When our children are small, we wait in anticipation for their first words. We derive such joy in helping them shape circles and lines into letters and numbers. But somewhere along the way, we decide it’s time to get serious. We exchange our delight with their development for rules and rigidity to prepare them for college and careers. Further, many of us dislike writing ourselves because we associate it with the tedium of research papers and book reports, and we can inadvertently pass this feeling down to our children. While our children certainly need a complex knowledge about writing for their future aspirations, there’s no need to reject joy with language in order to get there. In celebrating the power and beauty of the written word with our children, we can resurrect our own delight in teaching it, and in turn, offer them the gift of a versatile, lifelong friend.
Here are five terrific qualities of writing that can help us see (and teach) it with delight:
- See Writing as a Chameleon
Writing has lots of different uses in the real world—and takes on different characteristics in each setting. We know that the way we write a birthday message in a card is not the same as how we write a resume. Helping our kids consider all the choices that go into crafting different pieces of writing means you can help them adapt to a new writing situation—without always clinging to five paragraphs and a thesis statement.
Try finding as many different types of writing as you can next time you’re running errands (take-out menus, brochures, can labels, billboards). They are all vastly different in their purpose and form. What makes one billboard better than another? How does the description from a recipe entice you to make the dish (or not!)?
- See Writing as a Go-Getter
It doesn’t take long after children begin forming words that we have to explain how to use them well—in that we don’t say mean things, we do say “thank you,” and the better way to get what they want is by “asking nicely.” The same can be said for the written word: writing can repair or destroy a friendship; it can move people to action (like a petition or blog post); it can make a request (like a Christmas list), and so much more. Words chosen well and purposefully can accomplish things in the real world.
Try drawing attention to how different “texts” impact you: when the bedtime story makes us laugh or gasp, when a news story makes us sad or angry, when an instruction manual is concise or confusing, etc. See if you and your child can figure out what words or techniques the author used to affect you—and highlight how different pieces of your own child’s writing impact you too.
- See Writing as a Helper
There is such power in committing one’s ideas to writing. Sometimes it means making a to-do list so that your mind can clear or writing down the steps to a problem to see where there is confusion. Helping our kids practice putting their thoughts down on the page can give them the tools they need to process their thinking and emotions better.
Try asking, “Do you want to write about it for two minutes?” Keeping it short makes it easy and approachable. Before bed, kids can list everything they did that day or write a prayer to God to clear their head. Getting frustrated during a lesson? Pause and write what you know so far.
- See Writing as a Playmate
Like finger paints or a set of LEGOs®, writing can also be a way to find creative enjoyment. Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss were notorious for making up delightful new words: sneeder, diffendoofer, zaboo, scrumdiddlyumptious. Allowing our children to break writing rules in certain contexts can open up a whole new world of play for them.
Try making up fun new words and establishing your own funny dictionary, then work them into conversations, inside jokes, or your SCRABBLE® game. Provide a journal for your kids to write down great words, lines, or phrases that they collect, then string them together to create a poem.
- See Writing as a Delight
Even as we respond to the writing our students do for school, our first pass at their draft doesn’t have to be critical. Find a powerful line, a well-turned phrase, or even a beautiful sentiment, and highlight your own appreciation for it.
While writing in school is one manifestation, it is much more than an essay—and can be used for more than reporting on information. It is a sweet friend—one that our children can share their secrets with, use to work through their thinking, and maybe even have a little fun with along the way. What a beautiful gift to offer them!
Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.