I had recently begun to get a little nervous that at 5.5, Jude isn't writing yet (except for "J"), and can only identify a few letters. Even though I believe "better late than early," even though I believe it's absolutely not essential for him to know these things yet, even though he spends hours every day constructively making and building things, using fine and gross motor skills. I confess I had seen how well some other 5 year olds are writing and started to worry (comparisonitis! always a bad thing!). I wondered if I should set up some "lessons" with him and intentionally teach him these things.
Then, on Friday morning, he informed us that he is ready to learn to write letters and numbers. He got out the sticky notes we gave him for Christmas and some envelopes. He asked us (Dan was there too), "How do you write a ___?" and proceeded to write several letters (first tracing, then copying our models) - "M" for Mommy, "D" for Daddy, "J" for Jude, "F" for Felix, "E" for Ezra, and so on. I also pulled out a letter and number writing practice book I bought back in August for just such an occasion - tucked away on the bookcase until he indicated he was ready. He chose to practice his numbers and traced them all from 0 to 9 six or seven times.
This is the same way I remember Henry learning his letters - based on the people and things he loved the most. He loved to write the words "joy" and "hot." Haha. As well as "Mommy," "Daddy," "Jude," "Felix," and "Henry4" and then "Henry5." He always wrote his age after his name those two years, it was so cute. Anyway, back to Jude. He's been writing letters - so far, the first letters of people's names - every day since then, and he is so excited about it.
Because his particular area of interest right now is writing notes to people, I went out on Sunday night and bought a set of 200 notecards and envelopes in rainbow colors and set them out on the table for them to find Monday morning. They were thrilled and went to town "making mail." Then I remembered something I had seen in the book Playful Learning that I had been meaning to do for years - make a family post office. I kept putting it off because my vision was unrealistic; I imagined mailboxes made from natural, plant-dyed felt, blanket stitched edges in contrast colors, eclectic buttons for closures, each family member's name embroidered on the outside...you get the idea. Yesterday, though, I remembered something Jamie Martin has said on Simple Homeschool (where I get the majority of my ideas and inspiration) about not worrying about things being beautiful or perfect and just "making it happen." So that's what I did. We folded 9x12 pieces of acrylic felt in half, stapled the sides closed, wrote our names on masking tape, and affixed to each "mailbox" folder. Tacked them to a cork board. DONE. I do not mean to criticize those who do things much more artistically or intricately, but this was just right for us in terms of time commitment and their attention spans. When I asked Jude at bedtime what his favorite part of the day was (part of our new "secret question" tradition at bedtime), he said "making the mailboxes."
The moral of the story? Trust yourself, trust your child. He will learn new skills at just the right time, when he is ready.