You can teach your child to write well with this simple step-by-step guide to homeschool writing. Help your child move from basic handwriting to short paragraphs to beautifully written stories they will want to keep. Not all kids will love to write, but they can learn all to be better communicators with practice.
Video: Simple Step-By-Step Guide to Homeschool Writing
Set the Stage for Your Kids to Write Well
If you want your children to improve their writing skills, read to them!
Foster a literate atmosphere in your home from which their imaginations can grow. Fill their mind with ideas. Let them have free, uncluttered time to think through the stories that they have heard. Read biographies to them. Listen to Current Events. Memorize poems and songs together. Read non-fiction books and articles to them based on their personal interests.
Read in frequent short periods of time throughout the day. A passage of Scripture and memory verse at breakfast. A chapter book at lunch. Afternoon quiet reading time. A story before bed.
Once they can read on their own, give them screen-free, quiet moments alone to read for pleasure. For some kids, it may not be pleasurable in the beginning. Acquiring a love for reading takes frequent exposure. The more they are read to and the more they read on their own, the more curious they will become.
A child can only express what they possess.
I wrote a whole post with ideas for how you can create a literate environment in your home to help prepare your child to read and write.
Before we expect our kids to start writing in any form, they should have a vast library of words, thoughts, and ideas. They will acquire these through the books they read or the books that have been read to them.
The most obvious first step in learning to write is handwriting. I think it is very important to wait to teach handwriting until kids show signs of having the appropriate gross and fine motor skills. If you start to teach them to write before they are ready, it will take a lot longer and it will probably be frustrating to you both. Some signs that they are ready might be seeing them try to draw lines or curves, trying to color in the lines, trying to write their name.
We use Handwriting Without Tears to teach our kids to write their letters. I love the developmentally appropriate way that Handwriting Without Tears progresses kids through first capital letters, then small letters. Reminding kids to print letters by starting at the top, they use the symbols of a big line, small line, big curve and small curve to build letters sequentially.
The progression looks similar to this.
F- big line down, two small lines across
E-big line down, three small lines across
D-Big line down, big curve
B-Big line down, two small curves
You can also purchase Wood Pieces for kids to try making the letters with blocks.
We also like the Letter Tracing Cards. The kids can use these to their finger trace letters or roll play dough to make the letters.
All these tools are so handy, but you don’t need any fancy programs. If you want to keep it simple, you can also teach your child to write by merely using a cheap manuscript tablet from a local dollar store. Teach them how to write their letters, introducing a new letter every few days or once a week.
Once they have mastered writing their capital and small letters, they can move on to writing words. Begin with small three letter words. Write them out for your child and have them copy them. Do this for several days in a row until it becomes easy for them.
Copywork is the daily habit of copying the best pieces from great authors. It is so basic that it hardly seems that it could be productive.
Think about your main goal in teaching your kids to write. You want them to be able to communicate appropriately in the adult world. How do we learn to communicate? By imitating those who do it well! In fact we learn a host of things by imitating others. Copywork is just that. It is copying quality writing.
As soon as our kids can easily write three and four letter words, I have them begin copywork. A good rule of thumb is to have children copy one sentence in first grade, two sentences in second grade, and so on.
What should a child copy? You can have them copy Scripture verses, poems, important lines from chapter books you are reading. I have written a detailed post about copywork that you can read about here. In this post, you can also download the specific copywork samples that I use with our kids.
To write something down by hand is to remember it.
Even as an adult, I notice a difference in my brain between typing something into my phone and writing something out by hand. It is the difference between riding in a car and walking. When you ride in a car somewhere, you observe a few notable landmarks. But when you walk, you see and remember in much greater detail. This is what happens when you write things out by hand. It slows the brain down and you observe details closely.
The best thing about copywork is that it is a habit that takes little time, the kids can do it independently, and it covers so much ground. When you check their copywork, this is a great opportunity to discuss spelling, vocabulary, capitalization, punctuation, writing style, and more.
Extensions of Copywork
Teaching kids to write in cursive has largely grown out of style. Few schools teach it anymore, however, I still value the skill of being able to write in cursive. If kids want to learn how to read cursive, writing it will help them accomplish this. Learning cursive will help kids to be able read historical documents and to sign their names. Truthfully, most of my kids WANT to learn cursive. To them, it’s like an unknown code language that they want to unlock.
As soon as they are printing daily copywork with ease, I teach them their cursive letters and have them do their copywork in cursive. An important rule to remind them is this. Printed letters start top to bottom, cursive letters generally start bottom to top.
Typing is a very important skill for kids to learn in our technological world. When our kids are ready to learn to type, I have them practice online typing tutorials for 10 minutes a day. I use the keyboarding tutorials from sense-lang.org to teach this. They have 16 lessons which teach kids to type starting with the home keys and then extending to the other keys on the keyboard. At the end of the last lesson, kids can type sentences complete with punctuation and capitalization.
After they have completed the Sense-lang program, they can practice typing a portion of their daily copywork after they have written it by hand.
Narration is the skill of hearing or reading a selection of a text and telling it back to another person in your own words.
Narration is not necessarily something that comes next after copywork. It is taught alongside. Actually, I begin teaching my kids to narrate as soon as they can talk. When they are very young and I am reading a story to them, I ask them questions. What animal is that? Can you tell me what she said? What is the child doing?
Similar to copywork, narration almost seems too easy to be very effective. I mean, how much is the child really learning from this practice? If you need to be convinced of the usefulness of narration, I challenge you to try it yourself! I have done this very thing. Try reading a short passage. Put the book down. Hand it to someone else and try to explain what you have read back to them in your own words. It’s harder than you think!
Kids will need a lot of practice giving oral narrations before they attempt to write a narration. I try to have my kids orally narrate at least once a day from something I have read to them. Some kids will need more direction than others either to add more details or to generalize and only tell the main points.
Sometimes, I will type their narration as they tell it to me and have them read it themselves when they are done. Reading their oral narration also helps them to see how they can improve.
Younger children may need to narrate in shorter sections rather than waiting until the end of a whole story. It can be hard for them to remember so many details.
After children have been giving quality oral narrations for a period of time and once they are able to write sentences and paragraphs fluently, they can begin written narrations. This often happens beginning in the upper elementary years (3rd or 4th grade), depending on the particular child.
I wrote a more detailed post on the habit of narration which you can read if you are looking for more information.
#5 Basic Grammar Skills
Teaching grammar is another subject that is growing less popular. Many argue that it is not necessary for teaching good writing. It is not the purpose of this post to settle that debate, however, I have seen enough positive results of teaching basic grammar skills to kids that I will continue to implement it as a part of our writing program.
Beginning in 4th grade, I use Abeka Language to introduce our kids to grammar. I like the way they progress through basic capitalization, punctuation, sentence types, and parts of speech. Understanding the parts of speech helps kids notice the patterns in written language. It will show them how a sentence should be laid out: subject, verb, object. Grammar also aids them in knowing the appropriate pronouns to use before a verb (I, she, he, they) or which to use after a verb or preposition (me, him, her, them). A study of adjectives and adverbs will help kids write more descriptively.
Keeping notebooks is a wonderful habit for kids to try. The habit of notebooking makes writing personal for kids. It is a way to write that involves their individual interests and experiences. A child’s notebooks are a portrait of the child.
Give your kids notebooking ideas and see which ones appeal to them. Some notebooks our kids have done are these: calendar of firsts, nature notebook, bullet journal, diary, journal of personal letters back and forth with mom and dad, and more. In this post, you can find more ideas for notebooking that you can try with your kids.
Teaching Kids to Write
Not all kids will enjoy writing, BUT they all can become better at communicating, whether verbally or in written form. Additionally, learning to write well is an important skill necessary to succeed in the adult world!
On the other hand, some kids will love creating stories and keeping notebooks. Writing is a creative expression just like art. Well-written pieces can be highly influential. Give them free time to write to their heart’s content! They will be proud of their work when they have a product in hand to read and share with others.
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!