Sometimes people ask me how I know my children are making progress. It always makes me smile, because when you see your children growing and progressing each day before your eyes, it is clear that they are learning, that their skills are improving and that their understanding is deepening. So the question is a bit like asking, how do you know your plants are growing ... You put the seeds in the ground and weed and water them, and shoots appear, leaves unfurl, the plant grows taller. It is kind of obvious. In recent months, I have been documenting my youngest son's emergent writing as it has happened. Remember this is not anything I have introduced or steered, this stems from his interest and desire for understanding and mastery. He explores the idea of writing at his own pace, in his own time.
Recently, he has been interested in written codes, for example, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. He has enjoyed looking at Egyptian tablets in museums, and trying to decipher the characters. He has practiced writing the characters for himself. This links in with his ongoing fascination with the Ancient Egyptians. He has also enjoyed Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, "How the First Letter was Written" and "How the Alphabet was Made" about the development of picture writing.
This year, he has also demonstrated a keen interest in drawing, and his drawings have really improved as his fine motor skills have developed. He loves drawing and creating characters and stories where he draws the pictures and then narrates the words for me to write down. He is very proud of his 'books'. He and his brother have a drawing club with their friend on Friday afternoons, and have enjoyed the opportunity to meet several illustrators over the course of the year, including the infamous Nick Sharratt and James Mayhew, who wrote and illustrated the Katy in the art gallery books.
If he were in school, he would be almost at the end of Year 1. He was six in March. And yet all these tasks he busies himself with are the precursors to writing, the foundation stones. Just in recent weeks, he has been wanting to write more extensively. In the past, he has written perhaps a brief thank you letter, or a card. But now he wants to write letters to post to his friend, postcards from our holiday. And the skills he has developed through his drawing make the formation of the letters easier. It is not a struggle. It is not as frustrating as it might be to a younger child. I help with words, spellings. He likes to get things right. Some of his letters are still back to front. But he enjoys it. I am not nagging. This is what he wants to do. We write what he wants to write - and then we stop.
Here is a list of Star Wars characters he wrote last August:
Here's a letter he wrote to our local MP in January:
A list of names he wrote in February, about the same time as the hieroglyphs above:
Here's a card he wrote to his friend in May:
Here he is writing a card to his friend just a few weeks ago (June):
And here he is writing his own letter to our local MP in response to the Draft Guidance on Elective Home Education:
His letter said: "Being home educated helps you be free, and when you are free, you learn. I learn a lot! I like learning at home." It's interesting to observe how children's learning does not seem to be linear, but rather skills will suddenly improve dramatically, and then plateau for a while. I love observing children learning like this, free from adult interference. Yet still I am regularly asked, "But how do you know if they are making progress?"