Hit the keyboard early.

It has been said that a highly distractible child without a keyboard is like a paraplegic without a wheelchair. It's that important for getting this child where he wants to go. With only pencil and paper, his mind proceeds at a far faster pace than his hands can record. Children as young as five can begin a typing program that uses games to learn. When these kids reach about 50 words per minute, something wonderful happens. They are finally able to get thoughts down quickly enough to maintain their stream of thought. And thus the gap between thinking and recording is greatly shortened.

Give group writing time a twist.

Create a 15-minute everybody-writes portion of your day. All available persons come to the table, grab a pencil, and write for 15 minutes only. Then each person reads his work to the others. Each child has an instant audience for her efforts. But here's what really made this activity zing in our home. I wrote too, and when I did I made sure that I wrote an exotic or weird fast-paced adventure that always ended with a cliffhanger. After sharing my short story about the adventures of Shelly and Matt, I might end with

Smoke was still clearing from the small unexpected explosion. Neither Matt nor Shelly could be certain of what they were seeing. Yet, clearly visible in the center of the blast area, sat a small, soggy, wriggling ...

That's it. That's where I would end my story. Did my kids want to know what came next? You bet! But to find out, they had to attend tomorrow's 15-minute writing time and produce their own work. Only then would they hear my next installment, which would once again end with some compelling unanswered question.

Have them write for an audience.

Writing just for Mom or Dad can lose its appeal over time. Broaden the audience for your child's writing efforts. Here are just a few ways to do so:

  • Have a monthly family presentation night involving a few families.
  • Put out a family newsletter that goes out to friends and grandparents. (Ours included a survey for each recipient to send back to my kids, giving feedback on the articles.)
  • Write letters to get things that are sent out free to anyone who asks.
  • Create a newspaper for your homeschool group.
  • Begin a website for your support group families to post their
    children's work.
  • Find pen pals.
  • Create a back-and-forth letter writing exercise between your child and a shut-in or elderly family member.
  • Enter writing contests. There are a gazillion of them for many skill levels.

Break it down.

Any significant writing assignment needs to be broken down into very small, manageable parts. Don't say, "Do a report." Instead say, "Get 5 resources on this topic." Next, ask for note cards on one of the resources. Then for a second. Then a third. Next, ask for a group of headlines under which the cards might be grouped. You get the idea. Dole out the process one step at a time.

Appreciate the physical factors at work.

If this child is intense in other ways, it shouldn't be surprising that he might write intensely as well. This can mean that he even holds the pencil tightly and presses too forcefully on the paper. The result is a hand that tires and cramps very quickly. Consider playing "secretary" for your child. Allow him to speak his ideas or thoughts out loud while you record them. This may be the first time your child actually sees his own words on paper as they existed in his head. It can be an incredible motivation for a child who, up to this point, has produced little or no written work.

Keep handwriting in perspective.