Friday, March 11, 2011

Experiments in early writing

preschooler copying a father's drawing of a bus
Sam's drawing of a bus next to Mikko's drawing of same. (Can you tell which is which?)


You know how sometimes parents compare their children to other people's kids — whether intentionally or just coincidentally as such opportunities arise?

Well, lately I've been remembering how my mom swears I learned how to read at age 2, and then a certain unnamed friend online (cough, Dionna, cough)1 posted a picture of her son writing his name out legibly — and he's a good six months younger than my 3.75-year-old son.

Despite these inducements to be paranoid and pressuring, I have resisted all urges to force Mikko to step up the pace. (No, seriously! Well, ok, I did playfully check while we were making "decorations" to see if he could write his name legibly — um, no.)

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when just the other day, he suddenly spoke up and created a writing lesson out of his own head.

I was sitting at the dining room table (newly uncovered and relocated to our living room and now frequently used) making out lists of projects I'd like to complete before the baby comes. I dragged Sam into this obsessiveness, even though he kept discouraging me by saying things like, "So, are we prioritizing the things on this list?" No! It ALL must be done! ALL! (I'm pregnant. I'm in my third trimester. I give no quarter.)

Mikko was drawn to our scrawling on numerous sheets of white paper (reused backs of printed paper — don't worry), so I handed him a stack and popped him into his booster seat and gave him an extra pen.

He started talking to us about Silly Guy and how he needed to write down our address so he could draw a map.

So I started telling him our address, which is mostly numbers. I started with 7 and asked him if he knew how to draw a 7. He shook his head, so I leaned over and drew a simple one for him, pointing out that both lines were straight and what directions they went in.

He loved this and eagerly copied what I had done.

Then he got this big grin on his face and looked up at us. We exclaimed in our joy over his joy. "You drew a 7! I didn't know you knew how to draw a 7!"

From there, he was insatiable. We ran through our whole address, and then went on to other numbers and letters.

preschooler's beginning letters and numbers
I was writing upside-down, so I've pointed out my own writing in case you can't tell an adult was doing it.
I loved that he kept adding lines to his E. My brothers always did the same!
You can see that not being able to write an S didn't discourage him; he liked Os just as well.


Some elements were easy for him, and others less so (see Zs below, which still confuse me sometimes!), but he never seemed frustrated. I think it was because it was his own choice to be practicing it all, and we weren't pushing him to perform for us. It was all for his own pleasure in learning.

preschooler's beginning letters and numbers
You can see he was quite taken with Qs. They run up the whole left side of this page.


This little, unplanned interlude made me so glad we'd followed his lead when it came to writing. If I'd made it a lesson, I'm sure I could have, in my infinite wisdom, sucked all the joy out of it for him and negated his feeling of accomplishment. Am I saying that everybody's planned learning opportunities are that way? Not at all — just that mine tend to be!

Seriously, the biggest reward from all this for me isn't relief that Oh, whew, he's writing after all; it was seeing his big, pleased smile after every mark he'd made where he felt successful.

The next day, Sam took the idea in a different direction. He started sketching out simple drawings and leaving room for Mikko to copy.

preschooler copying a father's drawing of a horse
Horse and horse. Very Picasso.


preschooler copying a father's drawing of a ladder
Ladders!


preschooler copying a father's drawing of an elephant
Elephant twins. Incidentally, Sam's a good doodler, isn't he?


preschooler copying a father's drawing of an airplane
Mikko was getting tired of the game by the time they got to airplane.


So I don't have much of a point. In some ways, I wanted to post this as an idea for what you could do to amuse or educate your own little one (of whatever age — I put no pressure on what time is appropriate for learning to read and write). In other ways, I'd say to ignore that whole suggestion and just wait for your kid to tell you when it's time — you'll know what to do then!

(And please, please, don't take this post as an indication that your child should be experimenting with writing by now! Comparisons between kids can be interesting, but don't take them to heart.)

When have your kids delighted you with their own delight in learning?



1 Do I know she didn't mean it as a competition? Of course I do! I'm not that dense, even though my brain sometimes forgets so…

8 comments:

Amie said...

Of course, I went straight to "should my kid be drawing like that already?". So thanks for the reminder there at the end not compare. And so true. But, really, folks, what is the age developmentally that scribbles come together to actually look like something?

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Amie: I have no idea! Maybe some of our early ed pros could chime in with the answer to that. Up till this week, I was thinking my kid was woefully behind, and now I think he's a genius. ;)

Megan said...

I think it's great that you are willing to stop what you're doing for an impromptu lesson like that - so many parents would put it off and lose their child's enthusiasm but you you ran with it.
What we do in Montessori classrooms is similar to your recent experience. We focus on indirect preparations - activities young children love like pouring water, squeezing sponges, and scrubbing with a brush all prepare a child's had to be able to write successfully. We also use varying textures (rough and smooth with sandpaper and wood, different fabric textures) to help their fingers develop sensitivity. At the same time, we use sandpaper letters to identify the sound each letter makes and let the child practice making the shape of it, and then by around 4 the children can start to make lists. They can "write" with the movable alphabet letters and spell things like "fier truk" (firetruck)"dump truk" (dump truck) "garbij truk" (garbage truck, etc, based on their interests. If Miko is interested in writing but still has difficulty forming the letters, maybe you should get some of the letter magnets and an old cookie sheet :). Then he could practice handwriting and forming words as separate activities. I would guess from some of your other posts that he's already had a lot of indirect preparation. The best thing about this is that children feel like they've discovered it for the first time! In fact, in the earliest classes some children were writing lists like that and looked down and realized that they could READ them. They felt like they had discovered reading all on their own and really they had! (Can you tell I'm enthusiastic about my work? :) )
For the drawing, in my experience children start to personally define what they're drawing around age 2.5 or 3 - not that it's necessarily recognizable to someone looking at it later, but they have an idea of what they're making as they form it and their motions correspond to it. Most children start to draw recognizable images around 3.5-4.

I Thought I Knew Mama said...

Awesome, Lauren! I bet this will lead to lots of fun, new interactions with Mikko.

Momma Jorje said...

Qs ARE a lot of fun! My ex-husband and I requested a Q letter on our very first checks. The banker thought we were making a joke, but when they arrived with an M (our actual initial), I took them back. So yeah, we had checks with a big Q, even though there is no Q in either of our names.

So the pics are in the order they did them? Because Mikko's elephant really looks like it could have the airplane at the top. It quite resembles Sam's airplane.

BabyMumma said...

you know what I love, that instead of focusing on the outcome, you focus on enjoying the process and are instilling a love of learning.
I do early chilhood education and I believe loving learning is so so so much more important for children than stressing about exactly what should happen at what age

KingKai said...

But can you do the Kaio Ken? I think not.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I love Mikko's writing!! Kieran is the same way - we don't practice writing, but sometimes he gets a hankerin' and decides it's time to write. This morning my big idea was to write out numbers on a big piece of butcher paper from 1-100 (he's very interested in numbers, but anything bigger than 12 confuses him b/c we so rarely see them). At any rate, while I did my 10x10 grid and wrote numbers, he took his own butcher paper and practiced writing too. He was SO proud - we are hanging up both papers on the wall :)

p.s. The whole name thing was partially a fluke - he's never done it that neatly again - I think it was just the novelty of writing it all out for the first time ;)

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