Boy Writers Raising Boys Reluctant Writers Writing Writing Challenges

The Joy of Boy Writers: Helping the Reluctant Writer Part 2

Welcome back to this reluctant writer series ! To catch things up, I suggested in the last post that you drop writing in order to help your reluctant writer.

Boy hates writing + less writing = more writing.

That’s what they’re calling new math these days. As you can see, I’m amazing at it.

Seriously, people. You can’t heal a damaged writer by doing more damage through coercion and demands. But you will begin to heal a damaged writer by understanding their perspective. So how does a homeschool parent go about doing that?

Validated their experience and feelings around writing.

No more convincing your child why they should like writing or why it’s necessary and important. No more lectures about that. They can’t hear you anyway. Not right now. Give them space to feel what they feel about writing.

One thing I found incredibly helpful was taking my son’s narratives about writing. When the time is right (and brownies help make the time right), gently ask some questions that will probe below the surface of their writing life, the type of questions depending on the age of your child, of course. Some questions could look like this…

“It sounds like you really don’t like writing? Does it feel hard? What’s hard about it? When did it start feeling hard? What do you hate about it?

“What do you most remember about writing?” or “When you realize you need to write something, what do you tell yourself?

“If you could say ANYTHING in the world about writing, tell someone how you truly feel without getting into any trouble, what would you say about writing?” 

Have a sincere and honest conversation with your child about their writing life. Ask them if you can take notes. Recording their narrative will help give you insights and, if nothing else, tips for what to not do with them around writing.

Make it safe for boys to take writing risks with you

Is it safe for them to take writing risks in your homeschool? If they write about poop and farts? Violence? Or your teen son takes a political position that is 100% against your personal/family beliefs, say about abortion or gun rights? How do you handle that?

Let me tell you, when my son took up an opposite social position in a paper, I DID NOT HANDLE IT WELL. Yes, it was ALL CAPS BAD. I screwed up both as his writing coach and mom. And yet we still have a good relationship, and my son is still making strides with his writing.

Here’s what I did: I owned my mistake, apologized and made amends. I invested in learning to do better than before.

It’s not that we have to do this thing perfectly. Hell no. But we do need to be mindful of our reactions, admit when we screw up and course correct when we do.

Perhaps we can’t help but pass judgment on the topics our kids select for writing, but we can help how we act on that judgment. Learn to suspend your judgment and let boys show up as the person they are in this moment of time.* That’s the first step. The next is enjoying the person who shows up on the page. But if you’re struggling with their topic selection, start with suspending judgment. That’s fine! And it’s how we learn – one step at a time. 

Let’s sum up a few key ideas for creating a safe environment for boy writers.

  • Appreciate them as individuals. Their ideas are unique and valuable.
  • Invest in being their writing coach. Give yourself tools to help them. Read, learn, and keep trying until you find the mark.
  • Convey to your son that your help and support doesn’t end just because they’re now 10, or in middle school or high school. Let them know over and over that you will continue to be there as they grow into new skills, that your relationship with them will continue.

While this phase is taking place, find other ways to explore writing that doesn’t mean pencil to paper. Play word games. Read and examine other people’s writing instead of their own. Search for creative ways that involve language and writing but doesn’t require physical writing. The goal here is to reopen the door to the wonder of language.


*Who they are will change with time. But also don’t disregard writing that is truly disturbing, such as signs of depression, suicidal thoughts, or other serious issues.



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  • Phase 2 for miniature gnome garden. Retaining wall up, tiny plants purchased. Gnomes in a bag, waiting for Parker to build a house.
  • Saturdaying with street art #atlanta #bigcitylife
  • Cleaned out and hacked back the abandoned fairy garden that came with our house. Now time to plan. Do we do a fairy garden? A troll garden? Star Wars garden? My 16 year old says a gnome garden. Hmmm. I may go with gnome simply because I’m thrilled my 16 year old son wants to do it too. A mom & me project! At sixteen, I’ll take it where I can get it. Now to research some of the lore around gnomes.
  • I honestly don’t know if I can read & study this book again with my high schooler. I did it four years ago with my oldest, but reading it again now? I really don’t know if we should continue holding up its position in the canon.
The watered-down explanations of who uses “N-word lover” and why. Ignorant, trashy people? You mean racists. They think someone’s favoring blacks *over* whites? You mean they don’t want blacks to be equal in our society. EQUAL. According to Atticus, we should respect people’s racist opinions. Not run-of-the-mill opinions, but racist ones. That blacks don’t deserve equal justice before the law. That’s the context of that scene with Atticus and Scout. 🙄
I understand the historical era of the story and when Lee wrote it. But I feel reinforcing these white-favored justifications and skirting the real issue (racism) is part of the problem we still face in our country. Maybe it’s time the book falls down the list of must-reads in high school.
  • Bloom where you’re planted. We all know that one, right? And there’s truth in it. But then, there’s not. There are conditions that, for you, make blooming near impossible.
It would take superhuman strength of character and willingness to turn a blind eye to incident after incident of harshness, criticism, cruelty and abuse. Again and again. Look away, look away, nothing to see here. Don’t object, don’t question, don’t resist. Die a slow death on the inside.
So bloom where you’re planted if that works for you, if the conditions are good for you. But if it’s not, you’re allowed to yank up your roots and march your ass to a kinder environment, if that’s what you need to thrive. A new city, a new circle, a new family. You can do that for yourself. And for your kids.
We’ve got one life. Just one. It’s too short to spend it with cruel and unloving people who mistreat or neglect one another more than they love one another.
If Mother’s Day is hard for you, I get it. What does it mean to reclaim this day for myself? I don’t know yet. I think I’ll focus on just loving my kids today, snuggling with my sweetheart. Grateful that I’m managing to break the cycle of abuse. For myself and for my kids.
  • Happy Teacher Appreciation to me! Times nine years. I figured it was finally time. #treatyoself #homeschoolmom
  • We counted it up and he’s been gone on business three out of the past four weeks. Between the kids and life, we think we’ve had 8 hours together in 14 days. No wonder I feel out of sorts. He flew in late last night, then I wandered downstairs to find out where he was, and he was on an 11pm call to India.
It feels like my right arm has been missing, which is both figurative and literal because I hurt my right arm while he’s been gone and I’ve been only half functional. His absence makes it feel way more than half. We missed our 26th date anniversary this week. 26 years! More than half my life with him by my side.
He mixed me a TGIF cocktail this afternoon, which knocked me on my butt, but hey, my arm isn’t hurting right now!
I plan to weekend SO HARD with him. And by that I mean rainy weekend sleep-ins and a lazy Sunday on the couch. What, middle-age weekend means something else?
  • I’ve reached the part in this book where it explains why contemporary lit is inferior. Um, there’s a very heated argument of one going on in the margins.

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