Guest Post: Today’s post is from by my dear friend Kristy, founder of Almost On Purpose. Kristy and I have been friends since 4th grade, which is a LONG time. She’s an excellent writer and an even better mom.
I grew up with three fabulous brothers, but it has still taken me a while to figure out that teaching my boys (Regus #1 is 6, and Regus #2 is 4) to sit still and learn was not the best way to teach them. When Regus #1 was young, I noticed his tendencies for hands-on (kinesthetic) learning. You can read about my struggles to help him learn to count. By teaching him at home, I can tailor the lessons to his learning style. One of my younger brothers is SO extremely gifted and learns 100-percent through hands-on learning, which is highly unusual to have 100-percent of any one style. Our schools did not know how to handle someone so gifted. As a result, he was pegged as “slow” and ADD because he could not absorb the information or sit still. He astounds me. He can study an object (look at it at all angles) and figure out how it works. Now, that he accepts this as a gift, he is studying to be a film editor. He’s had the opportunity to work on some amazing film sets and has been requested by name. When I saw that my son was leaning towards hands-on learning, I immediately went to my brother for advice. He said, “It has to be a game. Keep him moving.”
Hold on to your hats, people! Let’s get ready to move!
Today, I’d like to share one of our more recent struggles: “Wanting” to write. Regus #1 was very reluctant. It was very hard not to compare him to my friends’ kids, but that is never a productive outlet. He just was not interested. I mean, he was learning stuff. He knew his phonetic letter sounds and how to count to 100 (with a little help), but he could care less about writing anything more than his name.
I tried the wipeable mats with letters. Nope. He just wanted to trace the actual arrow.
I tried lined paper. Are you kidding me? The lines were just in the way.
Then I heard about a program called Handwriting Without Tears.The concept of using blocks and shapes intrigued me. While I did not have the money to purchase the curriculum, I wanted to try out some of the concepts. The cool part was that I did NOT ask my son to actually write anything. Well, that made him happy.
I’d like to share the approach that has worked for us.
It’s been a while since my handsome 6-year old has gotten to play with the letters, so he was happy to model for me. He was super excited to get to share these tips with you.
Note: These pictures were taken in one sitting. As I mention below, I suggest working on one letter over an entire week.
Here’s what worked for us:
1. Cut out strips and half-circles from construction paper. These strips represent a stroke of the pencil. As you can see, I did not stress about making them perfect shapes.
2. Write or show a capital letter. I started with a capital “A.”
3. Place the needed pieces of paper in front of your child. I told him that these are all the pieces you need to make the letter A. Then I asked, “Can you find the letter A on my paper?” Sure enough, he knew what it looked like. Even if you child doesn’t, you can use this to show him or her. Ask them to make the letter. It may take some time. It amazed me to see him self-correct. Initially, he made the letter “H.” He kept saying it wasn’t quite right. If they are still struggling, you can put a dot in the “starting place.”
4. Lots of praise! He loves to be cheered, so I made sure to praise him even more. He loved it!
Stop. Yes, I want you to imagine the sound of screeching tires, here. Why? I had to give him a chance to enjoy the triumph. Sure, I let him scramble the strips of paper and try it again; but I did not ask him to do anything new after that. I let him tell Daddy and everyone else about his success.
The next day, do it again. The next day, I asked him if he could show me the letter “A” again? With a confident smile, he quickly arranged the three strips of paper into the letter “A.” More cheering ensued!
5. Try it with rice. Again, before I gave him a pencil, we needed to do more hands-on reinforcement. I found the idea for using a shallow pan of rice as a way to trace the letter from Brightly Beaming Resources. Using his pointer finger, I showed him how to make the same marks as the strips of paper. His eyes lit up because he knew that he could do it! He couldn’t get enough.
6. Continue with same letter for the entire week. Every chance we got, we went “hunting” for the letter A. Not only did we find the letter “A” on signs and packages, but we also used other things to make the letter: line up sticks, toy cars, trains, train tracks, forks, spoons. All of a sudden you will see your entire house a learning opportunity. Learning should be fun. Make it cheesy. Make it goofy.
7. Try writing (and 8 and 9). We started with the chalkboard, and that was fun. You can use crayons, pencils, or pens on paper. Just make it fun. It won’t be perfect, but it will be fun. Again, I was amazed to see that he was self-correcting his own work. This was amazing. Instead of me saying, “Try again,” he was erasing it and trying again on his own!
As you can see, I did not make him do it over and over at each sitting. I just wanted him to get the idea and move on to another activity. The point of it all was to spark his interest. By the end of the week, his self-confidence was 500 times higher. I was so proud of him. He couldn’t wait to go to the next letter.
Soon, he was too anxious to wait a whole week to work on the next letter. Interestingly, he lost interest with making the shapes by the time we go to the letter “K.” Instead, he wanted to just write them. I was really surprised that he applied the concepts to each letter and was able to write the alphabet without intense worksheets or practice. Albeit, they are not perfect yet. The achievement is that he wanted to write!
Now that we homeschool Regus #1 for K-5, we are using a more structured curriculum for handwriting; and he has no problems writing on lined paper. In fact, it’s one of his favorite parts of “learning time” (a.k.a. school).
He has taught me so much! It really is true: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!! It’s been true for me and for him.
Whether you are teaching preschool at home, homeschooling, or your kids go to a traditional school, it’s exciting to see their learning style develop.
What has worked best for your child’s learning style?
Kristy Rodriguez is the mom to two active little boys and a wife to a network engineer / avid golfer. She’s a technical writer and Ballet instructor. Before kids, she worked in the corporate world as a writer, project manager, and business analyst (though not all at the same time). But her greatest joy and honor is being the mom to her little boys. As a recovering perfectionist, her blog, Almost On Purpose, was born out of learning how to make-do with less and to be satisfied with life’s happy accidents.