma error, and two misplaced apostrophes.” Again, let her find the mistakes and make the corrections.

All the while, try to keep the editing process light-hearted. See if you can make it a game!

4. Challenge your student to imitate great writing.

Remember, Ben Franklin taught himself to write by studying and imitating great books. Samuel Johnson, who compiled the first English dictionary, likewise believed that fine written expression could only be acquired by “daily imitation” of the best authors.

When you give your students writing instruction, set aside time to examine a passage from a great book. Ask your child, “What sentence starters does the author use? Where does he place commas, periods, and quotation marks?” Copywork and dictation exercises, such as those used to supplement WriteShop I, are useful for reinforcing this learning experience.

Each of these correction strategies will teach your student to think independently and solve problems creatively. This, in turn, will prepare her for the kind of self-directed study that becomes essential in higher education. If she emotionally connects and personally identifies with her own writing, so much the better! She will likely be able to engage topics and make persuasive arguments in later fields of study.

When you approach a new writing assignment, your job as teacher is to provide the right tools and vocabulary. Remember that your child has strong ideas and convictions, and she is already motivated to express those thoughts in her own terms.

Thanks to Daniella Dautrich for joining us as a guest blogger. Daniella is a homeschool graduate and WriteShop alumna. A happily married writer and homemaker, she blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

 Photo: Benedict Francis, courtesy of Creative Commons

Hope for your struggling writer

Hope for Your Struggling Writer ... and encouragement for you!

DID YOU know that my own reluctant, struggling writer is the real face behind WriteShop?

The Boy Who Couldn’t

My son Ben (and Debbie‘s son Brian) were buddies before they even started kindergarten. Peas in a pod, they were: fidgety, kinesthetic, active, smart little guys!

But unlike their older sisters, they didn’t catch on to reading and writing.

Deb and I each had our own methods, products, and ways of approaching these subjects—yet we both struggled to help our boys make progress toward independence. We started and stopped, started and stopped, seeing little fruit.

Has this ever happened to you? 

Thinking Outside the Box

Ben had no lack of words or ideas, but he had a hard time holding a pencil (or sitting still, for that matter). Rather than keep waiting until that magical day when he could write the words down by himself, I let him dictate as I wrote.

This was long before I’d ever heard of Charlotte Mason or narration. But it just made sense that if he couldn’t write on his own, all his great ideas would just smolder inside his busy little brain.

MatchI wanted those thoughts to burst into flame! So having him dictate his stories and short reports to me (with lots of prodding, prompting, and questions on my part) was key for us, as it allowed him not only to make up stories, but to express his knowledge and understanding of the different things we were studying.

By the time our boys were 12, however, Debbie and I had become more desperate to see some independence in this area. Allowing them to narrate was all good and well, but they really needed to develop personal writing skills!

We had no idea what we were doing, but figuring it could only help, we committed to teach a writing class for a handful of homeschoolers our boys’ ages.

At first, we drew from a variety of writing materials to teach our students, but to our dismay, they still had trouble putting cohesive thoughts on paper. Clearly, something had to change!

Armed with goals and ideas, Deb and I began creating our own lessons. Imagine our joy when all the children—not just our own boys—began to write with improved content and style.

Cling to Hope

Our girls were intuitive writers, easy to guide and easy to teach. But we didn’t have much faith that our reluctant 12-year-old sons would be able to write. Our journey was hard, and we experienced more than our share of frustration. But diligence paid off. Today, Brian is a high-achieving sergeant in the US Army, and Ben is finishing up his Ph.D. How thankful we are that our exploration of new ideas—coupled with time, patience, trial and error—kept us on the path and allowed our sons to blossom and mature in their own time.

Some of you are just starting your journey. You can’t even begin to imagine that one day your struggling writer will come up with an articulate, coherent thought on his own.

If you’re feeling anxious, take heart. You can learn to teach your children that writing is more than random thoughts tossed onto paper. You can help them learn to use important tools that lay a foundation for future writing—writing that will take shape and mature as their knowledge, life experiences, vocabulary, and thinking skills develop.

Your children may not become scholars . . . and that’s okay. But good writing skills will take them far.

I’m glad you’re here. And when you feel frustrated, remember that I walked that path too. I hope you can take encouragement from my story that a great deal can—and will—happen between now and adulthood!

What’s your story? I’d love to hear it. 

Photo credits:  Karah Fredricks (“Discouraged”). Used by permission.
Creative Commons photo (“Match”) courtesy of Flickr.
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