reluctant writers tips and tricks

Writing- oh, the horror! Reluctant writers tips

I know some kids love writing… I know some are great story-tellers. This post is not for them. <3

This post is for the struggling parents and kids. You know who you are. You pull out a worksheet for your 7,8,9,10 year old. It has a lot of “multiple choice” but at the very bottom, there are 2 long, empty lines! The kid’s eyes grow big, maybe even tears form or a full-on meltdown.

“But it has WRITING!”

… kids hiding under tables, crying, complaining, more coaxing… You just feel all your energy drain and you sometimes feel like quitting! You don’t get it…

Well, I am there… we are there. M hates writing and always has. Does this mean I let him off the hook? NO WAY!

So here’s my take on writing after reading articles, theories, listening to seminaries and just discussing with other struggling parents.

Click on the images below to access the programs and tools I linked.

© All parts of this article are under copyright. You cannot copy any parts of it without my written consent!

1.
Writing for young kids 2-6 years old

Writing is difficult. It depends on so many factors and it will only happen when the child is ready. That doesn’t mean we “do nothing”. You can start working on the pre-writing skills as early as 2.

– fine motor skills

Before demanding any formal writing, make sure that kids get plenty of fine motor skills activities such as playdoh, painting, sorting, stickers, magnets, drawing and coloring, gardening. Basically just using their hands a lot!

You can read more about fine motor skills activities here. Make it fun!

Here are some products that help with fine motor skills (click on the images to open the links):

For international buyers:

For Romanian buyers:

– tracing

Once your child is ready to write, start with tracing activities. This might happen between 3-6. We liked using wipe-clean books. Our favorites were from Usborne.

Usborne wipe clean (for Romania)
Usborne wipe clean (internationally)

You can also use tactile cards or a sand tray (Montessori-style) to trace the letters and numbers until they can transfer them to paper. Here are some cool tools for tracing letters and numbers:


2.
Writing for grades 1-4

Once their control is good enough, they can move on to copywork and proper writing. Note that reading might happen sooner. Work on the reading-writing skills separately.

– cursive vs. manuscript

I know the debate manuscript-cursive is still going on, but I chose to do manuscript until M was 6 and cursive from 6 onward.

I wanted him to know cursive because I find it to be an important skill. Not just knowing how to write a neat note, but also how to decode them.

Cursive helps other parts of their brain develop plus it helps a lot with spacing between words (I noticed that with M, too). I won’t go on explaining all the pros I’ve read, but if you are interested to find out more about the research done in this area, have a look at these articles:

– Curriculum for handwriting

I chose Romanian script for M and I actually copied a whole English workbook in Romanian script (English words), by hand, using a marker.

The program I warmly recommend for both Reading and Writing is Logic of English. The products linked below are for writing, but feel free to browse their website for more. Their products are suitable for dislexic children as well and they worked PERFECTLY with M even if he has no learning struggle, so they work like a charm with typical children, too.

LOE is perhaps the only program I recommend without a trace of doubt! It WILL work for almost everyone.

– Printables, workbooks, and worksheets

There are a lot of worksheets available online, or you can create your own copywork and tracing worksheets by using these cool web-tools:

Extra workbooks for copywork- manuscript

Extra workbooks for copywork- cursive

You can also make your own worksheets or download ready-made ones from the internet. Here are a few useful websites for that:

3.
Creative writing 2 to adult

Why start “writing creatively” just after they learned the skill of writing down words and sentences?

You can act as a scribe for them since they are toddlers. Write down their stories, and let them SEE you write a lot: lists, notes, letters, journaling, e-mails. Explain what’s going on, explain WHY writing is important and HOW it helps us communicate. Do this even before they recognize their letters, just model it.

Sample of story that M dictated to me when he was about 5

Give them their own journal when they are ready. It can “tell stories” through drawings at first, then maybe a few words will sneak in. Encourage free writing and expression of thoughts from the beginning.

This will come natural and easy for some children, but for some it will be a form of torture. Don’t worry, there are some tricks that might help you below.

– independent writing

Some curricula ask children to write short compositions from first grade or earlier (1-2 sentences). This won’t be easy for some children, and I am going to explain what we’ve done in that regard.

When we think of writing an essay or a report, from our adult perspective, it shouldn’t be such big of a deal. Especially if you are looking at lower grades (writing a single paragraph, a few sentences on the topic). But it involves a series of steps that are quite complicated if we break them down: letter formation (this can even lead to physical pain- their hand hurts from too many words!), spelling, structure sentence, planning, structure of paragraph or composition, and creativity.

Here are some pieces of advice I have gleaned from my research.

  • For young kids, you can be the scribe! It’s a piece of advice I have encountered in multiple programs and even our advisory teachers suggested we do that. Keep being their scribe for as long as they need it.
  • As they grow and can write more, switch to dictation. Dictation is a powerful tool that not only helps with writing but spelling as well. Here’s how we do it: M dictates the “roughs” to me, I write them down for him, then we correct the paper and make any changes we need. Once we are pleased with the work, I dictate it back to him. This way, he just needs to “write” once and the process is way easier for him.
  • use Story Cubes – they help with creativity and new ideas when the kids are stuck. It’s also an awesome tool for speaking and expressing thoughts and feelings.
    Romanian buyers
    International buyers

  • use pictures to describe things. I stumbled upon this one by mistake. I noticed that describing things in details was something M struggles with, so I printed out a coloring page, he colored it and then we described it fully: I was asking the questions to make him use more descriptive words and he soon got it.
  • let them write freely. I know we tend to freak out when they misspelled a word, but I made it a rule that whenever he writes something by himself, I never correct.
  • if you kids really struggle, try “continue the sentence“. You say one sentence, they say the next and so on.
  • be very patient. Writing can take a long time! Some writing takes a full school day for us (like book reports). You need to be patient and understanding if writing frustrates your child. Try to stay positive about it and praise the effort.

– programs and curricula

I’ll make a list of programs we either used or heard great things about. They are all well-known in the homeschooling community, so feel free to check them out . Most offer free samples online.

I will keep updating the list and this article as we progress and try new things.

LOE- Spelling

This program is amazing! It not only teaches reading in a logical manner, but it tackles spelling at the same time! M knows his spelling from this program and if I were to start over, this would be the program we would use again! They have 2 parts: Foundations (for about 5 to 9 years old) and Essentials (for about 10-13 years old). They don’t offer any “age” for the program and you can start it with kids of all ages (even adults!). We finished it all and M actually cried when it was over. Can’t speak highly enough of this program.

IEW- Phonetic Zoo Spelling

Spelling is an important part of writing, so it’s only fitting that I include a great spelling program here. We use their B level this year. Their approach is a bit different and I am curious on how it will work for us this year. I will keep you updated.

Phonetic Zoo Spelling

IEW- Structure and Style for Students

This is the program we are using for writing and we LOVE IT. We used the old version last year and this year (5th grade) we will be using 1A . I chose to go at least one year lower so that M won’t feel a lot of pressure in this regard yet. We will up the writing from middle school next year and hopefully things will be easier by then in this regard. A lengthy review coming up soon.

Evan Moor

Evan Moor has several workbooks for writing, but one of our favorites are the Nonfiction Writing ones. They tackle separate types of writing and they are easy enough for reluctant writers to learn about different styes of writing: narrative, letters, book reports etc.

They are all available from 2nd to 6th grade, just pick the grade that interests you and choose the E-book format.

Other useful books from Evan Moor are the ones in their “Write” series:

Bravewriter

It’s a popular writing program that we haven’t used because I felt like it wouldn’t suit M. It might be more suited for children who already like writing, but it’s worth having a look at.

Here’s what they say:

When parents say they have a child who is terrible at writing, it’s hard to know what they mean.

Does the child freeze when faced with a blank page?

Is the child unskilled at spelling or punctuation?

Or is the parent worried that the child isn’t writing a 5-paragraph essay yet?

The word “writing” could mean any of these skills, which grow at different rates. In Brave Writer, we divide writing into three categories and design products and classes accordingly.

Original Thought (grown through the writing process)

Mechanics (taught through literature)

Writing Projects (assignments that combine mechanics and original thought)

Think of writing as three interlocking puzzle pieces to create writing proficiency. Our products are tagged with the piece of the puzzle it addresses.

Write Shop

It’s a incremental writing program that we looked at extensively. We had a choice between this one and IEW and I chose IEW because the latter had video lessons.

Here’s what WriteShop says:

WriteShop Teaches Kids to Write … and Shows You How to Teach

No matter what kind of learner you have, teaching writing can be intimidating or overwhelming, can’t it?

Even if you’re a writer, it doesn’t automatically mean you know how to teach writing! Putting words on paper might come naturally to you, but how do you pass on what you know and love to a child who hates it.

We’ve been there.

We understand the challenges of teaching writing. That’s why we’ve created materials that teach your child how to write—and show you how to teach. Whether your children are very young or well into their teens, WriteShop’s step-by-step lessons will help you introduce and review the building blocks of the writing process.

– organizers

Once you get into the creative writing, you need to organize your thoughts before placing them on paper. I noticed that organizers come in handy here, right before you start your first draft.

We have tried using digital mind mapping apps, but our favorite is paper. I have some free and paid suggestions for you:

4.
Tools for writing + incentives

You might say I have a “problem” when it comes to stationery but over the years I learned that the right tools can help a lot not just for writing class but for homeschooling in general.

– paper and notebooks

When first starting writing instruction make sure that the spacing and guides on the paper are appropriate. A kindergartner has different needs from a 4th grader.

Here are some examples of papers suitable for kindergarten and 1st grade (click on the images to download).

For 2nd-3rd grade (3/8 inch paper):

From 3rd or 4th grade ( depending on your child’s skills), you can start using regular lined paper and composition notebooks.

You can find more papers like these on Dad’s Worksheets website.

As for notebooks, you can find various lined notebooks locally or online. The ones we used are US-based but you can make your own notebooks by printing pages and binding them together.

Here are some of our favorite notebooks.

KINDERGARTEN-2nd GRADE (international):

KINDERGARTEN-2nd GRADE (Romanian):

3rd grade and up (international):

3rd grade and up (Romanian):

– writing instruments

We started writing using thick pencils. Pencils are easier to use because they have some friction. For little hands that are unsure, pencils are better because they can control them better.

For correcting pencil grip, check out this tool (click on image to access):

Aside from pencils, M always had an array of tools for writing. Once he got the proper pencil grip and some coordination, I let him choose his own tools to write with.

Andrew Pudewa suggests in his classes that the kids use just pens (not pencils) and I agree. When writing down your ideas for a composition, it’s easier to just let the thoughts flow and not get distracted by “erasing”. Plus you can go back and revise… maybe a previous idea was better or sparks a new one. You cannot retrieve that idea if you erased it.

I just use this strategy for composition writing, for the rest, he can choose to write with his pencils if he wishes.

His latest favorites are fountain pens with colored ink and thick lead mechanic pencils. M just lines them up and writes a bit with every color. It takes more time, but he is really trying to write neatly and I hear far less complaining. So I don’t care WHAT he writes with as long as he is doing it.

GLITTER PENS:

FELT TIP PENS:

FINELINERS:

COLORED BALLPENS:

PENS: – We have tested a lot, these are our favorites

ECADA Trendy and Ergonel are cheap alternatives that we like as well.

M’s favorite ink is multicolored, so we have multiple pens for each color. Our favorite inks are:

MECHANIC PENCILS:

1.4 mm- Faber Castell Scribolino
1.3 mm – MILAN Fluo

I made a comparison list for you with our fountain pens and mechanical pencils.

– writing incentives that worked for us

This is a section that goes for other subjects as well and I will plan a future post about it, but what works for M is to make things playful, fun, colorful, different.

  • stickers– M loves getting stickers for just about anything. We even have a sticker notebook where he keeps the stickers he earns.
  • stamps– I got him sets of small animal stamps and he likes it when he gets a stamp for “job well done”
  • point system– we invented our own. For every writing assignment he gets a certain number of points (let’s say 100). If he complains, we take 5 points, if he doesn’t do his best writing, he gets -10, if he is writing isn’t neat he gets -5 and so on. We keep tabs on the number of points and when he reaches 1000 points he either gets money (not a huge sum) or he gets to buy something he wants (within a certain limit). Sometimes he gets screen time. So the system is very flexible.

5.
Our writing samples and growth

I know this post is very long, but I think you might be interested to see how M evolved from kindergarten to 4th grade in regards to writing. I won’t post too many samples, but you can get an idea.

best tools for homeschool

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