Research shows that boys are half as likely to enjoy writing as girls. In a classroom setting, the approach to both sets of students is the same, though both groups do not respond the same. With homeschooling, we have the freedom to customize our approach and meet our boys where they are, helping them to enjoy writing.
Choose topics boys love
Whether it be sports, aliens, dinosaurs, or dirt – all are great topics for a writing exercise that keeps them engaged. Some students prefer choosing what they write about, while others freeze up at the idea. You know your child. Give them some topic options that you know they’ll find appealing.
Keep them writing
You don’t want to overwhelm them with creative writing assignments, but the physical act of putting pencil to paper needs to be a daily habit. Incorporate copywork and narration into your homeschool days. Help make it just matter-of-fact that there will be writing going on to keep it from being intimidating. When little writing occurs, a creative writing assignment means they have to stop and really think about penmanship, spelling, grammar, the pressure of a topic, and how to focus from beginning to end. It’s too much!
Avoid vague or open-ended assignments
These might sound relaxed to a teacher, but to some students, this is a lot of pressure! Guide them with specific writing assignments. Give them elements of a story and walk through the process with them. Change the elements that you assign each time, encouraging them to learn how to work independently on all of the possible elements. For instance, give them the setting, characters, and a plot. Have them fill in all of the details. Another time, give a plot scenario, but no characters, or a list of characters to choose from. Another time, give a beginning to a story and an ending to a story, and have them work towards connecting those dots.
While this sounds like the exact opposite from what I said above, free-writes come without pressure because there is no grade and no expectation. Students simply write. There is no concern for spelling, grammar, or handwriting. Set the clock for ten minutes and have them write whatever comes into their head. It might take a few tries before they believe you enough to not worry about expectations. After that, you might be amazed at how well they respond!
After enjoying a book or a movie, encourage them to devise a different twist and a different ending. What if the hero hadn’t swept in at that moment? What if the villagers organized a revolt? What if there was an earthquake?
Provide a challenge
If your son is competitive, you might find a writing championship to be more inspiring than an assignment from mom.
Give him an audience
Many boys are aware that their parents are going to be the only ones reading their stories. Ultimately, we want them writing for their own personal pleasure, but in the meantime, we need to keep in mind that they might not find a writing assignment just for mom to be inspiring enough. With their permission, share their work with grandparents. Make a big deal out of their hard work, saving copies as keepsakes. Consider a family newsletter or blog that displays their talents. You might also consider outsourcing writing classes, so that your student has the opportunity to broaden their audience to another teacher and group of fellow students. If nothing else, provide a chance for students to show off their work to the whole family. After dinner, have everyone gather and read an essay or display their art for the week.
Appreciate that fiction might not be his thing
There is no rule that says we all have to have fiction skills. Many boys even prefer reading nonfiction books! Encourage them to write biography pages, character sketches, or essays instead of focusing on creative writing. Boy or girl, all children need a good foundation in narration to develop good writing skills.
Through it all, remember your goal. You want him to enjoy learning. Writing lessons don’t need to end in tears. Keep at it, incorporating short lesson times and establishing good habits. It’s possible he’ll never enjoy it, but you can help make it as painless as possible by helping him see the importance of developing good writing skills. It might not be his favorite, but he can still succeed at it. Or maybe, just maybe, he’ll discover it’s his passion!
How do you encourage your boys to write?