Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why can't my child print their name?

Here I was at it again.  As my youngest child approaches 6 years old, I start to go inward.  I go inward with thoughts of achievement or non achievement.  It is easy as a mother to do this, especially in a competitive world.  Children are being taught as young as 3 years old in preschool to print their names.  What happens by the time your child is in kindergarten and they are not printing their name or even showing interest in putting pencil to paper?  As a homeschool mom for the last 10 years, I still go through this type of internal tug of war between  high emotional achieving competitiveness and my complete logical commonsensical understanding of a child's natural learning ability.  All signs point toward my child being on a clear path to learning at a natural pace.  When she wants to draw pictures, she will draw squiggly lines and crooked circles.  I have seen it many times with my children.  The squiggly lines soon turn into something noticeable and familiar. They draw you, in the form of a stick alien.   You will have 3 stick fingers on each hand, a big belly...always with a belly button and usually no hair. 
 The process varies between children and the speed of that process has variables.  Are the parents artists? How often does the child see drawings and how often does the child observe others drawing?  The age of the child also varies of when they draw 'better' or you start to notice some distinct object on the page.  We as parents are proud as we hang the squiggly lines on the walls and show the extended family when they progress to the alien family looking pictures.  Some children at 5 years old are drawing complete people with a scenery of grass and house.  It's hard not to admire the younger friend my daughter has already drawing the scene with grass, flowers and people with hair and sometime secretly wish your child was already doing that. 

Why is it then, when I want my daughter to learn her letters I feel this urge to sit down with her, make sure she is holding her pencil or crayon the 'right way'?  Why do I wish that she would just push herself to have so much desire to form the alphabet that she now recognizes?  I can suddenly feel the fear creeping in if I allow it, that perhaps I have done something wrong in the process from 0 -5 and start looking for things I missed and signs of possible learning delays.  These thoughts are fleeting as they are just thoughts of fear coming from a system within myself as a mother, wanting to be proud, wanting my child to be the best, the brightest.  I understand the moment I do this, I undo all that I set out to do.  What I set out to do was to provide an environment for my child that would allow her, no matter her learning abilities, to work at her own pace.  I understood from experience and research that given enough time, she will eventually print her name and flourish in this world.  One of my daughters did not read until she was 7 years old. While all the other children were reading, she was working towards it.  Two of my children did not become avid readers until 5th grade and before that I wondered why they didn't love to read like I did when I was younger.  As soon as they discovered some books they liked, their love of reading was exponential.

My 5 year old, loved learning her ABC's.  She loved working on a fantastic multi sensory software program called Vocabulary Builder.  I  put her on this when she expressed interest to do so, as it is designed to work with a child's natural learning ability.  She would spend as little as 3 minutes on it in the beginning.  I was only the facilitator.  It was not meant for me to push her, react to her, bribe her to do just 1 more minute or 1 more letter for my own self gratification.  I allowed her to be her own guide.  Eventually with the program she worked up to 30 minutes a day and would wake me up in the mornings handing me the laptop so I could put her on it.  I then started to get the workbooks out to see if she wanted to learn to draw those letters she now knew.  She showed interest to trace them for about 2. 5 seconds and then would move on leaving me with many uncompleted workbooks.  If she didn't get the line just perfect she would give up.  I would draw letters and see if she wanted to draw letters. Her eyes, her pencil grasp seemed so displaced and uncomfortable as I would watch her.  I resisted the urge to correct or move her hand to the right position.  I would ask her and sometimes she would allow me to suggest some things, mostly however it was her guiding me.    When her interest was not in drawing, or printing, which was most of the time, I would continue to read to her and point at letters that are in the world around us.  I would make letter sounds for animals and items and play verbal games with her which she loved.  She would draw pictures and ask me how to spell her name over and over again. I would try to guide her hand along as she let me to make the letters showing resistance if she couldn't get her hand to do what she wanted.   She would ask over and over again how to spell her name as people would ask her. I must have repeated it a hundred times and yet she could not remember and not print it on paper. I never forced the issue.   As other children had been spelling their names out loud for over a year, I told myself it was ok, she would one day print her name, just as all the other children had.

One day she asked me how to hold a spoon.  I showed her how I held mine and she started to change the way she held hers and suddenly she was excited at how much easier it was.  She had been using a spoon since the age of one and with new found dexterity she naturally started to hold her spoon in the new position.  As her birthday approaches I start to think of ways to get her start printing letters, which is against my train of thought.  This child is not about to be told how to do anything unless she wants to.  She doesn't pick up a pen or crayon to draw anything for 2 months and I wonder if I slacked too much.  The tug of war that goes on inside my mind is one of insane incompetence, where what I know slams into what I fear.  As I relax and just let her be for a few months with just playing computer games, reading out loud, imaginary play and just life experiences, out of the blue something happens, just like it has happened before.

 At the wedding of a family member she got the intense desire during the reception to draw the bride a picture.  We found some paper and crayons and she went to work.  She drew a rainbow, folded the paper and then brought it to me to look at.  There on the folded top was her name.  It was printed across the paper in different colors, each letter in capitals.  Still with all I know, it took me by surprise, I asked her who wrote her name, as if some other child magically appeared and did it for her.  She said she wrote it herself.  In all honesty I doubted her as she rushed off to give her masterpiece to the bride.  One week later while sitting at a restaurant she asked the waiter for crayons and paper and wrote her name out again, holding the pencil just as naturally as she could and then asked how to spell all our names.  She asked the correct spelling and with confidence, letter by letter, printed our names.

It is a tough world for us mom's. Our desire is to give our children the best of everything, the best start, the best instruction and the most love can be a challenge. How challenging it is to stay out of the competitive mindset and standardization of what young children are told they must know or have to know before starting kindergarten or at any given timeline as they grow.  As a parent, I am constantly unschooling my mindset from the status quo.

Find ways to remove emotional upsets or environments in the home if your child does attend school or is homeschooled.  There are many ideas, meanings of words, thoughts and emotions your child integrates on a day to day basis.  Remembering that your child wants to learn and not feel this pressure to be or do something they are not quite ready to do. On the flip side, and the great reward, is that this environment will also allow them  the natural ability to excel faster when they do find something they love and it will blow your mind as their confidence soars and the world around them becomes limitless.  Imagine as adults how much we resist when we feel pressured to do something we don't like and how much we grow when we find something we love!   We must as parents understand that a love of learning is fostered at a very young age based on the environment or environments that child is in.  This week my child printed her name. Now I get to wait, observe, explore with her and see what she does next and with common sense I will enjoy the journey as I watch her perform a lyrical dance that is a beautiful sight to behold. I realize in that moment she is not worried about printing her name.


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