At Home with The Classical Method – Teaching Your Child to Write

When I first started teaching my children to write, I think I truly forgot that “Writing is very hard to do well.”  I found myself so removed from learning it myself that its challenge was forgotten.  While it is hard to do well, The Core provides a simple plan to teach it well. 

Continuing today with the At Home with The Classical Method series, we are talking about writing in two ways: 1) the technical act of putting pencil to paper and 2) the technical and creative act of composition.

In teaching your child to write well, it is important to begin with the basics

1) Ease him into sitting quietly and concentrating on the work of copying for short amounts of time, gradually increasing.

2) Teach correct pencil grasp. (I found this and this very helpful.)

3) Focus on neatness, spacing, and proportion.  It is better to do just a few letters well, then to do lines and lines of so-so letters.  Also know that children typically copy the last letter they did, rather than the first letter.  Keeping them neat is key.

4) Teach the rules of English grammar: punctuation, capitalization, parts of speech, sentence structure, paragraph structure, etc.

A key part of classical education is forming a strong foundation of basics to prepare children for a lifetime of learning-anything-freedom.  A rough outline from The Core (p.114) on what the development of these skills could look like is as follows:

4 years and younger — Children learn to love words through reading with their parents.

5 years —  Children learn to sit still and manage their hands, arms, and papers through coloring or drawing.  

6 years — Children learn to sit and copy words.

7 years — Children learn phonics and spelling rules.

8 years — Children learn to write a complete sentence.

9 years — Children learn to diagram a sentence.

10 years — Children learn to form sentences into a paragraph.

11 years — Children learn to “dress up clear, concise sentences.”

12 years — Children learn to form a coherent essay using beautiful words.

Through these years, you can see the development from technical writing alone to writing with technical + creative skills.  Since the technical skills are learned well during the grammar stage, it frees the mind up to be creative in the logic and rhetoric stages.  Rather than expecting the child to write creatively at a too-young age, the foundation is formed for him to be creative when developmentally ready.

Another trademark of classical education is teaching the child to recognize quality through exposing him to the best this world has to offer.  That applies to the work given to a child to copy.  Give him the best the writing world has to offer, because through that you are teaching him not only the technicalities of writing, but the beauty that can be too.  

A few tips that have worked in our home — 

* Mix up the medium when doing copywork.  We’ve used chalk, dry erase markers, colored pencils, etc while using personal sized work surfaces.  Sometimes just trying with a new pencil one day is enough to add a touch of excitement to the copywork.  

* When done on paper, storing the copywork in a 3 ring binder helps to mark the child’s progress through the year.  My guys love looking back to see how they were writing before to how they are writing now.  

* Occasionally snapping a photo of them with their best work to send to Daddy, Grammy, or Aunt Laura with pride.  They love capturing their work and the encouraging responses they receive back from loved ones.

What about you, homeschooling friends? What works well for teaching writing in your home? We’d all love to hear, so please share!

(p.s. – There are even more writing specifics, in The Core, including teaching the structure of English, a punctuation and capitalization checklist, and correct paragraph structure.) 


  1. says

    All great tips Beth! Thanks for the links about the pencil grip. I have a child who has issues with that.

    Another important piece in learning to write beautifully and coherently is listening to books being read aloud. I heard Andrew Pudewa talk about this. He says that his one son, who struggled with dyslexia and was not able to read well until age 12, listened to hours of audio books a day on his MP3 player. To this day he is the best writer of his children and he attributes this to the hours and hours he spent every day listening to classic literature. And this is coming from the man who makes his living selling writing curriculum. 🙂

    It’s similar to copywork. In copywork you see the good writing and proper grammar and syntax. In listening you learn to hear what sounds “right” and good. He proposed that it is better to listen to audio books because you don’t skim and skip over words you don’t understand.

    It makes sense when you think about a time in our history when our founding fathers were writing beautiful documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers. This was a time in history where evenings were spent as families reading aloud from the bible and classic literature for hours every night. We can thank the invention of electricity for the disappearance of this extremely beneficial activity. 🙂

    • says

      Thanks, Christy! : ) I’m so glad you shared that about listening aloud. We love to listen aloud here, but I hadn’t considered how that could benefit a learner with dyslexia. I hope others scroll down to read this comment, so they can learn from this tip as well!

  2. says

    Thanks for this great post! We are using a classical method for teaching writing as well (WWE), and I have a difficult time explaining to some of my school teachers friends why we do not spend much time on structured “creative writing” with my just-turned-8-year-old (going into 3rd grade in the Fall). It’s interesting to hear their perspective that kids should be doing creative writing, even as young as Kindergarten, regardless of whether they know how to spell or write a complete sentence.

    • says

      thank you! the more i learn, the more about the classical model i love. it just makes sense to me when i consider what i know about my children (&surely others too!) and the way we learn.

  3. says

    I think that book might be the next one I read =) I love this series you are doing! Copywork is something we do almost daily and I think it’s just great.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.