Should My 4 Year-Old Be Writing?
About a week ago I read an advice column by John Rosemond in my local paper. A woman wrote in asking for tips on how to get her four year-old grandson to practice his handwriting. Apparently the boy was resisting this “homework” with great stubbornness. I absolutely loved the advice she received -- sighting research, the expert told her that her grandson was probably just not ready to read and write and that he would benefit more from playing.
It reminded me of my time as an elementary school teacher. The lesson I learned after completing my first year is that kids get it when they are ready. This is particularly true with reading. Sure, some children can learn to read before they are ready -- but when they are ready, they soar with little assistance from teachers and parents.
Despite what I intuitively understood as a teacher, as a parent I nearly fell into the trap of competition. Last year when my daughter was in kindergarten, I visited her classroom every week and one of my duties was reading one on one with the high level readers. Some of these kids were fluently reading books that the second graders I had taught years ago had been unable to read. My daughter, though, was struggling with the simplest of texts. Her light bulb just hadn’t gone off yet, but I was growing impatient. The angel on my shoulder gently reminded me that I didn’t read until the first grade, while the devil on the other nagged that kids must read in Kindergarten nowadays.
During the spring semester one of those high-level readers came over to our house for a play date. She went into my daughter’s room and picked up a book and began reading. I asked her how she’d learned. I expected to hear that her parents had taught her, but instead she said she just figured it out on her own. At pick-up time, her mom confirmed what she’d told me and I remembered what I’d always said to parents in my situation: When it clicks, they take off.
For my own daughter, reading clicked at the end of the school year. She spent the summer devouring books. With little assistance from my husband and me she is able to decode words that are well beyond her grade level. We never drilled her or nagged her to do anything she wasn’t ready to do. We simply filled her room with storybooks and modeled a love of reading and writing.
Let the Little Ones Play
In ways I believe our early education system is missing the mark. We are trying to force our small children to do big kid or grown up things. Like the man in the article said, we are pleased with daycare centers or schools that boast offers of technology to our preschoolers -- yet we don’t stop and think about whether or not they will benefit from sitting in front of a computer screen.
For me, I am doing my best to resist putting my little girls into the rat race. I hope to give them plenty of time for authentic play and quiet opportunities to connect with their inner genius and color outside the lines. Maybe in the process they’ll uncover the talents that will carry them through their lives.
What about you guys? Have you felt the urge to push your kids too far too soon? Have you experienced bouts of competitive parenting? How do you nurture your children’s inner genius?
Photo credit: The artwork pictured is by seven year-old, Caroline. Her mother nurtured her talent and love of art by creating this Facebook group showcasing Caroline’s pursuits.
Love and Light,
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