A Constant Balance: To Focus On Where We Are Or On Where We Are Going

Posted October 26, 2022

A Constant Balance: To Focus on Where We Are or on Where We Are Going
By Amy Lemieux

When my children were young our family planned a trip to Disney World. It was MEA weekend, so we didn’t have an abundance of time, but there was an endless list of must-see attractions. The theme of the weekend mirrored the rest of our lives: hurry so we can cram it all in.

One afternoon as we blazed through EPCOT, a street performer caught our attention and the kids stopped to watch. My husband hurried back to see what was holding everyone up. “This is fun. We want to stay for a while!” The idea was immediately vetoed. “We don’t have time for fun. We need to get to the next ride,” and off he charged, everyone reluctantly trailing behind.

While the irony of this anecdote was not lost on me in that moment, on I forged, falling into the familiar pattern of racing onto the next thing while ignoring what was before us. We didn’t have time for fun. At Disney World. This illustrates the kind of balancing act our teachers face during their days with young children. The struggle is palpable; we need to do stuff. But in our quest to get stuff done, it is entirely possible to lose what is before us.

The intersection of balancing where a child is with where they are headed is where the intuition and skill of an exemplary teacher is most vital. All Seasons takes great satisfaction in our intention to be present with children as they are, but it cannot mean we ignore where they are headed. Each day begins with a tentative plan, yet our teachers know they have the freedom to deviate from that plan when an opportunity presents itself. They can honor the present while being mindful of what will inevitably be the next chapter for the children. If the preschoolers discover there are monsters in the boulders who might invade the seniors’ apartments, they are given the time to build traps, draw pictures to identify the monster, and compose a letter to warn the seniors of the danger lurking in the halls.

Some would bristle at our laid-back approach; does this mean we simply float through our days in total denial that the “rigors of kindergarten” are just around the corner? Not at all. We would be doing a disservice to our students if we allowed them to stumble into today’s kindergarten classroom totally unprepared for what is to come. Our intentionality means that we are welcoming the children as they come to us while helping them along to whatever their next step might be. For some children it means tangling orange yarn in a tree to lay a trap for the monster. For others, it means collecting materials to lay a more elaborate trap, complete with a drawing and written description of said monster. The excitement of the project might motivate a child who was tentative last week to now approach a senior to animatedly warn them of the winged monster.

Finessing this balance between present and future-focus means that regardless of whether a child comes to us knowing how to write words or not knowing how to hold a pencil correctly, we will embrace them as they are and help them to the next stage as they are ready. We make time for both and are committed to not be so focused on kindergarten that we miss preschool.

My Child Is Writing Their Name Backwards/Mirrored. Is Something Wrong?

Posted October 12, 2022

My Child Is Writing Their Name Backwards/Mirrored. Is Something Wrong?

By Tracy Riekenberg

This common question comes up from time to time, and it is one that I asked about my own child when she was around three years old. It can feel frustrating to watch your child write their name “correctly” time and time again, and then all of a sudden, the name is mirrored. Rest assured, this is a completely normal phenomenon that happens to many children as they learn to write and is usually of no concern.

Why do children do this? A few years ago, I had a realization that the children in preschool have only been on the planet for three, four, or five years. ONLY three years! So, when you put learning to write into that perspective, asking a preschool child to master something completely new and as foreign as writing is a big task. Writing requires so many concrete and abstract skills that a three-, four-, or five-year-old hasn’t mastered yet. The child will need a good pincer grip, mindful attention span, strong upper body and core strength, and a desire to want to write. They will need to have a concept of what a word even is, as well as what role letters play in making a word. The child will need to understand that writing and reading go from left to right in the English language, and they will need to know that their name is a unique word made up of a certain set of letters. These are very high-order skills for a young child!

Children who know how to write the letters in their name but put them in reverse or mirror order are often on the exact right path toward mastering writing. They have most likely practiced their name over and over again, with and without guidance from adults. A young child’s brain is a sponge, soaking up information at lightning speed and sorting it as time goes on. When a child who has been practicing writing their name sits down to write, their brain just tells their hand, “Write your name.” The brain knows the letters, even the basic look and order of the name, but the hand just sometimes forms the letters in reserve order. For most children, as they practice writing and reading their name – and gain more of those abstract reading and writing skills – their brain will eventually tell the hand, “Hold up! This isn’t right,” and fix the name. Typically, children may write in reverse/mirror from time to time until age seven, so this may even come up in kindergarten and beyond.

What can you do to help? It’s important to let the child who is writing their name – frontwards, backwards, mirrored, however – know that they are working hard and learning. Encourage name-writing and reading whenever the child is interested. Stay away from saying that a backwards name was “wrong;” instead point out that the letters also make their name when put in frontwards order. Try some unique ways to practice their name, not just pencil to paper. They could write their name with their finger in sand, in the air with their whole arm, using finger paint on an easel, tracing over letters you have already written, and more.

At All Seasons, we practice name-writing both formally, in name-writing journals, and informally, when we ask children to write their name on their artwork. We support their growth and use many of the methods listed above. Throughout the year, we will see mirrored writing self-correct or correct with a bit of teacher guidance. We don’t rush it or force it, though. After all, they have only been on this planet for three, four, or five years. There’s plenty of time ahead for mastering name-writing.