Ideas for Helping Children with Writing
© Beverley Paine
Cut a blank exercise book (one that uses recycled paper, of course!) in half, watching out for the staples. One of the now small books should have two staples holding it together - the other will need some extra binding! You can make one narrow and one wide to overcome this.
With your child cover the larger book (or if they are independent, let them do it) using anything you like. I like brown paper and last month's dried flowers, all covered over with plastic (recycled clear bread bag, perhaps). Or one of last week's art masterpieces. Or the birthday wrapping paper from last year.
This can become the child's first daily journal or diary. I like using blank paper for very young children because most of what they record are pictures! Thomas used to draw what happened in his day, and I'd scribe for him. Eventually at about age eight he liked doing most of the writing for himself, with me having to spell most of the words. Sometimes he'd draw lines to write on, and other times he'd used a line card placed under the page.
We have lots of daily journals stored away now, all fantastic records of his journey through life and all showing brilliant progress (over time, his time) in his writing ability.
Even now we still use the same size book with blank pages, to allow for illustrations without lines through them. All the children like to illustrate their page, or doodle creatively around the words. I see this as encouraging and valuing art as much as writing!
With Thomas we initially began with just one sentence or two, and when he began doing the writing himself it dropped back to one sentence, as his hand and arm would fatigue quickly. Writing can be hard work for some children. Thomas's unusual pencil grip didn't help much, and put a lot of pressure on his fingers. At eleven years he writes about five or six sentences. It isn't a real big deal, just a small daily ritual, occurring somewhere, anywhere in the day. And some days we miss. There are some pretty large gaps in his journal!
The journal writing allows me great insights into how Thomas's writing skills are developing, and I notice how he is working out how to spell words. Usually his spelling improves naturally over time, often without a lot of correction from me. He tends to use familiar words often, and restricts his sentences to simple ones until he is more confident. Whenever he wants to write more than he is able he asks for help. The important thing is getting the words onto the page at this stage, expressing himself in words. I try not to concentrate to the mechanics of it too much. This becomes tedious and distracts from the meaning in the writing activity.
I've also given the boys diaries on New Year's Day, along with calendars, to celebrate the arrival of the new year. These diaries are their private property, and I never look at them uninvited, but encourage them to use them for whatever purpose they see fit.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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