Writing Development - its a Progression

To have an overview of how writing develops has helped me to go very gently with expectations on written work with my children. I don’t like putting ages on things as my children have differed from each other and I am sure they would differ from your children. Charlotte Mason had the children in her schools doing Oral as their primary recording of knowledge until they were at least 9 years of age.

This is the sequence we have followed

  • Oral narrations as the primary way of a child recording their learning process. Occasionally they would draw a picture and dictate a sentence or so which I would write on their art. Young children also create a lot of artwork which is also a form of Responding to learning.
  • Oral narrations which I would type as they speak
  • Oral narrations to me first and then they go and write what they can** (Written Narration) When they talk to me initially they are processing, organizing and remembering. These are key elements to pulling together a written piece.
  • Written Narration, only talking to me if they get stuck and need brainstorming (which still happens even in highschool years at times)
  • Variety of writing genres are explored and mastered. It is not until our children are very confident with translating their thoughts to words (initially oral words and then written words) that I get them to write creatively or persuasively.

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During the time when the children are giving oral narrations, and therefore establishing language habits they are also learning to read and write. The timing for children to take a pencil and write their own thoughts is in keeping with their confidence in spelling and penmanship. As an adult we pickup a pen and write, to varying degrees of ability, whatever we want to say; to a child though, who is still learning to put their thoughts together, to spell and to form letters on a page there is a lot going on in their minds when we ask them to write, even one sentence. This is why I establish the habit of forming thoughts, and expressing them orally, and thus creating good sentences and using expressive vocabulary. From here on we add one skill at a time giving them time to gain confidence and ease before we add another aspect to writing.

The key to learning is that each stage is mastered and then built on. Please don’t rush your children to write original paragraphs, reports or essays. As you work on oral skills, in the form of narrations/retells, you are developing language structure and use as well as giving your children the habit of having something to say.

This progression is very different from many models / methods that we know from institutional education. This method is gentle, easy to facilitate, individual and yet develops a level of thinking and writing that builds confidence and ability as time goes on.

Many different homeschool writers have influenced how we “do” writing; Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick, Cindy Rushton, and Marilyn Howshall.


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