by Julie Bogart, Cincinnati, Ohio
Originally published in the January-February 2012 VaHomeschoolers Voice.
Stop! Your kids don’t have to write every day to become great writers. The old adage: “Write every day” doesn’t apply to your kids. Truth is, it doesn’t even apply to adult professionals!
Writing every day is one of the great writing myths. There is some value to journaling or setting up a daily routine that requires you to write, inspired or not, once you’ve got the mechanics down cold. Plenty of writers trumpet the “write every day” practice as a result. The value in the routine is that it helps writers (that is, people who are already proficient at handwriting or typing, who punctuate easily and accurately, who know how to spell most words, who are paid for their word counts, who want their vocation or hobby to be writing). It helps them get over the usual blocks that come with required creative output. But even these very writerly adults need breaks—need time to muse or be still or to read for a while, rather than produce.
Writing every day—the kind parents require of their kids—can result in a negative effect, undermining the writing voice, dulling it. Kids learn to “just get a few sentences written” to be done. Writing that is produced out of dutiful obligation is rarely the kind that enhances growth. Your kids aren’t coming to the blank page the way a self- disciplined professional is—one who is choosing to write due to their own goals and responsibilities. Your children aren’t seeking a method to overcome their inertia in the creative process. Mostly, they’re cooperating with your agenda, regardless of what they may feel about it. That posture, unfortu- nately, is not good for writing.
Remember: you’re working with children—your kidlets who can’t remember how to draw a cursive “r,” who struggle with even spacing between words, who forget that the faint pink line on the right indicates a margin they must respect. These are the writers for whom generating original writing can become the most blocking, anxiety-producing activity of the day—the difference between cheerfulness and tears, or going numb.
If you’re working with teens, you face a different set of challenges. These writers are learning to think rhetorically, to make judgments, to order arguments all while wondering if anyone has commented on their Facebook status that day. Writing every day for them is probably already happening (if they have cell phones and access to the Internet). Adding an artificial “write every day” requirement at the kitchen table may wind up feeling tedious which, again, leads to a numbing of the writing voice.
What can parents at home do to foster a healthy attitude toward writing? They can adopt the following principle: Interact with writing every day.
You and your kids can read it, copy it, listen to it being read, or analyze it. Look at the writing you read for why it works: makes you laugh, grabs your attention, delights you, persuades you. Look at it for how it’s structured: why it’s whatever length it is, what support is used for its points, the musicality of the language, the power of the opening hook. You can read writing for the sheer joy of it. Inside your mind, little grooves of how good writing feels and sounds are established so that as you return to your original writing, you find yourself unconsciously imitating those sounds, rhythms, and forms.
William Faulkner says: “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”
Give your kids and yourself a break. Read, read, read. Count it as part of your writing program. When you write, let it be from a place of overflow and energy. Freewriting once a week or working on a writing project per month (one that goes through all the writing stages) is the way to keep original writing on the menu of things to do each week without undermining its power.
Interact with writing every day. Then write once in a while for the sheer joy of it. Finally, polish one of those at the rate of once a month max. If you adopt this kind of pace (more reading, less writing), you’ll find that your kids go from dull, tedious, dutifully executed scraps of writing, to enlivened, engaged, productive pieces that they are eager to share with an audience.
About the Author
Julie Bogart is the creator of the innovative Brave Writer Writing and Language Arts Curriculum (bravewriter.com). For 12 years, Brave Writer instructional manuals and online classes have enriched the homeschooling lives of thousands of families. Brave Writer exists to foster a nurturing relationship between homeschooling parent and child while creating a safe environment for writing growth. Julie’s professional background includes freelance writing, magazine and book editing, and ghostwriting. She’s authored and supervised the development of all original Brave Writer materials, as well as having homeschooled her five children for 17 years. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Originally published in the VaHomeschoolers Voice, a bi-monthly homeschool journal produced by The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers for our members. Not a member? Join now and don’t miss another issue!
VaHomeschoolers Voice Publication Information
VaHomeschoolers Voice is a bi-monthly homeschool journal produced by The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers for our members. Not a member? Join now and don’t miss another issue!
VaHomeschoolers Voice prints selected articles, news, and letters related to home education and Virginia homeschoolers. Opinions expressed by individual writers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, nor do they represent an official position of VaHomeschoolers. Writers’ views are their own, and readers are encouraged to research and explore homeschooling issues to their own satisfaction.
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