How to Encourage Our Children
By Kelly Sage
We grab our journals. Clark’s, a classic black and
white composition book, mine a recent gift of writing prompts. We sharpen
pencils; I make sure Sophie has something to do if she doesn't want to join
us, and together, for ten or fifteen minutes a couple of times a week, we
For over a year now, once a month, Clark and I write
together in a homeschool writing circle, but I wanted to encourage him to
write more often. He loves to write when he’s in our class but rarely chooses
to do so at home.
Challenge greets me when I feel like it’s a good
idea for my children to know or practice something. I want the motivation
to know or do something to come from them. I didn’t want to tell him or
make him write, but I felt like once he got into the habit of writing more
often, he’d continue to find the joy he finds once a month.
I knew first I needed to create space for writing,
for him to want to choose writing. So I thought about the differences between
our writing circle and our home, and I remembered my writing practice became
more of a practice when I started writing weekly in community with other
It was worth a shot. One morning I just asked him,
“Want me to grab my journal and we can write together?” and he said, “Sure!”
as if it was a normal thing we’d always done. We set a timer, as we do in
our class. I asked him if he wanted prompts. “No, thanks,” he said pencil
already in motion.
We wrote until the timer went off. Not wanting to
push, I casually asked if he wanted to share what he’d written. He happily
read to me and listened while I read what I’d written to him.
While we aren’t to the point yet where he asks me
to grab my journal, when I ask, he usually agrees. When he does ask (a mama
can hope!), I’ll make sure I say yes too.
Ten Ways to Encourage Our Children to Write
1. We grab our journal and theirs and ask if they
want to write with us. Just write. For fun. To shake out ideas and story.
Then we sit somewhere quiet together and do just that.
2. We let our child pick a subject or prompt for
us to write about, and then give whatever they choose a shot, even if they
pick something silly or gross. While we may not like the idea of writing
about boogers or wearing underpants on our head, the more we play with writing,
get out of our comfort zone, the more they will too.
3. We write with our children in mind and offer to
share what we wrote with them. We have to be okay with modeling what raw
writing looks like without being harsh on ourselves. We don’t want to start
out with a disclaimer, “This is dumb, but I’ll share it anyways,” (because
they will do that too), and we also don’t want to read something they won’t
understand or is not for their ears.
4. We ask our child if they want to share and are
okay if they don’t. It may take time for them to feel good about sharing.
We ask again next time. By not pushing a writer out of their comfort
zone, we allow them to motivate themselves when they are ready, and for
writing together time to stay fun and encouraging.
5. If they share, we listen. Writers who feel like
they aren’t being listened to stop sharing. We make sure there are no distractions.
6. We only offer feedback on our children’s writing
if they want it and we make sure our feedback encourages more writing by
not focusing on mistakes. We don’t offer criticism or critique. A quick
way to shut down a writer or sharing is to say something like, “That's nice
but...” This does not mean we gush. Saying, “This is the best thing I've
ever heard!” can also discourage writing.
We might say, "Can I ask you a question about your
piece?" And if they say yes, ask questions like:
- What happens next?
- Where do you get your ideas?
- Can you describe _____ for me?
- What was _______ feeling when that happened?
- We might say, I loved when ________ happened.
- I'm curious about _______.
- I felt ________ when _______.
7. We understand that at first our children may not
want to write with us. It’s okay. We keep gently offering. We can pull out
fun writing supplies, maybe new journals, and let them see us enjoying ourselves.
Eventually, they will join in.
8. We build our children’s joy of writing by creating
time for writing that is not graded or assessed. This time is writing for
9. We can use writing games to build trust and enjoyment,
and to encourage reluctant writers to begin:
- Play with dialogue; write a line of dialogue
on a piece of paper. This could be from the point of few of a stock
character, a pet, or someone known. Make it interesting or funny. Something
they’d want to respond to. Pass the paper and invite them to respond
in the voice of any character they choose. It might be silly and odd
and not make sense. It's okay! Have fun. Keep passing.
- Create a Writing Territories List or Heart Map.
Pull them out when we need inspiration.
- Take a walk, hike, go outside. Find a spot to
sit together and let nature guide your inspiration.
- Put writing prompts (make up your own, search
the web, use the ones below) in a basket or bowl and offer them as an
- Use storytelling cards, games like Apples to
Apples or Banana Grams and charades to play with story and words.
- Write with pictures and pictures of words- make
Here are a few prompts to begin:
- Describe your favorite place or time you were
in your favorite place.
- Write about a scar or a time you were hurt.
- Write a story about someone who is the exact
opposite of you or the same.
- Write about a time you were scared or overcame
- Write about your favorite animal, pet, or an
animal you’d love to pet one day.
- Write about a trip you’ve taken or hope you
one day take.
- Describe your perfect day or your worse day
or a day when something surprising happened.
- Look around the room, tell as story about something
10. We read together, even when they are big. Writers
are readers and books are fuel for writing ideas.
Encouraging our children to write might not always
be as simple as grabbing our journals, but there are ways to offer support,
and by doing so, we can build and foster a love of writing.
Women Writing for (a) Change, Bloomington, Indiana - workshops for adults
and children to write in community
Nancie Atwell Writing
Inside Out - Strategies for Teaching Writing
by Dawn Kirby (Heinemann, 2012)
Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your
Child Learn to Write by Peggy Kaye (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1995)
Kelly Sage is a certified facilitator
with Women Writing for (a) Change and the Young Women Writing for (a) Change
Coordinator. She facilitates adult, young women, and homeschool writing
circles. In her former life she was a middle and high school English teacher.
She writes about homeschooling and living with young children on her blog,
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