How to Create the Perfect Homeschool Writing SpaceMarch 25, 2021
Why is writing so different from other school tasks? For most kids, writing takes a higher level of concentration and perseverance. Like reading, writing places a lot of information in working memory, often for an extended length of time. Writing is also something that many kids avoid if they can. They may simply not enjoy it; but more often than not, they don’t like it because they don’t feel confident with writing. They may feel that writing has vague rules that they just don’t understand, or they just can’t get their wonderful ideas to sound the same on paper.
One way to motivate your child to write is by creating a writing space that’s both helpful and special. It’s a place that your child knows has been built for creativity and has been tailored to your child, a place that will make writing an enjoyable experience rather than a strenuous academic task. The perfect writing space is a place where your child can “escape” into the worlds of fiction, poetry, and reflection, or become immersed in research or reporting for a school subject. How can you create such a space? Keep reading!
Designing the Perfect Writing Space
Setting up the ideal writing space for your child requires that you know your resources and limitations. How much physical space do you have? Can you block off a learning space in some way? Do you have technology and other assets? What are the drawbacks to the place you have chosen? Most importantly, try to understand the strengths, needs, and preferences of your child. How would you describe the environment where your child is most content and focused? Here are a few steps to follow when designing that perfect writing space:
Involve your child: Your child will be more engaged with the space if you and your child plan it together. Take your child’s lead in determining where it will be located, whether to use a desk or a table, and how to decorate it. The more you make it your child’s space, the more comfortable your child will be and the more motivated your child will be to spend time there.
Choose an effective writing space: Environment does matter. Ask your child what needs to be readily available, so there’s no need to leave the area to get supplies. Include technology, writing utensils, paper, references, and whatever else your child mentions; and put them within reach. Your child may also need a space that’s separated from others and from distractions such as televisions, phones, and the sights and sounds of the rest of the family. Togetherness is good, but writing time may be a worthwhile exception!
Arrange the space to your child’s preferences: With input from your child, arrange the space so that your child is in a comfortable position when writing. Does your child prefer to sit at a desk or table, work with a laptop on a couch or recliner, or sprawl across the floor? Does your child need to switch between positions? What is the best room temperature? Should snacks be within reach? What other factors may affect your student’s ability to write and the enjoyment of writing?
Set the mood: Use scents, sounds, lighting, and decorations to create a calm place to spark creativity. Many writers have difficulty writing if the music has lyrics, so try playing music without lyrics or music that has lyrics that are sung in an unfamiliar language. Perhaps not having ambient sound is even better for your child, so consider supplying noise-canceling headphones. Some children will prefer brighter light, so they don’t fall asleep. Also, think about photos or wall decorations that may be inspiring. Create a space where your child will want to spend time and learn!
Writing Space Design Challenges
In a perfect world, you could set aside a separate room in your house to nurture your child’s creativity. However, sometimes space and resources are limited, or you have less control over the environment than you would like. No worries! There are still ways to design the best writing space possible for your child.
What if I live in a small home or apartment? If you can’t set aside an entire room, which most of us can’t, set aside a corner or just a desk or table or favorite chair. If you need use of all furniture throughout the day, create a schedule that includes certain times when your child has exclusive use of the table or desk or chair to write. Post the schedule so that others know it and won’t distract your child during writing time.
What if I have a busy, noisy house or apartment with a lot of distractions? Let’s face it, most families don’t live in a cottage in the woods surrounded by the inspirational sights and sounds of nature. Most of us can appreciate why Henry David Thoreau chose such a setting, rather than an apartment in the middle of a busy city, for his writing. However, we have to work with what we have. Limit distractions by placing the working area facing a wall, removing certain items from the writing space such as phones, video games, or televisions, and adding certain items like partitions or other visual barriers, noise machines, or noise-cancelling headphones. You can also adjust the scheduled time for writing so that it occurs when other members of the family are not home or are busy.
What if I have more than one child? Creating more than one writing space is always the best option. However, if you have limited room, you may need to share a writing area among children. If so, incorporate all their preferences so that you can easily change the environment for each child; and then create a schedule for when each child can use the writing space.
What if I own a pet? Does your cat like to walk all over your child’s computer and homework? Sorry, we have no remedy for that! Seriously though, we love our pets; but sometimes they can be distractions. Perhaps a little separation between your child and your furry family member wouldn’t be so bad when writing happens. On the other hand, if your child’s favorite pet likes to cuddle up next to your child while writing, the presence of a lovable friend can be calming and can, ironically, help the process. Pay attention to the role of pets in your child’s writing success.
Remember, you can use outdoor areas as writing spaces, depending on the weather, or you can try other quiet places, like coffee shops or libraries. The key is to create or find settings where your child is comfortable, motivated, and inspired.
Creating the Perfect Space for Your K-5 Learner
Younger children can learn the love of writing early, and a great writing space can help. Your child can discover that writing is fun when paired with play and enjoyable hobbies. Here are some ideas for what to include in your elementary child’s writing space:
Different types of writing implements: Sometimes this choice alone can motivate kids to write. Provide the regular pencils and pens, but also let kids write with markers, colored pencils, crayons, or paints. Give them finger paints and shaving cream or create textured writing with glue or puff paint.
Different types of writing surfaces: Providing a variety of writing surfaces can also build motivation for writing. Consider dry erase boards, chalkboards, or magnetic boards. Let kids write on windows or mirrors or use a keyboard. Try to find a great journal, maybe even with a special lock, where your child can write thoughts and feelings or just stories and paragraphs.
Toys for inspiration, characters, and audiences: Include toys as part of the writing space and incorporate them as writing prompts (e.g., “describe your doll to a friend” or “write a story about your bear going on a journey”). You can also teach your child to write for an audience by using toys as “readers” of your child’s writing.
Art supplies to illustrate writing: Build on your child’s love of art by including art supplies in the writing space. Then your child can illustrate a writing assignment or can create a piece of artwork and then write a story about it.
You know your child best. What would be a good addition to your child’s writing space?
Creating the Perfect Space for Your Middle/High School Student
If your child is a reluctant older writer, establishing a great writing space can be even more important. Preteens and teens appreciate some of the same items that younger children do, but they may have different needs for what should be in a writing space. Here are a few possibilities:
Solitude: Preteens or teens may have more of a need for solitude when writing. Providing a barrier for the writing space, like a door or partition, can be beneficial, and headphones or music maybe even more important to enable your child to “go away” and write.
Technology: Older children often focus more on the use of technology when writing. Provide a desktop or laptop computer, and help your child set up file systems to keep writing organized. Longer writing assignments may take several sessions to complete, and you don’t want your child to lose all those ideas.
Books: Reading can help your child become a better writer. Talk to your child about books and help your child critique them. Encourage your child to pick up a book if your child experiences a “writer’s block.” Inspiration can come from other authors just as easily as from a sunset.
Your older child has already learned to write and has been developing a voice. Your child may also have started to realize the power of writing as a form of communication. Preteens and teens can look for ways to be social through their writing. Research online sites where your child can “publish” writing (e.g., fan fiction or original works), interact with readers, and communicate with other authors; and then encourage your child to use safe internet practices. Adding this virtual writing space may be an important feature of your child’s physical writing space.
Regardless of your home, your child’s preferences, and the age of your child, designing a writing space is possible; and it’s a benefit to the whole family. When you have a special writing space for your child, your child can focus more easily on writing. Other family members know when your child is in writing mode, and you know that you are supporting your child’s creativity and expression. Above all, have fun designing it with your child!