Saturday, May 5, 2012

Wishing on the stars

I’ve told a lot of stories about Augie, many of them bragging/reporting on how smart he is. Not yet in kindergarten, he’s reading like a third-grader. He got in trouble last week for reading a chapter book in bed for two hours past his bedtime.

So it was puzzling when he could not or would not write his name, or anything else. He played connect-the-dots with his finger on the iPad screen, but it seemed almost painful for him to grasp a pencil or a marker and control its movement. Turns out, it was.

Peter created a sheet of letters for him to trace, offering a Lego reward if he earned a series of stars for pages completed. Augie hated every minute of it. His preschool teacher told his parents that some kids really struggle with fine-motor skills and he may simply not be ready and able to use a writing instrument. We backed off the practice pages and said he could start again whenever he wanted to.

About a week later, he told Pa he never wanted to practice letters, but he wouldn’t mind writing numbers. Next day he had a new worksheet with five columns of inch-high numbers to trace. He could do one column a day, more if he liked, and he’d get a star for each page he completed. He and Peter bargained over how many stars it would take to earn a particular Lego firetruck: Peter started at 50 and Augie started at 1 and they ended up at 9. He did the work, and before long, he had a new unit for his fire brigade.

After that, we moved on to shapes. Stars, clovers, squares, circles with smiley faces, all good practice for grasping the pen and controlling those resistant writing muscles. Another fire vehicle, a new set of shapes, a new goal. Now he hurries to get his sheet and choose a marker, works quickly but with focused attention, and comes running for feedback on his work. He’s proud of how well he’s doing, and when he writes his name on the sheet (another requirement for a star) the letters show much more control. He’s only a few days away from the next goal, a Lego fire chief’s car.

Last night we were at a family-friendly restaurant celebrating Daddy’s new master’s degree. Augie took Peter and me to see the working fountain; he’s fascinated by plumbing, and a bit intrigued by the coins in the water. I pulled a couple of pennies from my purse and the kids each made a wish.

Augie returned to the table clearly triumphant. “I wished that instead of earning stars to get my new fire chief’s car, I’ll get it for making a wish!” I was laughing and thinking, “Augie, you get points for working all the angles.” Peter just said agreeably, “I bet you’ll get it in the next week or so.”

And he will. But not without earning the stars. This will be another teachable moment: Sometimes you get your wish not by receiving the thing you wished for, but by getting the opportunity to obtain it for yourself. Then it’s a double win.


17 comments:

Red said...

Great to see kids making progress. All the better if they're your grand kids.

Stephen Hayes said...

Augie is fortunate to have teachers and family to guide him along the way.

Ms Sparrow said...

What an inspired way to help Augie reach his potential! He is so lucky to have you all on his side. He is such a fantastic kid that the day will come nobody will remember his trials at learning to write.
(I had a little boy once too.)

Terra said...

Yiy found an excellent way to motivate Augie and now he enjoys success in learning. Well done.

Terra said...

Ha ha, that is You, not Yiy!

DJan said...

How sweet to motivate Augie in such a positive way. He sounds like a wonderful child. Having a chance to hear about his progress made me happy. Thanks for sharing your grand with me. :-)

Jeanie said...

You do have a smart little guy and he has very smart grandparents who know how to motivate his learning.
You deserve some stars (and wishes) for all you have done to teach him.

Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs said...

Such awesome lessons for Augie. He's blessed to have such involved grandparents. I love this: "Sometimes you get your wish not by receiving the thing you wished for, but by getting the opportunity to obtain it for yourself." A great lesson (reminder) for all of us, regardless of age. Thank you, and happy Sunday!

Michelle said...

You get a LOT farther by working with them than against them! I bet he loves those lego trucks.

Retired English Teacher said...

You are such great grandparent. I applaud what you are doing with Augie. It is interesting how he did try to work the system. He is normal that is for sure. All kids are good at this. The good news is: you are teaching him self reliance.

Grandmother said...

It's a good reminder that kids will do things when they can. Good for you for switching to numbers when letters were too hard. What a fun job you have!

Indigo Roth said...

Hey Nancy! This is a lovely tale of encouragement and achievement; I take my hat off to you and the wee lad. Indigo x

Far Side of Fifty said...

Way to go Augie! You can tell what motivates him..and working toward a goal is a good thing! Once again I will say those Grands of yours are really lucky to have you and Peter in their lives daily:)

Zimzamzim said...

A very lucky boy to have such positive encouragement! And a very lucky Grandma to have her grandchild so close at hand - I have a 'surrogate' grandson but he lives a thousand miles away

WhisperingWriter said...

Aw, he has a wonderful Grandma.

Allyson said...

Being able and willing to grasp a writing instrument is not something I've really thought about before, but it definitely needs to be learned. I love that you all have a Montessori-type approach to learning and that you build on something that he loves to while slowly incorporating stuff that he doesn't love to do. I'm sure it cuts way down on the tantrums. And helps him understand that learning is fun. Too bad the public school system will kill all of that by the time he gets to high school. ;)

Carrie Lynne said...

Does he have sensory issues? My grandchild does and can
Not stand the way a pencil feels in his hand, but he will write using sharpies.

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