While I was pregnant with my first child, who is now 7, I dreamed of being a wonder parent who gave her child every artistic and educational experience under the sun. And that said loving child would embrace every moment of every effort toward the betterment of her mental edification. But the realities of parenting are quite different from the expectations I set up for myself before I had a baby who would cry, have demands, and even worse, learn the word “no”.
My husband left me when I was pregnant with our second child. My first daughter was not even two at the time. And though I had planned out many toddler time activities for the months that she was inside me, I found it harder to execute them as consistently as I would have hoped. Then my world was flung into chaos and the way that I decided to cope with my misery was to devote myself to creating even more educational material for my almost 2 year old. I would print and color and laminate while she played on the floor at my feet.
She really liked the puppets that I made for her and also some of the books. She liked the fact that mommy made them for her. But other than that she wasn’t much into learning. I always thought that teaching her would be as simple as making it fun. But she was on to me, and she didn’t want to learn. I found a few ways around her road blocks, usually through music and movement. So many of my efforts became too much of a struggle I decided this wasn’t the kind of mother daughter nurturing that needed to be going on.
I decided that despite my best efforts I would be leaving my oldest daughter’s education up to the paid professionals. I didn’t know what to expect with my second daughter. I can admit that I felt a little dejected about the whole experience with my reluctant older daughter. But as it ended up, my younger daughter is beyond eager to learn and make use of all the materials I had gathered for her sister. She is 5 now and will be one of the oldest kids in her kindergarten class when she starts next fall. I have a renewed interest in trying to capitalize on the pre school years to establish basic skills, habits, and principles.
All of this is a very long way of saying that I was thrilled when I found an edition of The Write Start by Jennifer Hallissy on NetGalley a few months go. I immediately requested it, but I haven’t been able to squeeze in time to read it. I have been beyond busy running the Accelerated Reader program at my daughter’s elementary school. Literacy has been a passion of mine for many years and it feels great to be making even a minor difference in the reading lives of students. And now I can use some of the suggestions in this book to impact the writing life of my younger daughter.
Or at least I was hoping to. I adore The Write Start blog and I was really excited when I sat down with the book ready to apply some of the ideas. But I didn’t find it approachable enough because every section seemed to go over all the writing stages when I was only dealing with one. There was a lot of explaining why a practice was helpful, when I cared more about suggestions, examples, and projects. I was expecting to be able to sit down with my daughter and work on something directly out of the book. The major issue I had with The Write Start was that it was far too didactic and went into much more detail than I needed. I think if it was reorganized in a different way it could have been more approachable. I did skim through the book and it had a lot of great information, but it just what I was expecting or looking for.
Summary from The Write Start blog: 52 playful activities are presented as ideal ways to invite your child to write. Each activity offers specific suggestions to meet the needs of Scribblers (pre-writers), Spellers (emerging writers), Storytellers (beginner writers), and Scholars (more experienced young writers) -– providing the just-right combination of fun and functional skill development.
I felt when I was reading the book there was too much focus on the type of writers and I couldn’t focus on the fun part. Also compared to the content I had seen on the blog previously, I honestly felt a little uninspired by the supposed playful activities presented in the book. Honestly, it is hard for me to both share and feel my disappointment in this book when I feel like the author has always been an inspiration to me. But when I read her blog my mind is always shooting off into new ideas and figuring out ways to adapt her ideas to the needs of my children. But the way that the book was broken down stifled that for me quite a bit.
Another issue was simply that I did not see my daughter within the pages of this book. I wasn’t clear on how to classify her and what she would enjoy doing. She is clearly still a Scribbler but she desperately wants to be a Speller. And I think being in between those two places made it hard for me to find the activities that were right for her. But what The Write Start did do for me was start me on the process of working with her more. So I am grateful for that. It started me down the road and I went into a different direction. We have started working on beginning letter sounds and she has shown a very high interested in reading. This week I introduced her to her first sigh words and started a word wall. We printed out a book and assembled it together. I had her write a title for it and I was stunned at how easy it was. How eager she was, and how much fun she was having.
Maybe The Write Start was the right book for the wrong time. I would definitely consider looking at it again some other time. I will also continue reading the blog and other educationally related ones. I not only have many months before my younger daughter starts school, but my older daughter is still a reluctant learner. I am excited because my 7 year old loves it when she gets to be a teacher and I think this may be a way to make headway with her and refine some of her skills.