Why Do Some Children Love Writing?

The other day, Sophie appeared with a huge smile on her face. “I’ve written a blog post,” she announced, and then added, “I wrote it your way. It’s like one of your stories.”

“Tell me about it,” I encouraged.

“Well, I mentioned my feelings as well as the action… and I used the present tense like you do sometimes. I like the present tense. It puts the reader right in the middle of the action.” Sophie is right. I use this tense a lot. I really love it too.

Sophie handed me her computer so I could read what she’d written. Here’s her post…

I am excited, Mum has arranged for me to have piano lessons. For the past few years Imogen has been teaching me. She is a good teacher, but being taught by your sister is not the same as having a professional  teacher.

Imogen, Charlotte and I troop up to the front door. I am ready to impress my new teacher. Our teacher opens the door smiling. She is a kind woman and she says that I can have the first lesson.

I am a bit nervous. Will I be good enough? Have I practised enough? All these thoughts run through my head as I enter the music room.

I have only ever played on an upright piano, but my teacher has a grand one. I wonder what it will be like to play on one.

The teacher asks me what scales I can play and soon I am enjoying myself, showing my teacher what I have learnt and what I am learning.

She patiently listens to what I play and fixes up the mistakes. She starts to make things more fun and exciting than I ever thought possible and I listen all ears and try to do as she says.

All too soon my lesson is over. It is Charlotte’s turn to be taught. I start picking up my books and folder. My teacher picks up a chocolate and hands it to me. I cannot believe it, nor can Imogen and Charlotte. In all the years that they had been having piano lessons, they have never got chocolates. I feel very happy and special.

Piano is more fun than work now. I can’t wait for my next lesson.

What do you think? That’s not bad for an 11 year old girl who’s never been taught to write, is it? 

Sophie hasn’t done any punctuation or grammar or comprehension exercises. She has never written a set composition. I haven’t even taught her all the different uses for writing. She has just listened and read, and observed other family members writing and discussing writing. Then she has gone away, eager to follow our example, and write herself.

I think about all the complicated learn-to-write methods my husband uses with his primary school class: all those worksheets and activities that concentrate on one skill at a time. Are they really necessary for homeschoolers? Or is it enough to provide an environment where there is enthusiasm, good example, and reasons to write?

All my children write. They write for pleasure, as well as need. Is that because they are following my example? Do they get caught up in my excitement? Maybe they assume writing is something everyone does, because those around them do it. Or could it be the literature we read or the discussions we enjoy? Maybe we just have lots of thoughts we want to put into words. Do we all have lots of real reasons for writing, and so it seems a valuable skill to have? Or is the desire to write purely hereditary? Were my children and I meant to be writers? Perhaps I am just one of the lucky mothers that doesn’t have to worry her children won’t write, because we all have the right genes. I often ponder these thoughts. And occasionally I write about them. 

What do you think? 

I sometimes wonder what would happen if a non-writing parent suddenly became an enthusiastic writer. Would her children follow suit? That would be a very interesting experiment. Or are there enthusiastic child writers whose parents hate writing? They could have other mentors, I suppose.

And I also wonder what skills my children don’t have just because I’ve never been interested enough to try and gain them, and model them myself.

“Would you like to listen to a chapter of my novel, Mum?” asks Sophie. Soon I am enjoying the latest tale of the Bean family.

“So what was your favourite character?” Sophie asks, as she closes her computer. She is eager to hear my reply.

“Mr Cracker! Yes, I really loved Mr Cracker,” I answer.

Sophie smiles widely. “Do you know the best thing about writing?”

I think I do. It’s having someone to share it with. I guess we all enjoy sharing things we love, don’t we?

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    • Vicky
    • February 26, 2013

    Wow! Sophie writes just like you! It could have been your post. She's a great writer.

    Don't you find it exciting to see them enjoy the same interests. It's so nice to share our hobbies with our own children, I think.

    I've noticed that our children pick up skills and develop interests by imitating, too. It's happened with a lot of hobbies and interests but, strangely, not so much with writing. Some write and some don't. Not all of the ones who do write had the experience of watching me write, while some that don't do see me write. In our family, I think that writing depends on personality.

    It does make homeschooling easier with a child who likes to write but, with the ones who don't, I want to show that I'm proud of their different interests. If they want to go to university, I feel that they'll make sure they learn how to write well. Like you always say, they'll learn when they see a need, I think.

    Still pondering over this one, Sue.

    God bless:-)

    1. Reply


      Your observations are interesting!

      Maybe your children who do write but didn't see you write, were inspired by other mentors such as favourite authors. I know as a child, I just longed to copy certain authors. I could just see my books sitting on the shelf alongside those of Noel Streatfeild or someone similar. I even wanted to write screenplays along the lines of Brady Bunch! I know my older girls read a lot of fantasy stories and this is their favourite genre. I don't like fantasy much at all, so they are not copying me here.

      I agree we can't all be writers. Yes, let's celebrate the differences between children. Being a writer doesn't make one child better than another. I hope I didn't give the impression this is what I think. I am actually in awe of your artistic skills and those of your children. It's the sharing of interests that is fascinating.

      The other reason I ponder the question of writing is because for many parents the subject of writing is a concern. Writing, like numeracy, is a skill we are going to be using for the rest of our lives, and I guess some parents worry if their children will ever want to do it. Not everyone will want to write novels or even blog posts, and I agree children will learn what they need to know when they need it. Eventually all children will write.

      I thought a bit more about sharing writing with children, since publishing this post. Maybe it is necessary when we are sharing our interests to talk about the process, letting our children in on the inside workings of what we are doing. We can write quietly in the privacy of our room and maybe this won't have much impact. Or we can also discuss writing around the lunch table, read each other's writings and comment and encourage, share ideas, discuss techniques and books we've read, work alongside each other… I think that's what Sophie experienced. She wanted to join in. Showing excitement and pleasure is contagious. Of course we could apply these principles to any subject. Andy shares cooking with the girls in the same way. Your children will pick up on your excitement and knowledge of art.

      I'm still pondering too, Vicky! Thank you for your comment!

  1. Reply

    Very well written Sophie! Sue, I cannot believe you haven't ued a program to teach them … I am going away to cry now … and burn our grammar and writing books. 😉

    1. Reply


      I think Vicky is right. All children are different. I heard your girls like their writing books. And I've read their book reviews on your blog. They are also good writers! It seems you have found something that works for you and that's all that's really important. No need to cry! You must be so proud of what the Fashionista and Agent Smelly are doing.

      I guess if a child isn't keen on writing and a parent feels it's important to encourage them along, they might ponder similar thoughts to mine: What makes a child want to write? But as you see, I haven't really got any clear answers. It might all come down to genes!

    • Amy R
    • February 27, 2013

    Writing was part of what propelled me back into unschooling…it really seemed like…well, sadly, I ruined writing for my two oldest sons.. OK, especially my oldest.

    The part that makes me want to cry is when you happily understand your daughter's wanting to SHARE her writing with you…and you happily read it!

    My daughter who is writing a book (hundreds of pages so far), has long wanted me to read it, but I am overwhelmed with how long it is, and haven't read it at all. Plus it's fantasy, which along with horror and true crime, is probably my least favorite genre (but I used to love fantasy and read a lot of it when I was young)

    I tend towards extremes, I realize. Once I realized how deadly I was towards my children's writing, I forbade myself to comment on it…ever. And in order not to comment, I had to not read it, or they would trick me and entice me and FORCE me to say if I liked it or not. I am a terrible liar about such things. If I like it, great. If I don't, I can hardly think of what to say, that doesn't end up hurting them. So, I just don't read it anymore, because I don't want to hurt them!

    My children write pretty well now – except for the oldest. I guess I could say he hasn't seen the need for it…but at 27, I would love to hear from him, and I almost never do.

    It's kind of amazing how much emotion all this brings out in me. I love your daughter's post, too. It's simply delightful! And real!

    1. Reply


      It sounds like you wish you could have done things differently with your oldest two children. I also look back and wish I could change some things. We do our best at the time, I suppose. And we learn.

      Amy, I don't share all of my children's writings. Imogen, Charlotte and Duncan are writing fantasy novels too. Imogen and Charlotte haven't let me read their novels yet. They have lots of stories in first and second draft form but nothing finished completely. They say I can't read any of them until they're properly finished. However, they tell me about their novels and we discuss various aspects of them, sharing ideas and suggestions. Both girls are quite happy for me to read their shorter pieces of writing, like blog posts. These are easy to read quickly.

      Duncan would love me to read his novel, but I just haven't found the necessary time yet. I am not quite as good as you imagine!

      Sophie and Gemma-Rose usually present me with their novels chapter by chapter, so I don't have much to read at any one sitting.

      The storyline of our children's fantasy novels may not be our preferred kind of reading, but I guess we would still be able to determine whether the stories are well constructed and logical, and whether the characters are interesting. I shall find out whether this is true when I finally get to read a completed novel! Life seems to be full of editing. It takes a very long time to actually complete a novel to a writer's satisfaction.

      Do your children belong to writing groups or have friends who write? Imogen has made a lot of writing friends through NaNoWriMo. She also reads a lot of writing blogs and swaps lots of comments. She discusses fantasy with fellow enthusiasts. It's no longer really necessary for me to critique her work in order to help keep her enthusiastic.

      I am now thinking about criticism, or helpful suggestions. None of us likes to hear our writing could be improved. We tend to think it's perfect just the way it is. However, I think our family has got used to listening to nicely worded suggestions. As we are all keen to write well, we've got over most of our sensitivity. The girls are getting good at listening and then trying again. I'm not so sure about me though!

      Maybe your son will surprise you one day, Amy. You know how Felicity surprised me when she created her blog and started writing.

      I know you wrote your chapter for A Little Way of Homeschooling. Are you working on anything at the moment?

      God bless!

    • Amy R
    • February 27, 2013

    Oh Sue,
    I am so glad you replied already!!! What a treat. Like a regular conversation…almost.

    What I am working on, writing-wise, is just the letters I write. I have four letters to write. Yes, I'm feeling behind.

    The thing is, getting back to your reply, I am just terrible at nicely worded suggestions. I think I'm being diplomatic and the one daughter (my 22yo writer) says, seeing right through my feeble diplomacy, "You just don't like it," or some such thing. (She's not a star of diplomacy, either, I'm afraid!) And so I lose heart myself.

    Lately I am doing a LOT of what writers need: writers need READERS. I am reading everything by Alice Thomas Ellis. What an incredible writer.

    It would be wonderful. OK, it WILL be wonderful when my son surprises me!


    1. Reply


      I always love chatting with you! Actually, I've been meaning to email. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading the book you sent me. Thank you!

      Finding the right words is so difficult, isn't it? I instantly know when I've said the wrong thing. My children's faces drop! Oops.

      Writers need readers. Writers also need to read! Reading other people's work expands our thoughts and gives us ideas. I have just bookmarked Alice Thomas Ellis on Amazon. I love hearing other people's book recommendations. Thank you!

      I will email soon!

      God bless you!

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