Teaching Writing. Starting Late

A reader asks:

I was wondering what your advice would be to get a 12 yr old going in writing. I have neglected this a bit (Ok maybe a lot) and now heading into 7th grade I really need to get him going :) I've been looking over all your narration/composition posts trying to come up with a plan for my 8 yo so we don't end up in the same situation. Thanks for all the great info on your blog!

Looking back over the years, I attribute my children's writing successes to the following.

1. DAILY oral and written narrations
When each of my children turned nine years of age, they began writing narrations. By ten years of age they were writing narrations daily; and ALL of my children are as different from one another as night and day when it comes to talents, interests and capabilities . In order to become a good writer, everyone must put in their time. That means children must write, write, write. CM mommas need to be particularly careful in this area to be diligent because many of us don't use formal grammar and composition programs. But then we can become too lenient with our children and think the gentle approach means let them write only when they feel like it. This is NOT what Miss Mason had in mind and, in my experience, is not the way to go if you want to produce good writers in your home. Often, when first learning to write, children struggle with the process, but if they keep at it, they seem to jump a hurdle and begin to enjoy it immensely. This is because writing is hard work. When my children sometimes balked at writing, I simply smiled and ignored them. They still had to write. Now, ALL THREE of my girls have thanked me for doing this. They now absolutely love to write. So I suggest you have your son begin writing on a daily basis. Start slow, maybe beginning with just a paragraph a day, but keep raising the bar.

BUT, no one wants to write about something that bores them, so...

2. I let my children write about their interests as much as possible.
For example, when one of my daughters was nine years of age, she loved horses and really wanted a book about them that she saw at a local book store, but she didn't want to spend all of her money on this expensive book. I told her that if she bought the book herself, read it and wrote down what she learned, I would replace the money she spent on it. She happily agreed and spent an entire summer making a "Horse Encyclopedia." Twelve chapters included essays on various types of horses, labeled drawings and poetry. She was proud of this 'masterpiece' because she put her whole self into it. It was her passion at the time.

Another daughter likes the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I encouraged her to write her own story. What started off as a short story turned into a 200 page typewritten book. She has been working on it for four years now. It has gone through multiple revisions but in the process her writing has improved 100 percent and her appetite for writing is now insatiable.

*By the way, if you are using a writing program, don't be afraid to change the topics to suit your son's interests. We often change the topics in our Writing Strands program.

2. Children need an audience
When I agreed to let my daughters start a blog, it heightened their interest in writing even further because now their writings were being published. Knowing that they have an audience from all over the world has made them keenly aware of their spelling and grammar errors (DO teach your son to use spell check). They have become careful and thoughtful writers through the blog medium. My daughters are not allowed to just chat on their blog and waste time but must write with a purpose. However, I don't tell them what to write. They write about their interests. Even though they write mainly for themselves, they appreciate the feedback from others.

Have you thought of letting your 12 year old blog some of his narrations so that he has an audience? If you do decide to allow him to blog, I suggest that you give him limited freedom. Set some basic ground rules for the type of posts allowed but do not quench his enthusiasm by making the blog just a collection of assigned written narrations.

one step at a time...