3 Powerful Reasons Kids Need to Write
#1 Write to Learn
One of the great mysteries facing homeschool parents is how to help kids become confident writers. In my experience, we often make this task harder than it needs to be. Kids just need time they can count on to write—and for three critical reasons. Writing is the art of transforming what we think into words. That process is the first reason writing should be a fundamental part of your homeschool program. Writing is a powerful learning tool—perhaps the most powerful one at your disposal. The secret to raising confident writers is having a regularly scheduled time where your kids write about what they are learning.
“I don’t know what to write!” We’ve all heard this complaint and experienced it ourselves. Yes, that is the crux of the issue – our kids don’t know what they think, what they believe, what they know, or what they understand. The real power in writing comes from their struggle to find the words to express their thoughts. That is when their brains are growing—making connections, pondering questions, sorting and classifying details and experiences—all to figure out what it is they have to say. Cheer your kids on with this truth—every moment they spend drafting and polishing an essay or story is building a better brain. The more kids write, the faster their brains will work. Research shows that kids who write are better learners (in all subjects) than kids who do not.
Test Me On This
Try this experiment for one week and see what results you achieve:
Once a day ask your kids to write for at least 15 minutes about what they are learning. Don’t limit this to school subjects. Everything they experience and read is fair game. The goal is to get them busy transforming their thoughts into words. Help them get started with these writing prompts:
- What did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday?
- What did you think a lot about today? Why?
- What did you read about today that you found interesting?
- What did you study that you want to know more about?
- What did you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel today that you want to remember?
Notice how once kids have a regularly scheduled time they can count on to write, they begin to have more to say and the words flow more quickly.
#2 Archive Their Childhood
What your children write captures their intellectual history. The stories, essays, and reports your kids create as they grow will become the archives of their childhood. The writing portfolios my own four children produced during our homeschooling years are among my most precious possessions. This amazing journey toward adulthood is worth capturing and treasuring forever. Do you mark your children’s physical growth on a wall in your home? In the same way, we should mark and celebrate their cognitive growth. Both are signs of God’s love and care in their lives.
Consider the experiences, books, and people your children will wish you had preserved memories of from their growing up years. Get them writing about these now! Yes, document all these memories with your camera phone, but then use the photos as writing prompts to get your kids’ creative juices juicing. It is fine to keep these assignments informal. It isn’t necessary to draft, revise, and polish everything children write. Writing every day is the goal. (I required my four kids to work on a writing project four times a week. Fridays I reviewed what they wrote.)
Ask your kids to write about why something happened or how it affected them, in addition to answering the questions “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when.” The latter fact-based questions do not require kids to think as deeply about their experiences as the “why” and “how” questions do.
Read What They Write Often
Then take time each week to read and savor what your kids have written together. Talk about it. Ask them what they like best about each entry. Point out where you see improvement. Let them know what you enjoy and find most interesting. Seeing improvement is critical to anyone’s ongoing motivation, so be a cheerleader and enthusiastic writing coach. At least once a year take out your children’s previous writings and compare these with their current year’s work. Together notice how each child is growing as a thinker, learner, and writer.
#3 Capture Their Voices
In my opening letter to students in Writers in Residence, volume 2, I write “your ideas, memories, investigations, and stories are all part of what makes you you right now in this time and place—and that is worth saving.” That brings me to the third powerful reason kids need to write. . .
Writing gives voice to each child’s individuality. If there is one thing God obviously loves, it is our diversity. Throughout creation we see the abundance of His creative spirit overflowing—no two snowflakes alike; no end to the different species of plants and animals we discover. God is more glorified when we put what makes us unique on display. Forget about assigning those formulaic essays that you also hated to write in school. Instead focus on helping your kids express with words what only they have thought, experienced, or imagined. We need the God-given voice of each child to be captured, polished, and shared.
Language is an amazing grace from God and a gift to steward and revel in. When we teach children to write, the benefits of skill and confidence in crafting words will open doors for your children and help lead them into their futures.
Cast a Vision for Writing
Most of us learned to write through meaningless assignments for a nonexistent audience. That is the main problem – writing should be authentic. Authentic writing always has a living, breathing reader on the other side. Whatever writing projects you assign in your homeschool, make sure your children are writing for real people that they care about and look forward to sharing their finished product with—Grandma, a writer’s group, friends, their family members, and you.
Give your children a vested interest in their writing projects by letting them choose what they write about. Even if you require them to tackle a specific form of writing, such as a research paper, personal essay, or opinion piece, make sure the topic is one they care about.
Cast a vision for God’s purposes and design in your children’s creativity. Inspire them to see writing as an expression of their individuality that God and you both love. Infuse your writing time with lightheartedness and freedom. While suggestions for improvement are helpful, grading a writing assignment is a stress-producing proposition. We all produce our best work when we are filled with enthusiasm and joy for the task at hand.
Why I Am On a Mission
I have taught literature and writing for more than thirty years –online, in homeschool co-ops, and conventional classrooms–I’ve seen firsthand how becoming a confident writer powerfully impacts a child’s intellectual growth and self-esteem. I believe it is a holy calling to use God’s glorious gift of language to draw attention to His creativity and unique expression of Himself in each of us. I’d love to hear from you—what writing successes and struggles have you experienced in your homeschool? Anything I’ve missed in this post that you’d like to share? Connect with me on Facebook and at DebraBell.com.
Join My Mission — Raise a Writer in Residence
I’m passionate about helping parents raise writers in residence in their homeschools. I’d love to get your feedback about this article (give you some practice transforming your thoughts into words!) Connect with me at debrabell.com or join my Facebook group for Writers in Residence at https://www.facebook.com/groups/WritersInResidence/.
If you are interested in a language arts curriculum based on the latest research in learning, writing, and reading, then check out Writers in Residence and Readers in Residence programs for 4th grade and up. Debra Bell’s Aim Academy also offers writing-intensive English classes. See our selection here.