Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cute and Sneaky

My daughter does not take well to being corrected. Today I pointed out, nicely, that she had put her pants on backwards; she howled. A gentle suggestion that she, say, try holding her pencil differently can bring forth whimpers and tears.

Now, she used to draw her capital Rs the way some people might start drawing a little chick, by making a little circle with two lines coming down from it. Sweet, but illegible, unless you wanted to give it a beak and feathers and communicate through pictographs. Meanwhile, she was reversing so many other of her letters than I started looking up whether she might be showing signs of dyslexia.

So one day this summer, hoping it might help, I copied a few capital R handwriting worksheets and casually gave them to her. She's no dummy. She knew I was implicitly correcting her little-critter Rs, and she first grumbled, then sniffled, then melted into a puddle of tears.

Various homeschooling friends suggested, ever so gently, that perhaps I should just chill out and not worry about whether she was making her Rs correctly. She'd figure it out eventually. Their advice made a lot of sense, but I didn't want to give up.

An online friend generously passed along some Handwriting Without Tears materials, and reading through them, I found a brilliant technique for preventing or correcting reversals, on letters that included capital R. They call them "frog jump capitals": letters where you first make a top-to-bottom vertical line, then jump back up to continue. Get your child to make those initial moves correctly, and voila: no more reversals (or weird critters)!

Nini loves anything cute, especially cute animals. They already suggested using a "Magic C Bunny" puppet for letters that begin with a C stroke. So I dug out a frog puppet, told the kids his name was Hop Frog, and had him lead them in doing "hop frog letters" every day.

I made a point of keeping it brief and easy. Froggy would ask them to draw a line, hop up, and then make a D or an E. That is, some letter that had never made Nini sob.

After quite a few days of this, Froggy oh-so-casually suggested first a P, then an R. Happily and cheerfully, Nini drew lovely letters, with no memory of the summer's tears.

OK, I know I'm patting myself on the back here for tricking a 5-year-old. But it worked. Both kids look forward to their brief handwriting practice each day, and both are showing real improvement. And I'm reminding myself: keep it fun, keep it cute, and, if necessary, make it sneaky.


  1. Sneaky can be good. Sounds like a fun way to learn writing. Nice to find your blog.

  2. Oh, handwriting. I haven't figured out the right approach yet, though I do like the HWT stuff better than anything else. It's definitely an area in which I have to cultivate a light touch, or mutiny is guaranteed.

  3. Heehee! Very sly - I love it ;) You know - we have the exact same freakin' Frog!

  4. Jac, you know, Nini and Desmond were commenting to me how Hop Frog looks *exactly* like a frog puppet we used to have and haven't seen for a while ... but mysteriously, this one lacks the croaking voice box the other had ....

  5. We just started homeschooling our daughter this year (she's 7) and the handwriting was a struggle - until I found a site called She doesn't usually go for worksheets - but worksheets where she can practice writing "Daddy is a poophead" are a big hit. And her handwriting has REALLY improved.