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Learning to write: lessons from S-o-p-h-i-e

By June 14, 2010How To

I was greeted this morning by a yell that was beyond exuberant. It thrilled like this:

“Mama J! I can write my name!”

And indeed, she had. Without copying someone else’s letters or asking which letter came next. Sophie did it all on her own.

“When I was a baby, I couldn’t write. But now I can.” She told me.

After she’d written her name about 50 more times, she looked at me and said purely, “I’m so proud of myself that I can write.”

I hear you, baby girl. I totally get that.

I’ve been watching her process and progress with this writing thing for the last few months, totally fascinated. Here’s what I’ve noticed.

  1. This thing is a gusher. Yes, we’ve been reading to her since she was in the womb. Yes, she’s always loved books and stories and songs. Yes, she seems to have massive amounts of my DNA. But suddenly, in the last two months, something has been unleashed. When the time is right, the learning and understanding steamroll, snowball, avalanche, whatever you want to call it. Suffice it to say, it all comes together—in a rush. She sees letters and words and the sounds they make everywhere. She’s constantly discovering and tying the pieces together in her mind.
  2. Letters, Words and Content: They’re everywhere. The radio in my Subaru flashes the singer, song title and radio station across its display systematically. One morning, on our way to preschool, Sophie shouted, “I see my letter! I see my letter!” I’m looking at the trees we’re driving by, thinking, there’s an S hanging off a branch? Only to discover that she’s pointing at the ‘S’ in Single Ladies.
  3. Mantras help. When I write something in my head and have absolutely and tragically nowhere to write it down, I repeat it over and over in my head—like a mantra—cementing and sealing it into my brain so I won’t forget. So it was really no surprise that Soph created a little ditty (to the tune of the cha cha to be perfectly honest). The lyrics are simple: s-o-p-h-I-E. There’s a nearly imperceptible hipshake to the right on the ‘I’ and to the left on the ‘E’. She walks around chanting. With emphasis.
  4. Make it your own. Now that she knows how to spell, my dad decided to teach her how to play tic-tac-toe. Besides the moment when she told him (after winning the first game), “Now it will be your turn to win”, my favorite slice of the game playing was when my dad made the first ‘X’ and sophie decided, on her turn, to make a ‘J’. He, of course, made another ‘X’, and then she made an ‘S’. He taught her a game, yes, but he had also given her several boxes to fill with her beloved letters. And dammit, she was going to fill them as she saw fit. It was her turn, after all.
  5. Enlisting the troops. And, just in case seeing your name spew from your own mouth and pen isn’t enough, there are always your lackeys. In Sophie’s case, it’s her little brother. Just 7.5 months younger, my little guy’s primed and ready. And she’s taken full advantage. First, she convinced him that his name is spelled J-e-c-k instead of J-a-c-k. (I’m not clear on her motivation here.) But more importantly, if you ask him how to spell virtually any word other than his name, he replies, ‘S-o-p-h-i-e’.

That’s right, Soph. Find the words, write them proudly and spread the gospel far and wide.

Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Lindsey says:

    Go, Sophie!
    I was incredibly moved by Grace starting to write her name (and blogged about it recently) – the poem “Spelling” by Margaret Atwood came to mind.
    And I could not agree more on the gusher – it struck me that reading, and writing, at least for my daughter, was not a gradual thing but rather a binary one. Just, suddenly, she was into it and entering the practice with a head of steam. Amazing.
    I love that photo of the spidery first letters. Claiming words, letters, her name … marvelous.
    .-= Lindsey´s last blog ..A bowl, empty and full, and feeling my way in the darkness =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Lindsey – I read and LOVED that post. I think it was the first of yours I ever read. So powerful…

  • Gail says:

    Did you say 7.5 MONTHS younger???? How in the world did you manage THAT?!? I know you are prolific, but that’s incredible!
    .-= Gail´s last blog ..Pick up a fork and save the planet – make your own biodiesel fuel! =-.

  • Uzma says:

    Hi. This is so sweet. When a child learns, the worlds her playground. I have a cousin whose in love with colours.She loves identifying colours everywhere. Its amazing how kids can see colours or letters where our attention never goes. They do spread the gospel far and wide :-)
    .-= Uzma´s last blog ..Destiny and the journey =-.

  • --Deb says:

    Yay for Sophie! That’s HUGE!
    .-= –Deb´s last blog ..Reader, Not a Writer =-.

  • Leon Noone says:

    G’Day Julie,

    A delightful post. I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy the experience with both children and grandchildren.

    Please show Sophie how to write D-o-w-n U-n-d-e-r. Don’t bother with “The Biggest and Best Island in the World” just yet . She’ll learn that soon enough.

    I keep telling my children, “You’re meant to enjoy your children.” Make sure you both have fun.

    Some cynic once said “They’re so cute when they’re little, you want to eat them. Then they grow up to be teenagers and you wish you had.” You have those joys ahead of you.


    .-= Leon Noone´s last blog ..Better Listening Tips For Small-Medium Business Managers =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Leon – I love that quote. Also, I have to be honest with you, I had an unfortunate Australia experience several years ago…and well, I hold grudges.

      You are, however, doing a lovely job of changing my mind.

  • Todd Jordan says:

    Love this story. Rock on Sophie! Whatever drives the mind forward. :)
    .-= Todd Jordan´s last blog ..iPad Bachelor =-.

  • Walker says:

    What a wonderful story. I have an image in my head of her from your description. I love kids at that stage and Sophie sounds like one savvy little girl. Brag on, mom.
    And, yeah, I’m with Gail… how did we manage #2 7.5 months later?
    .-= Walker´s last blog ..Tips on How to Start Blogging, Part 1 =-.

  • Marcella says:

    This is adorable. I remember very vividly when I started writing my own name and messing up the E by adding zillions of extra sticks in the middle of it instead of just 1, kind of like a centipede on its side. It was the beginning of my longest, and presently ongoing, relationship – with writing.

    “Spread the gospel far and wide.” – That is the whole idea, isn’t it? Most of the time, we’re not only (or ever) writing for just ourselves. So, good job, Sophie!
    .-= Marcella´s last blog ..View From the Top. =-.

  • Van says:

    Sweet post. It reminds me how I need to teach my nieces (9 and 5- yikes, I feel old) that education is paramount in their lives. Looks like that’s the theme of your household, too!
    .-= Van´s last blog ..A Thrifter’s Decluttering Guide =-.

  • I’d be inclined to allow with you here. Which is not something I typically do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  • BABY says:

    Not sure about your last paragraph but well..

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