Category Archives for "Teaching Writing"

10 Creative Writing Prompts for Kids

Here's a quick list which will help kids (or adults) with their writing prompts. In our approach with The Writing Course, we encourage writing every single day in order to hone the skill of mastering the sentence and growing in confidence.

Sometimes it's hard to get started, so here are a few creative ideas you won't find together anywhere else or in other writing courses.

Creative Prompt 1: Describe a Thing
Get a pickle jar or a doll or a box of jewelry and simply write out a description. Imagine trying to explain it to someone who has bandages on her eyes. Details are good, and there is no reason to be flowery.

Creative Prompt 2: Spell Your Name
We love this one. Just spell your name and make up a word for each of the letters. Then look at the words a few times and start writing about at least one of them. So, my wife's name is JODY. In this creative writing prompt she might write Joke, Octopus, Dragon, and Yell. Next, she could start with, "The dragon started yelling at everyone, 'I know I have bad breath! Do you think it's fun to have fire explode from a tummy ache?'" From just keep writing.

Creative Prompt 3: Free Associate
Just start writing word after word as they remind you of things. " away...I was running away that day, that was for sure. I couldn't take it anymore." Well, you get the idea.

Creative Prompt 4: Pick Up Where You Left Off
If you are writing everyday, then it is easy just to pick up where you stopped. Let it unfold as a story by reading the last few sentence from 'yesterday' and starting in today.

Creative Prompt 5: Steal and Change
Just take some other story you know as a beginning and then start changing it. You aren't publishing this, so it isn't really 'stealing' is it? So, you know the story of the Three Little Pigs... start there. "There were three pigs, a wolf, a grandma, and a lot of house problems. The pig smelled so bad the fairy godmother changed them into gardenia bushes and planted them outside of grandmothers house." Just keep going from there.

Creative Prompt 6: Ask Someone Else
Ask someone else, "Tell me something to start writing about." This isn't a place for you to say, "No, I don't like that one." Instead say, "Thanks and start writing." Face it, you are just practicing so it doesn't really matter if you write about someone elses suggestion.

Creative Prompt 7: Make a Ten Word List
Similar to your name, this idea just says you need a prompt to get you going. Write down ten words; perhaps things in the room. Next, start writing about how some of those things could be in a story or situation.

Creative Prompt 8: Don't Make Sense
We love this one because it is so hard to do. Start trying to write something that doesn't make sense and see where it goes. It's kind of like Lewis Carroll's Queen bragging that she thinks of six impossible things before breakfast. For example, "I caught the cold in my cupped hands and gave it straight away to the window pane; which is always waiting for just one lick of a baby to cure the paint in Martha's teacup in the car shed upstairs." Yes, I have no idea what I'm saying, but isn't it fun?

Creative Prompt 9: Create an Introduction
Create a standard introduction to a story and write it first; it should get you going. You know, things like "Once upon a time" and "In a galaxy far, far, away..." Your's could be "She had nothing to do with it, but it was happening anyway..."

Creative Prompt 10: Pray
Yes, if you are a praying soul. Give it a try and see what happens 🙂 You could at least write your prayer down on paper: that would be a start!

Whether you are an adult or child, a public or homeschool student, a seasoned pro or a newbie, the key to learning to write is to write. How to get started sometimes alludes us, but you have 10 ideas here that can change it all! Give it a try and let us know how it goes 🙂

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand


Can Dictionaries and Grammars be Dangerous for Creative Writing?

We often use tools like dictionaries and grammars authoritatively (even in our creative writing), don't we? We say that a word 'means' something or that a certain grammatical point is 'right' only when used a certain way. Never mind that the dictionaries and grammars aren't always in agreement. There are additional reasons why we should not be submitting these resources authoritatively. To become a better thinker, an independent thinker, please consider a different explanation AND why grammars and dictionaries could pose a danger to your student's education.

Can Dictionaries and Grammars be Dangerous for Creative Writing?

Click to Tweet

Too Many Mistakes? How to Teach Kids to Write

Young kids learning to write will often make lots of mistakes. In fact, it can be a little overwhelming. Too many red marks can kill interest and motivation in learning to write. Of course, if you don't give feedback they will not learn very well. Here's a simple solution that we found to be helpful while homeschooling our 5 Lybrand kids. Learn to change your student from a perfectionist to a progressionist. It'll make all the difference in the world.

Share your thoughts / ask your questions (below):

How We Help Dyslexics, ADHD, and Autistic Spectrum Kids Learn to Write

I probably should explain why I think we have such success with dyslexia, ADHD, and even mild Autism-Scale issues:

Our principles weave together through the themes of discovery and the uniqueness of the individual.

When a child (or anyone) is thinking all about trying to do everything 'right' it tends to lock them up. These kids especially need access to a different 'grammar book' (their own internal one) rather than one they must memorize. Most approaches to grammar simply do not understand how language/writing works, so they tend to be politically-correct-grammar-police (not really their fault).

So, when we help a child focus on the joy of discovery about their own use of language and uniqueness as an allows the brain to focus on creating rather than avoiding 'mistakes'. Naturally, this bleeds over into a number of other areas in life for these students.

Really, it just gets down to the distinction between what one CAN DO and what one CAN'T DO. Having a child with cerebral palsy helped us focus on the 'can do' side. That's what most of these kids need; to see for themselves what they can do and improve.

Even with dyslexia, merely finding that you are only mixing up 2 out of 10 words is great...just work on 9 of 10 (or whatever). In general, they will build on success not failure.

I think that really is the Secret of the Writing Course (and no one, literally, can break away from their quest for perfection long enough to really help). This is why we have 5 kids who can write well (and most of them still can't recite grammar rules to you!).



C.S. Lewis Best Writing Advice

His advice? Write by ear not by eye.

My son, Forrest, shot me this quote which affirms what I’ve been teaching for years:

You are too fond of long adverbs like “dignifiedly”, which are not nice to pronounce. I hope, by the way, you always write by ear not by eye. Every sentence shd be tested on the tongue, to make sure that the sound of it has the hardness or softness, the swiftness or languor, which the meaning of it calls for.
 -C.S. Lewis, from his ‘Letters’

I didn’t know Lewis had pointed this out, but having grappled through the decades (especially as an English Literature major), I came to the conclusion before I found the evidence. I think the reason is that

(1) It’s obvious, and 

(2) It’s impossible to find one’s voice with ‘rules’Please, have your kids read their works aloud to you and make corrections based on how they want it to sound when read. I’m not saying speaking is writing, but I am saying language is musical and instinctive. Your child can make a wonderful writing life if you will insist that they follow Lewis’s instruction to WRITE BY EAR.

Our course has helped 1,000s learn this approach if you want to go deeper and save time with your children. Just click below

A Better Writer in 10 Minutes a Day

Learn to play music without learning music theory, but can’t learn to write without learning grammar?

 Learn to play music without learning music theory, but can’t learn to write without learning grammar?

The answer is OF COURSE YOU CAN! Every great writer or musician began loving their art before someone taught them 'the right way' to do it.

You can learn to write and you can help your kids learn to write...without studying grammar. How can that be? It's simple: Like music, grammar is a hardwiring -gift in the brain. You've been duped, tricked, and mislead by the most sincere group of people on the planet 😉

Think about music and the story of great musicians:

  • They start out (often young) having a natural bent to like songs and beats
  • Somewhere along the way they pick up an old instrument and start making it sound new
  • A kind soul encourages them by providing lessons...or...they connect with friends and start teaching each other
  • They log their 10,000 hours and then, BAM!--- they are really really good​

Maybe you've heard it a different way, but it's still the same. They have an aptitude and they start developing it before they are formally trained. But that's not the important part. The important part is that they some how, some way, musicians FALL IN LOVE with music.


Writing is identical because language is also 'hardwired' into our brains. Stephen Pinker does a great job explaining this view in his book, The Language Instinct:​

Dr. Pinker Harvard

“Humans are so innately hardwired for language that they can no more suppress their ability to learn and use language than they can suppress the instinct to pull a hand back from a hot surface.”― Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

We are natural language and music learners. Almost everyone can instantly tell the difference between a melody and noise. And too, we can tell the difference between a sentence that makes sense and gibberish. In fact, we all learn to talk just fine way before taking a communication class.


1. Get your child listening to, and playing, music--- before getting them a curriculum that teaches all the 'rules and theory' of how music really SHOULD be played.

2. Get your child listening to, and writing, books--- before getting them a curriculum that teaches all the 'rules and theory' of how writing really SHOULD sound.​

It's both simple and profound. The more your kids play music and sing, the better they'll get at it. The more your kids read and write, they better they'll get at it.

Grammar and music theory are both useful at some point, but they are not necessary to create great writers or musicians. You want your kids to first fall in love with writing so they can tolerate (and learn from) studying grammar later on!

Here are a couple of resources to help and clarify:

  • The Writing Course - A genuine like-no-other training for the whole family based on the insight that language is an instinct

At the very least, watch how a little writing every day can transform your budding learner. Have them read their writing out loud to you and tell them one thing you liked. Writing + Feedback will win the day because the grammar book is already in their head. They just need a little help learning to read it.

Off to learn,

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Why I Figured Out a Better Way to Teach Writing


But what I really want to told you is why I am so interested in it. I mean today – I guess I’m a successful author of eight of my books published and many of them done quite well. I’ve got five kids who are homeschooled. Three of them collectively have written eight books – I written and published eight books collectively but the two haven’t written eight books curiously both have their essays used as models for other classes in college. That is today. BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THAT…

If you’re finding what I’m sharing to be helpful won’t you please share at facebook, twitter and other places to let others know? Thank you so much! 


The 3 Easiest Ways to Learn Vocabulary


The jury is in…Vocabulary matters. Whether it’s just reading, doing well on the SAT, or advancing one’s career, knowing more words makes a significant difference. The Romans even asserted that words where the way we mentally indexed and ordered our thoughts.

All of this is true, and clearly, reading a lot or memorizing words can help. There are, however, three shortcuts you might find even more helpful and much easier.

1) Learn Latin Roots to Improve Vocabulary

When you learn a single root of a word it can mean basically learning a dozen or more additional words just by association. Con = With/Together… so ‘confidence’ (with faith), ‘conduct’ (draw with / lead with…like conduct electricity), ‘conflict’ (strike together), etc.

So, In = Not…hence, ‘infidel’ (see confidence) means ‘not faith’ or ‘not a believer / faithful’.

2) Learn Synonyms to Improve Vocabulary

Synonyms allow you (or your student) to quickly connect the basic word meanings together in a single moment. In a way, it’s like learning one definitions, but then learning multiple words; that is multiplying your efforts! Here’s what I it looks like—

Ask– — question, inquire of, seek information from, put a question to, demand, request, expect, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz

Awful — dreadful, terrible, abominable, bad, poor, unpleasant

Bad — evil, immoral, wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, rotten, contaminated, spoiled, tainted, harmful, injurious, unfavorable, defective, inferior, imperfect, substandard, faulty, improper, inappropriate, unsuitable, disagreeable, unpleasant, cross, nasty, unfriendly, irascible, horrible, atrocious, outrageous, scandalous, infamous, wrong, noxious, sinister, putrid, snide, deplorable, dismal, gross, heinous, nefarious, base, obnoxious, detestable, despicable, contemptible, foul, rank, ghastly, execrable

Beautiful — pretty, lovely, handsome, attractive, gorgeous, dazzling, splendid, magnificent, comely, fair, ravishing, graceful, elegant, fine, exquisite, aesthetic, pleasing, shapely, delicate, stunning, glorious, heavenly, resplendent, radiant, glowing, blooming, sparkling

Begin — start, open, launch, initiate, commence, inaugurate, originate

Big — enormous, huge, immense, gigantic, vast, colossal, gargantuan, large, sizable, grand, great, tall, substantial, mammoth, astronomical, ample, broad, expansive, spacious, stout, tremendous, titanic, mountainous

Brave — courageous, fearless, dauntless, intrepid, plucky, daring, heroic, valorous, audacious, bold, gallant, valiant, doughty, mettlesome

Break — fracture, rupture, shatter, smash, wreck, crash, demolish, atomize

Really that’s all there is to it. Just a few of these a day will multiply exponentially, rather than the slow path of word-by-word labor.

Of course, almost all words only have their ‘real meaning’ in the context in which they are used, so #3 is still the easiest of all.

3) Read to Improve Vocabulary

It almost occurs naturally! Keep reading and checking the words you don’t know…you’ll be smarter in no time!

That’s it, enjoy!

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand


How About Waiting for Essay Writing Until Around 14 Years Old?

I get this question a lot about our Essay Course: When should they start?

Well, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to rush ahead and demonstrate how great you are doing in schooling your child…or…you want to rush ahead and show how naturally gifted your child is, then I’d start in about 3rd grade!

However, there is another way to think about it. Why not grow a child who has two attributes in life (?):

1. Skills

2. Confidence

It is really tough to get a child to be confident at something before he/she is ready. Just imagine insisting that a child should be able to dunk a basketball before puberty. No matter the effort, the ability ‘ain’t there’ to really compete at that level.

Well, essay writing is much the same. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, but basically most kids don’t have a fully developed cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is kind of necessary for more abstract thought. Frankly, Einstein figured out his basic theories at around age 16. Could he have pulled it off at 14? I’m guessing, “NO.” It’s just necessary to have the brain to do certain kinds of brain-work.

So, what about essay writing? Well, most kids aren’t ready to write formal 5-paragraph essays when they are 11, 12, and even, 13 years old. So, if you try to ‘make’ them write formal essays when their brain isn’t ready, what chance do they have of BUILDING CONFIDENCE? I say, “None, zero, zippo.”

Why not wait for The Essay Course (with The Writing Course ) until they are more ‘ready’ for it?

Instead, try this—

Start writing informal opinion papers. Have them write a paper on WHAT and WHY?

What – Do you believe about _________?
Why – Do you believe it?

Don’t worry about the exact 5-paragraph form, topic sentences, perfect review of the points…blah, blah, blah.

Just get them growing in their confidence! Your young child is probably not going to be a great essayist just yet (defending their opinion on profound matters). Why not just get them ready until the brain kicks in? If you’ll wait a bit, then they will be ready to write essays and excel in the process. Start too soon, take your chances.

You’ll be happier, they’ll be happier, and in some indirect cosmic sense, I’ll be happier too! 🙂

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Your Copy of the Writing Course is waiting!