Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Following directions

Today, I sat with Joshie and we wrote a letter. He just turned 4 years old last week. I was thinking that I would share thoughts related to teaching reading with the Bible, because this is definitely laying groundwork for that, but not only that.

We are viewing reading instruction as a collection of many skills besides just sounding out words, so when we have him write, we try to keep that fact in view. Part of the skills employed are character related: in fact, on our best days, we consider all training just opportunities for learning character -- that is how the Lord even trains us as parents! Amen? (What I mean is, on our worst days, we get overwhelmed with A, B, C and operate in our own strength and waste opportunities. : ( )

So along with reading and writing, we work on following directions, obedience (very similar) and humility. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That sure goes against the wisdom of the world. And the partner of wisdom is humility, not self esteem.

When pride cometh, then cometh shame:
but with the lowly is wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2

Anyway, today he wrote a two page letter to Auntie Soozie. I wrote it down with him, for him, of course. I kind of cued him in as to what we'd be talking about. I wrote it down in a permanent marker, but I am thinking a thick highlighter pen would have worked better for this purpose. He traced it in a green colored pencil, which isn't the easiest to write dark lines with. Oh well.

I took this video after he was on page 2 and he was really picking up steam. This was a really good session with him, which doesn't always happen, but makes for some good illustrations which I will bring up after the viewer views it. (Actually, it would not be unusual to have him write just a one page letter, but this one just evolved into a 2 pager, and that turned out to be just about right for today. I think it takes discernment to know how much is too much, without being directed by the child. We want them challenged, not overwhelmed.)

Be warned, this video it might invoke some nausea as my video skills are not the best. But it is very sweet to me!

So, again, this is the part where he is picking up steam, with very little encouragement from me. We started off much smaller and less accurate.

Okay, so here are a few things:

Joshie can kind of imitate some letters (drawing them). In the past, I was of the opinion of its no big deal about how he makes the shape at this age, just that he makes it. But now it seems wiser to really work on the obedience/following direction angle. Not with the goal of perfect penmanship at age 4!! So, what he does is not the benchmark for every 4 or 5 year old, and some 3 year olds may do much better than he. This is what takes discernment and a proper mindset for me as mom. The goal is obedience, not penmanship perfection.

How we do it: After the letters are written out by me, I sit him nearby. I use a regular pencil and demonstrate how to properly trace the letter (that is, indicating where to begin, what direction to go, etc.). We use Getty-Dubay Italic series, so that is what he is copying (although my example letters are not as accurate as some of the other children's penmanship). I found it interesting that by page 2, he is remembering the way to form the letters much better and correcting himself if he does it wrong at first. (Believe me, he was corrected plenty on the first page, but by page 2, he is really nailing them!)

With Joshie we are needing to work on following directions, doing what he is told. So, I am not stopping to "praise" him every time he does it right. I know some curriculums will push that, positive reinforcement, and I am not at all saying I don't show affection or happiness. But we want to convey that obedience and following directions is expected, even if you are writing a letter.

We want to train our children to follow directions, not follow praise, because in the real world, you don't get praised all the time for doing right. That can even mess up our hearts. We want our "well done" to be in heaven.

As we worked on the writing, we were talking about what each sentence conveyed, talking about big letters versus little letters, the period, etc. Some of it over his head, no doubt, but just kind of planting seeds.

What is neat is that while laying the groundwork for teaching reading, we are doing something useful and something that contributes to his overall training. In a school setting, you pretty much have to keep hitting that hammer on the nail over and over, but at home, in real life, you can make so much more of the opportunities. Praise the Lord.

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