Letters.
February 01, 2013

A few days ago, Charlotte came padding down the hallway to me.  “Momma?” she asked.  “Momma, can you teach me how to write?  I want to learn how to write.”

“Sure, sweetheart,” I said.  “Do you want to grab a piece of paper and some crayons?”

My daughter didn’t skip a beat.  “YES!” she announced excitedly.  “Just please no letters.  And no words.  Just writing.  Okay, Momma?  Just writing!”

- - -

(Later she asked if I could teach her how to sew a “mermaid dress” without using a needle.)

- - -

We spent yesterday morning fraternizing with fellow mommas and babes at the aquarium.  On the way home, we passed a local school supply shop.

“Hey, kiddo, are you still interested in learning how to write?” I asked as an idea dawned on me.

Charlotte’s arms flew into the air.  “YES, MOMMA!”

I made a u-turn at the next light and headed back to the school supply shop.  We picked up a pack of lined paper for kindergarteners, a botanical alphabet coloring book, two handwriting workbooks (one for printed letters/numbers and the other for cursive) (I’m not usually much for workbooks, but Charlotte is tracing MAD so I thought she might enjoy a couple pages sprinkled in here and there), and a “now these are super special and only for writing, okay darling?” pack of washable markers.

When we arrived home I found some French worksheets for letters and numbers (printed and cursive) and something called “graphisme” (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist in the English-speaking world but is basically like practicing loops and swirls and lines) online and printed them out.  Then when Charlotte wasn’t looking I began to cobble together a modified version of The Alphabet Path.  When I asked which letter she would like to start with she insisted upon T.

T, for tiger.  For tangerine.  For turnip.

T, comme tempete (storm).  Comme tulipe (tulip).  Comme tambour (drum).

Today when Charlotte comes home from preschool, we are giving the letter T a whirl.  And even though I never intended to teach her letters and writing until she was six or seven, and even though I feel a little silly getting so geeked out over something so little, and even though I have no idea how to teach a child to write…I’m really not certain which of the two of us is more excited.

** Charlotte is three years and six months old.  Evie is twelve weeks old.


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  1. By on February 01, 2013

    I get geeky about my son wanting to learn, too.  We picked him up a lined white board and some dry erase markers, and a few little work books with counting and tracing activities.  While he only uses them to “write letters” aka scribbling, I think it will get some use in the future.

  2. By on February 01, 2013

    That’s awesome! I wouldn’t have waited until age 6 or 7 to start teaching her letters anyway, IMO that’s too old! I think by that age (in my experience anyway) kids should already be reading and writing. My son is 6 and takes spelling tests in school and can write full sentences and read books. Just my 2 cents though!

  3. By Amber on February 01, 2013

    That’s so cool! My husband CLAIMS he could read at age 3 so hey, it could work!

  4. By Cat on February 01, 2013

    Good for Charlotte!  I love following my kids’ leads.  My son is 5, but really wants to read, so he does a daily reading lesson with me (we homeschool as well), and my 3yo daughter always wants to sit in.  She wants to write her name, and works on it.  No pressure for her to learn how to do it, but it’s important to her.

  5. By on February 01, 2013

    One of the boys I nanny-ed for was quite verbal (like Charlotte).  He learned to read some random words, could identify letters and started writing just before his third birthday. 

    We took your “color walk” idea and used it over and over again as a “numbers walk” (looking for numbers) and “letters” walk, “shape” walk- it’s amazing how kids can see things in ways that I can’t.  I would look for letters on street signs and license plates, he would find them on the hot and cold tap and in fallen leaves.

  6. By on February 01, 2013

    And about the mermaid dress?  Hot glue.  I swear I built everything in the world out of hot glue as a child.

  7. By on February 01, 2013

    Having her watch you write lists and things is a great start, along with writing and hearing the sounds in her name. She will then start with drawing and labeling pictures,  which will probably be scribbles unless she knows how to writeletters,  then hearing the sounds they know in the word and writing letters (which is usually the first letter of the word)and then stretching out the word to hear more sounds.  The letter and sound recognitionand writinga few words happens in kindergarten usuallyand in first grade its sentences.

  8. By on February 01, 2013

    If you are having her practice writing letters though I would suggest making sure she does it correctly.  Once they practice it wrong it can be very difficult to fix later.

  9. By on February 01, 2013

    Definitely don’t need to wait until 6 or 7 for writing. My Charlotte is about 6 months older than yours I think and she is writing her name (sometimes leaves out a letter). Last weekend she wanted to try writing family members’ names as well. I’m totally geeked out about it too..

    How did this happen? Only yesterday I had to help her hold up her head and now she can WRITE HER NAME?!?!!

    Amazing, truly amazing.

  10. By Sarah Christensen on February 01, 2013

    I guess my assumption that she would be six or seven stems from my tendency to favor educational philosophies that delay academics and focus on physical skills, fantasy play, and sensory and emotional development in the first five to seven years.  I just assumed that the reason they delayed academics was because without academic prompting, they wouldn’t develop an interest in structured learning during that phase of childhood.

    I’m increasingly starting to think that I’m wrong about that.  Charlotte wants to do alot of art, alot of fantasy play, alot of handwork like knitting and weaving, alot of music, alot of storytelling, alot of hiking and sitting in nature, etc…but she also wants to do what she sees us doing: reading, writing, understanding maps, drawing pictures, etc.

  11. By on February 02, 2013

    I think that it will vary from child to child and you will benefit from following their cues - which you seem to do a good job of with charolette. If you start working with letters and a week later she loses interest, then back off and the interest will reemerge. I know a little over a year ago my son like to stumble upon letters while drawing with sidewalk chalk. He’d get excited about an X or an A that he just happened to draw. So, we spent a couple months working on identifying letters and he could draw a good handful of them on his own. Then one day his interest subsided. Within the past 6 months the interest has reemerged and he’s writin his name and gaining more interest in letter sounds and who’s names start with what letters and what other words those sound like (start with the same sound), etc.

  12. By on February 02, 2013

    There is a nice Montessori game you can play with Charlotte while you nursing Evie. You draw a letter on Charlotte’s back with your finger and she finds something in the room that starts with that letter.  Also, you can fill a tray with salt, sugar, cornmeal or BEST of all glitter, and have Charlotte draw letters in it with her finger. Best done outside I think.

  13. By on February 03, 2013

    I am of the same basic philosophy to delay academics. My daughter started asking to write at about the same age. She is now 5 1/2 and still loves to write but has no interest in learning to read. And that’s ok for me. We read together a lot and I know she will get there. I want her to WANT to learn, no matter the age.

    This article comes to mind:

    http://simplehomeschool.net/inspire-not-require/

  14. By Weekend Cowgirl on February 03, 2013

    It’s great she’s interested. I am sure she will simply enjoy trying and playing. Looks like you are easy and letting her just have fum which is great…

  15. By Meg {Phase Three of Life} on February 04, 2013

    Love this. T is a great letter to start with. I’d be ridiculously excited, too.


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