Ask a Waldorf Teacher: Challenges in Getting Student to Write

Every Wednesday our members get to ask Waldorf teacher Diane Power questions about their homeschooling experience, Waldorf education and more. These Q & A sessions are posted on the member blog every week so you have access to all the past Q & A sessions. Become a member of Earthschooling to get your questions answered personally every week.

Question from Earthschooling Member: Hi Diane, I’m having a really hard time getting my 10 year old (G4) to write anything. He’s always had difficulty writing, and we’ve worked on this, but he’s become increasingly resistant. He happily listens to stories and comprehends all the work, so that’s not the issue. He just hates writing. Do you have any suggestions on how to encourage him? Thank you! – (“ES Member” – name has been deleted for privacy reasons)

Answer from Waldorf Teacher Diane Power: Good evening, (ES Member)! It’s great to hear that your son is enjoying and comprehending the stories. Since that is not an issue, my first questions to you would be why doesn’t he like to write? Does he tire easily? Does he lose his train of thought? Is he equally resistant to copying something vs. writing from his own thoughts? How is he with handwork and recorder? Has he been diagnosed with dyslexia or dysgraphia?

ES Member: Thanks for your response! I’ll start with your questions backwards. He is not dyslexic but has mild dysgraphia. We left public school when he was six; while there he qualified for speech therapy but was borderline for occupational therapy for dysgraphia and dexterity. His writing is still messy, but he’s a lot better at spelling than he used to be and he doesn’t flip his letters as much as he used to, so it’s legible if not terribly neat. As for handwork, he enjoys knitting and we are working through felt sewing in the grade 4 blocks right now and he’s really surprised me on how he immediately took to sewing. Music is different. We’ve had a hard time with recorder. As for copying, that’s usually what I do because he doesn’t like to write down his immediate thoughts. For a retelling, I’ll transcribe what he tells me, and have him copy that. He does get overwhelmed if I try to get him to copy too much. So he will copy, but he doesn’t like writing his ideas directly down. I don’t think he loses his train of thought, but he does tell me that he thinks he’s not very good at describing things. And I’m not sure why that is – he can be really good at describing things, just not when he knows he needs put those descriptions on paper. With all of this, I do try to be very gentle on what I require of his writing, but I’m wondering if there are other ways I can encourage him.

Diane: Have you considered typing? It might be worth trying for some of his work, especially to begin practicing putting his own thoughts down.  I would also continue his handwork and recorder to strengthen his fingers, and increase his stamina. Clay work would also be beneficial. How much can he write before feeling overwhelmed? Does the amount vary?

ES Member: Thank you for your response! I haven’t tried typing for schoolwork, but we can start incorporating that. He does like working with clay; I’ll make sure to pull it out again. He loved doing clay work with the Norse Myths block a few months ago. As for the writing amount, it does very, but he tends to get overwhelmed after about five sentences.

Diane: I would suggest keeping his work at one sitting to be no more than 5 handwritten sentences. Keep it consistent. He could also do two sessions of writing during the day for longer stories- say he normally writes those 5 sentences in 20 minutes – have a 20 min session of writing during ML and again another 20 min after he’s been outside for a snack or lunch break.

ES Member: Thank you again, Diane, for all of your suggestions. I really appreciate the gentle Waldorf approach and your thoughts helped me make sure we were still heading in the right direction!

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