BalletBoy and I are currently in a struggle over the case of various letters. I see a point to them and he does not. He just alternates and uses the ones he likes best whenever he wants. Always lower case “e” but upper case “N.” Lower case “i” but upper case “A.” And so forth.
Up to a point, I’m okay with this. He writes labels on things for fun and when he focuses on other elements of writing, like spelling or creativity, then I usually don’t want to correct his case usage since that’s not the point of the exercise. However, it’s getting to be the end of first grade and I think he should start getting a little more consistent about it, especially if I ask him to for specific assignments.
That has worked really well for Mushroom. He also switches cases all the time and still does for many things, but when I ask him to pay attention and use the correct case then he does. Overall, his use of case has been growing somewhat organically toward being correct and all is well. Not so for BalletBoy.
I guess this is one of the drawbacks to having read early and well. He can sound out words fine, but he struggles to notice things about words and writing – the spelling, the case of the letters, the punctuation. Some (maybe even many) natural readers also turn out to have an intuitive understanding of words in general. They’re natural spellers too. But not poor BalletBoy.
I guess what it boils down to is whether I should have insisted on this sort of thing from the get go so he could form proper habits or if I should have been lax about it and let him enjoy the elements of writing he wanted and grow into the ones he struggled with more. With reading, that approach worked for BalletBoy, but not for Mushroom, who needed a more structured approach. On the other hand, the reverse is turning out to be true of the elements of writing, where the relaxed approach benefited Mushroom and hurt BalletBoy. Can a parent ever win?
We spent a full day in complete battle over this. When I relented slightly, I suggested that we work together and “make a plan” to figure out how to help him get to a point with his letters that he could write the lower case ones he was averse to using. Perhaps he needed to practice them. Perhaps he could add in one a letter a week that he would have to use all the time from that week forward. He literally plugged his ears and yelled at me about it. I finally said, fine, we don’t have to talk about it today, but we do have to make a plan for you to change how you write these letters. Sleep on it and we’ll figure it out tomorrow. The next morning, school dawned and the first thing BalletBoy said was, “Okay, I want to work on that thing with the letters.” I said, almost incredulously, “What thing?” “I want to practice writing the letters like you said.” I gave him his notebook and in less than two minutes he dutifully copied out all his lower case letters in reasonably neat handwriting. Then he went back and redid the copied note that had caused all this trouble in the first place the day before.
It really is all about when to push and when to back off, I guess. I don’t trust that we won’t butt heads about this again. It doesn’t answer whether we’d have been better off if I had just made him establish better habits in the first place. But I do want to remember this for myself the next time BalletBoy refuses to do something.