Posted by: angiefm | April 23, 2009

Writing Compositions

Someone posted a question to one of the posts about how to teach children to write compositions. I wrote the following response, then decided it deserved to be a post on its own!  🙂 

Question: How do we help our kids with composition writing.  What books would you recommend?

Answer: Hmmm … this is a tough one. And honestly I have no authority in the area. Or experience. What I CAN tell you is how we do things here.


First up, we have our children do narrations from the age of 6. There is a lot of “practicing” before that, but they are only required to do so as part of school when they are six. A narration simply is a retelling. And intially it’s just a straight retelling of something they just heard read to them. If you look up my “In Retrospect” posts, you will find some of my children’s narration.

But as they grow older, they are required to put in their own thoughts, perspectives, etc into the narration. So for example instead of saying that a character did such and such, they may add, and “I didn’t think that was very kind”. Or something to the effect.

They continue doing narrations orally ONLY till they are 9. This is because a child who has the added burden of writing, spelling, etc, cannot focus on the main task at hand, which is simply to retell. What happens when a child has to write at an early age, is that they will opt to use simpler words because they just can’t spell what they want to. “Beautiful” becomes “nice”. “Outstanding” becomes “good”. By the time they are about 9, spelling, grammar and speed of writing should be more or less under their belt, so that’s the age that we will transition to having them do written narrations.

Creative Writing?

What about “creative writing”? That’s a common question. And I like what Dr. Ruth Beechick, a strongly pro-homeschooling educator once said. You cannot be creative without having anything to be creative with. It’s like trying to build a house without bricks.


So apart from narrations, we have our children do copywork. In a typical week, they will write a Bible verse, a poem, a good piece of prose, something factual, etc.

Pick good pieces of writing (it needn’t be long), and talk about it before the child writes. Define any unfamiliar words, talk about how an un-phoentically spelt word is spelt, etc, muse about the turn of the phrase, the imagery used, etc. Nothing formal. Just an appreciation of good writing.

I have picked my own passages and I have also used the Spelling Wisdom programme from After years of doing copywork, my children actually pause in their personal reading to come to show me a passage or sentence they really liked. And it comes out in their narrations too!


This year, I wanted Alethea to get some independent writing done, so we started “journaling” once a week. Every Friday, she writes a single page about something that happened during the week. This I only correct for spelling because I don’t want to demoralise them by being overly critical. If there is a glaring grammatical mistake, I will highlight it, but those are few and far between, because they are exposed to so much good writing and have been doing narrations, so good grammar comes almost naturally to them.


If you are looking to get something structured to use to teach, I suggest looking at the website for some guided material. Otherwise I really cannot think of anything, because we have never used a programme for composition writing.

I hope some of this helps!



  1. Angie

    How is your back? Are you all ready for Baby #4?

    Take good care.


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