By: Holly Britton
When I started educating my kids, I wanted very much for them to have an opportunity to make music. I didn’t have grandiose aspirations of them going to some famous conservatory, but I did want to give them a solid foundation in case they wanted to.
I noticed that the kids I knew who really played music had parents who also played music. Oh dear. I didn’t play an instrument and my husband hadn’t played since high school band. I decided to pick up the guitar. I had several reasons for this: I liked guitar. It’s an instrument you can play alone or with others. It’s not too expensive. I knew others who played who could help me. But most importantly, I wanted my kids to see that learning something takes time and commitment. I wanted them to see me practice… especially when I didn’t feel like it. I wanted them to know the intrinsic reward of doing something hard. And I wanted them to experience the joy of making music.
Yep, at the age of 30-something, I learned to play the guitar.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not especially talented. But being talented was not what I was going for. Music to me is a language. It speaks to me and it spoke to my children (all of whom are beautifully musical, by the way:). It is relational, between me and God in my quiet place, between me and family when we are together, and between me and friends around a campfire.
What does this have to do with handwriting?
Like music, writing is relational—between the writer and herself, or the writer and a wide audience, or the writer and the one she loves. And, like music, it must be grown from the roots up, from the inside out. Writing is multifaceted and beautifully complex.
And writing, at its best, is complicated. It is easy to understand why children in higher grades are often so frustrated, annoyed, or even angry about being asked to write. Very often they are ill equipped to do so, having not been given the proper tools or practice to build their writing capacities.
As Maria in the Sound of Music so simply sang, “Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start. When we read we begin with A B C, when we sing we begin with do-re-me…”
When we write we begin with pencil control and simple strokes (I couldn’t think of a musical way to make that rhyme!) It really shouldn’t concern parents or teachers what our young students will do with their talent, but rather that we’ve given them the best foundation on which to build. Give your new little writers playful activities that develop the muscles and coordination needed to write. Give them time so that the learning can happen incrementally, as they are ready. Model for them an appreciation of the skill. In doing this you will impart to them the convenience, the satisfaction, and the pure joy in being able to put their thoughts on paper.