Reluctant Writer

My almost 8 year old daughter is working at a 2nd/3rd grade level. She is very bright and moves ahead rapidly in most subjects. However she is an EXTREMELY reluctant writer. I switched curriculum this year to a video based teacher hoping that removing me from the instruction might help (I still do the follow up , grading, etc). However she still freezes every time the writing curriculum comes out. I have asked her to erase the phrase “you know I don’t like writing” from her vocabulary in an effort to start over with a fresh new perspective and she’s obliged, but she still writes the bare minimum of sentences that lack creativity and detail. This is so hard for me because she excels at everything else…and it’s not an ability issue…it’s merely the attitude she picked up at some point that writing is hard so she’d rather not try. Help!!!

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I have zero advice, but wanted you to know you’re not alone. I have a 7yo daughter who is very academically advanced, yet she can’t stand writing. Grammar doesn’t bother her… spelling doesn’t bother her… but writing is always a struggle. We brainstorm on the marker board - the general outline of the beginning, middle, end - using key words, adjectives, etc… LOTS of hand-holding, but when it comes to her taking all the brainstorming and putting it on paper - creating the sentences - she starts yelling, screaming, huffing, etc - she usually asks, “Can’t I just TELL you it instead of WRITING it??” - to which I say NO. She always ends up doing the writing in the end, and it always comes out great, but it is never without an initial 20-30 minute “tantrum.” Every. Single. Day. Grrr! I’ve tried positive reinforcement, consequences, praise, prizes, etc… no change. GOOD LUCK! Let me know if you figure something out!

I think 7/8 is still pretty young for doing a formal writing curriculum. At this age, I mainly focused on oral assignments (they spoke, I was the scribe, and then I’d print out their thoughts or story and they could color or paint a picture on that page. These were wonderful to send to grandparents too. I recently got some back when grandparents passed away…what sweet memories). Also we did interactive journaling. My kids would write a note to me in a notebook, and then I would write a note back. No grading or corrections involved. If they misspelled a word, I tried to use that word in my reply to them so they could see it correctly spelled. Informal and focused on encouragement.

How’s her spelling? If she’s not yet spelling 1000 basic words easily, writing may be too much to think about for that reason. I’d do informal things for another year, gradually work in some copywork or dictation at her level to build up her stamina and fluency in writing words, and try a curriculum again in a year or two.

Writing is incredibly hard, and in early elementary, I would only focus on encouraging. I wouldn’t assign a grade or correct spelling or say she didn’t write a sentence correctly. Instead, make mental notes of things she struggles with like spelling or grammar, and teach those individually. Many kids aren’t ready to put all of those skills together until junior high, so grading/corrections makes the task overwhelming.

My son is a very very very reluctant writer. He’s in 5th grade this year. We used to be in K12 online school - and the pressure to write perfectly with no mistakes and to write almost middle school level reports was awful. So, for me, I have taken all the pressure off. I do not grade any of his writing. He gets to write whatever he wants. (He still has to write in complete sentences, but that is my only requirement at this time.)

Another piece of advice that was given to me - was that kids who have very very active imaginations and who are smart sometimes get frustrated with writing - because they can not keep up with what is coming to their mind - and then writing it down. So, they can dictate to a recorder, and then listen back and write it down. Or sometimes typing is faster - if they can type - and writing will improve for them.

I also think that at such a young age you want to teach that writing is fun - and save the formal writing for later. My son never learned to have fun while writing - it was work right away. So, for all of my kids, I am trying to make writing fun. I do journal jots a lot. I give them a topic and they can write whatever the want to. Or they can pick a topic for the day. If we need to do more formal writing - I try to pick fun and age appropriate tasks and then give them several days to accomplish it - only making them write for as long as they can stand - and then letting them save it for tomorrow. For me, who cares how long it takes? Right? That is what homeschooling is about!

I am having them write stories, personal stories, poems, book reports about a favorite book, letters to relatives, and journals.

I guess my biggest piece of advice - don’t push the formal writing right now, let her write for fun, and don’t try to “grade” it - instead let her feel good about her writing. The formal writing, and correcting comes soon enough.

(PS - sorry, I am rambling, I know… but I also just read this awesome suggestion: instead of having spelling words for the week - look through her writing and see what words she spelled wrong. Don’t tell her - but make those words your spelling words for the week. Also, if something is wrong with grammar etc, make that your language arts lesson that week. But during the writing process - just let her write! :slight_smile: )

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I have an 8 year old son who HATES writing in any form. One thing that I found that has worked for us is offering a different form. He can dictate to me while I write it down. He is learning typing and has found typing his response is much faster-and will write more. But for us, the best thing that happened this year is cursive. We started to learn cursive this year and he prefers it over handwriting because it is much faster. I have contemplated teaching him short hand too. Hang in there.

I’m not homeschooling yet, but I do have a 8yr old who really struggled with writing a couple of years ago. He knew what he wanted to say, but couldn’t organize his thoughts as he was writing. His thoughts were faster than his pencil could keep up with. It was very frustrating for him. We ended up having him dictate to me while I wrote his thoughts down word for word. He would then copy the dictation. His teacher supported this way of learning for him and it became one less headache for us! Hope things are going better for you! -Allison

Cupcake is 8 years old to. It has been a constant struggle for her too. I think the best advice is to take a look at what she is struggling with. Is it the spelling part or not knowing how to put her thoughts in order. Writing is like waking a sleeping tiger for Cupcake. So what I decided to do is work on spelling. I also some times make her shut her eyes and visually think what the word looks like if she was reading it…that does help sometimes. At first she struggled with me about it and now it is the first thing she does when she tries to spell a word. The next thing I did and she doesn’t always like it but we do it together is I went to Barns and Nobel and some Spectrumbooks which we do four times a week.(Vocabulary 3 grade, Reading Skills 3grade, Writing 2 grade. We only do one page a day. I figure start slow because she starts getting upset if she has to do more than one page…it overwhelms her. I also started making her write her spelling words three times a day. It’s not to many times for her to get overwhelmed. But gives her practice writing. I made sure she had a strong phonics curriculum too. She will ask me how to spell something and I will ask her what the beginning sound is and then we go to the next sound and so on. We started out with a lower grade for Writing because she doesn’t like it as well.

I’ve had a few kids who are reluctant writers, one who is not, and a bunch more kids to go (I have 9 kids age 14 -newborn). To be honest, the game changer for us was Brave Writer. I highly suggest you browse her website, read the blog, listen to the free audio podcasts, and soak it all in! In essence, she breaks writing down into developmental stages that begin with Jot it Down (where you have the child orally narrate and YOU jot down her words, taking the burden of handwriting, spelling, etc off the child). Then as the grow you move through Partnership Writing (taking turns adding to the writing, can begin with them doing 1 sentence, then narrating to you for a bit, then them writing another sentence, etc). Next is Faltering Ownership where they become more comfortable doing the writing most of the time, you begin being more cheerleader, less hands on help. It goes from there as your child grows into a teen.

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@Tristan Thanks so much for mentioning the Brave Writer program. I’ve never heard of it but have three children ages 3 yrs to 8 yrs old so it may be a good fit for us as they grow. I love finding out about these kinds of things that have worked well for other families. Thanks for sharing!

Hi! Turbo is a reluctant writer as well, and he’s doing really well with the Institute for Excellence in Writing program. We started last year with Group A and this year we’re using the Group A Continuation program.

I like it because they start out learning how to pick out key words from a pre-written publication, then they re-write it on their own. The process works well because instead of having to come up with their own ideas on paper, they get used to seeing how proper stories are written. It kind of takes the “stress” out of writing in my opinion. Then as they progress they will start working on writing their own stories and reports. But that comes after they learn how to set up a proper paragraph and then later on how to edit it.

I really like their approach and it’s working well for my son who previously hated writing!