I don’t know if it’s a gender thing, or an age thing, or just a personality thing, but my two boys (currently age 6 and 8) often resist writing. They always have. My older son attended school until half way through year 1 and he learned to write his letters there, whereas I taught my youngest son myself. These boys are both avid readers, they are curious learners, but if there is one thing they both complain about – it’s writing!
After six years on a primary school board I have a fairly good idea of what the UK National Curriculum expects of children and in my opinion, the Charlotte Mason method which focuses on copywork at a young age, is far easier. I regularly tell my boys that if they were at school they would spend a lot more time writing than they do with me – but no surprises – that seldom boosts their mood.
We mustn’t forget that writing involves several processes simultaneously:
Deciding what you want to communicate.
Choosing which words to use to express the ideas and how to put those words together.
Choosing how to spell the words and punctuate the sentences.
Forming the letters neatly.
I love copywork for younger children because it removes the burden of decision-making. The child doesn’t have to think about what to say and how to say it; they just have to FOCUS on copying the words and punctuation correctly. Of course this doesn’t mean we don’t want them to have original ideas of their own – of course we do! We just understand that at a young age, it’s best to ask them to express their own ideas verbally – and this is done through conversation and oral narration of their living books. I’ve also noticed that my boys will regularly write of their own volition too. The process is working and when they feel like writing something original, they do! (Often it’s a list of what they want for their birthday or notes explaining their drawings).
My boys usually do their copywork exercise before breakfast but sometimes they are just tired, or grumpy and don’t get it finished in time. When that happens, here’s what I do:
I sit with them until it’s finished – my presence really motivates them.
I ask them to closely study every challenging word until they are confident they can copy the whole word without looking. When they are ready, I say ‘go’ and cover the word with my finger; then they check to see if they spelled it correctly. Introducing the element of challenge and success is very motivating for them.
I set a timer and challenge them to finish it within the allotted timeframe, after which they can do something fun or a learning activity which feels less strenuous!
My youngest loves a sticker every now and then and also likes me to tell him which word is the neatest.
Finally, self-discipline is a habit and I insist on copywork being done every day; it’s a non-negotiable, unless we are going out or having a day off! However I minimise the battles and sometimes if they haven’t finished their exercise I let them stop after 10/15 minutes. Quality over quantity!
So let me encourage you all: if your children fight and resist writing, you are not alone! Learning to write articulately and persuasively takes decades; it’s a long-term process of development and everyone is different. Focus on encouragement, trust the process of reading, copywork (and later dictation), and celebrate every success along the way!