Thursday, February 10, 2011

Handwriting Update

Check out these triangle pencils.

Soooo, after years of agonizing, encouraging, begging, pleading and grumping Theo to take pencil in hand and put *something* on the paper, we're finally made progress. To the point that in 6 months I've gone from deep despair to thrilled with where he is at.
Y'all have followed some of my agony (and several of you have personally endured my endless questioning and agonizing).  I thought I'd share what's been working for us and where we are at.  
The basic premise is easy: I offered him a bribe.  Or maybe you could call it an exchange. 
Through Boy's Life Magazine, Theo learned that Lego was releasing a massive multiplayer video game called Lego Universe. Theo loves Legos and has huge bins of them.  He loves the idea of computer games.  Theo loves the stolen minutes of playing Lego Batman at the Apple Store when I or his father shop there.  Thus, the child worked himself into an absolute frenzy over the coming of Lego Universe (maybe we'll talk later about the intense genius of Lego marketing strategies).  Which sucks when you have a mom who is pretty much completely opposed to video games.  There was just absolutely NO WAY I was going to buy or let him play such a game. Which perfectly matched his plan that there was absolutely NO WAY he was going to make fluent friends with his pencil.  
In a moment of giant frustration, I finally keyed into this parallel.  Then I hatched a plan.  I'd buy the game, and Theo could play it any month he's written enough words to "buy" the on-line subscription. Bingo, I had instant buy-in. 40 words of copy work 4 days a week for 4 weeks.
The first 3 weeks were the same version of hell we'd been living - Theo sitting at the table alternating between how stupid I was, how stupid the copy work was and how stupid he was being.  But he'd get 20 or 30 words done over the course of 30 minutes.  Then, one day in the middle of week 3 he stopped, looked at me and said, "You know, this really isn't that hard."  And he did the work. 
He LOVES the game and swears it was worth the work.
Now 6 days a week he's doing writing work - 4 of them are copy work days.  Once he got 40 words done easily in 20 minutes, I moved the quota up to 50 words per session (I'd warned him at the beginning this would happen). It is often the first thing he chooses to sit down to in the morning.  He's really beginning to enjoy interacting with the material I choose (okay, it is Harry Potter, how bad can it be?).  

Most rewardingly, he's using pencil and paper to get what he wants in his life. He ran off and wrote his dad a reminder to make fried pickles for dinner soon.  Today he wrote most of a grocery list for us while I was driving.  He makes notes of lego ideas, and he copies down cheat codes for computer games from his friends at park day. The other day he wrote me a poem. Yesterday, he wanted to go play and couldn't stand to wait for me to finish working with his sister first so I could help him, so he plowed through writing out his history test on his own in the time it took me took to help her through it.
I'm so happy for the little dude.  This year he's made a giant leap from pencil phobia to easy writing. And as I suspected, his life is much the richer for it.


The Bug said...

What a great idea! I think learning about give & take is pretty valuable, actually - imagine how it will help a future marriage :)

Seattle said...

Sara, I am so happy that you are seeing the progress you hoped you would see. I know how much this meant to you. We should compare notes because I am seeing some shifts here as well. I also would say maybe it's not bribery so much as a little barter. He's trading what you wanted for what he wanted. It's all in how you pitch it, right?