As you may know, we are raising our son to be bilingual and bicultural. I often get comments about how lucky we are, and I agree, but I also think that raising a bilingual & bicultural child is also a lot of work, or should I say a lot of extra work, as you know, raising kids is no walk in the park.
We are doubly lucky that my son has always had a love for books and started reading at a three and was on chapter books at four. I have continued to supply him books from all kinds of topics, anything that captures his imagination. Thank goodness for the Book Depository and their free shipping or I would be a very poor woman by now!
So, as we stand Ebi-kun is now 7 and has a reading age of about 12, his writing, on the other hand, is not so hot. This creates the dilemma that many parents have:
How do I help my child’s weak areas without turning into a pushy “education mama”?
For me, this means finding a way to make it fun. When I look for books, I try to find those that are well written and illustrated plus have an element of fun. I can tell you that history would have been a lot more interesting if they had the Horrible Histories books when I was a kid!
Although Ebi-kun enjoys doing worksheets and quizzes, sitting him down every night to do 2 or 3 pages from a workbook isn’t my idea of fun and I am sure that after a few days he would start to rebel, I keep some at hand for the times when he wants to do some but for the long term I needed a different solution.
Enter mini storybooks:
I made up a pile of these little books. Each book is made from 3 pages of A4 paper, printed with lines on both sides. 2 pages are fully lined the third page is one side with lines and one side with picture boxes.
You can use the PDF downloaded HERE to make your own books. The PDF contains a variety of pages so that choose the best fit for your child, of course, you can mix and match them as you please.
Fold the pages in half and then fold a piece of A4 card stock to be the cover (or recycle some artwork) and staple them through the middle. I made a few at a time when we get down to the last one I will make a pile more. Took about 10 minutes to do.
I regularly make little books for Ebi-kun to use, with no instruction of what to do them. He often turns them into things like ‘How to be a Ninja Manual’ or ‘A Dragon Encyclopedia’ but this time I wanted more of a focus and a challenge to go with the books, writing with purpose.
Enter the prompt cards:
Between us, we came up with a selection of cards, some to be fact and some fiction. We did this together as I feel it is important to include the child in the process, he does have to do the work after all. Giving a child a black book and no direction can set up a barrier before you even start. Imagine if I gave you a lined exercise book and said. OK, you have a week to write a story. A budding writer might cope with the situation and go off with their pen and book, a person who struggles with writing will sit there looking at the blank pages.
Here are some of the topic card ideas we came up with:
The Tower Of London
The Dragon and the Magic Crown
The New Teapot
How Gears Work
The deal is that on a Monday he picks out a card and a book. He keeps them in his homework folder so that when he does his homework for school he can do some of his books too. He can choose when to work on the book but keeping it in the homework folder means it will be a fresh reminder each day, (meaning it won’t get lost under the pile of papers on his desk). Sunday morning he presents his book to the family. The cool thing is that my husband wants to join in too!
I am hoping that this book writing becomes a habit and as his writing improves we can tackle more difficult ideas and subjects. There is always a strong emphasis on creative writing but I feel factual and technical writing are important skills too.
Of course, every child is different, and I am sure Ebi-kun’s writing skills in English would be fine, IF he was being schooled in English as it stands, he is schooled in Japanese so it is my job to help him with his English. If your child is struggling with writing then here are a few ideas to try:
- If they find holding the pencil difficult, try investing in some specially designed pencils which will make it easier for them to grip. Also, work on some pincer muscle exercises to strengthen the muscles.
- Suggest writing a family newsletter to send out to the grandparents, each member of the family could write an article, do it monthly.
- Find a penpal
- Make sure there is a good supply of writing materials – nice pencils/pens, notebooks and paper.
- Keep a diary
- Encourage them to write to-do and shopping lists
- Write invitations for playdates instead of calling
- Enter a writing contest
- Make a cookbook with the family favourite recipes
- Make a technical manual explaining how to use something in the house
It is easy to get caught up in how beautiful the handwriting is and how perfect the spelling is but if you have a child that struggles with writing then take a step back. Instead of expecting beautiful writing be happy with legible writing and again with spelling, if you pick out every word that is wrong then you will end up doing more damage than good. Instead, make a note of the words they consistently get wrong, you may discover that its because they are unaware of a spelling rule. If this is the case teach them the rule. If spelling, in general, is difficult, then google spelling games and you will have no end of ideas to try out. Remember to make it FUN.
Do you have any great writing ideas, how do you help your children with their weaker subjects? Share in the comments section.
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