23rd January is National Handwriting Day and it’s made me consider a number of things around this area for children in our schools, especially for those who may not have had lots of opportunities to develop their fine motor skills in early years. With the higher reliance on devices to entertain our children how many actually know how to hold a pencil when they start school?
I know for our children, who were in a difficult home environment in their early years, colouring, reading and writing was not something that came easily to them once they started school.
I’ve mentioned many times in my blog posts about the level of shame children with Attachment difficulties may feel. There are so many things that can trigger that enormous feeling that highlights their disadvantages to their class mates.
One of these is the Pen License. This is something I’ve long been a disliker of (I know that’s not a word but hater feels too strong)…..anyway, for those who don’t’ have the pleasure of this in their school this is what it is:-
All children start to write in pencil at school, they then move from writing in pencil to pen once they’ve achieved a level of competency. Many schools mark this transition by awarding children a pen licence: a certificate that states that they are now allowed and expected to use ink for both their schoolwork and homework. ‘Pen licences formalise the transition from pencil to ink, and the prospect of earning a pen licence is used by teachers as a motivator to encourage children to develop the required standard of handwriting,’ says Dr Angela Webb, psychologist and chairman of the National Handwriting Association.
Harmless you might think! What is my issue with this?
It’s the phrase ‘motivator to encourage’ that bothers me. For many children they try their very best to improve their handwriting but if they’ve not had the time invested at home in early years, they are automatically behind their fellow students.
Also, if they are frightened and living in survival mode they often cannot move into the right space in their brain to show consistency. My youngest son suffered from this. He tried his hardest and did improve but not the standard required to gain the coveted Pen License and certainly not with regularity. As a result, he left Primary school as one of a few children in his class who didn’t get their license. Another way to punish a child for not having the same advantages as others.
The other question for me around handwriting is in this age of technology is handwriting something we need to focus so much on?
My children (who are all teenagers now) do not write very much at all other than at school. It doesn’t stifle their creativity. My daughter writes songs in her notebook and on a computer. If she wants to write a letter to accompany her CV to get a job she uses a computer. My sons at Secondary School use computers all the time too. They are proficient on all their devices but when it comes to exams they have to write. Something they do very little of elsewhere.
Is that right? I’m not sure. I do know that some skills are not being taught in schools now that it might be useful to such as how to address a letter or an envelope, what a compliment slip is. I know I’m contradicting myself as I’m not sure of the answers. Maybe it is a balance between how businesses might still need ‘old fashioned’ office skills and the new age use of social media and emojis in texts.
I do know that my children, and any like them who’ve had a difficult start in life, need as few barriers to achieving as possible. Pen Licenses are one that in my opinion could be eliminated.
Any more suggestions – what could go from our current education system to enable success?