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I raise my 11-year-old son by myself. He needs to write a small essay about his first day at school and I don't even know how to help him. He hates writing and is in love with math, so do I. I don't want to be rude or anything like this or to force him to write anything if he doesn't want to. Any advice like to get tutor for him who helps him write this essay?

I understand that this is part of the school program and back in my days I wrote such things myself. I also understand that he will need such experience in the future, but once again, I never force him to do anything and don't want to ruin our relationship. Will be pleased for any advice in such delicate question.

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    How old is your son? – Joe May 14 '18 at 15:17
  • Eleven and he more in to fixing old radio, then writing or drawing – user24573 May 14 '18 at 15:22
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    What is it about writing that he dislikes? Is it the basic problem of producing neat letters, or is it spelling, or is it deciding what to write and choosing the right words, or is it something else? – Paul Johnson May 15 '18 at 16:25
  • Second the "is it literally the "writing" that is the problem?" I had terrible handwriting, I would have gladly written a lot more if I could type. – swbarnes2 May 15 '18 at 17:12
  • Having the expectation that your son completes his schoolwork regardless of his interest in the topic is not “rude.” Your “relationship” with your son is this: you are his parent, he is your child. It’s your job (and yours alone) to turn him into a functioning member of society, not be his friend. If this is the “relationship” you are afraid to ruin, don’t be. Anyone else in the world can be his friend-only YOU can be his parent. – Jax Jun 2 '18 at 12:30
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Two things first:

There are things one needs to do, even if one hates it. I do not like documentation, but I need to write documentation for my code, so that others can use it/maintain it. This is a good work ethic to develop. Emphasize on this. Writing is a very important skill irrespective of what they do. Proper completion of school work is essential. It can be rote work, but it needs to be done.

Second, do not view this as something detrimental to your relationship. As a parent, your goal should be to help the kid develop good foundations, rather than doing only what the kid wants to do. Being very permissive is detrimental to your child. Take a long term view - the child might be angry with you at the moment, but will understand 15 years from now. If you believe that its only disinterest/laziness stopping it, you have to encourage the kid to get out of it.

If the child does not like to write, start off with small steps - maybe a page or two? Have a long term carrot which can encourage the kid (example: turn in all writing assignments/ get a certain grade in writing, and you can get that set you want in summer). Encourage reading a variety of books (fiction included). I found that this helps writing as they use what they read in writing.

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    well said. A parent is not a friend first. If things go well you will become friends when the child grows up. Modeling a good relationship with authority will be very valuable to your child's success. Teach them to respect authority so that it will go well with them. – Adam Heeg May 15 '18 at 18:02
  • As to reading books - if he likes fixing radios but doesn't like reading, maybe starting him off with books that explain electric circuits etc (there's a circuit diagram of the Apollo 11 flight computer online - it would be really cool to understand how that worked...), books about secret ciphers (maths...), stories about building rockets (Homer Hickham comes to mind) might be a way to catch his interest at first. Plus: Children learn by imitation first. So if he never sees you read or write, and thinks you're doing just fine without, it will be hard to convince an 11-year-old it's important. – Pascal May 24 '18 at 7:25
  • Other answers here have some great advice about writing, and the one that says let the child ignore it and learn the hard way is more my personal parenting style. I think is the real issue here is that the kid needs to grow up a little and learn to do stuff that isn’t fun, interesting, or easy, because it isn’t realistic to expect to not have to do things in life you don’t want to do. It’s our job as parents to teach this lesson, and also to help write essays, and this answer addresses both. – Jax Jun 2 '18 at 12:11
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The first thing I'd do is talk to the teacher, and find out what the teaching strategy is here. Different teachers have different strategies for teaching writing, and different things they are focusing on. They might be more focused on the structure of the writing rather than the creative content; or the other way around. This will help you focus more on the correct things for the teacher. It will also let you get some information on things like what structure he's being taught.

Second, I would recommend for a child that is a 'math kid', like I was, that you focus on giving him structure. He may be stymied by the creative side of things; but what worked well for me was when I got a nice, concise structure to follow, and then just needed a bit of prompting to help populate it. Think of it almost like a computer program.

If it's a one paragraph essay, for example, maybe the structure is:

Topic Sentence. First Supporting Observation. Second Supporting Observation. Third Supporting Observation. Conclusion Sentence.

Or a five paragraph essay, each of the above might be a paragraph, with each paragraph having the same internal structure. For those sometimes I'd even start by writing one paragraph like the above, then turn each sentence into a paragraph by making the initial sentence into the topic sentence for its own paragraph.

Then, just talk to him about his first day of school some. That may be enough to give him some ideas for what to put in the paragaph(s).

Having the structure, and then just talking with you some without the stress of the writing, might be enough to help him get to an acceptable essay.

I'd also talk to him about how it was hard for you as well, and perhaps give him some tips for how you dealt with the difficulty. Helping him see it's not just him, and that it's not a personal failing but rather something to be overcome (and can be overcome) can be very helpful.

  • Agree with structure part, it really helped my "math" kid to think of it that way. I wish I included it in my answer :-) – user61034 May 14 '18 at 15:48
  • Good advice here, esp. talking to the teacher, and talking about the topic. Having him “tell the story” of his first day to you while you write down what he says, or while recording it, is a great way to get started on a paper. I use this method with my husband who has no writing skills but is working on his bachelors (at the age of 38!) Even research papers can get off the ground this way. It especially helps the paper to have a “voice” which is hard for beginning writers to achieve normally. – Jax Jun 2 '18 at 11:57
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11 might be a little young for this approach, but consider letting him ignore the assignment.

There are consequences, both good and bad, for every single thing that we do. An important aspect of school is understanding that certain behavior leads to certain outcomes, and other certain behavior leads to other outcomes. Whatever outcomes they're willing to tolerate will dictate the behavior that they need to adopt.

  • I don't think that's good advice. I don't want to downvote it because I'm a fan of "accept the consequences" personally, but I think 11 is a bit early to start down this track. Ignoring school work won't initially lead to dire consequences, so the boy might be willing to accept them, and continue to accept worse and worse ones, because they're dealt out in small steps. But being able to communicate clearly, both orally and in writing, is incredibly important in our world, and deciding at 11 that this is an ability he shouldn't have to improve on strikes me as a form of neglect. – Pascal May 24 '18 at 7:14
  • "11 might be a little young for this approach...", I believe is what I said. Perhaps an intermediate step at this point is simply having this entire discussion (ie, you can not do this assignment, and the consequence may not be that severe, but as you continue blowing off assignments, yada yada yada). – John Doe May 24 '18 at 16:24
  • “Allowing” my kids to skip an assignment, against my advice and with ample warning of the consequences, is exactly how I have won the homework war with 3 of my kids so far. I always communicate to the teacher what’s going on so that he or she understands that I’m not neglecting my duty to help and support my kid’s education, but forcing them to accept personal responsibility for it. Ultimately it IS up to our kids to do their work, and suffer if they don’t. 11 is not too young-I might even say it’s a little old as my kids had their first “lesson” in kindergarten. – Jax Jun 2 '18 at 11:41
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I know very little about kids, but I have a few techniques to make writing easier. These techniques got me through my PhD, and I think those techniques could be adapted to kids. If you'll bear with me, I'll use examples from my PhD first, and then offer some ideas on how to adapt it to a young person's essay. You may find these tips helpful yourself.

Have a specific person in mind when you're writing. I found it easier to write my thesis when I imagined myself talking directly to my advisor (or sometimes my cat!). You could ask your son to tell you, or his favourite toy, or a pet, what he knows or thinks about the subject.

One challenge with writing is that are trying to think what we want to write, and how to phrase it, at the same time. So focus on the what first by jotting down ideas as bullet points rather than complete sentences. For your son's essay, that might look something like.

  • recess
  • the teacher
  • the bus ride
  • lunch
  • arithmetic

... and so on. The next step is to write a sentence or two about each of those things.

Another difficulty is that we use more formal language when writing than we use when talking. When I found a section of my thesis difficult to write, I would explain it to someone, or write it as an (informal) email to my advisor. Again, ask your son to simply talk to you, or a toy or pet, about the topic. After he says something, you can say "That's good, why don't you jot that down?" If necessary, he can rewrite the sentences later. I tell my colleagues "It's easier to make clear writing more formal, than it is to make formal writing clear."

One big advantage of computers is that when writing, we don't have to start at the beginning, and write in order all the way to the end. Got an idea? Jot it down; you can figure out where it goes later. If your son isn't using a computer to write this, he can put ideas on index cards, and then shuffle them as needed, until he's ready to write the essay for real.

  • Good advice! This might even help me – SomeShinyObject May 31 '18 at 22:58

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