How to Teach Writing in a Child-Directed Way

There are so many great homeschool writing curriculums available. But sometimes you just want to get away from a formal approach, a formal curriculum. Surely there’s got to be an easier way, a child-directed way.

Since you get to decide how to approach your child’s education, you get to decide if you choose this curriculum or that one. You get to decide if you’re going to even teach writing at all.

So get your homeschool idea notebook out & jot down ideas that suit your homeschooled child.



Child and homeschool mom writing
Homeschool mom teaching her kiddo writing

Read Susan Wise Bauer’s hefty volume, The Well Trained Mind (more than once), and you too will reap many ideas for writing activities.

I love her classically educated focus, everything from Latin to sequential historical to logic. (I defy someone to suggest she’s not got everything covered, except maybe how to do your laundry and raise pigs (though on Instagram, you can find her doing that too).

Having said that, her suggestions, if followed, parallel a typical North American full-time job. And I would know that because I tried implementing them in my homeschool for the first few years, I learned my kids didn’t enjoy the effort (& I felt extended by it too, though I learned so much).

Why perusing The Well Trained Mind will give you many ideas…

The ideas the author has, though, are abundant, clever, and can be easily incorporated into a breathe-easier, homeschool eclectic approach.

And there are so many of them, you might feel you’ve completed your Bachelor of Education after you’ve tried them all.

Does your child enjoy history?

Two of my kids did. So after they read something historical (or I read it to them), they wrote one-page reports on their favourite time period, event, or characters.

It could have been an opinion piece: essay style for a twelve-year-old or narrating a simple paragraph for younger writers.

The writing could resemble a newspaper article. It could even be an entire front page of a newspaper introducing a few characters in that era or different events from around the world.

An essay could be written comparing two characters in the same historical era determining which ruler the child would rather have lived under.

And then you could build an entire day around that historical period and make it a history party.

Does your child enjoy reading fiction?

Your child could write the ending of a story in a way she would prefer. Or she could write what happened after the story or even what happened to the characters before the story began.

She could write an imaginary interview of her favourite character. Or even pretend that character is your child’s best friend and what it would be like to bring that character into her own world.

Does your child not enjoy writing at all?

For those less inclined to write, or not yet ready to write, having the child narrate the story while the parent writes a summary is a great way to get the child to think in writing.

The child tells you what she heard; you write it down.

Does your child enjoy science activities?

After participating in science experiments, the child can keep a science notebook of what materials they used, their hypothesis, procedure, and outcome.

Drawing pictures makes a lot of sense in this notebook: they can draw their science experience, what they expected to happen and what actually happened.

They could write a summary of their science reading or create their own science encyclopedia as they come to understand a concept. (You could even write quotable things they wonder about the world or think might happen if they performed an experiment).

Does your child enjoy creative writing?

Creative writing for some children is a natural occupation (that was me).

There have been days that I prescribed a creative writing exercise, from writing prompt books, story starter books, poetry workbooks, or from my mind.

The kids would complete their tasks, and after finishing their prescribed activities, wander off to write their own stories.

I realized I was handcuffing their time and it wasn’t necessary.

The lesson I learned: if they already write, let them write.

There are 1001 ways to develop writing skills and the very basic way is to encourage them to write: on whatever topic they enjoy. Writing doesn’t have to come from a writing curriculum.

A note about spelling:

Spelling books mostly don’t seem useful to me. (I might say this because three of my four children did not seem challenged by the subject).

I have noticed that as they increased their reading consumption, their spelling ability became easier. (Coincidence? I think not).

When the kids repeatedly misspelled a word, I had them write the word in a dollar store notebook and review the words, flashcard-style, so they could become increasingly familiar with the correct spelling.

Studying word roots, from Greek or Latin, also likely improved my kids’ spelling abilities. (But when I say we studied Latin, we were casual about this too.) The more often kids see words, they recognize them more quickly.

A note about grammar:

If one isn’t overly familiar with basic grammar (as I wasn’t after twelve years of public school and six years of post-secondary school), there’s always an easy conversational, memory approach with another of Susan Wise Bauer’s books, First Language Lessons.

There’s also Simply Grammar written from a Charlotte Mason approach: short and sweet lessons.

Both these books require no advanced planning.

There are oodles of books that detail grammar, but by far, I believe correcting the kids’ written work, explaining the value of a comma, dangling participles, spelling corrections, etc. are the most meaningful way to learn this rather mundane knowledge byte. (After you’ve given your child positive feedback about whatever they’ve written and shown them you thoroughly enjoyed their writing, that’s always the most important thing).

But only give grammar feedback succinctly: get in, get out, and move on.



A Charlotte Mason approach to writing:

Charlotte Mason (that well-known homeschool philosopher, but if you don’t know her, you can learn more about her here) has another approach to writing. She suggests to choose a paragraph from your child’s favourite reading and rewrite it in the child’s best handwriting or printing.

Toward the end of the week, after you have dictated that passage repeatedly, dictate the paragraph and have the child write from memory.

Charlotte Mason believes this cements the correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling rules. It also sounds like a fun way to memorize passages from our kid’s favourite books.

A note about journaling:

Journaling is a habit I have instituted from the beginning of my homeschool years. In their journals, they can write prayers, poems, what they did yesterday, their feelings, or their gratitudes.

If they were especially young, they just drew pictures and I dictated the accompanying description for them.

Lives are changed by introspection.

Though introspection isn’t required to write (you can pick up a pen and write anything), it sure makes better writing. (Might I suggest journaling for you too, homeschool mama. If you want to explore your own Big Emotions in your Homeschool, I offer this Journaling Workbook for Homeschool Mama’s Big Emotions).

Learning to write clearly and think clearly are by far the greatest advantages to a solid education.


Check out these other writing ideas:


PS Recently each of my kids had articles published on The Old Schoolhouse Canada magazine:


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