*Unrelated note: No Soliciting signs don't work. Everyone just knocks on your door saying, "I'm not here to sell you this thing I have; I just want to LET YOU KNOW that it exists."
Recently, Matthew’s interest in reading independently has taken a real dive, so our focus has shifted onto writing. It might be because we’ve taken a two month hiatus from our Reading Eggs program or it could just be because he’s branching out to develop interests in new things. One of the major advantages to him being such an early reader has always been that when his interest ebbs and flows like this, I can let it. He can take as much time as he needs to find his way back to wanting it again on his own accord. I’m very big on readiness learning.
Coincidentally, his greatest interest for a good, solid while now has been writing. To my way of thinking, to write requires spelling, which is all braided into reading anyway. Awesomesauce.
Only, that hasn’t really gone down the way I expected it to. Matthew has delved into writing with all of the gusto he did reading, and then some. Our preschool activities involve writing a sentence or two a few times a week in his morning journal and mailing letters out to friends and family. Even when we aren’t in preschool mode though, he’s ALWAYS got a pen in his hand (writing “stories”, putting captions to his drawings, labeling pictures in magazines with magic marker) but he’s very particular about the words being “his.” To his way of thinking, if the words are his, than he should have creative license over how they’re spelled.
I tried to tackle this with a gentle, inconspicuous nudge from all angles, but he is totally unwilling to budge. “My words, my spelling,” he says. For a long time I thought it was adorable, and frankly, even if he wasn’t sharpening his ability to spell every time that he sat down to write something, he was still learning, having fun and developing other skills, like punctuation and penmanship. (Those, for some reason, he doesn’t mind being taught how to do correctly. Go figure.)
So I let him have at misspelling all the words he wanted to.
At this age, it’s pretty strictly the love of a subject, not the mastery of it, that we’re striving to develop anyway. And by that logic, we’re right on target. The boy does love to write. He practically has a novel of misspelled words written down the back of his bedroom door (even his mischievous antics involve writing nowadays) and I’ve had to start trashing some of the “stories” he tears from the pages of his loose-leaf Lightning McQueen notebook because he just writes so many of them; each about seven to ten pages long. Seeing as he’s a little young to be really needing to tackle spelling anyway, I kind of wrote spelling off as one of those things he’d probably more or less get the hang of just by playing around with so much. By the same token, if I’m always on his back about spelling words correctly, I knew I ran the risk of sucking all of the fun out of it in the first place.
After a while I couldn’t help feeling like it seemed an awful waste of such a perfect learning opportunity sometimes, because he just wrote SO MUCH, and he didn’t really seem to be making any great strides on the spelling front… But I ultimately decided that loving to write took precedence over writing with perfect skill, so I kept my mouth shut.
Then, it got trickier. His six year old friend once misspelled his name in chalk on the driveway. She very adorably wrote: I [heart] Math you, which of course I HAD to get a picture of and make kind of a fuss over. (I mean, c’mon, is that not the cutest thing ever, or what?) Well, Matthew noticed, and for about two months, took to misspelling his name the same way. This, I eventually debugged, but it took a good deal of convincing to make happen. “But it’s my name,” was his argument. “Why can’t I just spell it like I hear it?” He knows that some words aren’t spelled exactly the way that they sound (he came up with the names Wacky Words or Ghost Sounds for these) and he can read them just fine. But the same principle doesn’t apply so easily to writing. On the upside, he’s getting a ton of practice at isolating the sounds inside of each word, which has led to him learning how to spell some words really well -- just, you know, not many.
I was really interested to hear from my mom that that’s actually the way my older brother was willfully taught to begin spelling. When he started kindergarten, he was encouraged to spell the words he wrote however they sounded to him like they should be spelled. At the time she thought it was a dumb idea, she said, but once his class reached the part of the unit where they re-learned how to spell the words correctly, it clicked easily and he went on to do very well with spelling ever since.
Matthew’s been on this mega-psycho-obsessive writing kick for a solid three months now. And it’s probably been about that long since he’s been willing to sit down with a book of any real length and read aloud. I’m beginning to worry about this misspelling craze undoing what he’s learned about “Wacky Words” and “Ghost Sounds”. I’m sure he’ll pick up an interest in wanting to read again, (I even bit the bullet and paid for a 12 month subscription to Reading Eggs finally) but will he have effectively untaught himself everything by then?
What’s your take?