One of the best things I started doing this year in our homeschool is daily creative writing. We had done creative writing in the past, but there were a few problems. I started to notice at the end of last school year that these problems needed to be addressed head on. That’s when I decided to stop trying to go with the pre-planned curriculum and try something new.
If you like your pre-planned curriculum, that is great. I am in no way saying in this post that it is all around bad. But for my kids, creative writing from a boxed curriculum doesn’t work. They need a different approach because they are just, well, different.
Up until this year, our creative writing had been the typical journal style writing and poetry. It’s pretty standard in boxed curriculum to find this. The kids were asked to journal their days, journal about different scenarios, write various forms of poetry, and every once in a while they would write a story.
I didn’t like it, and they didn’t like it.
My daughter struggles a lot with writing and this type of creative writing was zapping the life out of her. It was too forced and too boring. She wanted something more fun in her day.
My son is a very literal thinker. Autism has that effect. When asked to go about the journal style of writing, he just didn’t understand how to add more than one or two sentences. After all, in his mind he had said the day was fine and no other details were needed. Sometimes scenarios were given such as walking through a forest. In creative writing he would be expected to write a story about that. But all he would do is say there were trees and animals and it was nice.
The creativity didn’t exist. It was so matter of fact.
Because my son is a creative kid, I knew there was more that could come out of him. After all, he can draw for hours with amazing detail, creating worlds of interesting people and creatures. But pictures and words were so different for him. Words were facts, not imagination. And he’s an avid reader! It’s hard to understand, but he thinks differently.
So, I ditched the pre-planned stuff.
This year, I decided that after our morning Bible lesson we would start the school day with daily writing prompts. Some of the prompts I get online, and others I just make up.
I gave each kid their own spiral notebook for these writing assignments. They like having a special notebook.
The prompts are silly. They are things like “If your refrigerator could talk, what would it say?” and “If you had to be stuck in one Disney movie for the rest of your life, what movie would you choose and why?”
We even did all of December with a Christmas theme. That month had prompts like “If Santa got sick and couldn’t deliver presents, what would Christmas be like?”
The kids were told they could write a paragraph directly addressing the prompt, or they could turn it into a story with characters and details. For each prompt, they are given fifteen minutes of writing time.
When we first started, my daughter was treating each prompt like it was some sort of test. She was very short and to the point. But as the weeks went on, her writing started to improve and her creativity began to flow. She started imagining crazy characters and creating fun stories to surround them.
My son decided from day one that all of his creative writing would be in story form, I told him that he could draw pictures to go along with his stories. I think that was the key. Allowing for pictures to form before the words seemed to make all the difference. He creates fun stories full of silliness and humor. And he enjoys it.
I think too often we get caught up in teaching children all the things we think they need. And so many of the ideas about what they need come from a very traditional public school approach. With homeschooling, however, we have the freedom to think outside the box. We can look to what motivates and drives our kids individually. Creative writing only works when kids feel free to be creative. The pre-planned stuff was just too bland for my munchkins.
Starting the day the way we do sets the tone. It brings a moment of fun and laughter before the day’s work sets in. Oh sure, we still have days that go bad, but at least we start with smiles. And writing is no longer a chore. The kids look forward to the daily prompt, sometimes even trying to get a sneak peek while I plan the week’s school lessons.
Now they’re excited about writing. That’s a victory!