Why Is Writing So Hard to Teach?

How I didn’t know what I didn’t know

Back in the early years of the 1980s, I took up the challenge offered by Dr. James Dobson and his personal homeschool guru, Dr. Raymond Moore. Reading Dr. Moore’s book, Home Grown Kids, convicted me as no words outside of the Bible ever have: I needed to take my third-grader and first-grader out of their public school and teach them myself! I thought it would be fun. And in time, it was fun, or at least immensely rewarding. But first I had to learn some home truths, so to speak: it was a bigger commitment than I thought, my kids had to learn to regard me as a teacher in addition to a mom, and . . . knowing things is a different kettle of fish from teaching things.

Mutual frustration!

Like writing. I was always a good writer in school, and by early adulthood had even entertained ambitions of publishing a novel someday. I could explain parts of speech and diagram sentences with the best, but I quickly learned that language-arts workbooks do not a competent writer make. My kids, surprisingly, did not pick up verbal skills from me by osmosis or DNA.

The subject proved much harder to teach than I expected. Even harder than arithmetic, which was never my favorite subject.

Why?

It’s so subjective!

Quantitative subjects like math and science tend to have right or wrong answers—so even if you have trouble understanding it, you can at least correct a quiz with an answer key. But there’s no answer key for communicating with language. Communicating in speech is difficult enough (as you know if you’ve ever had a verbal disagreement), but in writing the challenge is even greater. You can’t rely on facial expressions, tone of voice or reassuring gestures to help get your point across.

Written communication must be clear and engaging to communicate effectively—but there’s more than one way to do that. How do you distinguish between personal quirks and plain bad writing?

It’s so foundational!

In spite of all the problems with well-written communication, the need for it isn’t going away. Now more than ever, with so much sloppy thinking and sloppy communication, someone who can put words together in logical, effective sentences possesses a valuable skill.

I’ll go farther: clear writing is clear thinking. They complement each other and grow up together. But you can’t get more foundational than thinking. How do you teach clear thinking? Or thinking of any kind?

It’s so . .. so HUGE!!

Hundreds of thousands of words to choose from, dozens of sentence parts to shift around, thousands of ways to pin down those squirrely thoughts running around your head. WHERE TO BEGIN??

Here’s where Wordsmith comes into the story

It took some trial and error, backing up, reversing course, seeking advice from experienced teachers, and digging into my own writing journey, but in time I developed an approach that works–not just for my own kids, but for dozens of other homeschoolers in workshop classes. All that experience is distilled in the Wordsmith Series, which first appeared in 1992. Since then, three books (for elementary, middle school, and high school students) have gone through three editions and umpteen printings.

Now, with a whole new generation of homeschoolers on the scene, I’m re-introducing the series with a brand-new website, and a can’t-miss offer.

If you’re looking to spice up your present writing curriculum, or to prod a reluctant writer, or just to try something a little different, go to WordsmithSeries.com and click the TRY WORDSMITH FREE button at the top of the page. You’ll receive a 19-page download with introductory material and sample lessons from each level of the series. The lessons are free to you to try out with your kids (or even yourself!).

Will the Wordsmith way raise their interest, spark their creativity, leave them wanting more?

Only one way to find out . . . .

More at Redeemed Reader

See Betsy’s review of the Wordsmith Series.

And, as you’re planning for the year ahead, don’t sweat it! See my posts on Laid-back Homeschooling and Laid-back Grammar for a dose of encouragement.

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Janie

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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