This information which I never heard of before was posted by Sonya on the Brillkids forum and wanted to save the instructions in my Writing Blog Category to reference it later on. Are you familiar with the Progymnasmata? It is a series of graded exercises that teach writing based on imitation of the best works available. One can use a curriculum but I don’t think it is necessary. You focus on one or two exercises each year of study. Your child would start out with Fables. You’d study a fable and then the child will rewrite it in his own words. We’ve done some basic exercises with these: 1. Cut the story down to 50 words. 2.Cut the story down to 25 words. 3.Retell in your own words. 4.Use the same plot but pick different characters. 5.Expand the story and give more detail. 6. Change point of view. Sometimes we’ll do all of these, sometimes one or two. The best writing is illustrated and placed into a binder. Here is the wikepedia intro on the progym:

As Progymnasmata (Greek “fore-exercises”, Latin praeexercitamina) are rhetorical exercises gradually leading the student to familiarity with the elements of rhetoric, in preparation for their own practice speeches (gymnasmata, “exercises”) and ultimately their own orations.Both Hermogenes of Tarsus and Aelius Festus Aphthonius wrote treatises containing progymnasmata (in the second and third century CE, respectively). The traditional course of rhetoric gave the progymnasmata in this order: 1.Fable 2.Narrative 3.Chreia 4.Proverb 5.Refutation 6.Confirmation 7.Commonplace 8.Encomium 9.Vituperation 10.Comparison 11.Impersonation 12.Description 13.Thesis 14.Defend or attack a law Once these exercises were mastered, the student would begin preparation of a gymnasmatum, a full oration on a topic given a specific context. Progymnasmata is now taught in today’s Classical Christian Academies and teaches the student how to write these works so they may go on to Gymnasmatum. your child gets older you’ll be taking apart arguments, studing the rhetorical devices used and imitating them.

We have used the progym for 6 years. I used curriculum at first but it’s not necessary. A little internet research will let you know all you need to know, at least for the first few years. Just pick the very best. I found the book – The Writers Workshop – a helpful book of exercises that uses the same practice of imitation. It was written for college students, but it’s an easy read and very basic.

The point of the Progym is that children really don’t have an idea of what to write yet, so you give them the model of the very best. As they accumulate a storehouse of words, sentences, and stories they will become original writers. The best writers read a lot. The progym is not enough by itself to create a good writer, but combined with a lot of reading (which you already do) it will give a framework to write his own material as he’s broken down and looked at the mechanics of really good stories and really good sentences.


Journal Writing Prompts

As I was doing research on writing and journaling, I came across this fantastic website called http://www.homeschooling-ideas.com/ which has tons of homeschooling ideas and links. Check out their great site and here I wanted to share one section on journal writing prompts.

    1. My advice to you would be..
    2. It is ten years from today and..
    3. I’m happiest when…
    4. I really hate…
    5. I am proud of myself for..
    6. My biggest wish is..
  • My biggest fear is..
  • If I could change one thing in my life it would be…
  • The thing I like most about myself is..
  • I am grateful for..
  • The three things I couldn’t live without are..
  • If I was the opposite of myself, I would be like this..
  • If I had one day when I could do anything at all, I would..
  • If I could invent a rule that people HAD to obey, it would be..
  • If I was an animal I would be a..
  • If I had a super-power I would want it to be..
  • I think they should invent a..
  • If I had a time machine I would..
  • The best gift I ever got was..
  • When I am old I will..
  • The one thing I will never, ever do is..
  • I want to go and live..
  • 10 things you didn’t know about me are..
  • I think everyone should..
  • The problem with being me is that..
  • If I had $1million I would..
  • If I were on TV I would tell everyone..
  • One thing I should do is..
  • If I were a piece of clothing I would be..
  • If I had to go live on a desert island, I would take..
Journal Picture Prompts

Photographs work really well as journal writing prompts for children (and adults!) in journaling. Images are good at triggering emotions, so they make a good way to explore how you feel about things.

If you work in a book then just cut out the picture and stick it in to use to prompt you. Otherwise my picture prompts come on lined paper – wide lines for younger children and then an older child version.

Surfer in the Ocean

Surfer prompt – wide lines version.
Surfer prompt2 – thin lines version.

Questions and Topics

  • How does the picture make you feel – write about how you feel and why.
  • Surfing is an exiting sport – write about the last time you felt excited or scared about doing something. How did you feel when it was over?
  • What would be the most exciting thing you could think of to happen to you? Describe exactly what would happen.

Winter Moon

Moon prompt – wide lines version.
Moon prompt2 – thin lines version.

Questions and Topics

  • How does the picture make you feel – write about how you feel and why.
  • They say you are ‘wishing for the moon’ if you want something you can’t have. What are you wishing for? Can you really not have it?
  • The moon has cycles. What are the cycles or patterns in your life so far?

Barbed wire in the snow

Snow prompt – wide lines version.
Snow prompt2 – thin lines version.

Questions and Topics

  • How does the picture make you feel – write about how you feel and why.
  • The barbed wire is stopping entry into the field. Where do you feel ‘stopped’ in your life?
  • What do you think you would find over the wire?


Ethan has been doing really well writing his own name. I recently made my own Hand Writing Without Tears chalk board using dollar store chalk board, popsicle craft sticks, super glue, cellulose sponge cloths. Total cost $2 since I already had the super glue and I cut up the cellilose sponge clothes into tiny pieces that he could use, they come in a 3 pk of 3 colors. Great value & price, this should last a long time.

Click on pic.’s to enlarge.

Another homemade Montessori idea is instead of making sand paper outlines of the alphabet, I made it using scrap wall paper roll bought for .50 cents at a thrift store. It has great texture to it and was easy to cut using scissors vs. sanding paper. I used shipping cardboard, permanent marker, glue stick, and D’Nealian writing guide. Total cost was .50 cents since the other items were free or already has available at home.


Fun activities to promote writing skills

Here are 11 ways you can encourage your child to write. Because children learn in different ways, they are arranged by learning style. But any child can benefit from the suggestions in all three categories. Written by Holly Hanke.

For physical learners

Write together. Whenever you sit down to write a letter or a shopping list, or to pay bills or fill out an order form, ask your child to join you. Give him some writing paper, a blank check or a deposit slip, or an order form of his own to scribble on while you take care of business. Your child will learn that writing is an essential part of everyday life.

Use sand to “write” words. Help your child make letters and words out of materials like sand, glitter, or cake sprinkles. Cookie dough and pancake batter work too — and you get to eat the results!

Use modeling clay or Play-Doh to form words. First, make large flashcards with letters of the alphabet or simple words. (Laminate the cards if you can.) Then roll out thin ropes of clay. Ask your child to trace the words or letters on the cards using the ropes of clay. Not only will he learn to recognize words, but playing with the clay will help build the muscles in his fingers and hone the fine motor skills he’ll need to write.

Keep a travel log. When you’re on a trip together — a vacation, a visit to Grandma’s, a trip to the beach or the zoo — have your child bring along a notebook in which he can write down what he sees and does, even if it’s nothing but scribbles.

For auditory learners

Take dictation. Have your child dictate a story to you while you write it down. Need a good subject? Try his last birthday party or a recent trip to Grandma’s. Even though your child isn’t actually doing the writing himself, he’s watching you write down what he says. This is a great way to reinforce the connection between the written and spoken word. As your child learns to write on his own, you can switch roles.

Describe pictures. Look at pictures together in magazines, catalogs, or storybooks. Ask your child to tell you what he thinks the people are doing or thinking, and write down what he says as a caption. Or ask him to narrate a conversation he thinks two people may be having.

“Publish” a book together. Find drawings that your child did in previous years. Paste them on construction paper, and ask your child to explain each one. Using heavy cardboard, make a cover for the pages and have your child decorate it. Ask him to write a title page listing himself as the author. Punch holes in the pages and bind them together with yarn or ribbon. Treat it like a real book by storing it on the bookshelf with your child’s other books.

For visual learners

Make a photographic journal. Take snapshots of your child with friends and relatives. Paste them in a journal or scrapbook that you make together or buy. Have your child tell you who is in the picture and where it was taken, and write down what he says as a caption. This will be a wonderful keepsake for him when he is older.

Keep a diary. Children love to talk about themselves. By keeping a diary, your child learns to “talk” about himself in writing. Even if your preschooler is still struggling with letters, get him in the habit of writing a word or two in a special notebook on a daily basis, using crayons or markers. Make diary writing a regular part of his routine (before bed is often a good time). If he has trouble getting started, you can:

•  Make specific suggestions. Encourage him to write about his visit with Grandma or a playdate he had, even if it’s nothing but scribbles.

•  Have him dictate to you what he’d like to record in the journal while you write it down. Most likely, he’ll soon get the urge to write it himself.

Play with alphabet refrigerator magnets. Playing with letter magnets on the fridge helps your child practice writing and spelling. He can also trace the letters (use colored pencils; crayons are too thick). For portability, you can attach the letters to a cookie tray.

Make an alphabet book. Fold a piece of construction paper in half, insert blank white pages, and staple the binding. Have your child write one letter per page, in upper and lower case, and draw a picture that starts with that letter.