• Tot School
Sep
08

Beginning to Write

Our children never cease to amaze us, do they?

Just a few short weeks ago, Pomme was eager to learn to write. She was frequently “writing”, by which I mean she was making little circular-ish shapes and squiggles in neat left-to-right lines. And she had learned a few specific letters — she stunned me one day a few months ago, in fact, by writing a perfectly legible “mom” on a Valentine’s envelope she had prepared for me.

But anything beyond a few of the simpler letters was beyond her. She loved to trace letters, and we would write out entire sentences for her to trace. But no matter how many times she traced a particular letter over and over, as soon as she tried to do it on her own it fell apart. Her muscles just weren’t yet able to remember the sequence of motions.

This is not worrisome, of course — she’s only 3! But it was a little frustrating for her, since she so wants to learn. And frustrating for me, since most handwriting instructional books, being intended for older children, don’t feature a lot of tracing. They go pretty quickly to forming letters on their own without that crutch. So my hopes of finding a program to save me the time of writing out things for her to trace all the time were quickly dashed.

I did find one possibility — A Beka’s K4 handwriting program is designed for this younger age group and does have lots of tracing. It’s also not “ball and stick”, which I despise with a white-hot burning passion (there is a choice between ball-and-stick manuscript or cursive). I still waffle between d’Nealian printing and just plain old cursive first… and if cursive first, traditional style or Italics? But for now, I would be happy with anything single-stroke and not ball-and-stick.

Any program we used would also have to focus on lower case letters first. Which, fortunately, most these days do… but not all. Any of the tracings that I’ve done for Pomme myself, all the letters that we’ve worked on learning so far, have all been lower-case.

Then a couple of weeks ago, everything changed all at once. We were registering her for her dance classes, and I had signed a credit card slip. As she often does, she announced that she wanted to sign too. I’ll usually take the regular receipt and let her “sign” that, which is usually her little pattern of circles and squiggles in a neat left-to-right line.

But that time, she wrote her name.

Now I should mention that she’s been typing her name recently, and working on learning the spelling by heart. She logs in to various computer games with her name and had just really mastered the complete spelling by herself.

But to write it by hand all by herself, that was another matter entirely. And what’s more — she wrote some of the letters in capitals. Which I have never taught her.

My guess is that she learned the capital forms from her computer games. But it’s still a difficult task to transfer making a shape by clicking points with a mouse, to forming it with a pen by hand. And she did it flawlessly, without asking for help, with no advance “practice”.

Not long after that, we were doing the first unit of Meet the Masters. The project for this unit is to make a portfolio to store your artwork, and to decorate it with a palette featuring the names of the artists which will be studied in the programme, and your own name. I let her write it all by herself. She doesn’t yet know how to spell her last name, so I told her each letter, but she wrote them independently:

Caileigh Name_0001

Now I realize that by posting this picture I’ve exposed her real name to the world, but I was just so proud I can’t help it! She also cut out the palette by herself except for the worst of the inside turn (top left of this picture) which I finished for her.

So now my plans for a handwriting program are up in the air. She is able now to write without tracing! So maybe we’ll give Penny Gardner’s Italics program another go. Or maybe I’ll splurge and buy Cursive First. Or get Barchowsky’s Fluent Handwriting, I love their emphasis on rhythm… either the regular or the beginner’s workbook… Or maybe we’ll still get A Beka but go with K5 instead of K4. Or maybe K4 is still a good choice. Or maybe… or… or… ARGH!!

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