Thursday, July 26, 2012

Inspiring the Non-Writer to Write

The title of this post came to mind this morning as I was getting ready. I had, before that thought, been thinking about Charlotte Mason (as an approach) and my son and what to do with him this next school year as a writer. Do I take the CM approach and just do copywork until his handwriting is decent and he's had a fair amount of practice and exposure to punctuation, sentence structure, etc., and have him do oral narrations? Then Montessori came to mind, with the early guided writing activities. Eventually thoughts came to me sitting down and writing out my thoughts and then the title just popped in.

Inspiring the Non-Writer to Write

That is what I want to do. I would like to inspire him to write. The only "writing" he does at the moment are PS3 messages to his cousins. Now, that's all fine and dandy and has him asking about spelling and punctuation, but, let's face it, that's not going to help him much if one-line messages are the extent of his writing abilities.

There is a huge push in educational circles (not homeschooling ones, really) to just use the computer. "Let him type/dictate. He doesn't really need to know how to write it out by hand." That just feels like dumbing things down to me. The hand is so integral in the development of our brains and thinking... If he can get his fingers to move in the right places for typing, then gosh darn it, he can use his hand to write out letters! :)

I realize I'm faced with potential difficulties: the lack of physical skill in writing letters, maintaining size and spacing, etc.. This work will have to be separate from the "inspirational" part. Especially at nearly 12 years old. The thing is I have to make sure that the physical skill aspect does not dominate the inspirational side; that would be a sure demotivator!

Which all leads me to the big question: How do you inspire an almost 12-year non-writer to write?

Turn to what he loves a little voice whispered in my head.

Okay, what does he love? Baby Blues comics. (Nope, not kidding. lol. He has taken every one he can out of the library, I think. It's the only thing he's been reading lately. And he'll read the books over and over and over.) And he still loves Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. So, there's an idea right there for the fiction/funny side: Work on making his own comic. There is certainly enough that happens in this house for content... ;)

What else does he love? Computer/PS3 games. Hm... What sort of writing ideas can come from this?

*start a blog with his reviews about games (this does mean typing, but I could have him write it out by hand first)
*um... (anybody have anything they can add???)

He loves playing: Lego, Nerf, in forts... *mindsgoneblankforideasthere*

He loves animals, too. He knows so much about all kinds of insects, sharks and dinosaurs. Just last night, we were watching Raiders of the Lost Ark together and I said something about the opening story and wondering where it was taking place. Ds said it was in Mexico. No, it can't be, I said, because the native tribe isn't Mexican. They look more South American, rain forest-like. But he said the Mexican red kneed tarantula that they used only lives in Mexico. Well, by golly, he was right about the tarantulas! The scenes are supposed to be in Peru, so I was right on that part, but those tarantulas do not exist in Peru. :)

So... Projects on animals. But what could be really inspirational? The idea of a blog connects him with the greater world, gives him a chance to share things with others. The comics are things he can share with cousins (or hey, even start a website with his comics) and others. The standard project ideas are, well, disconnected and boring. Or maybe not. They just don't seem "real". How many lapbooks have you read as an adult lately? ;) That said, if I start a lapbook or some other type of project on something, he will be likely to follow suit, so I guess I can't really dismiss the idea entirely.

I suppose I need to keep along these multidisciplinary lines. English class has us often writing just for the sake of writing. But he'll be studying various things and the writing can be incorporated in meaningful ways. *noddingheadhere* Meaningful ways. Worth repeating. When you have something meaningful, the motivation and inspiration are already there. I can show him poetry but tie it in with science (Ode to Tarantulas?) and more.

Distractions around here are messing with my thought processes, so I'll leave this for now. If you have any ideas to share, please do!!


  1. Oh, boy! Looking forward to reading the comments. I have 2 reluctant writers right here with me :)

  2. It can be so hard to find JUST the right motivator!

    My son isn't that old - and he loves to write (now!) but he didn't really start to care about writing until about a year and a half or so ago. You'd never know it now!

    Some of the first thoughts I had while reading your post:

    If you want something inspirational, but short, for the mechanics of handwriting, but geared for an older child - Our Lady of Victory has some nice handwriting books for older grades. They're nice for younger children too, even starting cursive in kindergarten!

    Montessori albums for elementary say to keep the children on lined paper longer than we would ordinarily think, to help their hands maintain control and develop sound habits. I see that with my own son. He can write beautifully on unlined paper, but if we get away from lined paper too long, the neatness starts slipping away.

    I think having a blog for one something would be nice for developing the motivation to get words out in an organized manner, but there needs to be a balance (and a limit) in my own opinion.

    Even if he is the one to write out the grocery list each week; one-line descriptions about nature observations (think: notebook into which he can jot quick notes) - then for creative writing, he could take some of those notes and turn them into a one-page story; that he could then illustrate as a comic.

    So you're taking his interests, blending your requirements and hopefully building slowly?

    I might even be tempted to just ask him, "What will take to motivate you to write?" Most kids want to please their parents, but do fight anything they feel is unreasonable. So by letting him know that you're willing to hear out his ideas but that you have something you feel is important for him perhaps he'll come up with something !?

    (yes, I've done that once in a while with my son - thus far, it's worked out well each time, but I use it sparingly so it doesn't lose its charm ;) ).

  3. Hi Daisy. Have you heard of Four Square Writing Method and/or National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)Young Writers Program? If not, check them out at the following links:

    Hope both will help to motivate your son to write more.

    Regards, Swan

  4. Institute for Excellence in Writing has thought me how to write and inspire my children to write as well. The author uses a Suzuki method for writing because was trained by Suzuki for violin and found it could work in all aspects of learning.

  5. Donald Murray. He was the guru of "process writing." My favorite of his books is called "Write to Learn". He lets you inside his process of getting ideas, playing with them, and finding out what he actually wants to say. Some of his followers also have helpful books--Donald Graves "A Fresh Look at Writing" and Nanci Atwell "In the Middle" (specifically about middle school age writers.)

    What helped my son (15 now) most from these books was doing lots of prewriting exercises like making lists. He also made a commitment to write something every single day for about six weeks. Because he likes history, he wrote answers to discussion questions he found from lectures he listened to or books he read. These were short--not full essays.

    The kinds of things you mention above are the pieces that Donald Murray would help your son work with.

  6. Thank you so much everybody! This is some great feedback and a reminder of things I have even used in the past (like the writing workshops that Nancie Atwell describes in "In the Middle"--those worked very well here).

    I have a few of the Writing Strands which have nice, short lessons, BUT he has a huge resistance to using English texts for some reason(*sigh*) which would mean that I have to direct him orally in French or translate everything on paper. We did start doing one of the books with me just cutting to the chase and telling him the activity to do, but it really takes away from the feel of the program and, imho, takes away from the motivational/inspirational part if he's not doing the reading himself and getting the humour and following the little instructions of "show your parents"...