Writing is one of the main aspects we teach our kids at school because writing is a key to communicating ideas. Though visual media is overtaking the use of words in print, writing is still a part of the process of creating visual media. Writing is still an essential aspect to education. I like this quote, and it has shaped how we have handled the language arts in our home.Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. Sir Francis Bacon
Reading, speaking and writing are all part of the same skill set – communication. Reading gives our kids ideas, inspiration. Talking about ideas helps them be ready to communicate to others and writing helps them to be careful about what how they communicate their ideas.
Unfortunately we tend to narrow in on the skill of writing – our homeschooling will be successful if our children can write. But writing is not isolated from these other aspects. We need to teach and train reading, speaking and writing.
Reading books to our children – even after they can read themselves – is one of the most helpful things we can do. We need to read different genres, though it is easy for kids to get stuck on a favourite author.
When we get our kids to talk about what they are reading, hearing or thinking it is another way they learn to use their language – they are preparing for higher skills such as critical thinking and writing.
And then there is writing. Reading and talking will support writing, and writing will in turn will fine tune their thinking and speaking. Learning to write though is a progressive thing. There are many activities that lead up to a person being able to write their thoughts.
- Learning to write – learning to shape the letters (this comes with learning to read). Once they’ve learnt to shape the letters we get them to practice so their writing becomes more neat and legible which we call penmanship.
- Oral Narrations – this is simply telling back in their own words after they have heard something read
These two activities are foundational to writing well. Then, building on oral narrations, we can progress through to copywork, then written narrations and then original writing:
- Copywriting – this is simply copying letter for letter, word for word, punctuation mark for punctuation mark. As they copy someone else’s writing they are practicing penmanship, as well as learning vocab, spelling and grammar etc. Copywork can originate from the book they have had read to them, or you can write down a sentence or two from their oral narration. Copywriting can be their main writing exercise for an extended period of time (remembering there are many aspects to writing well, so while you are copywriting and working on oral narrations you may not be writing original thoughts, but you are working on the skill of writing.)
- Written Narration – When they give an oral narration they are formulating their thoughts, processing them, and then expressing. When they then go and put those thoughts into writing they have the opportunity to fine tune even further. When they have to think about each word, each sentence as they put it on paper, they think carefully about word choices and sentences – they become better communicators.
- Original writing – this is where they take everything they have learnt to this point and use it to communicate independently. Writing will reflect their thinking. They are able to pen words, spell words, construct sentences and communicate their ideas without speaking them to someone first.
A child may well be able to write original thought – but they may also run out of puff, become uninspired, and begin to hate writing. I believe it is better to go slow and gentle, create a love of communicating rather than to push writing.
We have had to opportunity to speak to Mark Greenwood, an Australian author, several times about the writing process. One of the things that he says every time, is how he struggles to see teachers give children a blank piece of paper with the instructions to write something creative. One of the hardest things to do as a writer is to stare at a blank piece of paper.
Reading books, talking about them, and writing from them, help stimulate ideas and thought processes. Writing is never an exercise on its own – never isolated from inspiration and playing with ideas.