Monday, March 17, 2008

Wherein I sound like a pre-schooler and ask, "Why?"

I have not been as low as I was back in October, but it has not escaped my notice that yesterday and today mark the double whammy that was my first miscarriage and the due date of the pregnancy that became my second pregnancy. I feel that I did most of my mourning a few months ago, with occasional outbursts since then. It helps that I'm now doing some things to find the answers I need, whatever those answers might be.

Instead, I want to focus tonight on a relatively small sort of thing, but something that marks, I suspect, the true start to being the parent of a child in school. As part of Scooter's preschool program, we are required to have a monthly meeting with his teacher. We held ours via phone this month, due to our bout of strep. I won't go into the frustration of hearing the whole "trouble sharing must be because he's a spoiled only child" thing; neither Trillian nor I nor any of our siblings are particularly good at sharing--I suspect it's as much a personality trait as anything else, but didn't want to argue ("Frankly, I hate sharing, sometimes even with my wife and child, so the best we can hope for is that he shares grudgingly"--not a line I wanted to use).

No, an even smaller topic that came up for all of two minutes was handwriting. Scooter has trouble with fine motor control. Combine this with his tendency to avoid things he finds difficult = issues with writing. But he's proud that he can write his name and will sometimes write other letters. (I'm sure I've mentioned before that I credit his OT experience in Toronto with rekindling his interest in this.) I occasionally give him a little help with grip or a reminder of what direction to move the pen to make the requested letter. I do not--and will not--push for more than he's trying to do right now since that would only cause him to quit trying.

We have been told, however, that the district's handwriting curriculum focuses on lower-case letters first, not the upper-case letters Scooter has learned. Therefore, per his teacher, we should be working with him on writing all but the first letter of his name in lower case. So that he can meet the expectations of the handwriting curriculum.

I did mention the fine motor issues. I did bring up the many curvy letters in his name. And then I went silent. Because she reiterated that he should start working on his lower-case letter so that he will be able to complete the handwriting curriculum.

Here's the thing. I cannot bring myself to care too terribly much about the handwriting curriculum. I understand the need for my son to write legibly. I think he will take great pleasure in learning to spell and seeing how he can create words all by himself. I don't think that this will be affected by whether or not his letters are formed as proscribed by D'Nealian or anybody else.

I know this is something that Aliki has written about before (although I'm too close to bedtime to find a specific link): Why is this issue so important? Why the obsession? What harm if it's done differently? When to be rigid and when to give with a kid who's struggling with non-academic areas?

I suspect that the fact that I have been a teacher, that I have given quite a bit of thought to pedagogical philosophy makes me even more opinionated than I would otherwise be, a little less willing to play along because it's part of the district curriculum. As much as I want to be--and will be--a supporter of my son's teachers, I also suspect that there will be times I whisper to him, "Handwriting's not a real subject, so it doesn't matter what your grade is. Can you spell the words you're supposed to? Can you read lower-case letters? Can you write legibly? That's what matters."


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Bea said...

Handwriting is like a time-bomb for us, just waiting to go off. Bub has no interest, he rarely holds a crayon in the right position, he's staunchly resistant to all forms of intervention/instruction ... so yeah. I wish his kindergarten teacher good luck.

Trillian said...

While Mouse is whispering to our son, I will be commenting loudly (and no doubt obnoxiously) that handwriting is obsolete. As long as he can sign his name, he's good to go. Anything else is superfluous. Welcome to the 21st century. Everyone in my family has poor handwriting, the radiologist, the Senior VP with a major investment banking firm, the jazz musician, the teacher, the consultant, the retired high ranking military official....I don't think poor handwriting is going to be THAT much of an impediment. And I almost hooted with laughter when she said "handwriting curriculum" because seriously, it merits an entire curriculum!? And we wonder why we're falling behind in math and science....

Aliki2006 said...

One good thing, I think, is that less and less emphasis is being placed on handwriting. L. has terrible issues with this and just doesn't seem to have the ability to form the letters correctly. He also has dysgraphia, and until a coulple months ago was "mirror writing" so much--reversing letetrs still, mixing caps with lower case letters, etc. Luckily for us his school has not been stressed about it. He's been working with "Handwriting Without Tears" a great program that helps kids who struggle with handwriting issues. I have to say that his self-esteem has suffered because of his writing difficulties--but that is all from him, not from any outward pressure.

His teacher also lets him type his vocabulary quizzes and type his spelling homework. That is something you can ask for as an IEP modification. But we're finding this de-emphasis on handwriting seems to be accepted by most schools--thankfully.

Laural Dawn said...

Just so you know ... My mom saved all of my report cards from the age of 4 on. My teacher was very concerned about my handwriting also. But, of greater concern were my scissor skills. In fact, I passed Junior Kindergarten and failed cutting.
I still can't cut a straight line to save my life.
But, it has not stopped me.
My son isn't into printing either.
I agree - don't push it. They will learn, and as they grow older the schools will accomodate with computers if necessary.

Sandra said...

I'm with Trillian all the way on this one. She took the words right out of my mouth.

Lisa b said...

I'm not good at sharing either.

Just laughing at trillian's comment.
yeah, that's what I think too.

the whole thing drives me pretty crazy so I think the best we can do is just nod, or be silent, when the teacher who is beholden to 'the curriculum' tells us what to work on.
I learned that at daycare. Its not a conversation - they just want to tell you so they can say they told you.
Or was that at genetics? hmmm sometimes I get confused.

Mouse said...

I'm cracking up now at these comments. I'd totally forgotten about cutting a straight line (and that reminds me of coloring inside the lines). Somehow we've all survived. I think I've mentioned before that I still hold pens and pencils the "wrong" way--I found out from someone at Scooter's old OT place that my way creates a more stable grip and is now being encouraged by some educators. Take that Grade 2 teacher!

(Trillian and I did decide, however, to get a couple of the "Handwriting Without Tears" books--they're fairly cheap and Aliki's mention reminded me we'd been told about them before--and then just have them around as an option, if Scooter shows any interest.)