As blown away as I was with that little boy, so intent on writing his letters, I felt a quiet disappointment. Three-year-old Monkey had learned the alphabet song, loved playing with plastic letters we had at home and knew a majority of the alphabet. However, he showed little interest in displaying the mastery he did possess, much less learning more letters. I would often go over the alphabet with Monkey, showing him letters one by one, but it was frustrating for two reasons: 1) He would pretend he didn't recognize letters that he knew well. 2) I could see that he was not grasping certain ideas because he was just not interested. I didn't need Monkey to be a genius, I just wanted him to keep up with his peers.
This frustration brought up many feelings of doubt about my and my husband's role in helping Monkey learn. I knew a Dad that reviewed flashcards with his son every morning. Should we? I knew another kid who learned the alphabet from watching television and using apps, but we allow very little TV and have no kiddie apps. Should I push Monkey harder to write and read? If so, how would I make a three year old focus on something he didn't want to learn?
If I consider Monkey's peers, I have to remind myself that no one brags about their kid not knowing the alphabet so the people I'm comparing Monkey too are largely a self-selected bunch. When I voiced my concerns to my friend Carrie, whose son started reading as a newly-minted-four-year-old, she reminded me that my son had plenty of other strengths. In Carrie's son's case, he had a huge interest in reading and was the one who led his mom into teaching him to recognize letters and sound out words.
Which brings me back to what Monkey enjoys. He loves to listen to stories and have books read to him. He'll sit still for hours if someone reads him a book. He has an enormous imagination and can get lost in the complex scenarios he creates for his trains, his cars and, more recently, his firefighters. He likes to paint, has a great throwing arm, a solid soccer kick and he is an expert superhero.
More recently, Monkey has (finally?) developed an interest in letters, signing Valentine's Day cards for his teachers and a birthday card for his Dad. I bought an activity book he loves to do and a white board booklet where he'll happily trace letters and numbers by himself. I'm learning that I have to meet Monkey where he is. Encourage him to do what he likes and introduce him to what I'd like him to learn in a matter that aligns with that. You know what else helps? This article by a mother whose six-year-old son doesn't yet read. Even better, she included this guide of
When Should Kids Learn to Read, Write, and Do Math? which made me realize I should stop worrying and focus on my ultimate goal of encouraging Monkey to love learning at his pace and in his own way.