I am a writer. I love writing, and it’s my job so that’s a pretty good thing. I have always loved writing. I remember being in fifth grade, and being the only kid in class even a little bit happy when the teacher assigned us a writing project.
One of my daughters feels the same way. The younger of the two. She likes to write, and honestly she’s not bad at it. I have high hopes.
The other one, the older one, has other feelings. Writing is a chore, a bother, it suuuuuucks! (She just turned eleven, and so far, everything about being eleven has sucked for her.) Writing fiction? I can’t think of anything! Writing an essay? But I can’t find enough information! Why can’t I use Wikipedia as a source, you do it! (Haha, no I don’t.) Writing in her journal at night? But whyyyyyyyyyy! It’s a constant struggle.
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t want her to be a good writer because I want both of my daughters to become professional writers and grow up to be just like me. I don’t care what they do when they go grow up so long as they’re happy, it’s legal and they keep all their cloths on. Here’s why I care if she’s a good writer.
- I have yet to find a situation in which being able to clearly express myself on paper in a professional way has not helped me. I’m talking about at the day job, and every single day job I have had.
- Writing in a journal has kept me sane, saved my marriage, and made me a better person. I want her to have those same things.
- Writing letters is a lost art. I write letters to my friends, but more often I write e-mails. She is going to have long distance relations in this day and age. And I know we’re from the foothills of the Appalachia mountains, but that doesn’t mean her e-mails need to read like it.
- My daughter is very opinionated (wonder where she got that from). She will be involved on internet chat rooms, and she will get into arguments there. People who can not express themselves in a grown up way in that situation have lost before anyone can even hear their opinion. I want to give her a leg up over the trolls and fools.
The problem becomes, how in the hell do I do it? Just telling her to do it does neither of us any good. I’ll get mad, she’ll get mad, and there goes some lovely mother daughter bonding.
So, here’s what I’m doing to make writing a fun activity for my kids.
- I am starting in the summer, when they don’t have a metric ton of other homework. That’s a big one. When they’ve already done an hour of Math, read a chapter in their Science book, and copied all ten vocabulary words from Social Studies, they are not enthusiastic about writing ‘just because Mom thinks it’s a good idea.’ Mostly they are enthusiastic about Dr. Who, Portal, and dinner.
- I am letting them write about fun things, that they would not normally get to write about in school. We are not writing ‘how I spent my summer vacation’, unless we are writing a review of the Tiny Toons Movie.
- I am writing in front of them. Kids do not hear what you say but they see what you do. This I have seen more and more now that my daughters no longer see me as the all omnipotent Mommy Goddess. (I really do want that back, though. I was Hestia for like five years.) They see me write, edit, write again, write after long days at the day job, write while they’re watching tv. They see that it’s a passion for me. I don’t know if this helps them want to write, but I damn well hope my work ethic sinks into them.
- I am giving them a goal. There are a lot of young writers contests. I’ll be posting one every Friday for the rest of the month with my normal market. For older kids, this can be a really cool incentive, especially if they’re the competitive sort.
- I praise the hell out of their work, even while going through it with a red pen. I am a firm believer that your parents should be your biggest fans. But I am a fan of my kids like I’m a fan of Joss Whedon. I love you like hell, Man, but what were you doing those last few season’s of Buffy? And Serenity? Mister, you need to take that one back to the editing desk. I only say this because I love you, and you’re better than that.
- I gauge their energy level before suggesting some writing time. And the timing can be tricky. If they’re too energetic, they’ll never sit still. This is especially true for my older one, because she’s got ADHD. If they’re too tired, they will get nothing done, because it’s too hard. This is especially true of my younger one, because when she’s tired she’s a giant pain in the ass. (she came by that naturally, by the way.)
- I set a pomodoro timer, which I’ve actually been using for myself and my older daughter all school year for my writing and her homework. Let me tell you, I’ve got adult ADD, and she’s got ADHD, and this thing is a Godsend. Focus for twenty five minutes, and then you can get a drink, go to the bathroom, check my twitter feed, wait weren’t we talking about the kids?
And so, here are some of the writing activities I plan to do with my kids this summer. Some of them are my idea, some I found on Pinterest, and some are just time honored things that I heard somewhere and can’t remember who to give the credit to.
- Keep a journal, especially on vacation. So many awesome things happen during the summer! Friends are made, adventures are had, new ice cream flavors are discovered. And while my kids will have lots of summers, they’ll never have this summer again. I want them to remember it. Especially for my younger one, we scrapbook our journals. Ticket stubs, pictures, drawings, ado graphs of new friends, that weird leaf we found, it all goes in. I don’t consider a summer journal complete without some pool water, dirt and at least one out of state visit.
- Critique something. Don’t do it like a book report. You don’t need to prove to me you read the book by telling me the main characters and the plot, and the turning point of the story. Tell me what you thought of the book, and why someone else should, or should not, read it.
- Have them write a campfire story.
- Have them write an urban legend.
- Have them write a fanfic about their favorite tv show.
- Write letters to family out of state. Grandparents love that sort of thing.
- Write a letter to a local politician.
- Write a letter to a company who’s product you like,(and you’ll probably get some free swag).
- Write to an author you really like. (James Patterson, you wrote my younger daughter’s favorite book, Treasure Hunters. Expect some fan mail.)
- Write an illustrate a comic book.
- Write and act out a little one act play. (Expect to get roped into making scenery and acting.)
Let me know if you have any luck with this. And if you’ve found some super great way of getting your kids to write, please post it in the comments section below.