In Their Own Way, and On Their Own Day
“Kara, I am concerned about Jimmy’s fine motor development.” These were the words from my co-teacher that made me question whether or not I was doing the right thing by not “forcing” Jimmy to write. My initial response to her was, “In his own way and on his own day.” However, I could not shake the anxiety that was beginning to mount inside of my head. What if he is not ready? What if they make him repeat kindergarten? Am I a bad parent? A bad teacher?
As an early childhood educator, I have always felt that kindergarten should be ready for children, not children ready for kindergarten. As a parent though, the summer before my son Jimmy was to enter kindergarten I was experiencing great anxiety as he was not yet forming legible print. “No thank you.” This was the phrase I heard over and over anytime I would try to encourage him to write. I began to wonder if I should take a more traditional approach and sit him down for “writing lessons.”
I decided to trust Jimmy and his ability to control his own development. Instead of making learning all about the skills I felt he should have, I decided to observe the skills that he already possessed. I watched him pinch playdough, mold clay, paint with brushes, zip and button his clothing and weave fabric together. He knew the letters in his name, he could create his name from loose parts and site read the names of friends and words that were important to him, like lunch (Jimmy is a foodie).
One afternoon in late July, while working in the block area, Jimmy built an intricate structure that he wanted to save for the next day. Knowing our guidelines in the school, (if you wanted to save your work, then you had to write your name and tape it to it), Jimmy went to the writing area, grabbed a pencil and paper, wrote his name, and taped it to his structure; all as if he had done it a thousand times before (he had not). I walked over to Jimmy and said, “I see you wrote your name and taped it to your structure, you must want to save it.” His response was, as if this was not a big deal, “Yep.”
The parent side of my brain caused tears to well up in my eyes, I fought them back and reassured myself with the educator side. Jimmy was offered opportunities each day to develop the muscles required for writing. He enjoyed working that muscle group, just not in a way that looked like writing. When Jimmy entered kindergarten, you would have never known that up until a couple months before, I wasn’t sure if he was “ready”. When the time came, kindergarten was ready for Jimmy.
The experience that I had with Jimmy is the same that I hear and feel with parents all the time. The list of the things that children need to know to enter kindergarten increases with each passing year. I am here to share that children are amazing! When watched with intention and offered plenty of opportunities to explore quality learning materials, young children will do exactly what their body needs to develop. In their own way and on their own day.