Keeping it Real: The Importance of Authenticity in Your Child’s Writing Life

Parents, I have an assignment for you. I want you to plan out a week’s worth of meals for your family, taking into account each family member’s likes and dislikes. Write out the grocery list, and be careful, because I’ll be checking to see that you didn’t forget anything and nothing is misspelled. When you’re finished, just file it away somewhere. We were never going to actually shop for the meals or cook the meals. I just wanted to see if you could do the assignment. 

Any takers?... No? I don’t blame you.

Many kids feel the same way when they’re made to write without an audience beyond the assigning adult on the receiving end of their work. That’s why we need to seek out opportunities for authentic writing for our young writers. Authentic writing refers to writing that is done for a real purpose and for a real audience. Authentic writing is intrinsically motivating and helps to provide kids with a sense of the potential power of having strong writing skills. 

Here are five suggestions for adding some authenticity to your homeschool’s writing program:

1. Do Business. Have your student write a letter or email to a business. The content can either be full of praise for a job well done or dismay at a poor experience. This is a great time to talk about tone and professionalism. One of the best things about this assignment is that more often than not, kids receive replies to their missives. When I’ve done business letter assignments with classes before, students have even received autographed photos, coupons, and letters signed by CEOs. Talk about gratifying!

2. Review. Amazon, Yelp, Google, and Rainbow Resource are just a few of the abundant opportunities online for leaving reviews that will be read by a wide audience. Use the existing reviews rated as “most helpful” as mentor texts to help your student draw conclusions about what makes a good review. 

3. Blog. Whatever your young writer chooses as the focus of his or her blog, it’s a great opportunity to share something with friends and family. 

4. Slam or Snap. Book clubs aren’t the only literary reason to gather people together. Consider hosting a poetry café or poetry slam with other homeschooling friends. Everybody gets to share an original poem.

5. Serve. Can you find a way to serve your community via writing? You might consider teaming up with a local nursing home or assisted living community to record the life experiences of elderly people. Kids stand to learn so much from seniors who have experienced the history they’re learning about, and families will no doubt be grateful to receive a written record of their loved ones’ stories.