You stand there in delighted amazement at the words coming out of the mouth of your son.

"... and the bat colony had gathered an army led by a stout but kindly bat named Grommetus. He had trained them for almost a year to be ready for their inevitable battle with the evil, bullying barn owls ..."

The imagination of this child regularly astounds you. Little Billy's enthusiasm shows as he continues.

"... but their secret weapon, hidden behind an old painting of an apple orchard, deep in the farmer's attic, assured the bats of their victory in tomorrow's battle."

You seize upon this moment to get your child's wonderful imagination to proceed to its rightful place--in writing. "Wonderful!" you exclaim. "That is an incredible story! Don't tell me the end just yet." Then, with sincere and hopeful enthusiasm on your part, you add, "Go write this one down!" Off he goes, a bounce in his step, as the energy of his story propels him toward the paper to put his epic saga in print, forever immortalized.

Some time later, you ask to see the fruit of his labors. You reach out to receive his reluctant offering. Gently opening this crumpled, sweaty wad of paper, you read,

The bats prepaired for wor

You read on to find a total of three sentences, dreadfully written, simply expressed, no life, no spark, no sizzle, badly spelled, with grammar errors abounding. What happened? How can such a fertile and entertaining mind produce such poorly written work? How can such an engaging story result in such a few pitiful, meager sentences?

This same scenario is played out daily in homeschools and public schools across the country. Many children with vivid imaginations and strong oral skills find that they struggle in putting their thoughts to paper. It's as though there's a disconnect between their brains and their hands. Wonderful things are in their heads. Their mouths regularly give testimony to this. But getting that information to travel down their arms and out through their fingers by way of a writing instrument is an exercise in torture. And what can make matters worse is that this child is often sitting across the table from sweet little Suzie, who can write for hours on end, never getting tired, filling page after page with her growing works of fascinating fiction. Wonderful for Suzie. Agonizing for Billy.

If you've got a little Billy in your school, you're going to have to step out of the box. Try new things. Consider different possibilities. Little Suzie will be fine with any standard program you throw at her, but with Billy, you're going to have to blaze a new trail.

Some Ideas Worth Considering

What can you do to help the child who has a fertile imagination but struggles to put those ideas on paper? Try one or more of the following strategies.

Pull writing out of everything ...except writing.

There is a school of thought that if children struggle with something, then include that something in everything they do and they are certain to get better. Perhaps. But the price is too high. The child will never have the privilege of knowing he's a whiz in science. He will never know that he is fascinated by the lives of people who lived hundreds of years before. Indeed, he will come to believe he is poor or mediocre in all subjects, because we, his teachers, will have forced him to proceed in these subjects at the lumbering speed allowed by his weakest skill. What a shame. For the sake of one skill, we sacrifice delight and proficiency in so many others.

Instead, teach writing, certainly, but do so in "writing class." Allow science and history and music and art to be full of delightful, non-writing exploration. Permit your child the privilege of discovering, exploring, and soaring in his areas of strength.