Earlier this week, Mushroom had the most epic, most off the wall, most out of control school tantrum of all time. I dare you to put this tantrum to shame. At one point, my eight year old was actually on the sofa kicking and screaming, tears streaming, arms flailing and he looked like some cartoon of what a tantrum should be. Something I haven’t seen in ages.
What spurred this tantrum, you ask? Proper letter formation.
Look. I’m not a stickler about these things most of the time. But when your handwriting starts to interfere with your ability to convey meaning, then you’ve got to stop and rethink. You know, before you’re in high school and it’s way too late. So I asked him to write a few lines correctly, really focused on it, with me sitting there helping him. And all h-e-double hockey sticks broke loose. And then something that should have taken less than ten minutes ended up taking all morning.
Then we went to co-op. And he looked like this. That’s him, right in front. In case you can’t see it, he has a gleefully happy expression on his face. So at least the day wasn’t all bad.
And then we got home and the tantrum resumed for the rest of the afternoon. I try not to photograph the tantrums.
I still can’t say if I did the right thing by digging in and making him do it anyway. I often just happily go sideways with things like this. Drop it and pick it up again later when it’s less threatening. I don’t usually get so entrenched. That usually works. We did that with math and now he really likes math (he in fact stopped crying for a minute mid-tantrum to solve BalletBoy’s Singapore Challenging Word Problems assignment!). We did that with phonics and now he’s come along and reads very well. Slowly and steadily, we changed the format, we dropped things and came back to them until the skill found its right moment.
But I’ve been dropping this mixed up “n” and “h” thing and the wrongly scaled letters thing and the letters floating off their lines and the lack of spacing and picking it back up again for nearly a year. And it just hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s worse now. He wrote a densely packed page of story of his own accord the other day and many of the letters were stranger than usual. I didn’t say a word (other than to gush over the story, which was really very cool – my kid is totally writing steampunk with big clock gears that transport you to other planets), but when we sat down to do Monday copywork, I was determined to make him get it just right.
When it was finally done, there were lots of hugs and apologies on both sides for the torment caused to us both. He agreed, with extra tears, that he needs to work a little extra on his letters. I’ve always thought that as a parent and a teacher, you have to know when to back off and when to push forward. Let’s hope I got it right this time.