Six year old resistant to writing

>>I really hesitate to ask you this, but I was just about to ask you how much handwriting practice you have your 6-year-old do. Now I’ve just read this, and it sounds like you require a similar amount to what I’m doing, but I’m questioning it. We aren’t doing English handwriting as a separate subject. My 6-year-old does 2 lines in her Hebrew ksiva book (the number of letters depends on the line, usually between 6-10 letters per line). Then she has one workbook that requires answers in English (not full sentences, a couple words or a phrase to answer). She usually does a page of that. In any case, she FIGHTS it. Sometimes I will sit right next to her and “coach” her through it, but even then it is a struggle. She knows she has to do it in order to do other “fun” things (also educational, but things she likes more) or play. Still, it can get stretched out for hours. I am starting to feel like I am torturing her. I want to have fun and relaxed times, like you write about. I really feel she could get it all done in less that 30-45 minutes if she was actually doing it. I am interested to hear what you think of this. Please be gentle, it took guts for me to ask you this question. Thanks!<<

What kind of things my kids do at this age has shifted over the years.  That’s not because my beliefs have changed very much, but because the dynamics of my kids has changed.  Practically speaking, what that means for me is that the younger kids now do much more than the older kids did at their age, because they see their older siblings doing academic work and request to do it, too.  It’s become to them the ‘right’ way to do it, because they look up to their siblings.  (My two year old was crying yesterday because he didn’t have a math book, lol!)  But I do strongly support a ‘better late than early’ philosophy, as well as a child led approach to a large degree in the younger years. 

I didn’t formally institute any writing for my older kids until 8, but I think what matters more than the age of the child in any particular area is their readiness and receptiveness.  A child who isn’t ready isn’t going to learn, or to borrow a phrase, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”  

But then it’s the hard mental balance, of feeling like there are things we want them to learn now, because we feel it’s important, and respecting where our child is coming from, and the challenge is that often those two things conflict.  I try to stay away from the school mindset that says certain skills have to be learned at certain grades, and focus more on my long term goal.  That’s a hard thing for most of us to let go of, because we were educated like that and still have that internalized view of learning as being on a time frame.  My long term view is by the time they are 18, I want them to be able to read, write, compute, on a reasonably high level.

When I think of it like this, it takes the urgency away to insist on something right now and helps me take a step back and look at what will help me reach the long term goal of academic accomplishment, along with the short term goal of raising a child who enjoys learning, and having a relaxed home environment. 

So that’s my general position for our family.  For you specifically, I would ask a few questions.  Why is it important to you that she do this at this point?  Why does she dislike it so much – is the workbook boring, is writing physically difficult for her, etc?  I don’t think what you’re asking of her is unreasonable, but 30 – 45 minutes of writing for a six year old can seem like a lot to them, and I’d shift to about ten minutes or less each, for English and Hebrew (that’s the about the time spent by my 6 year old).  Do you think she’d still feel frustrated by that amount?  Follow her cue, and see what she enjoys. 

There are lots of ways to incorporate writing into a daily schedule except for a formal workbook, and in another year, she’ll be maturationally much more able to write.  Remember that writing is a physical skill, not a mental skill, and the ability to do it well depends very much on small motor coordination.  When my kids balk in this way, I usually take it as a sign that I should back off, focus on doing more fun stuff with them, and reassess. 

This time of year is filled with holiday preparations, and getting her actively involved with that can be a good natural way to back away from the writing without making an announcement to her about it.  ‘Oh, we have so much to do for the holidays, let’s put our time into that right now’.  Go bake something, do a craft project – things you probably are already doing, just shift your focus to make that the main thing.

Another thought comes to mind – is she your oldest? Because if so, a trait common to oldest children is perfectionism.  They put a lot of pressure on themselves internally, and often balk at doing anything when they feel they can’t be successful in the way they want.  If that might be a factor for her, it would be helpful to give her a clear message that whatever they are doing is enough, that you love her just as she is.  Because perfectionists have this idea that they aren’t lovable unless they perform to a certain standard, and as loving as a parent may already be, perfectionists need to hear this a lot more to counter their own mental thoughts that are running through their minds all the time.

Please ask for clarification if there’s something I didn’t address.


One thought on “Six year old resistant to writing

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this for me. I have really started to think of this as a disciple issue, rather than a homeschooling one. She really hates it and so will whine and really try anything to avoid it. I have been telling her that if she will do her writing one day without whining or wasting time, I will let her only do a couple letters per day. I haven’t been budging, for fear of being too soft in the discipline area. Perhaps saying that we are so busy with yom tov things as you say would be a good “out” for me on this.

    Yes, she is my oldest, so she doesn’t have any older siblings to emulate in this way. In fact, she loves to tell me that it’s “not fair” that her little siblings are playing while she works.

    Another reason I have really wanted to do the writing now is because I was not 100% committed to homeschooling long term. I did not want her to be behind if she did end up going to school.

    Also, I am a baalas teshuva and I lack confidence in teaching kodesh. Her secular studies at this point look very “unschooly”. We read together, do art, go on museum trips, etc. One reason for this is because I feel so confident that I can guide her in those areas and that she will pick things quickly when she is ready. On the other hand, I often feel that I wouldn’t even know if she wasn’t learning something she should in kodesh. So the workbooks are a crutch for me. In any case, you have given me validation for my impulse to back way off, especially if I can do it in a way that doesn’t appear to be capitulation to whiny demands.

    Thank you very much.

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