The last thing I would want to do on my blog is embarrass either of my children. So I won’t be sharing a second grade handwriting sample from my seven year old son Bruce. But suffice to say, it would be embarrassing.
I know from experience teaching K-4, that in a classroom of 20 there are always at least one or two kids who really struggle with handwriting.
More often than not, they are boys, lefties, or both.
Bingo on both counts!
So this past week I’ve been taking a hard look at Bruce’s handwriting and analyzing the heck out of it. The thing is, even when he is trying really hard, he still can’t write legibly.
That tells me something important: He actually can’t do it.
Could he try harder? Yes. Is that the source of the problem NO.
I want to say that again, because I think it will be helpful for parents of kids who struggle with poor penmanship to hear:
Effort is not the primary source of the problem!
So what is?
Well, it’s not that his teachers haven’t taught handwriting. Montessori kicks butt at teaching handwriting. His first grade public school teacher had him cranking out D’nelian practice sheets every day for a full year.
I think what we’re dealing with is underdeveloped fine motor muscles.
Bruce doesn’t sew. He doesn’t knit. He doesn’t play with play dough anymore. The only fine motor practice he gets is with Legos and Snap Circuits.
So what’s my plan?
Here’s what isn’t my plan:
- Encouraging him to try harder. (I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work!)
- Yelling at him to try harder. (Tempting but…no.)
- More D’nelian. (Why would I do more of what isn’t working?)
- Play Doug (blech! A little known fact about me is that play dough makes me want to gag.)
- Handwriting Without Tears (I’m keeping this one on the back-burner.)
Instead I poured over the Beyond Play catalogue. For those of you unfamiliar with Beyond Play, it’s a company that specializes in therapeutic toys for children with special needs. But you should check it out even if your kids are neurotypical because it’s awesome!
I’m planning a 3 pronged attack to the handwriting problem.
- DNA Balls. That’s the super cool ball Bruce is squeezing in the picture. We are going to keep one in the car for him to squeeze whenever we drive somewhere.
- Fancy Pencil Grips. I’ve ordered a whole variety of them. I’m going to write an I Brake for Moms blog post in the future about why pencil grips are like running shoes.
- Callirobics. 5 minutes of non-handwriting practice to music, every day for ten weeks.
I’ve never taught with Callirobics before, so Bruce is my guniea pig. But the cool thing is that it’s not concentrating on letter formation. Callirobics is about “eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and self-esteem”. At the end of every lesson kids are encouraged to doodle little faces into the lines of what they have drawn. If you know Bruce, then you know this is perfect for him.
Remember I said I was going to explain why I’m not going automatically with Handwriting Without Tears? That’s why! Bruce has already been hit over the head with letter formation. It’s not working!!! I want to come at this problem from an entirely different angle. I also want him to have fun.
So ask me in January how this plan works out. I’ll share some before and after writing samples in the future.