5 December 2009


Wow this has been a bit of an internal struggle. I have this picture in my head of how things should work out, and then I realise I'm looking at the picture in my head and not at the real people I live with.

Jenna has been asking for "school work" - meaning worksheets. She has been around schools a fair bit for a homeschooled child, because my mum is a teacher and very open about her work. We visit her at school, meet her outside, sometimes the children have been to meet Grandma's class, and Jenna sees mum's prep around the house all the time. Somewhere along the way she has picked up an idea about teaching and learning and what she needs to learn. I'd thought she was happy with life pretty much as it was now, just living our lives, but recently she started asking for "work" again.

I thought about it long and hard, and I think I know what it is that she wants. Her handwriting is bothering her, I knew that, she doesn't want to write like a child she wants to write like me. She has seen handwriting practice sheets, and that's what she was after. Deflecting again just seemed so dishonest.

Hence the tussle with myself. I think worksheets to teach writing and reading are at best a time killing activity, and at worst an interference. I don't think they are wrong, or even unhelpful for all children, but they are not the way I wanted to do things. Simply, I wanted the girls to have a chance to pick things up from living it rather than doing learning exercises as a task separate from normal everyday stuff. How harmful did I think they'd be if I just let her get on with how she wanted to do things? It seems a bit disproportionate perhaps, but maybe I'd rather over think things than just go along never asking why...

So worksheets she has.

I would love to be able to laminate them but for now she either has photocopies or copies in poly-wallets (but the wallets aren't very good quality so will have to be thrown away after a few uses - better to use paper, I suspect, which at least biodegrades). My mum has been such a star seeking out really child-friendly things that don't feel pushy and that are open to Jenna's interpretation. I have to work hard at handing them over and then keeping out of it, otherwise inner-control-freak-mum starts trying to tell her to finish one before she does another, or dictate how to fill them in "right" (I didn't even want her to have the flaming things in the first place and then I start handing them out like they are important?!).

I really don't fancy this kind of homeschooling in the long term - not at all. It doesn't suit me, or perhaps suits me so well I would become something I don't want to be all too quickly. But I can't call myself child-led if I keep fighting her on what and how she wants to learn.


  1. Have you seen this site: http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/

    You can generate your own worksheets with whatever sentence you want and then print them off. I saw them on angry chicken and the girls had picked out some really cute sayings like "shake your groove thing"

    may help give you both a wee bit of control??

  2. No I hadn't seen that! Thanks. :)

    What we're using are kind of like colouring sheets but with most of the lines dotted so she can trace over them and practice the shapes.

    I have some tracing letters too but I think because I know that what she wants is to improve her handwriting those make me go a bit controlling (eg how to form the letters properly... telling her once is advice, telling her every time and using an expression of controlled frustration is less helpful). She did one, then those went away until we run out of other shape-following activities. ;)

  3. That is a hard one, when you want things to go a certain way...It's probably only the beginning, too, with worksheets--aaahhh!! Good luck balancing what you want with what your girls want :)

  4. Suggestion. Start practising yourself something you are rubbish at.

    I've found with Rye, crafting and art forms I'm not very good at myself I can be more relaxed about.. painting, drawing my inner control freak tends to immerge because in those areas I am very good and I want to show Rye how to do it "properly"..lol which in itself when it comes to art is a misnomer.

    And also allow Jenna to see your work and critique it - she'll be honing analytical skills and also seeing that whatever skill we want to master it takes practise and even for an adult!

    Also, does she know that writing is a form of art and drawing and painting, making patterns etc are all excellent for improving penmanship and control of the pen?

    I know how you feel though, I was adamnant I would not have flashcards anywhere near Rye.. yet here I am with flashcards and Rye loves them, hardly a day goes by when he doesn't get them and then sit beside me on the sofa telling me the letters and chattering away.

  5. How about suggesting that Jenna copies words or sentences from books she likes, or trying stencils? As Joxy said, writing is an art form in itself, thoug4 I'm sure you've already explained to Jenna that everyone's handwriting is different, and that there is oot necessarily one right way to do it. I suppose one other useful thing to consider is that writing is an invaluable communication tool that will, along with reading, enable her to learn much more about the world, and however she chooses to learn, she will benefit greatly from it in the long term. I'd say continue to be child-led but always offer alternative ways of learning. What a fascinating and thought provoking post!

  6. Thanks all - it's not even that my handwriting is great, just that she sees the difference and gets frustrated with herself.

    Actually today and yesterday she just drew on the backs of the worksheets I left in her art/craft drawers, drew a couple of lines on one and wrote her name on each.

    I think perhaps she was looking for a shortcut to something her motor skills aren't quite ready for yet, and now she has experienced "school work" and seen than it isn't some magical formula that will make her grow up faster, she is pretty much contented to play at doing it and working on her motor skills in her usual practical and unselfconscious fashion.

    Letting go of myself is a ridiculously big part of this parenting thing... I wonder if I'll ever be able to relax and let them lead?

  7. hehehe, if you manage to find outhow to let go - do let me know, I struggle with this terribly - I also find myself sometimes speaking to Rye in a tone that I remember my mother using, which immediately got my back up... and I see the exact same reaction in Rye.

    Must stop being soooo controlling!
    Gosh its hard tho isn't it!


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