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Teaching Your Homeschooler to Write

Reading and writing: two of the most basic academic skills that your child must learn. Reading comes first, but writing follows right after. Together, the two skills will make your child literate and able to learn, think, and succeed. Reading’s importance seems obvious, but the need to write is a little more elusive. Writing may seem like a dying art, but it is a vital part of communication. Your child will need to be able to communicate effectively with the written word, whether that is done with pen and paper or on a computer screen.

As a homeschooling parent, it is your job to make sure your child learns to write effectively. That can seem a little overwhelming, but with some background knowledge and a little research, you should be able to tackle the task of teaching writing. It may surprise you to learn how early children begin to write. You need to be aware of the milestones of learning to write and how your child should be progressing from one stage to the next.

Developing Hand-to-Eye Coordination

It is something you probably take for granted, but the ability to grasp items and use them has to be learned. From birth to the age of two, your child should begin experimenting with picking up, grasping, and using different items. Be sure that these include writing implements. Fat crayons that are easy to grip and are not too pointy are a perfect place to start. At some point within this time period, your child will begin to distinguish between tools that are used for writing and those that are not.

Part of this learning process comes from example. Your child should see you using pens, pencils, markers, and crayons to write. By watching you, he will start to understand that certain implements are for making symbols. He will learn this long before he knows what those symbols mean. By about eighteen months of age, your child should be using his writing implements to make scribbles. Make sure you provide him with paper or other surfaces as well as the crayons or markers that he will use to write. His grip will be terrible and his writing will mean nothing to you, but he is already in the process of learning to write.

Gaining Control and Learning Symbols

From the age of two to about six, your child should be learning to control his writing implement. His grip should become stronger and more stable, and his scribbles should start to look more meaningful. As soon as he seems ready, you can start to teach him letters. This typically begins around age four or five, but you can start earlier or later as you feel is appropriate for your child. Teach him letters by demonstrating how to write them and through lots and lots of practice.

This is a crucial stage in the development of your child’s reading and writing skills. You should keep plenty of books, paper, and writing implements on hand. Allow him to write whenever he wants. You do not need to discourage him from scribbling and writing what appears to be nonsense to you. This is a part of his learning process. Children are great at learning by discovery, so in addition to instructing him on the correct form of letters, allow him to explore and experiment.

This is also a good time to start instilling a love of writing in your child. For many, children and adults alike, writing is a chore. If you start early with fun writing projects, it does not have to be that way with your child. Encourage him to come up with stories and help him write them down to make his own books. Give him a series of pictures and ask him to come up with a story to go with them. You could even have theater time and act out the stories that he has written. Whatever makes writing fun for him should be encouraged.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once your child has grasped the ability to write all the letters and combine them to make words, practice is essential. Between the ages of six and ten, his handwriting, spelling, and vocabulary should improve drastically. The more practice he has, the better it will be. Whatever you do, do not give in to the temptation to allow him to write with the computer. Typing is easy, and he can learn to do that later. During this period, it is very important for your child to write with pencil and paper. The connection between the brain and the formation of the letters with a writing implement is a part of development and cannot be replaced with typing. In addition to actual writing, you should also be helping your child learn to spell better and to expand his vocabulary. You can create games and make learning new words fun.

Expository Writing

By the age of ten, or even earlier if it seems appropriate for your child, you should begin to work on expository writing. His spelling and vocabulary should continue to grow and he should begin to make more complex sentences. He should also be learning to communicate his thoughts and ideas through accurate writing. A combination of creative, introspective, and academic writing will help to make him a well-rounded writer and thinker. For the former two types, keeping a journal is an excellent idea. He can write whatever he feels like and know that it is private. For academic writing, you should be proofreading and correcting, while also teaching him to self-edit.

Learning how to read and write is the essence of becoming literate. Even for children who love to read and take to it readily, writing is often difficult and like a chore. Keep pushing, though, because it is so important to be able to write well. Make it fun, practice, and give your child every opportunity to become a great writer.

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