I posted awhile back about teaching reading without a curriculum, and a reader asked me about teaching writing.  I decided that writing deserved it’s own post!

The question was about teaching writing, namely letter formation.  When are kids (boys) ready for that?

In my non-expert opinion, here are some thoughts about writing…

Boys (generally) are not ready to form letters as early as girls are.

When I was 3, I won a prize at an art contest for a drawing I did of a mother and baby.  You can look at the picture and tell it’s a mother and baby.  My older two sons, however, did not draw anything recognizable until age 4.  Both of them were close to age 4 when they wrote their name for the first time.  Gresham is 4 1/2 now.  He is just getting into drawing, and he likes to write letters.  He can write most of the capital letters on plain white paper.  With both boys, I have progressed from large motor letter activities (like writing in sugar) to forming letters on plain paper (no lines) to writing on lined kindergarten size handwriting paper.

While neat handwriting is a plus, the bigger goal is for your child to be comfortable expressing himself with writing.

I highly recommend journaling as a method for achieving this!  Before I had kids, I taught science to homeschoolers.  I noticed that homeschoolers as a group tend to be weak in writing.  I think that this is because they are able to do a lot of things orally with their parents, and they are not filling in “busywork” worksheets all day.  That style of learning is a plus, but the downside is that written expression may be weak.

It’s important to do some writing every day.  Writing should be a natural part of life.  When Aidan was 5, I had him start doing “journal time” every day.  He was not reading much at that point, and didn’t know how to spell very many words yet, but I told him to say the words he wanted to write and to think about the sounds in them.  I asked him to write about whatever he wanted, although some days I did pick the topic.  The rule was that he needed to write without my help.  He was to spell words the best he could.

Here is his first journal:

This was hard to photograph because of the shiny paper…


After journal time, I had him read me what he wrote, and I wrote the correct spellings under the words:  Violin day today. (I teach private violin lessons, so that’s what he was talking about.)  I played bow and arrows.

Here is a journal entry 10 months after the first one:

This was the end of his kindergarten year.  He was an early reader, which helped his writing.  I don’t think that kids necessarily need to be reading well at this age, but my point is this:

  • Encourage them to write early and often. Even emergent readers can start writing!  Don’t discourage their efforts by harping on bad handwriting or wrong spelling.  Those skills will come.
  • Have them keep a journal. I am so glad we did this.  I now have two precious notebooks full of Aidan’s thoughts at age 5-6. (We haven’t taken the time for a journal this year, and I really regret it!  We’ll have to start back up!)

What are your ideas for teaching writing to young students?

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