“Make” Them Write

I said this a few days ago as part of a larger post, and I liked it so much I decided it needed its own post. 😉

Some kids are interested in “writing” when they’re 2. They love letters and learn all the letter names and the letter song. If left to their own learning — i.e., if not forced to trace letters or learn to spell their name — they might draw scribbles all over paper and Magnadoodles and with chalk on the ground outside and tell you all about what they’ve “written”. A few of them might even manage to form a few letters, which might be upside-down or backward or a little wonky in other ways, like Es with 57 lines on them instead of 3. 😍 And this is exactly what they should be doing. Playing to learn.

Some kids are not interested in “writing” when they’re 2. 2 year olds are notorious for memorizing all of something that they love. Maybe another 2yo loves dinosaurs or types of trains or the names of the planets, and that’s what they become intense about instead of letters.

Some kids aren’t interested in writing until they’re 5 or 6 or 7. Yes — seven years old and not writing yet! It’s the rare 7yo non-writer, in Western society, who manages to get to this age and not be beaten about by the educational system by this age. Most of them will already carry a few beliefs: “Writing is so hard.” “Writing is not fun at all.” “I am bad at writing.”

But every once in awhile, one of them manages to slip through (often because they went to a rare play-based or otherwise non-traditional school). And at 5 or 6 or 7 they become interested in “writing” for the first time. And they might draw comic books or Christmas lists or endless copies of their favorite character from their piece of media and start labeling them, start writing a few letters and a few words, letters too-big and jumbled up and with young-child phonics as they learn literacy separate from learning writing (because those are different skills).

And that is exactly what THEY should be doing. PLAYING TO LEARN.

Because children LEARN THROUGH PLAY.

But most children are being forced to sit down and trace worksheets. They’re not shown how to form letters “correctly” — in the way that’ll make for the easiest time writing fluidly later on — because there are 30 of them in a class, they’re all supposed to get through the letter A this week and B next week, and the teacher may or may not even write As “correctly” herself or know why it matters to teach it.

And, of course, no one cares whether the child is interested in learning about A and then B. It’s just what they have to do to meet the educational standards, so they get put on the conveyor belt and churned through so they don’t fall behind, so the school doesn’t fall behind, so the school doesn’t lose funding, so…

And then if they do fall behind, they get sent to me, and I have to untangle a layer of mess that would never have existed if they could’ve waited until they were interested.

[Image description: A half-transparent picture of a young child scribbling with oil pastels on a big piece of paper. Written over the top of it is a quote, by me, which reads: “If you wait until a child is interested in writing before you ‘make’ them write, you won’t have to “MAKE” them at all.” End description.]